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Man in a U.S. Air Force uniform seated next to a young child.

Native vet to focus on tribal health with global health master’s degree

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Charles Yellow Horse served in the United States Air Force for eight years and then turned to ASU Online for his higher education. Yellow Horse obtained his Bachelor of Science in 2021, and this semester he is graduating with a Master of Science in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “The decision to study global health with a focus on tribal health was a culmination of life experiences that go back to my upbringing on the Navajo Reservation to my time in the United States Air Force and now as a graduate student,” Yellow Horse said. “Each time in my life, health was significantly present. I experienced traditional and spiritual remedies for a number of ailments on the Navajo Reservation; in the Air Force, consistent physical readiness was a priority in order to meet the demanding work environment; and as a student, my overall health was important, as well as the health of my family.”Yellow Horse is the recipient of the Fall 2023 University Outstanding Graduate Award for Social Sciences. He was also awarded the Northwest Native American Research Center for Health (NW NARCH) Support Fellowship for his research work with Native Health of Phoenix's Helping Hands program.ASU News talked with Yellow Horse about his experiences as a student. Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity. Question: Why did you choose ASU for your degree?Answer: As a non-traditional student, there were many reasons I chose to study at ֱ State University. ... As a husband and father and United States Air Force veteran, I took into account my commitments. ASU offered dedicated support for all aspects of my life, which I was overly excited to discover. The online platform made it much easier to be present to support my family, the American Indian Student Support Services supported me academically as well as culturally, and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center has been a supportive organization for my efforts as a military member through offering community building and recognition of service at events.Q: Did you participate in any internships or labs?A: I am currently completing my internship for my global health MS degree with Native Health's Helping Hands program. I am currently serving as a community resources navigator, aiding community members and their families to find resources that address their social needs, like employment, food, financial assistance, education and housing. This program looks to reduce the health inequity gap by providing referrals to address social determinants of health. I also conducted a program evaluation for the Helping Hands program with the goal of discovering ways to improve the program to help facilitate getting community members in contact with the resources they need.Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?A: While at ASU, I was impressed by how much support I received when I had not thought to ask or thought I needed it. The consistent support from faculty and staff really enabled me to succeed in my academic journey at ASU.Q: Which professor/course taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?A: I feel as though I have learned meaningful and perspective-altering lessons in each of my courses. Although the course that I value a lot is ASB 526: Survey Topics in Global Nutrition, taught by Assistant Research Scientist Roseanne Schuster. This course allowed me to research in depth about food sovereignty, which is an especially important topic for Native Americans, including myself and Indigenous people around the world. Schuster’s teaching method of hosting initiative-taking discussions via an online platform called Perusall really allowed for me to grow my perspective and complete concrete research work on traditional food systems as a means to reducing food insecurity among Indigenous peoples.Q: What are your plans after graduation?A: I am currently navigating many pathways going forward as I search for a position, but one goal I will pursue is giving back to the Native American, veteran and student communities that have supported me in my academic journey.]]>
Portrait of ASU grad Piper Heiligenstein.

International travel, research highlights of December grad’s ASU experience

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Piper Heiligenstein’s undergraduate experience at ֱ State University was a combination of academics, adventure, prestigious research opportunities and personal autonomy.Heiligenstein will graduate in December with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from The College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences, a certificate in biomedical research from the New College of Interdisciplinary ֱ and Sciences and honors from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.She took her first-ever international trip to Germany as the recipient of the DAAD RISE scholarship in the summer of 2022, where she was an intern at Kiel University working as a laboratory research assistant all week and traveling to neighboring countries on weekends.“The most interesting moment in my ASU ֱ was in the summer of 2022 when I traveled and lived across the ocean by myself for a summer for the DAAD RISE scholarship,” said Heiligenstein, who is from Trenton, Illinois.“It was so interesting for me since it was my first time traveling and living alone out of the country. The experience really challenged me in terms of independence, but I was able to meet some really cool people who I still keep in touch with today,” she said.Heiligenstein followed up her experience in Germany with the Fulbright-MITACS Globalink Research Internship program over the summer of 2023 at McGill University, an English-language public research university located in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, where she spent 12 weeks studying genomics and DNA replication.As a Barrett student, she completed an honors thesis titled “Deciphering the Essentiality of the Mycobacterium smegmatis PrrAB Two Component System.”“I believe completing an honors thesis is a huge advantage on graduate school applications. The undergraduate honors thesis process gave me insight into how my future thesis defense process might look like and I also think showing you have tangible experience presenting and defending your own independent work is a key thing graduate admission offices look for,” said Heiligenstein, who plans to pursue a PhD in biomedical sciences with a focus on infectious diseases.As Heiligenstein, who was an ASU President’s Scholar, wraps up her last undergraduate semester, we asked her to reflect on her time at ASU. Here’s what she had to say.Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?Answer: There was really no exact moment when I decided to study biological sciences, but I always enjoyed my biology classes in high school the most out of all my classes.Q: Why did you choose ASU?A: I chose ֱ State since I wanted to escape the Midwest cold weather and my father graduated from ASU with a bachelor’s degree in English back in 1988.Q: Why did you choose to be in Barrett Honors College?A: After I got accepted into ֱ State, I took a tour of the campus and met with then-Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs. I was really impressed by the college and the guidance and resources the school provided students.Being a Barrett student enhanced my undergraduate experience by making a massive university feel a lot more like home. I'm from a pretty small town, and Barrett had a community atmosphere I would have missed if I did not join the college. I met almost all of my friends through Barrett.Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson?A: The professor at ASU that taught me the most important lesson is Dr. Susan Holechek, assistant teaching professor in the School of Life Sciences. She taught me that genetics is more than just studying pea plants and inheritance, which led me to working in a microbiology/genetics lab.Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?A: The best piece of advice I can give to those still in school is don’t be too hard on yourself because everyone around you is just figuring it out as they go as well.Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?A: The Sun Devil Fitness Complex is my favorite spot on campus because I used to work at Shake Smart and I played intramural volleyball for three years.Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem, I would create a nonprofit organization with the purpose of tackling antibiotic resistance, specifically through funding projects related to phage therapy and antibiotic residue in water supplies.]]>
Woman smiling.

From French literature to the lab: Biochem grad finds true passion in synthetic biology

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Bethany Kolbaba Kartchner is by all accounts a true Renaissance woman. She has a master's degree in French literature and is about to graduate from ASU’s School of Molecular Sciences with a PhD in biochemistry.But before her journey started at ASU, when she decided she wanted a science degree, it had been more than 10 years since she had completed the basic science classes necessary to enroll in a graduate program. In addition, she had a family who needed her. Kartchner spent a month researching ASU's biochemistry programs, strategizing how she could take classes and still be the primary caretaker of her children.“It was very important to me that their lives would not be affected by my new pursuit,” stated Kartchner. “I enrolled in one online class at Rio Salado every four months until I had taken all the necessary classes they offered. Then, I took higher-level, in-person classes and labs at Mesa Community College because they had an excellent preschool program for my youngest child. Once I had taken all of the classes I could at the community college level, I applied to ASU to complete my second bachelor’s degree, in biochemistry.”When Kartchner came to ASU, she was incredibly nervous. The school seemed so big, and she wasn't sure she’d be accepted as a nontraditional student, as most of her classmates were decades younger than her.“I needn't have worried,” explained Kartchner. “Everyone was very welcoming, and the professors were incredibly accessible. I quickly found study partners and settled into a nice routine.”One of her professors, Marcia Levitus, took a special interest in Kartchner and helped her to hone her interests and identify a lab where she could gain experience to apply to the doctoral program. She found a position in Professor Jeremy Mills’ lab working with proteins. She was especially attracted to professor Mills' work due to the range in research — from designing proteins on a computer to putting the gene that encodes that protein into E. coli, characterizing the protein and solving its structure using X-ray crystallography.“His lab really does everything and I've been fortunate to gain experience in all aspects of the protein design workflow,” said Kartchner.“In the laboratory, Beth was far more than simply an excellent researcher,” said Mills. “Rather, Beth served as a manager, mentor and confidant to her colleagues — and at times her advisor — and was always incredibly generous with her time.“Beth was often the first person I would introduce new students to because I was certain that she would make them feel welcome in the laboratory regardless of their experience or background,” Mills continued. “As much as I’d like to have Beth in the laboratory still, I am so excited that she has moved on to bigger and better things. I can say without hesitation that having Beth in our laboratory for the last few years has shaped how we do things in ways that will continue for years to come. I am so grateful to Beth that she gave me the privilege of being able to work with and learn from her.”During 2021, Kartchner worked remotely for Moderna in the Computational Sciences and Molecular Engineering Division, where she implemented the Rosetta RNA tertiary structure prediction platform.Editor's note: Answers may have been edited for length or clarity.Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?Answer: I was driving my children to their activities and listening to Science Friday on NPR. Ira Flatow, the host, was interviewing J. Craig Venter about his book "Life at the Speed of Light: From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life." In the interview, they discussed a field that was completely new to me — synthetic biology, which is basically reengineering biology for human purposes. I was immediately intrigued and I knew that I wanted to become proficient in this field.Preparing to come to ASU took me about four years. I studied every weekday from 4–6 a.m. while the children slept, and on Sunday afternoons, I would go to the public library from 1–5 p.m. When we went on family vacations, I kept up my regime, often studying in closets because they were the only place where turning on a light wouldn't wake the family. I have a very special memory of studying biology in a closet in an Airbnb in Nevada. I was learning about ribosomes and how they translate mRNA into proteins, and this feeling of complete joy swept over me. I absolutely loved what I was doing. It was so exciting to learn about the world.Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?A: I expected my graduate work to challenge me academically, so when I struggled with an abstract concept, that didn't surprise me. What I didn't expect was that graduate work would challenge me personally. I didn't know that the struggles that I would go through would change the way I see myself and my world. I've become a much stronger person and a much more critical thinker because of my studies at ASU.Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?A: School is hard and can be overwhelming at times. Break down big projects into smaller steps and work on them methodically. All the small daily steps move you closer to your goals.Q: What advice would you give anyone who is contemplating taking on a big project or working toward a long-term goal?A: Don't be afraid of really long-term goals. When I was 36 and contemplating whether I should pursue my doctorate degree in biochemistry, I knew that the path would be long and that I would be 47 years old when I finished. Initially, that thought was very daunting. However, I knew that eventually, I would be 47 and I'd either be 47 with a doctorate or 47 without one. I decided that I wanted to be 47 with a doctorate so I got started.Q: What are your plans after graduation?A: I'm working as a scientist of computational biology for a biotech startup (FL83) in the Flagship Pioneering ecosystem based in Boston. I work remotely and travel to Boston every few months to work on site. I love what I'm doing.]]>
Jeri Sasser smiles at the camera

