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Pledging Allegiance

CMU senior and newly minted American citizen Setareh Bastani is poised to empower future students

On Sep. 20, Colorado Mesa University student Setareh Bastani formally pledged her Oath of Allegiance and became a United States citizen at a ceremony held at the Colorado National Monument's Saddle Horn Picnic area. This event marks not just her naturalization but the beginning of a remarkable journey that Bastani is preparing to embark on.

Currently pursuing a degree in Elementary Education with a specialization in mathematics, Bastani plans to become a 4th-grade teacher after graduating from CMU in May 2024.

“I have always wanted to be a teacher since I was a child but my teachers in the past have made a big impact on me and have changed the way I think about learning and what I am capable of, and I hope to influence my students in that way too. I want to make sure every student knows how capable they are and how they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it,” said Bastani.

Eventually, she wants to earn a master's degree in English language learning that will allow her to empower the students she teaches for whom English is a second language. Bastani's fluency in English and Persian will enable her to bridge cultures with her future students and currently helps her build community while working at CMU.

Bastani moved to the United States as a refugee from Iran with her family when she was 10 years old. Her family lived in Colorado and Texas while she was growing up and she made the decision to move back to Colorado to attend CMU. 

“I moved to CMU as an 18-year-old not knowing anything about college and basically with no support system ­— just the dream of living in Colorado and becoming a teacher, and I would not change that. CMU has been a place where I have learned to be an adult, learned how to make my dream of becoming a teacher a reality and found some amazing people along the way,” said Bastani.

She continued, “I love how it has small classes and professors who care about their students. I also love how it's close to so many outdoor activities. Coming from Texas, I never camped and when I moved here, I had opportunities to camp. Now camping is one of my favorite things to do. I have been fortunate enough to have support from the staff here at CMU and have had a great support system from all my friends, which has made it possible for me to get this far into my college education as a first-generation student.”

Bastani did not wait a moment to start positively impacting her community when she arrived at CMU. As a student, she worked for residence life for three years; now, in her senior year, she is working as a resident assistant (RA) where she works to create an inclusive environment, acts as a positive role model and utilizes her certification in Mental Health First Aid for Higher Education to provide crucial support to fellow students.

CMU Director of Residence Life Emily Bollinger has worked with Bastani for the past four years and has seen her overcome countless obstacles. She is hopeful that she will continue to share her talents at CMU for a little longer before moving on.

“Setareh is the definition of resilience. She has experienced hardship and challenging life experiences beyond measure. Yet, she continually bounces back and grows despite these difficulties. Originally from Iran, her family immigrated to the U.S. when she was a young girl. Her story is filled with heartbreak and hope, and she has chosen the latter as her guide," said Bollinger. "She first became a part of the residence life team in the Fall of 2019 and is now a senior resident assistant in Rait. Her tough exterior took a while to crack, and we occasionally find her giving us the side-eye, but we can't imagine this place without her. I often refer to her as ‘Mama Setareh’ because she protects, cares for, leads and mentors our staff and her team of RAs.”

Bollinger continued, “Setareh will graduate in May with her Elementary Education degree. Her plan is to teach 4th grade in Denver. However, my plan is for her to become a residence hall coordinator for two years while working on her master’s in teaching and leadership, then become a teacher. No matter what path she chooses, she will change lives.”

During the 2022-2023 academic year, she served as a Teacher Education Senator in Colorado Mesa University's Associated Student Government and Bastani has also interned at the EUREKA! McConnell Science Museum while completing her degree. As a science, technology, engineering, art and math (STEAM) intern, Bastani has facilitated hands-on educational programming for children aged 5-14 at the museum.

CMU Vice President of Student Services Jody Diers was present at the naturalization and was moved by the ceremony.

“Watching Setareh take the oath and say the pledge to the United States brought tears to my eyes. I am lucky enough to have been born an American and before me stood 39 people choosing to be Americans, Setareh among them. She is someone with whom I am honored to know and stand beside as an American," said Diers. "I am hopeful that because of who she is, because of her background and upbringing, she will have a profound impact on the next generation and many more to come. She says she wants to be an elementary teacher, but I see a much further reaching role such as principal or superintendent in her future.”

Upon reflecting on the journey, Bastani said, “Becoming a U.S. citizen has been a long process, but it was worth the wait. All the trips to Denver, studying for citizenship in between my college classes, and waiting for months just to get an update were worth it. Being Persian is something I am proud of. It has influenced who I am as a person today, but the U.S. has given me the freedom and the space to be myself without punishment, and other opportunities such as going to college, being able to work, and the opportunity of becoming a teacher and influence the next generation and I'm thankful for that.”

Bastani’s actions, from her dedicated pursuits as a student at Colorado Mesa University to her recent naturalization, are a testament to her love of education, her desire to empower students from all backgrounds in America, and the dignity and respect that she offers everyone she meets. As she prepares to graduate, Bastani is also preparing to continue building a model of the world she wants to create through her everyday actions.

  • Bastani accepting her naturalization certificate

    Bastani accepting her naturalization certificate.

  • All smiles after the ceremony during a beautiful day on the West Slope

    All smiles after the ceremony during a beautiful day on the West Slope.

  • Bastani registering to vote after officially becoming a US citizen.

    Bastani registering to vote after officially becoming a US citizen..


Written by Giff Walters