Major: General Studies, Class of 2013
by Esther Shanahan M'15
Luis Beltran doesn't wait for opportunity to knock at his door - he goes out in search of it. The KU senior general studies major always knew he wanted to help people of all ages through art therapy. Although KU doesn't currently offer a major in art therapy, Beltran designed his own.
"Majoring in art education would lead me to working in schools, and psychology wouldn't give me the opportunity to teach," Beltran explained. "I was able to create my own major through general studies; one which combined all of my interests and will allow me to help children, teens, adults and senior citizens with art therapy. I graduate in December, and in the fall I plan to come back to KU for my teaching certification and a master's degree in counseling."
Beltran also created his own internship experience, by approaching the Spruce Manor Nursing and Rehabilitation Center and proposing to conduct cognitive and art therapy with its residents. They welcomed his services. Throughout the three-month internship Beltran conducted weekly art sections with the residents, encouraging them to use creativity to express themselves with art. At the end of his experience, he organized an art exhibition of the residents' works. The improvements Beltran's art therapy offered were manifold; not only did the residents improve their motor skills, they were also more motivated. Now Spruce Creek might consider creating a new art therapist position.
An avid artist, Beltran is a sculptor, painter and photographer, and was selected as a featured artist for GoggleWork's Center for the Arts Hispanic Heritage Month exhibit, "Vida."
Where does he find the energy for his artistic pursuits, education and an internship?
"I'm the first one out of my family to go to college and finish my degree," he revealed. "That's the main reason my parents brought me here from Colombia - to allow me to advance my education and become a professional. Since I was raised in Colombia, I understand how difficult it can be to become successful. The U.S. really offers people the chance to succeed in life. With my Colombian background and knowing how difficult things were, I was determined to take advantage of everything the U.S. had to offer."
When he was 11, Beltran moved with his family from Santiago de Cali , Colombia, to Reading, Pa., where he attended middle and high school. At Reading High School, his art teachers were KU alumni, who inspired him to pursue art.
"They influenced me to follow my dream of becoming an artist," he said. "Choosing to attend KU has been the best decision I ever made. One of the things that make KU stand out is the passion that the professors have to teach students."
Beltran credits the dedication of his professors and assistance from KU administrators and offices for helping him develop his area of concentration within the general studies major and encouraging him along the way.
"I consider the Sharadin building my second home," he laughed. "KU professors care about their students and helping them learn - it's not just a 'job' to them, it's more of a calling. Part of the KU DNA is a passion for education; that's what I admire."
According to Beltran, one of the most important advantages of a KU education is that professors try to incorporate experiential learning into every class. For him, a hands-on experience juxtaposed with the theoretical perspective makes even difficult concepts easy to grasp. Professors also work to develop effective working relationships with students, and are available to help them navigate their academic experience and identify career goals.
"I'm really grateful to the art department, and the general studies department," Beltran said. "My professors have inspired me to strive for greatness and pursue my goals. The Career Development Center has also helped me a lot lately; they've recently taught me how to approach employers."
During his time at KU, Beltran has developed strong relationships with several faculty members and administrators, including Dr. Anne Zayaitz, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dr. David Beougher, associate dean, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; Dr. John White, chair of the Art Education and Crafts Department and professor of art education; and Dr. Edwin Nieves, Beltran's advisor and chair of Academic Enrichment and Tutoring Services.
"I consider these people my family," Beltran said. "My professors and advisor have always been available to help me, and guide me to make the right choices. At KU, students can build a personal relationship with professors, and I love that. If you come here, you won't regret it, and you'll receive everything you need to become successful in life."