Graduating USG President, Vice President Leave a Legacy Behind

<p>Melissa Aceves (left) and Julia Cilleruelo Fernandez del Moral (right) pose for their campaign photos. Photo provided by Melissa Aceves.</p>

Melissa Aceves (left) and Julia Cilleruelo Fernandez del Moral (right) pose for their campaign photos. Photo provided by Melissa Aceves.

Julia Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral really wanted another free pen. 

As she perused the university fair in her hometown of Madrid, Spain, Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral spotted her target, a blip-on-the-map American school attempting to recruit international talent by giving away swag.  

She approached the booth of the foreign university – the one with the unique acronym for a name – with no intention of enrolling, just swindling them out of a free writing utensil. The interest was seemingly non-existent. She had never heard of the place, nor did it offer her desired major.

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USG President Julia Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral. Photo provided by Julia Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral.

Then, what Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral describes as a funny story ensued, she felt a connection. 

“Honestly, they really were the university that made me feel the most welcome,” Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral said regarding IUPUI. “It's hard to explain, but I just felt like they were incredibly helpful throughout the application process.” 

Somewhere between the gratis ball-points and the midwestern charm, it became clear to Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral that Indianapolis would make a perfectly fine home away from home.

Four and a half years later Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral finds herself counting down the days until she graduates with a Bachelor of Science in energy engineering. Her passion for sustainability meshed well with her role in IUPUI’s undergraduate student government (USG). She will leave IUPUI having built a legacy as a key cog of a progressive executive branch, culminating in her election as USG president in 2021.

Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral’s passion for positive change within the IUPUI community was tailor-made for the interests of somebody like USG running mate and current vice-president, Melissa Aceves. 

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USG Vice President Melissa Aceves. Photo provided by Melissa Aceves.

The dynamic between the two ushered in notable progress throughout the last year. However, with the impending graduation of both Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral and Aceves, USG will be hard-pressed to find superior replacements.

While the acting president’s focus centered around sustainable alternatives for the environment, the vice president was worried about a different type of environment.

“If there's anything to take away from our term, it's that what we, as individuals, can do to create change on campus is to just be aware of the space that you're creating when you are with others,” Aceves said, “Is that a safe space? Is that an inclusive space?”

Aceves, who hails from Columbus, Indiana, involved herself with numerous organizations throughout her IUPUI tenure. As part of the Alliance for Immigrant Justice and the Latino Student Association, Aceves honed in on initiatives that furthered progress for undocumented students.

Aceves found her calling as a leader within IUPUI’s Latinx community, which accounted for roughly 9% of the university’s undergraduate population as of 2020 per IUPUI’s diversity report. However, Aceves’ efforts towards inclusivity did not just pertain to one sect of the undergraduate student body.

“For everyone,” Aceves clarified, “For undocumented students, DACA students for survivors or individuals, people of color, all students, you know, we all can be aware of what our biases are.” 

Aceves said that tolerance should be practiced both on and off-campus, by all students.

Expanding resources for the undocumented community at IUPUI proved challenging according to Aceves. Yet, locating information on these resources was just as arduous.

“There's actually a lot of resources available, but it's just not known,” Aceves said. “We needed to spread the word, these resources are available.”

So, Aceves got to work, prioritizing accessibility.

“I was able to really organize all of that, and through USG we created a website where those resources are able to be found,” Aceves said.

The USG executive branch, headed by Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral and Aceves, exemplifies the robust diversity found within IUPUI’s student body. Not only does the cabinet include five individuals with distinct cultural, ethnic and academic backgrounds, but the majority of them are women.

According to 2020’s diversity report IUPUI’s student population is roughly 58% female.

While the university celebrates a majority female population, according to a 2019 Indiana University survey, 18% of undergraduate women at IUPUI reported having been sexually harrassed while 12% reported attempted or completed non-consentual penetration.

“One key thing that we need to do on campus is start tending to the culture around sexual assault and sexual harassment, and there needs to be more advocacy on bystander intervention from all of us,” Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral acknowledged, “This is not just about someone reporting an incident, it's about people around you speaking up when they see something that is not okay.”

Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral’s time as president of USG was spent attempting to eradicate the sexual assault culture at IUPUI.

The USG administration under Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral continued previous work with It’s On Us, a non-profit program dedicated to sexual assault prevention across U.S. college campuses.

The 2021 USG executive branch revamped efforts to educate the student population about sexual assault. They shared a petition to denounce sexual misconduct as well as upping communication about resources like the Rave Guardian safety app, which provides free mobile access to critical alerts and emergency lines for those in danger of not just sexual, but any kind of assault.

Aceves says USG is planning on passing a bill that provides IUPUI students with free Birdies, which are reusable, handheld alarms designed for easily accessible assault prevention. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral, then USG Director of Initiatives, passed the menstrual product initiative. The aim of which was to provide free pads and tampons in women’s, men’s and all gender restrooms across campus.

Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral also collaborated with IUPUI’s Office of Sustainability to establish environmentally friendly practices throughout the campus during her term as president. In 2021 USG passed a resolution calling for IUPUI’s administration to commit to achieving campus-wide carbon neutrality by 2040.

Carbon neutrality resolutions, like the one passed by IUPUI’s student government, influenced Indiana University into creating a climate action planning committee at an executive level. The committee will examine the logistics behind carbon neutrality and make recommendations to IU’s administration, though no commitment to carbon neutrality by any date has been set. 

Regardless of outcome, the work done by Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral, Aceves, IUPUI USG and various other organizations led to high-capital, sustainable changes being considered by the upper-echelon of Indiana University’s administration, a small win for climate action advocates.

Aceves and Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral know all too well that a collection of small wins can lead to considerable advancements, the epitome of the most recent USG executive branch.

As they prepare to turn the tassels on their graduation caps, Aceves and Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral can reminisce about their time working for USG knowing that their efforts will shape IUPUI’s, and Indianapolis’, futures.

“The fact that I get to work with individuals that have a passion for change, and we can spend a whole day in a room working on homework, but also working on projects and initiatives – and at the same time still be having fun, still laughing, still eating pizza and cupcakes, is something that really makes the college experience fun,” Aceves said, “And I’m going to miss that about IUPUI.”

Post graduation, Aceves is looking ahead to taking part in the activities that Indianapolis is well renowned for during the month of May. She will participate in the 2022 AES 500 festival parade at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a 500 festival princess. She is also looking forward to spending time exploring the outdoors and camping. A relaxing way to cap off an illustrious college career.

As for Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral, life is coming full circle. When her parents come to visit Indianapolis, the experience will be a unique one.

“My parents are originally from Madrid. They've never never left Europe, so they’re coming for my graduation for the first time to the U.S.” Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral said. “I’m just really excited to show them campus, because all we knew about universities in the United States was from High School Musical.”

Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral, who will be moving to Chicago, hopes her parents are able to see the two midwestern cities with the same, “bright, new eyes,” that she had when she first arrived in Indianapolis over four years ago.

Now, Cilleruelo Fernández del Moral will be starting the next chapter of her life, leaving an impact on the university she spent the last four years at, in more ways than she could have possibly imagined.

Funny what a free pen can do.

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