Teiriana Ibarra is a 2021 graduate of the Music and Entertainment Industry Studies (MEIS) program in the College of Arts and Media. A talented musician, she is also a first-generation student who understands the importance of setting an example for her younger siblings. By working in the MEIS office, mentoring first-year students as a Peer Advocate Leader (PAL), planning events with CU Denver Live!, and serving as a peer advisor for LynxConnect, Ibarra has helped her fellow CU Denver students enjoy a fulfilling campus experience while growing professionally, too.
Through opportunities with the Office of Global Education, Ibarra’s determination has taken her all over the world. She will continue her travels later this year by following her broader career ambitions to New York City. Like every new graduate, her journey is just beginning, but all signs point to hers being a most remarkable adventure.
What made you choose CU Denver?
“When I was in high school, I struggled to decide what I wanted to major in, what I wanted to do. I wanted to do something with music because music had been a part of my life since fifth grade. But photography interested me, too, because my mom was always taking pictures, and then cooking was something that interested me as well. And I like helping people, so I thought about something in the medical field. For me it was a question of whether I could combine all of these interests.”
“Ultimately, it came down to music. A career in music allows me to able to help those in my community, take on photography as a hobby, and cooking just comes naturally. Comparing music programs here in Colorado, I visited the Auraria Campus. I went to talk to the CU Denver staff in the Student Commons Building, and they were all super friendly. I felt heard and I felt like they wanted me here, even though nobody knew who I was. Now I’m graduating with my bachelor’s in music business and my minor in photography.”
“When I chose music as a career path, my dad saw it as a potential risk. But all my life I’ve been told I’m capable of doing whatever I want, and that’s music. Today, my dad couldn’t be any more supportive of my career choices and is excited to see what I do next.”
How does your family feel about your upcoming move to New York City?
“My family is supportive of me, but it is difficult for them to accept that it’s happening so soon. Being the oldest in my family, I have faced many walls, and they’ve been there to support me through it all. Since this decision puts me in an environment where I am on my own, my family just worries as any other family would.”
“It’s a weird balance—doing what will make my family happy and doing what will make me happy. After my freshman year, I studied abroad in South Korea to fill in my international credits. I had never really slept away from my parents’ roof. My dad is from Mexico, and my mom is from a tiny town in Texas—they just grew up differently, you know, and they raised me in a protective manner. So, it was very difficult for me to ask to go to South Korea, especially since I’d never even been on a plane before. When the opportunity presented itself, though, I knew this was something I needed to do on my own.”
“I couldn’t pay for it, but the professor leading the program told me I could apply for scholarships. So, I worked hard was able to go to South Korea on my own. Through another program, I was also able to visit Prague, and I was able to take my younger brother on that trip, too.”
“Now, with New York, I know I need to move there to succeed the way I want to. The roommate I’m planning on moving in with has been in my life since elementary school. We both know New York is the place we need to go, and we’re committed all the way. My parents are excited, but I think they’re also very, very worried about not being able to be there for me anymore.”
How will you celebrate your graduation?
“My parents invited family from out of town and close friends so we can celebrate my graduation. We’re going to have a big party, but just like a smaller, safer version. We are bringing a taquiza—like a taco bar—to our backyard with loud music, and I’m super excited to just celebrate and be surrounded by the people I love.”
“I will also be celebrating by doing absolutely nothing over the summer, because school has been difficult these past four years. I just want to rest and relax and regain myself before I move to New York.”
Who’s been your biggest support throughout college?
“My parents. They did not force me to go to college; they would have been proud of me graduating high school and going to work. But I liked school, and I liked learning and being in an environment where people are engaged. To me, college just felt right.”
“What keeps me going is my love for my parents and everything. It’s cheesy, but it’s true. They’ve worked so hard, and now one of their kids has graduated college. And I know that my younger siblings are looking up to me—I definitely see the impact my going to school has had on them. I just don’t want to let them down.”
“Honestly, if it weren’t for the people around me, I probably would not have gotten as far as I have, because the people around me want me to succeed. At my lowest points, and especially this year, somebody was always there to help me. Those little things just mean so much to me, and they make me want to return the favor, to help somebody else in their lowest. That’s why I got so involved on campus, because I just I just wanted to reciprocate the help that I’ve received here.”