Rice Scholarship Recipient, Marta Nunez (Photo by Randy Ocampo)

The last year (2020-21) was an interesting and challenging one for Marta Nuñez, much like many other students at Oregon State who have had to contend with classes and life being disrupted by the pandemic. Marta is an art major with a psychology minor at Oregon State and was the 2020-2021 recipient of the Rice Scholarship through DAS. She plans to go to graduate school for art therapy. She intends to work with the Latine community, as there are not a lot of bilingual therapists. She wants to make a change in her community and address the stigma of getting help, specifically for one’s mental health. Her psychology classes have helped her to think and process her own life and upbringing, as well understand her family and community better.  Her coursework helped her to have more compassion for others as well as learn to give herself space and practice self-care.

When she graduates from Oregon State, Marta plans to enter a graduate program in Los Angeles, Loyola Marymount University, which feels like home to her. She is excited to have the opportunity to go back.

This past year was difficult in terms of participation, like it was for so many students. Marta did not have many opportunities to participate in clubs, and most of her student interactions were on Zoom. However, with the switch to a remote environment, she found that content was easier to understand, and her professors were very helpful.

The pandemic presented a unique set of challenges for Marta as an art student. Interacting with people’s work as well as her own was significantly different, and it was difficult to observe the techniques used because photos can’t do justice to the work. She pushed herself over the course of the year to see improvement in her own technique and art. In Marta’s words, she’s the “only one that can choose what I put on the canvas.”

Marta was able to explore and create artwork in ways that she hadn’t done before, and “show my magic on a canvas.”  This past year was the first year that Marta, “could truly be allowed to bring my all in the table as an art student,” with access to materials for the mixed media projects that she has been working on. She presented her most recent work at the Montage Juried Show and was able to speak about her works. She enjoyed working with her faculty this past year, as they were able to guide her through her work and aid her in expressing her ideas.

Marta found the Rice scholarship to be really helpful. The mission of the scholarship, in particular, really spoke to Marta.  She has found that there is a stigma that disabled people can’t do things for themselves and are often seen through an inspirational lens. She pointed out, “Just because we’re in a chair, that shouldn’t be people’s inspiration.” Beyond its mission, the scholarship provided money for her to buy materials for her art classes, many of which were expensive. She was also able to purchase a laptop for herself. She’s not sure how she would have handled the school and life costs without the scholarship. Marta expressed her gratefulness for the scholarship and the desire to honor those who had chosen her as the recipient.

As Marta prepares to return to attending classes in person, we discussed the accessibility of campus and some of the difficulties that she has faced as a wheelchair user. The art building that houses the majority of her classes is not readily accessible and often has problems with the exterior lift. She’s had both positive and negative experiences with getting around the campus, but she is looking forward to future renovations or classroom changes making her overall experience more accessible.

As Oregon State returns to in-person classes and activities Marta is going to try to join clubs, especially community organizations, as supporting community is so important to her. She has already joined the Montage Club as a part of another scholarship that she received. She will also be trying to sell some of her artwork and will be working on putting together an art show as a part of her senior project. Finally, if the opportunity presents itself, she’d like to do the Berlin: Contemporary Art and Culture study abroad program. Marta had expressed interest in participating in the program that would have taken place the Summer of 2020, but the pandemic suspended all study abroad programs. Marta is still excited by the idea of going to a city that is known for its accessibility and having the experience of flying to a different country, as well as exploring the art and culture in Berlin. She doesn’t know what the future holds in terms of that program or travel, but she is excited by the current artwork she is creating and her plans to specialize in art therapy after getting her bachelor’s degree.