Psychology trailblazer leaves legacy of mentorship, research excellence

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Jeri Sasser’s journey into psychology was fueled by a genuine desire to help others. As she nears the completion of her PhD in psychology at ASU, specializing in developmental psychology, Sasser remains committed to both her passion for research and supporting others in their academic pursuits. Hailing from Austin, Texas, where she was born, and having grown up in Edmond, Oklahoma, Sasser ventured to Athens, Georgia, for her undergraduate degree. She made Tempe, ֱ, her home in 2019 when she began her doctoral program at ASU and quickly involved herself in the psychology community, collecting accolades for her service and scholarly achievements. Awards include the Department of Psychology’s Samuel Leifheit Memorial Citizenship Award and the Graduate Professional Student Association’s (GPSA) Teaching Excellence Award in 2021. Sasser has also been recognized with the GPSA’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion award, the Department of Psychology’s Doctoral Scholar Award, the department’s Outstanding Writing in Psychology award and the Student Leader for the College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences Award in 2022, among several other prestigious awards. Notably, she is also the recipient of the 2023 Harry Lowell Swift Advancing Health Scholarship and the National Institute of Drug Abuse T32 Predoctoral Fellowship.A defining moment for Sasser was her involvement in the Department of Psychology’s ENERGIZE Research Initiative. Sasser launched the ENERGIZE Mentorship Initiative, a sub-program designed to guide underrepresented undergraduate students in STEM in navigating research assistantships. Her proposal uniquely paired every ENERGIZE applicant with current graduate students, creating personalized mentorship experiences.Speaking on the initiative, Sasser notes that many students lack prior knowledge about entering research or the resources to prepare for the competitive process of becoming a research assistant. “The ENERGIZE Mentorship Initiative aimed to promote students’ engagement, competence and confidence in a research setting.”Sasser’s impactful program has mentored over 250 students, complemented by a research methods course she co-established at ASU. Her contributions extend to uncovering vital findings supporting the transition of Latino students to college life. As a lead graduate student researcher in the Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab, Sasser played a crucial role in the Transciones project, a longitudinal study funded by the William T. Grant Foundation examining the daily stress experiences and health behaviors of ASU Latino students and how it impacted their academic achievement and integration into college. Sasser is graduating ASU having published 10 first-author research papers, contributing to seven more as a co-author. She reflects on her doctoral journey and shares more about her calling to create a positive impact within her community below.Professor and Associate Chair of ASU’s Department of Psychology Leah Doane (left) served as Sasser’s faculty advisor during her pursuit of a PhD in psychology with a specialization in developmental psychology. Courtesy photoQuestion: Why did you choose ASU?Answer: I knew ASU had one of the strongest quantitative psychology programs and there were multiple faculty members with expertise in areas that were central to my current and future research interests, but I ultimately chose ASU because of its culture. The program felt very close-knit and cooperative, rather than competitive. Graduate students got along with one another and seemed to form genuine friendships, and faculty members often collaborated on research projects. It was really important that I chose an interdisciplinary and supportive environment to complete my PhD, given that I would be dedicating the next five to six years in this community. Choosing ASU was the best decision I could have made, and I truly believe that this is where I was supposed to be.Q: Can you share more about your doctoral dissertation?A: My dissertation is a combination of three published papers that explored the influence of family members such as parents and siblings, as well as broader aspects of the family context, like dynamics and values, on adolescent sleep. The central findings emphasized that adolescent sleep is significantly influenced by the family environment and cannot be fully understood without considering this context. The aim of this research collection is to shed light on how families can support better sleep during adolescence, addressing the notable sleep-related challenges this age group encounters. My hope is that this work guides future research directions and informs intervention and prevention strategies to enhance sleep health and overall well-being during adolescence. These papers were published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence, the Journal of Research on Adolescence and Sleep Medicine.Q: You’re leaving ASU with 17 publications under your belt — what does this accomplishment mean to you?A: (Laughs) As cliché as it sounds, that is just a number and doesn’t do justice to the time and effort invested in these papers by folks other than myself. To me, this really goes to show the power of collaboration and relationship-building. These publications are the result of collaborations with teams both within and outside of ASU, including the ֱ Twin Project, the Youth Development Institute, the ASU Biodesign Institute and ASU Counseling Services. These diverse collaborations not only helped me learn more about the topics that we were studying, but also made the journey more fulfilling, working alongside others with a shared interest and similar goals. So I guess the short answer is that this perceived productivity is really just a testament to the collaborative spirit that drives impactful research.Q: Could you share an instance or story that illustrates the impact of a specific professor or mentor during your time at ASU?A: My doctoral advisor, Dr. Leah Doane, has significantly influenced my experience at ASU. When my original mentor unexpectedly retired in the first semester of my PhD, Dr. Doane readily agreed to take me on as a student. This is a big deal! Many professors spend years preparing to take a new student and don’t do so lightly (after all, it is a five-to-six-year relationship they are committing to). This is just one example of how Dr. Doane has always had my best interest at heart. She cared about me as a person and helped me in achieving my goals, even when they did not align with the traditional outcomes of the program. Based on my experiences, as well as others in the lab, several graduate students and I nominated her for an Outstanding Faculty Mentor award.Q: Could you elaborate on any specific experiential learning opportunities that significantly influenced your academic and personal growth?A: This past summer, I completed an internship at Google as a user experience researcher, where I gained insights into the role’s demands and expectations, drawing from my background in psychology. Working with the Pixel hardware team, I learned how to lead end-to-end concept testing, usability studies and foundational research, conduct product synthesis and market literature reviews, and collaborate effectively with cross-functional stakeholders such as those working on Android and Fitbit. Leveraging my psychology background, I contributed to initiatives broadly related to user health and well-being. For example, I supported the launch of the Pixel 8 Pro temperature sensor, a feature with the potential to significantly impact health and wellness. I’m really proud of the contributions I made during my time at Google, and I’m deeply grateful for the opportunity to learn and grow within such a collaborative, inclusive and forward-thinking community.ASU doctoral psychology student Jeri Sasser completed an internship as a user experience researcher at Google, where she supported the launch of the Pixel 8 Pro temperature sensor. Courtesy photoQ: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?A: The biggest advice I have is to continuously listen to yourself and what makes you excited, and not be afraid to pivot or explore new options. I think as students it’s easy to get stuck in overthinking what the “correct” pathway is or feel the need to take the traditional route because that is what most of those before us have done. But in reality, the “best” path looks different for everyone, because we all have different strengths, values, goals and personal situations. The moment that I started noticing what I had the most fun doing, and tapping into what some of my natural strengths were, the future became a lot more exciting to me (as opposed to stressful or scary). And we all deserve to be excited about the future!Q: Can you share more about your plans after graduation?A: I will be starting a full-time job as a user experience researcher at EdPlus at ASU. I’m excited about contributing to the innovative work at EdPlus, expanding access to high quality education and enhancing students’ learning experiences. I’ll primarily be working on ASU Online, which hosts the nation’s fourth-best online psychology program and is one of the most popular ASU Online majors. I’m optimistic that my work will contribute to the field by reducing barriers to higher education and improving learning outcomes for current and prospective students.]]>
Olivia Maras smiles at the camera.

