The Art of the Dumpster and the Art of Complaining: Lessons Learned by Kiara Sims

When Kiara Rose Sims, a double major in accounting and finance from Honors College, graduates from UNLV in May, she will leave knowing that she has made campus a better place. She is a leader in building a sense of belonging for traditionally underrepresented students at UNLV.

Her work as a member of the Minority-Serving Institution’s Student Council simultaneously beautifies the campus through art and makes it a more welcoming place.

What are some of the identities you hold?

I’m a mixed-ethnic first-generation college student from Wyoming.

What does it mean for you that the UNLV is an institution at the service of minorities?

I believe that UNLV holding MSI status means it has a duty to serve students with fairness at the bare minimum. To me, all minority-serving institutions should have resources and programs built into day-to-day operations that are specifically designed to help underrepresented students.

Why did you choose to join the MSI Student Council?

I was really excited to have a direct impact on campus. Having our own personal initiatives allowed me to help solve the problems I saw with our campus.

What project did you launch via the MSISC?

Dumpster Art: I started a mural project around the Upperclassman complex to spruce up the dumpster structures. Pwoz, a first-generation local immigrant, painted the seven-piece installation on electrical blocks and concrete blocks around our dumpsters.

I wanted to see more art around the community so it could feel friendlier and create conversations.

Why is this project important for historically underrepresented students?

Art allows for conversation and expression of the kinds of communities in which we see ourselves thriving. We hope this facility will continue to inspire conversations among residents. Also, great to show UNLV fine arts students that a first generation black immigrant can do such great work and make a career out of it!

What are you working on now?

This semester, I’m working with the Academic Success Center (ASC) and a few other campus offices to host an Academic Resource Fair to help students find the resources they need.

Throughout my time at UNLV, students constantly tell me that they wish we had a resource for things that already exist. I wanted to try to ensure that people could find the help that is already available to them.

Why is this project important for historically underrepresented students?

Historically underrepresented students generally have less access to resources. It’s not intentional, but many just don’t know there are resources to be had. If just one student finds the DACA resource, meets with an academic advisor, or discovers The Intersection goldmine, the project will have been a success.

What did you learn about the UNLV while serving on the MSISC?

I learned that there are a few areas on campus dedicated to intentionally supporting all students with equitable outcomes, such as the Intersection. I also learned that there are many areas where UNLV could do better to fully tap into the potential of underrepresented students. Before I was on the board, I was in a bubble and didn’t quite see all the issues other students were facing. The saddest problem for me is that many problems my peers face have intentional solutions on campus, but students don’t know where to find the solution or resource and they don’t know who to ask for help .

How can faculty, staff, and students get more information about your project?

The best way to experience my work would be to walk through the dumpsters near the upper class complex! It would be fun to see if you can find all seven. Soon, Pwoz may partner with other sections of campus to expand the project.

When you’re not working or studying, what do you do for fun?

I really like hiking near Red Rock or Mount Charleston. I work a lot, so I like to disconnect and take a nature break when I can.

Since doing this job, have you had an “a-ha!” moment you would like to share?

That it is okay to complain to the administration in the appropriate settings! Sometimes complaining about a problem to a counselor, mentor, or professor gives them the green light to tell you about the resource that can provide a solution. Many colleges have emergency scholarships, access to housing and food resources, and friendly teachers who want to help.

My favorite place to complain is The Intersection as they seem to have the sweetest staff who have memorized almost every resource on campus.

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