Arla Mistica - 2012 Willena Stanford Diversity Award Winner
Arla Mistica has found a way to bring balance to her exceptionally active college life.
She simply dances away the stress.
After abandoning ballet as a teenager in her homeland of the Philippines, Mistica has rediscovered her joy for the artistic form of dance while schooling at the University of Wyoming, using arabesques and chasses to help maintain her focus and strengthen her drive to succeed.
"I've heard people say they do an activity as an escape, but I never really got that. I was like, ‘What are you talking about?'" says Mistica, the 2012 winner of UW's Willena Stanford Commitment to Diversity Award. "But when I started dancing again, on the first day of class, that's really how I felt.
"That's how I see dance now. It really is a chance for me to get away from stress."
While Mistica's tireless efforts to champion diversity in the UW community have led to some of that stress, her work also has garnered respect from faculty, staff and students and now recognition from the university.
Named in honor of Willena Stanford, an inspirational former UW instructor in African American and Diaspora Studies, the diversity award is given annually to a student who has made significant contributions to increase awareness of diversity on the UW campus. She received the award this month during Days of Dialogue, the university's yearly observance of the continuing impact of the life of Martin Luther King, Jr.
"I think Arla has really blossomed here at the University of Wyoming. She is a quiet spirit but an extremely bright and capable young woman who has stepped up to take leadership and make a difference," says Dolores Cardona, UW associate dean of students. "She really is so deserving of this award. Much like Willena Stanford herself, Arla has made a strong commitment to diversity and followed through in an effort to make UW a better place for all students."
Since coming to UW after graduating from Wheatland High School -- her family moved from Manila to the heart of Platte County when she was 14 -- Mistica has worked with the Multicultural Student Leadership Initiative, first as a mentee and now as a mentor; served in a leadership role with the Asian American Pacific Islander Association; and been a member of Amnesty International.
"The extracurricular activities have their rewards but even they get stressful," she says with a smile.
That's why Mistica has made time in her busy schedule for dance, both ballet and jazz classes. She encourages her fellow UW students to also find a positive way, possibly through a club or another campus activity, to relieve their potential worries.
"It's not only something I really enjoy but it's my one stress reliever," says Mistica, whose goal is to attend medical school and become a physician. "Last semester, I told myself, ‘I should have done this my freshman year. I could have gotten a minor in dance.' But if I would have done that, I think it would have taken the enjoyment out of it."
Previous winners of the Stanford Award include Sydney Ezell, Zanyaille Lyons, Helen Chanthongthip, Adriana Magana, Jeremy Joseph and Tracy Montanez. The annual winner receives a $500 gift card for the UW Bookstore from the Martin Luther King, Jr./Days of Dialogue steering committee.