Graduating psychology student examines developmental pathways to healthy love

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Olivia Maras studies romantic relationships; she aims to understand how to promote healthy relationships through adolescence to adulthood. This December, she’ll earn a master’s degree in passing as she continues her pursuit of a PhD in psychology with a specialization in developmental psychology at ֱ State University.Originally from the small town of Blair, Nebraska, Maras’ interest in relationship dynamics began during her undergraduate days at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she served in a psychology lab that explored the marital dyad through structured interviews with family members.“Conducting these interviews really sparked my interest in studying romantic relationships, as I saw firsthand how integral they were to so many other aspects of their well-being and parenting. I also saw how impactful and important quality research is to answering important questions,” Maras said. “I knew I wanted to continue my research journey, and a PhD in psychology was the next natural step!”In addition to her doctoral research in Associate Professor Thao Ha’s Healthy Experiences Across Relationships and Transitions (@Heart) Lab, Maras is an advocate for inclusivity, actively contributing to ASU’s Department of Psychology through teaching, mentoring and spearheading the graduate student-led initiative Amplified Voices.We caught up with Maras to learn more about her research, her decision to attend ASU and her plans for the future. Question: Why did you choose ASU?Answer: I chose ASU for many reasons, but my primary reason was the wonderful, supportive community in the Department of Psychology. I could tell, even from my interviews, that the graduate students and faculty were there to support and uplift each other. This has held true, three years in! I also chose ASU for the robust research program and research opportunities. Learning from the amazing and accomplished faculty at ASU has deepened my learning experiences and pushed my research to new heights.Q: Can you share more about your master’s thesis?A: My thesis utilized a longitudinal research sample to investigate whether experiencing harmful, negative parenting dynamics in adolescence is associated with increased risk for involvement in intimate partner violence in adulthood. I also wanted to understand whether having a healthy, positive and prosocial friendship in adolescence could lower the risk of being involved in intimate partner violence in adulthood, particularly for those who experienced harmful parenting in adolescence. I found that, indeed, having positive, prosocial peer friendships in adolescence were important in lowering the risk of future intimate partner violence. I hope that this research inspires intervention and prevention programs to invest in the promotion of healthy, positive peer friendships in adolescence as it may protect against future harmful romantic relationship behaviors.Q: Could you share an instance or story that illustrates the impact of a specific professor or mentor during your time at ASU?A: My advisor, Dr. Thao Ha, has been instrumental in my success as a graduate student. She is endlessly encouraging and believes in me and my abilities to make an impact as a researcher. One example that comes to mind is when I first started graduate school. In my first month in the program, Thao encouraged me to submit an abstract to the Society for Research on Adolescence (SRA) conference, even though I had just started and had no idea what I wanted to study. She pushed me to step out of my comfort zone and trust myself as a new researcher. I was accepted to the conference and had an amazing time presenting my research at SRA in New Orleans!Q: Are there any experiential learning opportunities that have significantly influenced your academic and personal growth during your time at ASU?A: My involvement in Amplified Voices: A Conversation and Action Series has been incredibly rewarding. Amplified Voices is a graduate student-led project in the Department of Psychology, aiming to provide a platform that honors and celebrates racial and ethnic minority scholars and underrepresented voices. The project also challenges current ideas and practices within psychology research. So far, we have held seven successful events, bringing in speakers to discuss a range of crucial topics. These include equity in the classroom, historical silences that shape current social stratification, experiences of being Black in academia’s “ivory tower,” racism in health care, approaches to Indigenous quantitative methods and behavioral genetic approaches to study race-related dynamics. I currently hold the role of project manager, leading a team of four graduate students to execute these events and ensure the success of the project. I love having the opportunity to inspire our community to engage with these critical ideas and calls to action.Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?A: My advice is to be kind to yourself and give yourself more credit than you think you deserve. Just getting into graduate school is a huge accomplishment and means that you are exactly where you need to be. Remember that you deserve to be there. As I’m still in school as a PhD student, I am still trying to take my own advice! Also, finding your community is critical to your personal success as an academic and researcher. Building a strong community to support you and uplift you in difficult times is one of the most important tasks of graduate school.Q: What was your favorite space on campus, whether studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?A: My favorite space on campus is the secret garden, in the southwest corner of Dixie Gammage Hall. I love the greenery, beautiful landscaping and quiet surroundings. Another runner-up is the Life Sciences A Wing, where you can find many live reptiles, including snakes and turtles, along the hallway! Q: How do you envision your future work contributing to the field of psychology?A: After I get my PhD, I am unsure of where I will land. I know that I want to pursue a ֱ in research and help improve people’s lives in some way. Stay tuned for what this looks like, whether it is a ֱ in industry in user experience research, nonprofit work, government policymaking or academia!Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? A: As a psychology student, I must note that this is an impossible question to answer, as there are so many aspects of our lives that are interconnected. So solving one problem just means there are still many more to solve. However, I am passionate about preventing intimate partner violence and dating abuse, so I would tackle this issue. To do so, however, we need to target parenting, peer dynamics, socio-economic status, sex and relationship education in schools, and so much more! Additionally, I would bring more awareness towards the issue of digital dating violence, which is a new frontier in dating abuse research. With technological advancements and social media, harmful relationship behaviors aren’t just happening in person anymore. Understanding relationship dynamics and how they intersect with technology is a crucial next step in research. Overall, I would spend this money on promoting healthy, positive and constructive relationship skills and dynamics, starting as early as childhood and continuing into adulthood.]]>
Meghna Chowdury smiles at the camera.

Dean’s Medalist explores legal field through psychology studies

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.Named the ֱ State University Department of Psychology’s fall 2023 Dean’s Medalist awardee, Meghna Chowdhury has emerged as a star student. She’s passionate about shaping public policy for juvenile justice, and has her sights set on law school. Chowdhury’s academic journey has been punctuated by pivotal moments of self-discovery.“I decided that I wanted to pursue a degree in psychology during my second semester at ASU. I was taking PSY 101, the first psychology course I’d ever taken. Before then, I really didn't know what psychology was about. I was so captivated by that class, and I wanted to learn more about human behavior, so I changed my major from biomedical science to psychology,” Chowdhury said.Originally from Highlands Ranch, Colorado, Chowdhury is graduating this December with a Bachelor of Science in psychology and a certificate in law and human behavior. She received the Deborah Oldfield Reich and John Reich Maroon and Gold Leaders Scholarship, along with her merit-based ASU scholarship. During her time at ASU, Chowdhury participated in Project Excellence — a partnership between Barrett, The Honors College and ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law that exposed students to law courses and faculty members. She took a public interest litigation course and pursued a research position studying electronic incarceration (e-carceration) technologies in the Anti-Racist Digital Health Futures Lab. Her various experiences culminated in an honors thesis project that examined jury instructions and its effect on Christian and Jewish jurors' beliefs on sentencing verdicts of inchoate crimes.We caught up with Chowdhury to learn more about her ASU experience and future plans.Question: Why did you choose ASU?Answer: It was always my dream to attend somewhere warm, especially coming from Colorado. I loved how ASU offered me the duality of a smaller department for my major while still being able to take advantage of the large university atmosphere. It was also a draw that I got to explore Phoenix, experiencing a brand-new city and meeting new friends along the way.Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?A: During the summer between my sophomore and junior year, I participated in a study-abroad internship program in London, U.K. While there, I worked for the Exit Foundation, a grassroots organization dedicated to helping youth involved in the criminal justice system. I was able to see the importance of mentorship and how the community in London came together to achieve their collective goal of ending youth violence. It completely opened my mind to a whole world I felt passionate about and ultimately inspired me to attend law school.Q: Could you share an instance or story that illustrates the impact of a specific professor or mentor during your time at ASU?A: I have been a part of Dr. Rick Cruz’s CACTUS Lab for two years now, where I learned the importance of advocating for improved prevention and intervention efforts for diverse youth and their families. I always love going into his lab because of the warm atmosphere it fosters. Dr. Cruz has played a huge role in my academic ֱ, and I know that I can go to him with anything I need, regardless of whether it is school-related. He truly promotes mental health and deeply cares for every one of his students. Q: What were the results of your honors thesis sequence?A: I hypothesized that Christians and Jewish people will view jury instructions the same when given jury instructions, and that Christians will judge inchoate crimes more harshly than Jewish people when not given jury instructions. My results indicated that Christians judge inchoate crimes more harshly than Jewish people, but there was no effect of jury instructions on judgment. Christians who were presented with jury instructions gave the defendant a longer prison sentence in years compared to Jewish participants who received jury instructions. On the other hand, Christian and Jewish participants who did not receive jury instructions gave a similar length of prison sentence in years.  Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?A: I would tell every incoming first-year student to take a chance and try one new thing. Some of my favorite memories were created by simply saying “yes.” For example, I tried intramural beach volleyball during my first year, even though I hadn’t played before. From that experience, I learned a new skill and even met one of my best friends!Q: What was your favorite space on campus, whether studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?A: For the last three years, I have loved the outdoor patio behind Hayden Library. It stays shady all day and is a great, quiet place to escape from the constant bustle of campus. An added bonus is its close proximity to Starbucks, perfect for a mid-study-session pick-me-up.Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? A: If I were given $40 million, I would reform the prison system in the United States. More specifically, I would invest that money in giving employees better pay, building more space that is safer and healthier for inmates, and providing more programs to inmates that assist them in the transition back to society, such as therapy, rehabilitation, education and other necessary life skills.]]>
Reya Adoni smiling with an outdoor setting behind her.

