U Art student Pablo Cruz Ayala is awarded the Charles H. Monson Essay Prize

April 08 2024

Pablo Cruz-Ayala, undergraduate student in the Department of Art & Art History, has been awarded the University of Utah's Charles H. Monson Essay Prize by the Office of Undergraduate Research. 

 The Charles H. Monson Essay Prize honors Charles H. Monson Jr., a distinguished member of the University Philosophy Department from 1958 to 1974. Professor Monson earned both his bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of Utah and received his Ph.D. from Cornell University. During his years at the University, he served as chair of the Philosophy Department and Associate Vice President for Academic Affairs. He received the University’s Distinguished Teaching Award in 1970. In his honor, an annual prize is awarded to an undergraduate who writes an outstanding paper on a subject having to do with social change. 

Cruz-Ayala's study, "Non-Objective and Subject Matter Dependent Visual Stimulus in Artwork: Investigating Accessible Art Therapies for Vulnerable Populations," investigates the impact of art-based interventions on heart rate variability (HRV) and emotional regulation among undocumented immigrant populations. Utilizing a community-based participatory research (CBPR) approach, objective and non-objective artworks were presented in a public gallery setting. Pulse oximetry wearable devices were employed for HRV analysis. Results show a statistically significant improvement in HRV among participants exposed to immigrant subject matter-based artwork, suggesting the potential of art-based therapies for emotional regulation. Despite limitations in sample size and ethnic diversity, these findings contribute to the literature on art therapy. Cruz-Ayala was mentored by Professor John Erickson.