Carnegie Mellon University

Scholarship Support Helps Natalia Santiago Explore Her Passions

Learning Through a Unique Lens

Scholarship Support Helps Natalia Santiago Explore Her Passions

By Sarah Burke

First-year student Natalia Santiago is unraveling the mysteries of human cognition while continuing to grow as a visual artist.  

Natalia is fascinated by “the study of the mind and how its inner workings determine our behavior and responses.”

But CMU seemed out of reach for this exceptional student. Although her family had resolved to do everything they could to make her dream of attending CMU a reality, the financial burden seemed like more than they could handle. “It was a bittersweet feeling,” says Natalia.

Then Natalia received the news that opened the door to CMU. She had been chosen for the Kevin J. Gilmartin (TPR 1971, 1975) and Barbara L. Bessey (TPR 1971, 1975) Scholarship.

“I am humbled that someone would give to make it possible for me to attend this amazing university,” she says.

As a cognitive science major, she’s been learning about brain structure, cognitive theory and the data-driven foundations of psychology in her classes. She’s also discovering strengths she didn’t know she had.

“When it came to the statistics involved in psychology, such as the bell curve and experimental probabilities, I thought I would never be able to understand them,” she says. “Now I see how wonderful and interesting they really are.”

As an art minor, Natalia also examines her scientific interests through an imaginative lens.

“I like to combine my love for both the sciences and studio art in order to create diverse and creative themes,” she says.

In her artistic practice, Natalia uses a variety of materials and maintains a digital portfolio to showcase her work, which investigates the complex connections between mind, body, technology and the natural world.

Outside the classroom, Natalia volunteers as a writer and designer for The Cut, a student-run music publication at CMU. 

Whether she is working on magazine layouts, studying for exams or creating a mixed-media collage, Natalia says she’s “forever grateful” for the scholarship that made her CMU experience possible. 

In the future, Natalia hopes to support another incoming CMU student by becoming a scholarship donor herself — because she believes in the power of a CMU education.  

I chose Carnegie Mellon because, to me, it offers the perfect balance between science and art programs,” she says. “At CMU, I can pursue all of my interests.”