The Center for Experiential Learning and Diversity

Deva Wells

Venture Scholar

Major(s): Neurobiology
Project: Producing an audio-documentary on popular Cuban music from a study abroad program in Cienfuegos, Cuba

In Cuba, Deva met with local musicians to better understand the historical roots of Afro-Cuban music, and to pursue her passion for Afro-Cuban music an interest of hers since high school. Deva listened, danced, and recorded many Cuban musicians’ music–and brought the recordings back with her to the States. Radio listeners in the Puget Sound area were fortunate to hear this music and learn about Deva’s experiences in two radio broadcasts she produced.


devawellsWhere did you graduate from high school?

Holy Names Academy, Seattle

Why did you decide to come to the UW?
The combination of the College Honors Program and the greater university itself offered the best of both worlds: a smaller community within the context of a big school bursting with incredible opportunities.

What extracurricular activities are you involved in?
Latin Jazz ensemble and combo, volunteering at the 45th St. Homeless Youth Clinic, working as a TA for a biology class and in a cardiac research lab, vice-president of a student club and non-profit organization called ALMA, which focuses on the healthcare needs of Latin-Americans.

What are your interests?
Music, dance, photography, reading, travel, tennis, science, movies and of course, spending time with friends.

How did you first become involved in your project?
I had done a similar project in high school that formed my passion for investigating music and the social contexts of its creation and presenting my findings in a modest yet engaging way.

Why did you decide to begin/work on your project?
I wanted to create a project that would really allow me to connect with people during my study abroad trip and that could also be a useful, interesting and fun means of communicating what I learned to my peers at the UW.

What is rewarding about your project?
I got to look at a fascinating theme that not only left me ecstatic, but also the Cuban musicians whom I worked with, as well. In a sense, my project became a testament to the potential for building solidarity between the U.S. and Cuba by focusing on a cultural value that both countries share: a love of music. I left CDs of American music with all of the Cuban musicians whom I interviewed and I was also able to record their music to play over here; the very thought that more Americans may hear their music thrilled and touched these musicians beyond belief.

What is difficult/challenging about your project?
It took a long time to establish trust between the people whom I interviewed and whose music I recorded, but I was eventually successful and our mutual openness and interest in each other’s culture and music led to a wonderfully rich experience overall.

What are your plans after graduation?
I plan to go to medical school and become a physician.

Is there anything that you have mentioned that you’d like other students to know about either yourself or your project/words of advice or encouragement/etc.?
I would love to highlight the opportunity of projects like my own. At a place like the UW, any student who is truly committed to his/her education and who is passionate about connecting with people in his/her own community or exploring new communities will find myriad opportunities here. The exercise of creating your own project is extremely challenging and rewarding and its execution will help you develop skills that will be valuable throughout your entire life.