ASU community thanks donors during a dedicated week of gratitude

This week, ֱ State University is celebrating the donors who give their time, talent and treasure to support our community.The ASU Foundation organizes Sun Devil Gratitude Week for students, faculty and staff to thank donors for their generosity. The celebration started as a single-day event on National Philanthropy Day six years ago.Jessielyn Hirschl, associate director of donor relations at the ASU Foundation, said it’s essential to thank donors for their contributions. “ASU is doing so much amazing work, and none of it would be possible without the support of our donors and the passion of our students, faculty and staff,” she said. “It’s so important to show gratitude to all the people who make this community so special and encourage a continued commitment to building a better world.”Last year, ASU received contributions from over 107,000 donors. The ASU Foundation will use phone calls, text messages, emails and social media posts to connect with as many donors as possible during its Gratitude Week.Throughout the week, all ASU students and faculty are encouraged to celebrate donors, especially those who have benefited from their generosity.Tirupalavanam Ganesh is associate dean for outreach and student success and Tooker Professor for engineering education at ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. In his roles, Ganesh sees the impact of scholarship support on students firsthand.“I thank ASU donors for their continued support over these many years, which has allowed us to support engineering students as they earn a degree,” he said.Nicole Ponsart is an MFA student at the School of Art, where she works in ceramics. Support from donors has allowed Ponsart to secure the materials she needs to make larger pieces.“You’ve made it possible for me to continue my education and create a body of work that is meaningful and long-lasting,” Ponsart said of the donors who helped fund her education.Reya Adoni is an undergraduate studying economics at the W. P. Carey School of Business. Donor support helps her focus on school and devote time to campus involvement.“This has enabled me to focus on getting my degree while also giving me the time to really take part in my role as vice president for Women’s Club Soccer,” she said. “I’m really, really grateful.”These stories and countless others show the impact that donors have across ASU.“By having a special week that highlights gratitude, we can demonstrate its importance and foster a ‘gratitude mindset’ to inform our work and personal lives all year long,” Hirschl said.]]>
ASU professor and students pose for a group photo.

Empowering Indigenous communities on economic self-development

Every Indigenous community has its unique characteristics.Some communities embrace developing their land for enterprise or tourism to foster cultural exchange, while others adopt a more conservative stance regarding development.In either case, Hale works to empower Indigenous communities with the necessary tools and knowledge to achieve their objectives and align their development with their vision.Since joining ASU’s American Indian Studies program in 2005, Michelle Hale, who is Laguna, Chippewa, Odawa and a citizen of the Navajo Nation from Oak Springs, ֱ, has focused her teaching and research on Indigenous communities' economic and community development and governance.For Hale, development is essential in every community, but even more so for Indigenous communities looking to enhance the quality of life, preserve and maintain their culture, improve infrastructure, expand opportunity and assert more control over their land and resources.“Most of what I teach is in Indigenous planning and reservation economic development,” she said. “Our core course is Indian policy, which I enjoy because it is sort of an introductory class to a lot of the concepts I’ve been working on the last couple of years.”Hale’s coursework is grounded in lived experience, traditional knowledge and perspectives of American Indian people and organizations who do the work of community development on the ground.It connects to the unit's larger mission to educate students and the broader community about the history, experiences and issues facing Indigenous people and to create opportunities for community-based research.Hale and David Pijawka, professor emeritus in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, have worked together over the years to create a course in tribal community planning, which has bridged the gap between historical, cultural insights and practice from the two disciplines.“What I appreciate most is that the work is interdisciplinary across the university. It allows us to draw from the knowledge of different topics, tools and technology to brainstorm solutions to fit a common goal and to modify those approaches to be relevant to Indigenous communities,” Hale said.In ֱ, the combined efforts of American Indian Studies and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning have helped support communities in the Navajo Nation in developing land use plans, updating older land use plans and supporting discussion and community education for economic development efforts and planning for new infrastructure projects.“Our approach, leveraged by the strengths of the two units, ensured that the planning process aligned with Indigenous community values,” said Jonathan Davis, an instructor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning said. “These efforts support tribal self-sufficiency by building planning capacity through bottom-up approaches.”“It’s about providing Navajo community leaders, members and support staff with the planning tools they need so they can tailor them to what is most important to them and the projects at hand,” Hale said. “These tools empower them to have greater control in terms of planning, land use and having a say in areas they don’t want to develop.”Kim Kanuho, a member of the Navajo Nation and president of Fourth World Design Group, recently came to Hale’s tribal community planning class to speak to students about the importance of tribal planning and how they can get involved.“As a tribal planner, our work is important because it includes Indigenizing the planning process and incorporating our tribal voices and cultural values into our tribal communities," Kanuho said. “I love working and co-creating the planning process with our tribal people who know their culture, land and communities best.Student engagement and community-based workMichelle HaleHale said that in past years, teaching Indigenous planning meant breaking through the stigma of development, since the word “development” did not always sit well.“For many Indigenous students, development is associated with extraction, capitalism or growth that is managed by those other than the Indigenous people themselves,” she said. “The early thoughts from students when the tribal community planning class was first introduced at ASU in 2015 were that Indigenous planning was something that is simply going to trick us into developing all our lands.”But that has changed over the years. Hale said she has seen shifts in the students' mindsets. “There is a lot of excitement, especially from undergraduate Indigenous students, because they see how Indigenized planning tools can help to address real-world, here-and-now challenges in their home areas and place the community at the heart of the decision-making,” Hale said.One of Hale’s upcoming research projects, in collaboration with the the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, focuses on the Navajo Nation's food stands and flea markets. It will use geographic mapping technology that captures data for various purposes, such as mapping and spatial analysis.The project, funded by the National Science Foundation and part of a grant with the Earth Systems Science for the Anthropocene, will monitor the activity at Navajo reservation flea markets in communities like Window Rock, Kayenta, Tuba City and Shiprock.Hale and Davis will be joined by Assistant Professor Jose-Benito Rosales Chavez and a team of student researchers who will use geographic information systems to map flea market locations. They’ll also study the exchange of traditional food items and arts and crafts and talk to customers about why they visit these flea markets. They hope the information collected will be helpful for decision-makers with Navajo Nation Economic Development, local chapters and others who wish to support Navajo entrepreneurs and the flea markets essential to the Navajo economy and people who rely on them for income or access to food and necessities.“Navajo students on the project know what it’s like to be at a market; they show a real interest in engaging with this work,” Hale said. “This project helps us to support and encourage students interested in community-based work and offer guidance on how to engage with people in the community respectfully and ethically.“But this research can also help the Navajo Nation learn with tools and information to help support the market sellers or entrepreneurs and advance their community.”Hale will also be collaborating with professors across the university on a water sustainability mixed-reality game launching in 2025 that helps address water issues in ֱ.A co-principal investigator on the WaterSIMmersive project, Hale will work with Indigenous students to start a dialogue with tribal and rural community members all over the state to better understand and voice their water concerns.Outside of her community-based research, Hale has long engaged with students on different grant-funded projects or helping students with their research. Currently, Hale is helping ASU student Elisha Charley conduct her dissertation research.Charley, a doctoral student studying urban planning, is researching tribal community development in her hometown of Dennehotso, ֱ, in the northeastern Navajo Nation. She is researching self-help housing advocacy for tribal members living in the Navajo Nation and the Nihok’aa Diyin Dine’é (Navajo) value system.“Housing or dwelling disparities in the Navajo Nation is an ongoing issue that requires collective efforts,” Charley said. “The housing footprint is one aspect of the complex layers of the built environment in the Navajo Nation. It is also significant data to study and maintain for future infrastructure development.“Dr. Hale is a fellow Navajo tribal member and representation is invaluable. Her academic support has been significant in how I can intersect (American Indian studies) framework into my planning research topics.” Video of Community led development | Native American Heritage Month ]]>
A man gestures with his hands while talking to a group of students.

