Published: May 18, 2023

A team of four undergraduates embarked on a year-long participatory action research (PAR) project to document the experiences of BIPOC students on campus. Danielle Aguilar, a star PhD student in the School of Education and Graduate Research Assistant for CU Engage worked closely with this team in all phases of the project. The team recruited 16 additional BIPOC students to photograph personally significant spaces on campus. These students wrote short descriptions of the meaning of photos and engaged in two reflection sessions to make collective meaning of the photographs and experiences. The photos depicted a range of experiences, both positive and negative. Some depicted spaces of belonging, safety, dignity, and pride, while others highlighted experiences of alienation, detachment and suffering macro-aggressions.  The photos and initial research findings were publicly presented on April 20, 2023. Pictured above is the YPAR Research Team: Nydia Strohm-Salazar, Project Lead Danielle Aguillar, Rokaya Abdulmeer, Taia Hopkins, Andrea Torres.

Rokaya Abdulmeer, a Puksta Scholar and Leadership minor sums up her experience on the PAR research team in these terms: 

"As a first generation student of color on campus, I feel very connected to the PAR project and its purpose to validate the challenges and obstacles faced in a predominantly white institution, while also empowering and amplifying the voices of marginalized communities on campus that are often unheard."

Project lead Danielle Aguillar used her significant experience and expertise to structure the project with undergraduate co-researchers. She states: 

"As I transitioned into the PhD, I wanted to put into action the sentiments of gratitude that have centered me throughout my journeys. This idea of standing on the shoulders of many or walking along a path that ancestors, family elders, mentors and friends have so carefully built. There are pinpointable moments throughout my academic and career journey that have been the arches through which I have been able to walk through. An arch, which also provides an opening, is designed to literally distribute weight to support a large mass. At a PWI such as CU Boulder, it is not uncommon to feel overwhelmed by the large mass that is everyday racism, sexism, cisheteropatriarchy etc. As a member of The PAR Team, a goal of mine is to be (part of) an arch for these women of color co-researchers."


This summer, the team will continue their work analyzing data. The goal is to both publish a journal article and create a report that can guide CU policy makers. With additional funding from UROP and CU Engage, this work will continue into next year, with the goal of building on the photos and research findings to work for policy change. 


Title: Detachment From College

sectioned off and isolated

Description: Whenever I take a seat in any place. There are times people actively avoid sitting around/next to me. Until forced to sit. Where there’s also gazes of *why are you here?" -Amadis Carda


The project began as a class assignment in the introductory course of the Leadership and Community Engagement major. Students in that class were asked to identify a public issue on campus they wanted to learn more about.  A team of students made great progress in understanding the issue, but wanted to move to action. The team and Instructor Roudy Hildreth successfully applied to the Center for Leadership’s research seed grant and a UROP grant to continue this work. CU Engage dedicated Danielle Aguillar’s GRAship to lead the project.


Title: Home


Description: I took this picture in the UMAS y MECHA office in the UMC that we share with a multicultural sorority- Sigma Lambda Nu Gamma. It is a very small space that is primarily used for storage as we are one of the oldest organizations on campus and have lots of documents. I spend most of my time in between classes here and if I’m ever having a bad day I know there will be someone in the office I can go to. As much as I love this space, I wish we had more space to be able to hold meetings or fit more people comfortably. -Alex