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English Alumna Elevates Diverse Voices

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Sara Slingerland Sheiner


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Just one week before National College Decision Day, University of Denver alumna Asia Wesley (MA ’21, BA ’17) received the news that she’d been awarded a prestigious Daniels Fund Scholarship. The award provides prospective college students with a four-year scholarship that can be used to attend any college or university in the country. Wesley was faced with the decision to either stay in her home state of Colorado, where she was born and raised, or head into areas unknown immediately after graduating from high school.

woman in floral dress and jean jacket
Asia Wesley (MA ’21, BA ’17)

“The choice wasn’t difficult to attend DU, especially because there were over 99 Daniels Fund Scholars on campus at the time. Plus, attending DU meant that I could stay close to home, but not too close where my mom could visit me every night (although she still came up with homemade eggrolls most weekends),” says Wesley.

This decision would ultimately lead to a college career full of travel and engagement with diverse academic and international programs. As an English and Spanish double major for her undergraduate degree, Wesley dreamed of living and studying in another country. She’d been brought up hearing stories about her mother’s journey from Cambodia to the United States. In her junior year, Wesley traveled to Spain through DU’s study abroad program.

“Studying abroad ignited new passions for me, and I knew I wasn’t finished seeing the world, learning about other cultures or speaking new languages,” Wesley says.

After graduating with her bachelor’s degree, Wesley returned to Spain for nine months through the North American Language and Culture Assistants Program (NALCAP) to work with a bilingual public school program in Murcia. There, she designed activities to help improve students’ English-language speaking levels, comprehension and grammar.

Upon returning to the U.S., Wesley landed a job with DU’s Graduate School of Social Work as their student engagement coordinator, where she was encouraged to pursue her goal of attending graduate school for English.

“I fell in love with the English program and admired the faculty during my undergrad, so it was easy for me to go right back to that program to get my master’s,” Wesley says.

During her time in the English master’s program, Wesley took classes that inspired her to focus on non-white women authors who were publishing in the United States’ predominately white literary culture. Under the guidance of Professor of English Maik Nwosu and Associate Professor of African American Literature Tayana Hardin, Wesley developed her thesis project, which examined W.E.B. Dubois’s double-consciousness theory through the lens of gender. These experiences directly impacted her career path moving forward.

“Taking different literature classes at DU helped me understand that I was drawn to stories and histories that I could relate to personally,” Wesley says. “As I looked for ways to share the stories of these authors, I realized that I did this kind of work — elevating voices that are overshadowed by a predominantly white culture in the United States — in the workplace, too.”

Now, Wesley works at Metropolitan State University as their communication and strategic initiatives project manager. She says her experiences at DU, including her seasonal job where she took high-school students on service-learning trips and helped them learn Spanish, reinforced her decision to stay in higher education.

“DU allowed me to work toward initiatives that provided students from historically excluded communities opportunities to thrive and accomplish their dreams. I volunteered at what was the Bridge Project when I was in the Pioneer Leadership Program, and I was part of the Black Women Lead Summit, Day of Action, and served on various committees in the Cultural Center,” Wesley says.

Continuing this work professionally has been incredibly meaningful for Wesley, and her master’s degree gave her skills ranging from communications to branding strategy that have allowed her to be successful in her role.

“As the communications project manager, I not only get to share out scholarship, career readiness and job-search resources, but I also get to share students’ success stories as they prepare to leave campus and go into the world,” Wesley says.

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