Leon Bustos

Leon Bustos Forever Cowboy Student Award Homecoming 2016

Leon Bustos
Forever Cowboy Student Award
Homecoming 2016

Leon Bustos, who earned his M.A. in psychology from Highlands in summer 2016, was tapped for the new Forever Cowboy Student Award.

Bustos was a graduate teaching assistant and researcher for psychology professor Ian Williamson, who nominated him for the award.

“Leon has been a tremendous asset to the university by supporting hundreds of students on their journey at Highlands,” Williamson said. “His long list of roles includes peer mentor, orientation leader, supplemental instruction leader, teaching assistant, researcher and peer educator. He’s extraordinary,” Williamson said.

Bustos, who earned his B.A. in psychology from Highlands in 2013, was selected to deliver the keynote speech in 2014 at convocation, the ceremony welcoming incoming freshman.

Williamson said Bustos played a key role as a research assistant for a New Mexico Office of Substance Abuse Prevention grant to reduce substance abuse in San Miguel County.

“With this research grant, Leon adopted a leadership role and showed strong commitment to reducing substance abuse in our community,” Williamson said.

Bustos said his personal experience at Highlands motivated him to mentor other students.

“When I came to Highlands in 2009, I was an unprepared first-generation college student,” Bustos said. “I was lucky enough to work with Thomasinia Gallegos-Ortiz and David Esquibel in Academic Support. They really pushed, encouraged and believed in me. That kind of mentoring is powerful.”

Bustos said he fell in love with learning and chose psychology as his major.

“The psychology literature is clear that strong mentors provide enrichment that gives students the tools they need to be successful academically and professionally,” Bustos said.

He said in all his roles supporting other students at Highlands, he served as a first point of reference to let students know they are capable.

Bustos immersed himself in professional organizations like the Western Psychological Association, Rocky Mountain Psychological Association and Psi Chi International Honor Society, serving as HU’s Psi Chi student chapter president in 2014-2015.

One of Bustos’ primary research interests is environmental cognition and behavior. For his thesis, he studied the relationship between exposure to images of the natural environment and altruism.

“Generally, when people see beautiful images of nature with abundant resources like water and vegetation, the more likely they are to show altruistic behavior like generosity,” Bustos said.

As a psychology graduate student, Bustos led lectures and labs for courses in introductory psychology, social psychology, and research methods and statistics.

“When I’m teaching, I tell my students they hold the keys to their own success if they take the time and are dedicated and patient,” Bustos said.

Williamson said: “Leon is a dedicated teacher, mentor and scholar. He is highly valued by not just the psychology faculty and students, but also other students, faculty and staff throughout the campus.”

Bustos will begin applying in fall 2016 to doctoral psychology programs.

“My goal is to be a psychology professor in a predominantly Hispanic-Serving Institution. I want to provide students with the same type of motivation and opportunities that Highlands gave me,” Bustos said.