Patent law scholarship awarded to more ASU Law students than ever

A unique annual patent law scholarship has been awarded to an extraordinary number of ASU Law students.The 2023–24 Lisa Foundation Advanced Patent Scholarship at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at ֱ State University was initially designed six years ago for one awardee. This year, the $2,500 scholarship and hands-on patent law experience with the award's namesake and donor, famed patent attorney Steve Lisa, went to four students. Lisa graduated from ASU Law with his Juris Doctor in 1984. The four recipients are third-year law students Bailey Hopkins, Sierra Murphy, Leah Dosal and Alex Egber.Lisa said the scholarship came about to reward the school's top patent and intellectual property law scholars and allow them to further their education in the field. Over a dozen students have benefitted since its inception. "The purpose is to reward the very best students at the law school who are committed to a ֱ in patent law but have exhausted the normal intellectual property law (IP) curriculum," he said. "A patent appeals course taught by experienced practitioners puts our graduates a few steps ahead of other graduates who have taken the normal IP courses. We hope it helps ASU's graduating IP students stand out as young associates at their new firms."Alex Egber. Courtesy photoIn addition to the financial reward, Lisa Foundation scholars work closely with select faculty members, including Lisa, in an advanced course to learn how to appeal to the U.S. Patent and Trade Office (USPTO). It's training that most attorneys in the IP field don't get until after graduation.Lisa said four students were chosen this year due to the many outstanding applicants. They have all participated in the Lisa Foundation Patent Clinic and taken the intellectual property courses that ASU Law offers. "It's great to be in school with so many outstanding classmates interested in patent law," said Hopkins. "Having the opportunity to collaborate with and learn from each other enables all of us to excel."Jon Kappes, associate teaching professor and director of the Lisa Foundation Patent Law Clinic, closely mentors many law students hoping to enter the field, including these scholarship awardees."I am thankful to Mr. Lisa’s consistent support of our students and programs, including through the patent clinic which he endowed, this advanced scholars program and through his mentorship, training and encouragement of our students more broadly,” he said. “I am equally proud of our students who are achieving exceedingly high levels of excellence both as patent students and as professionals entering the field."Third-year law student Leah Dosal (right) moderates a discussion with U.S. Patent and Trade Office Director Kathi Vidal. Vidal visited ASU Law this spring, thanks to its thriving patent law program. Photo by Tabbs Mosier/ASUDosal had the honor of moderating a discussion with USPTO Director Kathi Vidal when she visited ASU this spring. Now, she's an Advanced Patent Scholar. "A legal ֱ in patents is demanding and can be difficult to break into as a student, so this program sets ASU Law students apart from students at other schools," she said. "We have so many incredible intellectual property professors at our school who are top experts in their field and who make learning about patents fun and engaging. Our professors serve as a guiding light to students who are unsure of where they want to be after law school."Sierra Murphy. Courtesy photoPatent and IP law combine legal issues with the study of science and emerging technologies. The unique and growing field offers those the chance to work creatively and solve problems for their clients, whether they're engineers, inventors or anyone with a great idea. "Patent law offers the opportunity to synthesize several of my favorite intellectual pursuits," said Egber. "I'll get to continue learning about state-of-the-art technologies, and at the same time, I'll get to flex my creative side by strategizing and litigating in a way that most effectively advocates for my clients."With four students taking part in the advanced scholarship this year, the students will learn with and from each other. "The fact that multiple scholars were chosen is a testament to the strength of the IP program at ASU Law," said Murphy. "Even more so, knowing who the other three scholars are, it is a privilege to share this designation with them. Alex, Bailey and Leah are students I looked up to as a 1L, and I am happy to get to know them even better throughout this year."Lisa said the opportunity to work directly with the next generation of skilled patent attorneys has also benefited him, calling their work together "fulfilling.""Inventors today face a staggering uphill battle to protect their inventions," he said. "I am hopeful that our future IP and patent lawyers don't leave those inventors behind."]]>
Exterior of a building with the words "Watts College of Public Service and Commnity Solutions."

Former school director creates new ASU scholarship

As his academic ֱ progressed both as a teacher and an administrator, Scott Decker learned he liked building things more than managing them.This realization is a big part of why he and his wife decided to fund a scholarship for ֱ State University criminology and criminal justice students. It also explains why 18 years ago he left the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) — where he chaired the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice for many years — for ASU in the first place.“I learned from my time in St. Louis that I was a builder, not a manager,” Decker said. “It encouraged me to come to ASU to build a top-flight School of Criminology and Criminal Justice program. The program would include high-quality instruction at the undergraduate, master’s and PhD level.”Today an ASU Foundation Professor emeritus, Decker served as the school’s first director from 2006 to 2014. In 2008, Decker oversaw the creation of ASU’s criminology and criminal justice PhD program, which is celebrating its 15th anniversary this year.Decker said his experiences as an undergraduate student and later as department chair at UMSL guided him toward creating the Decker Family Scholarship. It is open to juniors or seniors who intend to become a practitioner in criminal justice, law enforcement, probation and parole, corrections, juvenile justice or other public service roles.ASU Foundation Professor Emeritus Scott Decker. ASU photoWhile an undergrad at DePauw University in Indiana, Decker asked his criminology professor one fall semester about conducting interviews inside prisons. His professor said interviews were held on Thursday afternoons, and he invited Decker to interview incarcerated persons with him.“I listened and observed early on. Then (the professor) said if you want to talk to some of these people on your own, that’s good,” said Decker, who recalled joining the men experiencing incarceration in softball games against the corrections officers. “We won all the time.”In January, Decker’s professor sent him to observe inside the Indiana Boys School, a correctional institution for adolescent boys.“I learned more as an observer than I did with interviews and data. That meant a lot for me in terms of understanding the link between the academic part of punishment and the prison and rehabilitation that I observed in the institution,” he said.Throughout his ֱ, Decker visited 27 different prisons in the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Europe.“It was part of my continuing education and enhanced what I did as a researcher,” he said.His experiences as a department chair at UMSL provided a foundation for the dramatic changes in the criminology and criminal justice school at ASU. The ASU doctoral program began two years after he arrived, bolstered by the addition of a large cadre of new faculty.Decker said both he and his wife, JoAnn, are products of public universities (he received his master’s and doctoral degrees from Florida State University, where they met), and they wanted to help students involved in internships and opportunities for service learning. This, as well as a strong ongoing effort in inclusion, remains a priority for the school under its current director, Watts Endowed Professor for Public Safety Beth Huebner.“We want to provide an opportunity for a junior or senior, with at least a 3.0 grade-point average, to enhance their undergraduate experience,” Decker said. “Funds may be used to support engagement with the community, support for participation in a conference or support for programming a student is engaged in. It is our hope that the scholarship will grow over time and support multiple students.”In addition to the requirements above, student applicants must submit a short essay on the impact they hope to achieve by pursuing a criminal justice ֱ, and demonstrate financial need as defined by ASU Financial Aid and Scholarship Services. The school will select the first scholarship recipient in spring 2024.Huebner said she is grateful to the Decker family for their support of the school.“Scholarships like these make such a difference in the lives of our students, many of whom are the first in their family to go to college,” Huebner said. “The health and safety of the community is bolstered for all when we send educated ASU students into the public safety workforce, and this scholarship will help make that a reality for the recipient.”Decker said he and his wife deeply appreciate all that ֱ and ASU have done for them.“We want to give something back to a state and a university that has given a lot to us and whose mission we support,” Decker said.The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Information on supporting the scholarship is available here. ]]>
Mike and Cindy Watts post in front of a building with the words "Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions."

Watts College celebrates 5 years of gift’s impact

The word “transformative” is often used these days, but five years ago, it perfectly described the dynamic change for the then-College of Public Service and Community Solutions.In October 2018, Mike and Cindy Watts made a bold decision, to provide a substantial investment in ASU’s public service college to continue their commitment to a prosperous ֱ through the wide-ranging reach and capacity of ֱ State University.Their $30 million investment into the renamed Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions is one of the largest gifts in ASU history. The initial intent of the impressive outlay — ensuring a bright future for the public service profession — remains in 2023 the heartfelt wish of the Wattses, who grew up in the west Phoenix community of Maryvale.Mike and Cindy Watts performed a major transformation themselves. The small lawnmower-rental business they took over in 1977 became the multistate Sunstate Equipment Co.Mike Watts expressed surprise about how much time has passed.“Wow, has it really been five years?” he said. “We couldn’t be more thrilled with what the Watts College has achieved in that time, including the ‘boots on the ground’ work occurring in Maryvale, attracting elite faculty and giving unique learning opportunities to deserving students who want to make a difference in their communities.”Watts pointed out that these achievements occurred despite several of the five years involving navigating the global COVID-19 pandemic.Cindy Watts said she and her husband are pleased with the many things the college is doing to fulfill its mission.“We are proud to be associated with a college that does so much to lift up our community, and even prouder of the students, leadership, faculty and staff who carry out the Watts College mission every day,” she said.Watts College Dean Cynthia Lietz said the Wattses’ contribution made a wide array of fruitful investments in people and communities.Since 2018, Lietz said, the gift has endowed three of five planned professorships bearing the Watts name. It has augmented efforts by ASU faculty, staff and students to collaborate with Maryvale residents to solve community concerns and tackle local issues, she said, and it enabled the college to spread a commitment to public service through its Spirit of Service Scholars program that serves undergraduate and graduate students studying any discipline across ASU.Lietz, too, said she couldn’t believe it has been five years.“I can hardly believe we are already celebrating five years as the Watts College. To say this gift has been transformational for our college is an understatement,” Lietz said. “Not only has this investment increased the size of our faculty and enhanced our community-embedded work, it also attracted additional philanthropic investment, allowing us to further grow our impact. Thank you to Mike and Cindy for believing in us and for all of the ways your support and encouragement helps us to accomplish our mission.”Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASUHere are some highlights from their investment over the past five years. Many involve Watts College students working with faculty, staff and community members:Three of five planned Watts Endowed Professorships were filled with support from the Watts gift. They are held by faculty members Renee Cunningham-Williams of the School of Social Work, Maryann Feldman of the School of Public Affairs and Beth Huebner of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Lietz said the remaining two professorships are expected to be filled within the next two years.In Maryvale, through the college’s Design Studio for Community Solutions, the One Square Mile Initiative (OSM) — since expanded to serve several square miles of the community — collaborates with residents on many projects. These include hosting community conversations in English and Spanish that help develop and refine the OSM initiative’s priorities and aspirations; collaborating with ASU’s Global Launch to offer a remote Teaching English as a Foreign Language certificate program; and with a third-party partner, arranging more than 70 ethnographic interviews with key community stakeholders that are synthesized into a Community Roadmap.The Watts College Co-op connects ASU students, faculty and staff with community partners to find collaborative solutions to community challenges. Since 2018 it has funded scholarships to undergraduates conducting research, provided seed funding to faculty to conduct community-embedded projects, and supported ServeCon, the college’s Fall Welcome event that helps build connections between new students and educates them about the co-op.The Dean’s Student Access for Success Fund provides flexible support for tuition and transformative experiences, such as studying abroad and internships, for first-generation students and those with high financial need. In 2021–22, 37 students participated in the program.The Spirit of Service Scholars program helps develop leaders with the talent, compassion and skills to become the next generation of public-interest advocacy and community engagement professionals. The scholars learn skills in areas including public engagement; advocacy in public, private and nonprofit sectors; effective communications; and resource development. Scholars also plan and present public-interest seminars on topics they select, designed to inform the community and provide participants with skills and opportunities to act in many areas, including advocacy, volunteering and raising awareness.Top photo: Cindy and Mike Watts, for whom the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions is named, stand in front of the college's home at the University Center on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Mark J. Scarp/ASU]]>
Exterior of the Psychology Building on ASU's Tempe campus.

