Marco Moreno, a Cal State Fullerton graduate student in cultural anthropology, believes much can be learned from studying the murals and graffiti of Orange County.
His thesis project, “If These Walls Could Talk: Murals and Graffiti in Orange County, California,” examines public art as a form of expression and education for communities that have either been marginalized or misrepresented in written histories.
“Murals have been used as a common language that a public can understand,” explained Moreno. “They visually represent the stories and struggles of communities, and live on for future generations to engage with.”
For his commitment to learning, campus and community service, and civic leadership, Moreno recently was selected among “the next generation of public problem solvers” by the Newman Civic Fellowship program. He is the first Titan to participate in the program, named for the late U.S. education reformer Frank Newman and administered by the Campus Compact higher education coalition.
Joining 268 students from 40 states, Washington, D.C., Mexico and Greece, Moreno will meet with fellows during the next year in both physical and virtual spaces to dissect regional, national and international issues, while additionally being mentored by faculty advisers.
For Moreno, who also holds a bachelor’s degree in psychology from CSUF, the fellowship is “an opportunity to think with other fellows about the realities confronting the communities in which we live in, develop ideas that can contribute toward addressing them and most of all, get other people engaged,” he said.
Moreno’s passion for learning matured through such undergraduate experiences as living with college roommates who frequently engaged in conversations about arts and politics, studying abroad in London and receiving one-on-one mentorship from faculty members.
“From his first introductory course in anthropology through his graduate studies, it has been a pleasure to see Marco develop his anthropological skills and apply them both to the campus and the larger community,” said Karen Stocker, associate professor of anthropology. “Whether through his campus-based job or his original research, Marco has proven his commitment to learning and to enacting anthropology for the good of the community.”
Some of the projects Moreno has initiated during his time at the university include developing a bilingual pamphlet to help students and families transition to the university, facilitating civil dialogues on such topics as race inequities and political polarization, and coordinating an educational trolley tour of Santa Ana with oral history recordings of residents affected by culture change and gentrification.
In a nomination letter for Moreno, CSUF President Fram Virjee noted, “He has taken full advantage of the educational opportunities afforded him at Cal State Fullerton, and now works tirelessly to ensure equal opportunity for his peers and those who aim to follow in his footsteps.”
Those footsteps often take Moreno to the corridors of University Hall, where two colorful murals by Emigdio Vasquez ’78, ’79 (B.A., M.A. art), a Titan alumnus and late pioneer in the Chicano art movement, inspire his research.
“A lot has happened for me in or around this place, and I have become a man that I am proud of,” said Moreno, reflecting on his experiences at Cal State Fullerton. With plans to complete his master’s degree next spring and apply to doctoral programs after the yearlong fellowship, he said he feels “grateful for the people and experiences that have helped me along the way, especially my family.”