Denise Bahena-Bustos, ‘23, was first introduced to Meredith College through her oldest sister, and her second oldest sister also currently attends Meredith and is in the Class of 2021. Bahena-Bustos says “they were always [her] role models'' and that she is inspired by their academic success and diligence as first generation college students. When it was Bahena-Bustos’s turn to choose a college, she was initially “conflicted…and didn’t know where [she] wanted to go,” but once she was ready to establish where she would spend the next four years, she shares that “it was really just [her] sisters as well as [her] experiences on campus” that influenced her final decision.
Bahena-Bustos is a double major in public health with a concentration in ethics and policy and political science with concentrations in public affairs and pre-law. “I am thinking about going to law school…if possible, I would want to do a dual degree, [getting] my J.D. as well as my master’s in public health,” she explains. She visualizes a career in health policy and government, which she says is “a mix of [my two majors]...I’ve found ways they actually correlate really well.” In addition to being a member of the Honors Program and serving on several different campus committees, Bahena-Bustos serves as the Class of 2023’s president and is the incoming Chief Wings and Transfer Student Advisor. She also works on campus at Technology Services.
When asked if she has had any unique experiences at Meredith so far, Bahena-Bustos cites making memories with her Big Sis and recalls how her college experience has evolved since her freshman year. “I [had the opportunity] to see [my Big Sis] lead her class through Cornhuskin’ [and] get her onyx, as well as my second oldest sister,” she explains, and says these Meredith traditions were special for her to experience with both her Big Sis and sister. Bahena-Bustos’s college experience has also been shaped by the “big difference in visibility of issues that we can all address as a society as well as a college campus.” She states, “As a member of the BIPOC community…I didn’t realize that there [were] a lot of issues in our world that I never really acknowledged…or maybe I just ignored them.” Bahena-Bustos feels that “during the pandemic, [there has been] more visibility on [these issues].” She has worked to educate herself further because she “still [wants] to learn more about how [she] can be more knowledgeable and…empathic.”
Bahena-Bustos also notes how her college experience has changed on a more personal level, revealing, “I think I went through — and I still am going through — a personal journey with self-care and self-love.” She says, “I have been struggling with my mental health for the past few years [and used to] crowd my schedules a lot just to avoid...having to deal with things within myself, and I have learned not to have to do that.” Instead, she is dedicating her time to what she is passionate about and making a difference in the world. Bahena-Bustos expresses that she has “[started] to have a lot more compassion for [herself]” and for others, and she acknowledges that she has become more independent in growing her interests and making positive decisions for herself.
Bahena-Bustos says, “I feel like I’ve had a lot of mentor relationships in the organizations that I’ve been a part of that let me know it’s okay to not be perfect.” She says that her First Year Experience instructor highlighted the importance of real world experiences in addition to academics, explaining, “Your GPA could be a 4.0, but you could know nothing about the real world.” Bahena-Bustos advises her classmates to “take advantage of the opportunities available at Meredith” while finding a balance that works for them.
Bahena-Bustos also shared some fun facts with The Herald. She says that one of her favorite classes she has taken at Meredith is Environmental Policy and Politics with Dr. Frank Rogers. In her leisure time, Bahena-Bustos enjoys hiking, making balloon animals and doing her makeup and hair.
In addition to her campus involvement and personal experiences, Bahena-Bustos knows that she “wants[s] to make a lasting change,” even just by “making someone’s day.” Bahena-Bustos concludes that everyone has their strengths and weaknesses. She says, “Perspective matters…it’s very easy to think people have it all together or that nothing is wrong…life is not as simple as it seems. People are going through a lot of things that you may never know about.”
By Caroline Garland, Contributing Writer