Research opportunities, scholarships help ASU psychology students excel

Through access to research opportunities, scholarships and mentored, interdisciplinary training, students in ֱ State University's Department of Psychology are pioneering breakthroughs in infant cognition, aging and Alzheimer’s disease, diverse parenting programs and more.Thanks to the funding and support they are receiving, some students say they can "dedicate more time to (their) passions and research.”Others say the "limitless" learning opportunities have allowed them to explore and narrow their focus.And faculty in the department, a unit within The College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences, say they are continually impressed with the dedication of the students and that they predict bright futures and impactful ֱs for them.Meet some of these learners who are customizing their educational experience and forging paths to success.Undergraduate studentsMario Alvarez Mario AlvarezAlvarez, who is double majoring in psychology and family and human development, was awarded the American Psychological Association's Summer Undergraduate Psychology Experience in Research (SUPER) Fellowship.As a SUPER Fellow, Alvarez had the unique opportunity to collaborate closely with Assistant Professor Kelsey Lucca in the Emerging Minds Lab. Under Lucca’s mentorship, he gained valuable insight working on the ManyBabies research project.Research findings from Mario Alvarez and others in the Emerging Minds Lab will provide critical new insights into the foundations of human social cognition. Photo courtesy Emerging Minds Lab“This project brings researchers together from all around the world to tackle difficult questions about infant cognition and development,” Lucca said. “Mario was involved in all aspects of the research this summer and juggled many different kinds of tasks. He met with our international collaborators to refine coding protocols, facilitated our weekly lab meetings and brought families with young infants (five to 10 months) into the lab to run the ongoing experiment working to identify how babies form social evaluations and an understanding of right and wrong.” The SUPER Fellowship program provided a platform for growth and enrichment, with multiple meetings and discussions from guest speakers associated with the American Psychological Association (APA). Alvarez reflects on his experience, saying, “The speakers showed me the many different trajectories that psychology can take you (on), and hearing the ֱ and life path that the APA staff took only made my excitement for psychology grow even bigger.“I chose to study psychology because the learning opportunities are limitless in this field, and as someone who is interested in many different aspects of psychology, I’ve been able to explore them all at ASU."Bella AndradeBella AndradeAndrade, completing dual degrees in psychology and family and human development with a certificate in disability studies, earned top honors for her research at the ֱ Psychological Association. Her work aimed to summarize the evidence of parenting prevention programs in the United States available in a language other than English.Andrade, the first undergraduate research assistant in Assistant Professor Joanna Kim’s Engaging Families Lab at ASU, discovered a significant gap in support for non-English-speaking parents. Undergraduate student Bella Andrade won first place for her poster on linguistically diverse parents. Photo courtesy Bella AndradeHer award-winning poster distilled the results of a systematic review, revealing that out of the hundreds of parenting prevention programs available in the United States, only 27 catered to non-English speakers.“The main goal of this project was to get a sense of how effective non-English parenting prevention programs are, so we needed to narrow our search to studies that had a comparison group. Going in, we suspected that there wouldn’t be very many studies, but the actual number is humbling. Bella’s poster is proof that we need more funding and policies that support programs for our non-English-speaking families,” Kim said.Andrade’s dedication to addressing the underrepresentation of diverse groups in psychology research stems from her personal experiences. As someone with a physical disability, she recognizes the need to ensure the field encompasses the entire spectrum of the human experience."Unfortunately, psychology research doesn't always focus on minority and diverse groups. I'm physically disabled and I'm rolling into a realm where there is barely any disability represented in the field. It's really important for those people to be heard because they're also part of the human experience. How can we study humans and the brain and behaviors if we are not looking at the whole, diverse picture?" Andrade said.Megan NelsonMegan NelsonNelson is double-majoring in psychology and biological sciences with a concentration in neurobiology physiology and behavior, as well as pursuing a minor in mathematics and a certificate in computational life sciences. She was honored with a 2023–24 Psychology Scholar Award from the Department of Psychology. Since starting in fall 2020, she’s actively participated in the psychology community. Initially serving as an undergraduate research assistant, her involvement grew as she engaged in research labs like Assistant Professor Jessica Verpeut’s SOCIAL Neurobiology Lab and President's Professor Heather Bimonte-Nelson’s Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab. Nelson also serves as the current president for Psi Chi at ASU, where she organizes events and fosters a community of belonging."Megan has a scientific heart and intellect. She is naturally curious and inquisitive, intelligent and a very hard worker,” said Bimonte-Nelson, Nelson’s faculty mentor. “Megan’s dedication and work ethic shine in everything she does, and she shows eagerness to deeply learn all aspects of science, from theory to experimental design to hands-on skill sets, all while balancing her schoolwork, other leadership activities, including being president of Psi Chi, and running research in Dr. Jessica Verpeut’s lab. Time and again, Megan is consistently prepared, engaged and attentive with a positive attitude, demonstrating her interest and intellectual curiosity in science. Her future is bright, we support her all the way and I can not wait to see what she does next!"Nelson advocates for combining experiential learning opportunities, like research lab participation, with club involvement and says it is a great way to network with her peers. “I joined Psi Chi because I was looking for a club where I could not only meet other students who were interested in psychology and neuroscience, but also where I could share my passion for these subjects with the ASU community,” Nelson said. “I love how personable and friendly the students and professors are! Even though psychology is a popular major at ASU, I can always recognize a familiar face when walking through the department building.” Vincent TruongVincent TruongTruong, pursuing dual degrees in psychology and biochemistry with a minor in disability studies, is set to make a notable appearance at the upcoming Society for Neuroscience conference in Washington, D.C. He’ll be presenting as both the first and second author on two separate posters.Truong’s journey to the conference is backed by the Faculty for Undergraduate Neuroscience committee, which awarded him a travel grant recognizing his significant contributions. He also secured a Travel and Professional Development Grant from ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government.As the first author, Truong will showcase research from a collaboration between Verpeut’s SOCIAL Neurobiology Lab and Bimonte-Nelson’s Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab. With support from the ֱ Alzheimer’s Consortium, their work focuses on assessing learning ability and cognitive flexibility to unveil early sex differences in aging and Alzheimer’s disease. Truong emphasized the need to address the gender gap in Alzheimer’s research, given the minimal focus on females in current studies. “We are doing a huge health disservice to half of the population. Resolving this disparity in neuroscience involves careful behavioral research paired with biological data, which I will present at the conference,” Truong said.On his second author poster, Truong collaborated with the lab of Ulises Ricoy at the University of ֱ on an outreach initiative to create accessible materials for teaching young scientists about neuroscience research and machine learning, ultimately promoting inclusivity in the field.“Vincent is extremely motivated and is dedicated to understanding the molecular mechanisms behind health-related diseases. Since joining my lab as a freshman, his positive energy and tenacity for learning has driven our research in new directions. For his honor’s thesis, he will explore aging in autism spectrum disorder preclinical models and is working on his first manuscript for publication,” Verpeut said.Truong chose ASU’s Department of Psychology due to its robust outreach programs and support for the community. He was also impressed with the ֱ support resources and avenues available to advance one’s interests. He encourages fellow undergraduates to pursue their genuine passions, stressing that passion is the driving force behind effort, persistence and work ethic. “Putting (in) the effort to reflect and build on your interests will make it much easier to draft applications for opportunities and grants to attend conferences. Your personality, dedication and excitement for your specific passion will inevitably shine through,” Truong said.As part of his collaboration with the lab of Ulises Ricoy at the University of ֱ, Vincent Truong helped create accessible materials to teach young scientists about conducting neuroscience research. Photo courtesy Vincent TruongHenrique VieiraHenrique VieiraHailing from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, Vieira is double-majoring in neuroscience and psychology. He’s the recipient of the 2023–24 Jenessa Shapiro Undergraduate Research Scholarship, a $5,000 award from the ENERGIZE Psychology Research Initiative aimed at supporting students from underrepresented backgrounds with potential in psychology research. “The Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship is facilitating my long-term goal to get a PhD in neuroscience by enabling me to dedicate more time to my passions and research,” Vieira said. This support is crucial for his work with the SOCIAL Neurobiology Lab, where they explore the role of the cerebellum in social behavior. With his graduate mentor, Tristan Lyle, Vieira is quantifying neural activation using the immediate early-gene, c-Fos, resulting from a cerebellar perturbation during adolescent life in preclinical models. Verpeut, his supervisor and mentor, acknowledges Vieira’s significant impact on the lab, noting his unique perspectives as a Jesnessa Shapiro Scholarship recipient.“Henrique has incredible determination, despite facing unique hardships as an underrepresented student. Thanks to the support of the Department of Psychology and the Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship, Henrique can complete his educational and research pursuits in neuroscience at ASU. He plans to apply to a neuroscience PhD program next fall and will be attending the Society for Neuroscience conference in November to expand his knowledge in neuroscience and research graduate programs. It is the best part of my job to mentor students like Henrique and help them reach their goals,” Verpeut said.Vieira aspires to continue to serve as a role model within the ASU psychology community, promoting values of strength, resilience and determination — characteristics shared by both the Jenessa Shapiro Scholarship recipients and the department. Vieira emphasized the importance of hard work and determination in achieving one's goals, stating, “You have to work hard toward every single goal. Despite the difficulties life throws at me, I’ll  never give up.”Graduate studentsXavier CelayaXavier CelayaCelaya, a doctoral psychology student specializing in cognitive science, was honored with the prestigious J. Frank Yates Student Conference Award from the Psychonomic Society, an annual recognition for exceptional graduate students from underrepresented populations in psychology. This accolade comes with a $1,000 stipend to support his participation in the society’s annual meeting in November.In collaboration with Professor Gene Brewer’s Memory and Attention Control Laboratory, Celaya’s work is supported by an ASU Foundation grant from Steve Neumann to study trauma and mentalizing. His research focused on the impact of task sequencing in latent variable modeling, a key method in psychological research. Findings revealed that task sequencing does not significantly impact the recovery of estimates of latent cognitive abilities. Brewer, Celaya’s faculty mentor, explained, “Xavier's research in this area is methodologically rigorous and an important advancement for researchers and applied scientists who aim to quantify individual differences in human mental ability. His research has implications for assessing cognition that has tremendous value in many domains, including personnel selection, team building and professional development. Xavier's excellent program of research and incredible work ethic make him deserving of this award and I am personally thrilled to see him receive it.”As he prepares to accept this award and present his research, Celaya sees this milestone shaping his future ֱ by reinforcing his commitment to diversity and inclusion in psychological research. He credits ASU’s Department of Psychology for its robust support throughout his academic journey, fostering growth, innovation and inclusivity. Celaya’s advice to aspiring psychology scholars? “Seek to cultivate a supportive and diverse learning environment that enriches both your field and your own individual learning experience.”Xavier Celaya’s research on the impact of task sequencing in latent variable modeling helped earn him the J. Frank Yates Student Conference Award from the Psychonomic Society. Photo courtesy Xavier CelayaMatthew LangleyMatthew LangleySpecializing in the cognitive science area of psychology, doctoral student Langley won editor’s choice for best article in the American Psychological Association’s Journal of Experimental Psychology.Collaborating with Professor Michael McBeath in the PEARL: Perception, Ecological Action, Robotics and Learning Lab, his research revealed how people view the world around them — a phenomenon known as vertical attention bias (VAB) — where people have a tendency to place our attention on elements in the top portions of objects while we place our attention on elements in the bottom portions of scenes. “I am elated to have this work selected for the APA Editor's Choice Award. My advisor, Dr. Mike McBeath, and I had a ton of fun working on this project together. We put in a lot of effort and it's exciting that there is an opportunity to have our project read by a wider audience,” Langley said.Taking his research to the next level, Langley joined forces with undergraduate researcher Kaitlin Van Houghton in Lucca’s Emerging Minds Lab. The team researched VAB in children between 4 and 7 years old, testing their perception of the world compared to adults. This cross-area collaboration is a hallmark of ASU’s Department of Psychology.“Understanding attentional biases helps people to better plan and design environments,” McBeath said. “It has been especially rewarding that Matt has been able to extend his initial VAB findings to the Emerging Minds Lab, which resulted in the replication of VAB with children, and is next being tested in infants.”Olivia LawOlivia LawLaw received the 2023–24 Graduate College University Grant (GCUC) to support her research on her path to a PhD. She’s also the recipient of the ASU Graduate College Travel Award, which she’ll use to attend the Society for Neuroscience conference this November.Originally from Pocatello, Idaho, she earned a bachelor's degree in psychology from Idaho State University, where her passion for research ignited. “I was in two different research labs during my undergraduate ֱ, and my experience in these labs helped me realize I wanted to continue my education as a graduate researcher,” Law said.In 2022, Law enrolled in ASU’s doctoral psychology program, specializing in behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology. Under the mentorship of Verpeut in the SOCIAL Neurobiology Lab, she studies the impact of opioid withdrawal on behavior, neuroplasticity and gene expression.Verpeut praised Law’s academic excellence, affirming her deservingness of the GCUC award.“Olivia has maintained academic excellence at ASU, as well as in her research pursuits studying the implications of drug addiction and withdrawal in preclinical models. This November, she will be presenting the first results of her project at the Society for Neuroscience conference. Her motivation and interest in addiction research will lead to a broader understanding of genes, neural circuits and behavior.”Looking ahead, Law remains committed to understanding the effects of drug misuse on behavior and cellular levels. Her goal is to contribute to the knowledge base that may inform future treatment targets. “While I’m uncertain where my graduate research will lead, I'm eager to continue learning and contribute to the evolving field of psychology,” Law said.  Tristan LyleTristan LyleLyle, who received the best poster award at the Cerebellum Gordon Research Conference, is a promising figure in behavioral neuroscience and comparative psychology. Under the mentorship of Verpeut in the SOCIAL Neurobiology Lab, his research centers on the cerebellum — a brain region traditionally associated with motor functions but now recognized for its role in non-motor aspects, such as cognition.In his preclinical studies, Lyle employs chemogenetics — tools that alter the signaling properties of neurons — to investigate the development of juvenile cerebellar nuclei in shaping cognitive and social behavior later in life. “The cerebellum is very important in early-life development, and damage to this brain region is known to impact cognitive, social, motor and various complex behaviors,” Verpeut said. “Despite these findings, the cerebellum is an understudied brain structure with even less known about the cerebellar nuclei. Tristan’s research is critical to the autism field in order to discover new pathways and possible therapeutic targets.”Lyle’s passion for studying neuroscience methodologies and the cerebellum’s role in cognition grew from his pursuit of a master’s degree in applied behavior analysis at ASU. The program led him to inquire about the relationship between behavior and the brain in clinical populations. His current PhD program provides a fresh perspective on this relationship.Regarding ASU’s research environment, Lyle says it is highly collaborative and interdisciplinary in nature, and students often find themselves drawn to new areas of interest. He encourages fellow students to not hesitate in reaching out to faculty members, sharing that “they love teaching students and taking on mentees to join their lab and research.”Tristan Lyle won best poster award at the Cerebellum Gordon Research Conference. Photo courtesy Tristan Lyle]]>
Man standing behind a lectern speaking into a microphone.

