Colorado State University offers many programs to help students achieve success. Janae Brown, graduating with a double major in communications studies and ethnic studies, has made the most of every opportunity available.
“I don’t know if I would have graduated in four years without Key Communities,” says Brown, who graduated from Denver’s East High School in 2015. “On my high school visit to Fort Collins, they talked about Key, but I wasn’t really sure what that was. During orientation, I learned more and said, ‘I’ll do that.’”
Key Communities are designed to assist first- and second-year students with their transition to and through the university. Key students live on designated residence hall floors, enroll in some of their first semester courses together, and have a Key Mentor who serves as a guide throughout the first year at CSU.
“Having my adviser who was also my teacher helped a great deal, and I’m still friends with people I met in Key, even though we did different majors,” says Brown, a first-generation college student.
Passion for research
In addition to completing her two majors, Brown serves as vice president of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.; participated in conferences and workshops on topics from black feminist thought to credit recovery; worked at Taco Bell, where she has been promoted to manager; and was named Outstanding Junior in the College of Liberal Arts by Phi Kappa Phi National Honor Society. She found her passion participating in the Department Action Team, part of CSU’s continuing Student Success Initiative.
Elizabeth Williams, director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Communications Studies, worked closely with Brown as she wrote a grant for the project, and designed focus groups to gather data from first-generation and students of color. The data from that project will be used to create sustainable change within the department.
“I first met Janae in an intro course with about 125 students,” Williams recalled. “It was hard to stand out, but she did. She came to office hours, asked good questions, was responsive to the materials – she was really engaged in her education.” So it was only natural that Williams included Brown as the student representative on the DAT last year.
“It has been so rewarding to work with Janae as part of the team and to watch her develop her voice and become comfortable giving feedback to the committee of faculty and staff,” Williams says. “She has a real knack for bringing people together and working with people in other parts of the campus.”
Brown says she was extremely glad to have worked with Williams, given how few research opportunities there are for undergraduates of color, adding that’s why efforts such as the annual Multicultural Undergraduate Research and Learning Symposium, or MURALS, are so important.
Since high school, Brown has been involved in various efforts to get students of color involved in educational opportunities, and she says there was never any question that she would be going to college.
“My parents were always very clear about that, for both me and my younger sister, and they have been with me every step of the way,” she says. “They are very proud, and I am so grateful to them.”
Her parents will be on hand when Brown gives the student address at the College of Liberal Arts Commencement. Then she will return to Denver and begin a two-year stint with Teach for America in local elementary schools, as she contemplates graduate school.