Though growing up around chickens in Mexico inspired Yalitza Curiel’s interest in poultry, Iowa State gave it flight through support aimed at providing more equitable access to college and promising career paths for students who have been historically underrepresented.
On Yalitza Curiel’s Instagram, there is a photo of her as a young girl surrounded by chickens. A caption accompanying the image reads: “This is where my passion for poultry began! #Mexico #avicultura.”
Though that chicken yard in Mexico may have inspired Yalitza’s interest in poultry, Iowa State gave it flight through support aimed at providing more equitable access to college and promising career paths for students who have been historically underrepresented.
The recent Iowa State graduate worked in the Robert T. Hamilton Poultry Teaching and Research Facility as a student, where she had direct experience with many aspects of egg production. Long fascinated by birds, she joined a poultry interest group at Iowa State and learned about the different varieties and breeds of chickens. “That’s how I got my job at the Poultry Science Farm,” she says.
And with the state of Iowa being number one in egg production, students like Yalitza who participate in poultry production and research have an immediate impact for egg producers as well as prepare to become future experts for this field.
—Yalitza Curiel, 2022 graduate in animal science
Deserving of belonging
As global challenges continue to escalate, finding solutions will require a wide range of perspectives, ideas and talents. Attracting an eager, engaged and diverse student body to Iowa State through donor-funded scholarships, fellowships, grants and other support enables deserving students such as Yalitza to engage in all that being part of a university community has to offer.
“I really liked the opportunities I had to get involved in extracurricular activities that are available to everyone,” Yalitza says. “As a student of color, you can sometimes feel you don’t belong in certain communities. At Iowa State, I didn’t feel excluded.”
For third-year veterinary student Amber Illescas, who grew up in California, attending college far from home wasn’t on her radar. That, and money was tight.
“Both my parents are immigrants, and they worked hard to raise me,” Amber says. “They encouraged me to continue my education, but I didn’t want to ask them for help.”
Once at Iowa State, she found her place in veterinary medicine. “I have several professors who are really good mentors. I really appreciate how willing they are to help students,” she says, adding that the support she’s received “makes me feel like I belong here – even coming from California, you wanted me here at Iowa State.”
—Amber Illescas, third-year veterinary medicine student
Fledged and poised to contribute
Both Amber and Yalitza are poised to make important contributions in their careers and communities.
“When I graduate, I’m considering going in a specialty as a surgeon,” Amber says. “But I also really love talking to people and having that connection, treating pets from the beginning to the end of their treatment.”
With her degree in animal science, completed May 2022, Yalitza plans to move back to Ottumwa, Iowa, where she hopes to influence the future of her hometown.
“I love to help people, so wherever I end up in my career, I’ll be happy if I’m helping others to move forward,” she says.