Historian, author Jon Meacham discusses importance of coming together in our country

Jon Meacham, Pulitzer Prize-winning author, joined students, faculty, staff and community members at ֱ State University on Oct. 12 for an event, hosted by The College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences, titled “An evening with Jon Meacham: And There Was Light.”Meacham shared stories from his expansive ֱ — from working on the biography of the 41st President of the United States George H. W. Bush to getting mistaken for author John Grisham. He also spoke about the challenging times this country has faced and how we have come together to move forward.In attendance was The College’s Dean and Executive Vice Provost at ASU Patrick Kenney, who introduced Meacham.“The College is happy to host Jon Meacham, presidential historian and Pulitzer Prize-winning author, and welcome one of America’s most prominent public intellectuals to ASU,” Kenney said.During his remarks, the Tennessee native brought to the audience's attention how our country’s current events are not unlike any other challenges the nation has faced throughout its history.“What if we had been here 100 years ago, 1923 — what would have been going on? Well, we would’ve just finished the First World War. The Bolshevik Revolution would have unfolded in 1917 and what would become the Soviet Union caused enormous anxiety that was a socialist immigrant threat to the United States,” Meacham said.In addition, the Ku Klux Klan was refounded in 1915, the 1920s census showed more Americans lived in cities than on farms, The Great Depression took hold in the 1930s and society endured both the Spanish flu and polio pandemics.“Think about what we just ran through. We just ran through fears of immigration, shifting demographics, isolationism after a global cataclysm, changing media environment, antisemitism, anti-Catholicism, legislative reaction and more,” Meacham said.He then shared what he felt are two important characteristics to keep in mind when the country is faced with adversity.The first is curiosity.“We have to understand the stuff we’re talking about. We have to follow the shape, the forces. The demographic changes, economic changes, the implications of globalization, everything that’s creating the populist reaction in the country,” Meacham said.“Curiosity is absolutely vital and tender. The best of us can save us from the worst of us.”Jon Meacham spoke to a crowd of 400 people on ASU's Tempe campus Oct. 12. Photo by Allison ConnellThe second characteristic is empathy, but not the “because Jesus told me to” kind of empathy, Meacham said. The self-interested empathy, or, as he calls it, democratic empathy.Meacham shared that George H. W. Bush was the most empathetic man he knew. During his work with him writing his biography, he heard a memorable story from Bush’s childhood. It was a story of empathy, in which the future president saw a classmate in need and helped him because he would’ve wanted someone else to do that if that was him.“I asked him one day why he helped the boy, and he looked at me as if I were crazy,” Meacham said. “Bush told me that if he were the one that needed help, he’d want someone to help him.“These characteristics and many more have enabled us in our history to come out of the darkest of hours. And if we actualize them and act according to those characteristics, we can get ourselves out of tough times we face.”]]>
Woman wearing graduation regalia, standing behind a lectern.

