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NSU grad combines passion for psychology and art

Recently started graduate program

During her time at Nova Southeastern University, Aina Rivas pursued her passion in art and psychology and forged a path that will lead her to a graduate program.

Rivas said she grew up surrounded by art, since both her father and grandmother are artists.

“Growing up, I knew that I wanted to have art be in my life, but I also had a passion for psychology, and learning about the human mind and helping people,” she said.

Rivas, who graduated in 2019, decided to study both by majoring in Psychology and minoring in Studio Art. In studying both subjects, Rivas said she enjoyed learning about the developmental stages of childhood on the psychology side, as well as learning new mediums on the art side.

“I could be studying for a psychology test and take a break and do an art project,” she said. “I could relax but still feel like I was getting things done.”

Rivas had her work featured in the CAHSS Department of Performing and Visual Arts’ 11th Annual Juried Student Exhibition. Outside of the classroom, Rivas spent several years volunteering with the nonprofit organization HOPE, which involved trips to Mexico, Romania, and Zambia. In Zambia, Rivas painted a mural in a school that was designed to help teach students English. At a Romanian orphanage, she painted a mural of an adventure park.

Rivas Rivas

“The best part of both of those mural projects was seeing the reactions of the kids when they walked in to see the mural for the first time,” Rivas said.

While working as a student at PVA, Rivas learned about a way to combine both her passions. In discussing her major with art professors, she was introduced to the concept of art therapy.

“The more I researched it, the more I was like, this is exactly what I want to do,” she said.

Rivas credits College of Psychology Dean Karen Grosby, Ed.D., and Counseling Professor Mercedes ter Maat, Ph.D., with providing suggestions for good art therapy programs. As of fall 2019, Rivas is pursuing a master’s degree in Art Therapy Counseling at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville.

RivasEven after graduating, Rivas’ connection with NSU did not end. Rivas said Assistant Professor Kandy Lopez, M.F.A., often reaches out to students and recent graduates with opportunities for art projects in the community. Lopez sent Rivas one opportunity for art at the Westfield Broward Mall, located a few minutes away from NSU’s Fort Lauderdale/Davie Campus.

The project: create art for barricades covering empty storefronts. Rivas was tasked with creating art that was “Instagramable” and encourage people to take pictures and share on social media. Rivas created two designs - a set of butterfly-like wings that adults can pose in front of, and a wand blowing bubbles for children.

Looking back at her time at NSU, Rivas enjoyed the frequent opportunities for art projects that faculty informed students about.

“They always made sure to give us every opportunity,” Rivas said. “They did everything in their power to help us move forward.”

Addition art from Rivas can be viewed at her website.

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