Barbosa has passion for arts, community service

A dual-degree candidate in sculpture in the Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts and Latin American studies in Arts & Sciences, Diana Barbosa will make an obvious employment choice after Commencement: She’ll pursue a career in public health.

To those who know the outgoing and highly involved Barbosa, the decision may not be so counterintuitive.

Diana Barbosa (left) has fun at Thurtene Carnival with Arvell Pruitt, a Wellston High School student she brought to campus through her involvement with the College Connections program.

Barbosa, who was born in Colombia but grew up in Miami, has been involved in the arts since a very young age. She attended a fine arts high school, where she developed a passion for sculpture.

And while she has had several successful sculpture showings during her WUSTL career, she also has made time for volunteering with the American Red Cross, working in a genetics laboratory at the School of Medicine and creating the College Connections program, which helps minority St. Louis youth continue their education beyond high school.

“Diana is truly amazing,” says Sarah Tillery, coordinator for community service. “She is one of the most well-rounded people I have ever known. I have seen her coordinate a summer program, experiment with light for an art installation, mentor high-school students looking to come to college and fix the bumper on a car. Her passion for education, art and creating opportunity for others runs deep.”

During her junior year, Barbosa won a public artwork grant from University City, installing about 200 robotic cardinals in several trees. The “birds” chirped and moved their heads and beaks when people would walk under the trees.

From that experience, she became interested in public artwork. “I want viewers to enjoy a certain experience through my art,” Barbosa says. “I want them to have more active involvement with what I produce.”

That has lead to an interest in artwork as social intervention. “I’m trying to see where I can overlap my sculpture and studio practice with the public-health interest I have,” she says.

For a recent show in a warehouse in midtown St. Louis, Barbosa wanted to highlight the symbolism of light and dark. She covered her car with lights and then drove participants to an area church while they listened to recordings of famous people from American history, such as John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr., addressing metaphorical themes of light and dark.

“The aim of the project really was to highlight art’s ability to bridge different people within a community,” she says.

Sam Fox School of Design & Visual Arts,
College of Art

An Annika Rodriguez Scholar, Barbosa realized early in her college career the disadvantages many Latino-Americans have when it comes to higher education. So she decided to do something about it.

“As Rodriguez Scholars, we’ve been given an amazing opportunity to attend a top-ranked school,” Barbosa says. “It’s a gift, a blessing. We wanted to share that gift with others in the community.”

With two of her peers, she started the College Connections program in September 2006. The students connected with Wellston High School in St. Louis to mentor students. The program has been incredibly successful. All 28 members of last year’s Wellston senior class were accepted into a college or university, and all of them received some sort of scholarship. The same has held true for this year’s class.

“It’s amazing,” Barbosa says. “These students are realizing they can go places.”

Barbosa has taken as many public-health courses as she could fit into her schedule. She also has been volunteering with the American Red Cross, working to educate immigrant Latinos about reproductive health.

Barbosa has served as the School of Art student representative to the Undergraduate Student Council, community service chair of the Association of Latin American Students and community service liaison and program intern for the Annika Rodriguez Scholars program. She received the E. Desmond Lee Scholarship for Community Collaboration.

After Commencement, Barbosa will move back to South Florida to seek a job in public health, hopefully in an outreach and research capacity. Her long-term plan is to attend graduate school after being in the field for a while.

But she won’t soon forget her time at the University. “WUSTL was exactly what I wanted,” she says. “I’ve loved my time here.”