ASU criminology, criminal justice PhD program marks 15 years

Raven Simonds had earned two degrees at ֱ State University — so when the time came for her to choose where to study for her doctorate, she chose not to turn in her Sun Card.Last year, Simonds earned her PhD in criminology and criminal justice from the highly respected and honored doctoral program at ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, which in 2023 is celebrating 15 years of excellence, inclusion and service preparing future educators, researchers and leaders in the public and private sectors.“I did both my bachelor’s and master’s degrees (in criminology and criminal justice) at ASU, so I had some pre-existing experience with the program overall. But I would say both the depth and breadth of faculty expertise at ASU made the doctoral program attractive,” said Simonds, who today is a senior research analyst at New York City’s Criminal Justice Agency.“The faculty at ASU lead the field in their respective research interests, and it was so exciting to be a part of that as a doctoral student,” Simonds said. “This also led to a type of thought diversity between students, as many of us in the same cohort, for example, had different interests.”The school marks this 15th anniversary from ASU’s No. 2 position in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022 ranking of criminology graduate schools, ahead of the University of Pennsylvania, the University of Florida and Michigan State University. School leaders, past and present, are proud of the program’s growth and its commitment to inclusion.Melinda Tasca is a first-generation college graduate who said the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty’s caliber and the high-impact work they were engaged in attracted her to the program.“Training and mentorship went beyond the basics and exposed students to unique opportunities,” said Tasca, a 2014 graduate of the program who today is an associate professor in the Department of Criminal Justice at the University of Texas at El Paso.“For example, I was able to work on externally funded projects led by my mentor and in collaboration with criminal justice agencies that allowed me to develop a broad range of skills early on,” Tasca said. Her training included posing and framing broad research questions, engaging in grant writing, executing projects and developing surveys. She also conducted research in challenging environments and worked with agency partners.D’Andre Walker, a first-generation college student, received his PhD from ASU in 2018. He earned his master’s degree in criminology and criminal justice at ASU after receiving the Reach for the Stars Fellowship in 2012. Walker now is an assistant professor in the Department of Criminal Justice and Legal Studies at the University of Mississippi.“Despite being accepted into other PhD programs across the country, I decided to stay at ASU, because of the great mentorship and solid network that I worked hard to build, ... the diverse courses offered, willingness of faculty to work with students — even if they were not officially assigned to them as a graduate or research assistant — and the presence of faculty around the office,” Walker said.Today, the program continues to help students develop many cutting-edge skills, said Stacia Stolzenberg, a School of Criminology and Criminal Justice associate professor who directs the doctoral and in-person master’s degree programs in the school.Criminal justice is an exciting place to be, she said. While the field is community-based in nature, “one thing our faculty is great at is being embedded in the communities they care about.”In addition, ASU’s program excels at developing and maintaining strong relationships with community partners, Stolzenberg said.School of Criminology and Criminal Justice Director Beth Huebner, Watts Endowed Professor of Public Safety, said ASU’s PhD program is respected throughout the country for numerous reasons and she continues to be excited about welcoming new scholars.“The PhD is the highest degree that a student can earn in the field. All of our PhD students have dedicated more than four years to conducting original research that impacts policy and practice in criminology and criminal justice,” Huebner said. “The PhD program in criminology and criminal justice at ASU has quickly emerged as one of the leading institutions in our field, and it is one of the largest and most diverse groups. Our graduates have gone on to lead other top programs and to work for research firms and local governments that are transforming the system.”Scott Decker, Foundation Professor emeritus of criminology and criminal justice, served as the school's director from 2006 to 2014 and was instrumental in creating the PhD program, which debuted in 2008 and has graduated 64 doctoral students since its inception.“These students hold faculty jobs at some of the most prestigious universities in the field; others work directly with criminal justice agencies to promote public safety. Other graduates conduct research that improves the quality of justice and community safety,” Decker said.Decker credits Regents Professor Cassia Spohn, a faculty member who followed him as school director, for getting the program off the ground. Spohn was director of graduate programs as the PhD program formed.The school, a recognized global leader, has a highly awarded and respected faculty that “has developed a culture of excellence in its teaching, research and service” within a dynamic environment, Decker said.“The school works to improve the quality of justice in ֱ, the nation and on an international basis,” he said.Simonds, Tasca and Walker talked about what the program has meant to their ֱs.Editor's note: Answers may have been edited for length and clarity.Question: What did you learn during your time at ASU that changed your perspective?Walker: As a first-generation African American college student, I did not know what to expect of my graduate ֱ at ASU. Prior to coming to ASU, I did not see the true value in research. However, as a graduate student, I was around some of the best professors and students in the country. ... Being in the classroom with these individuals and listening to their stories has influenced my perspective on research. More specifically, I realized the importance of not only researching topics that I am interested in, but also the impact that my research findings have on society through policy and practice.Q: How has your ֱ benefited from having earned your PhD at ASU?Tasca: My doctoral training at ASU provided both breadth and depth in terms of substantive and methodological training, which established a solid foundation to launch my ֱ. In addition, my time at ASU prepared me for the competing demands of a tenure-track ֱ and introduced me to the ins and outs of the research enterprise. I am also grateful for having been exposed to a variety of professional networking opportunities and for the well-rounded mentorship I received. As a first-generation college student, this level of investment in my professional development benefited me greatly.Q: Describe an important aspect of your current research and questions you seek to answer.Simonds: One exciting part of my current research is exploring the role of court date notifications on court appearances. Failing to appear in court can result in a variety of negative outcomes, one of which includes having a warrant issued for arrest. To this end, it is important to better understand what types of court date notifications work best. The New York City Criminal Justice Agency is such an exciting place to work because our outreach team notifies people of their upcoming court date, and we have the capacity to explore different types of notifications, as well as the content of such notifications, in real time.Q: How has the criminology and criminal justice field changed most significantly since your time as a doctoral student? What might this year’s PhD graduates deal with that is different from what you encountered in your first few years?Simonds: I think the use of artificial intelligence has significantly increased over the last few years. AI wasn’t even a part of my vocabulary, really, while I was in graduate school. ... I think we’ve already seen it begin to impact education and how we teach topics related to criminal justice, and we are learning to navigate that, as well as for the field more broadly.Tasca: One change I have noticed in recent years is a greater openness to and interest in research ֱs outside of academia among criminologists. This seems to have coincided with an expansion of “industry” opportunities, such as working in a research division in a criminal justice agency or within a research organization. This shift offers PhD graduates a wide range of ֱ options to consider.Walker: Criminology and criminal justice is a very attractive discipline. I believe that the trajectory of the field is being influenced by current events (e.g., Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tyre Nichols, among others) as these stories have highlighted the need for and importance of research to identify and address challenges within criminal justice organizations. That said, I believe students will have more opportunities to work alongside practitioners to craft policies to address injustices across the criminal justice systems.  ]]>
Hands holding a small box filled with insect specimens.

NSF, ASU continue partnership to house national biorepository

ֱ State University and the National Ecological Observatory Network (NEON) announce the continuation of their partnership to house a national biorepository over a 30-year period that began in 2019.After receiving funding from the National Science Foundation, NEON selected ASU’s Biodiversity Knowledge Integration Center (BioKIC) and Natural History Collections in Tempe to house millions of biological samples collected over the next three decades from 81 field sites across the U.S., including Alaska, Hawaii and Puerto Rico.NSF announced on Sept. 22 that Battelle will continue to manage the operations and maintenance of the continental-scale observatory for the next five years, beginning in November and running through October 2028.“This is a wonderful validation of the buildup and first five years of the NEON Biorepository and our services at ASU. We feel honored and thrilled to continue this project with Battelle, an outstanding lead working with and partnering with us. I look forward to continuing that partnership,” said Nico Franz, Virginia M. Ullman Professor of Ecology, biocollections director in the School of Life Sciences and founding director of ASU’s BioKIC.NEON is the first-ever continental ecological observation facility with assets across the country, designed to collect long-term open-access ecological data.The facility receives around 100,000 samples every year, and has received, processed and stored over 421,000 samples five years into the partnership.Looking ahead to the next five years, NEON plans for 5,000 square feet of capacity enhancements to the NEON Biorepository at ASU for diverse, liquid- and dry-preserved NEON environmental, vertebrate and invertebrate samples. This is in addition to the 3,500-square-foot NEON Biorepository cryo collections facility completed in 2020.The NEON Biorepository facility at ASU will continue to house samples collected from 81 field sites across the U.S. for the next five years. Photo courtesy the NEON Biorepository teamASU faculty Greg Asner, Erin Carr Jordan and Peter Schlosser will also join the ASU/NEON collaboration, adding new components in the areas of online education and remote sensing to the project, thereby increasing its technical capacity and societal impact.Asner, the director of the Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory, will lead a Global Airborne Observatory component. The observatory is an airborne laboratory with the most advanced Earth imaging and mapping technology in the civil sector today.Jordan, the executive director of digital equity and social impact with Enterprise Technology, will help lead an educational component to help grow with learners as they progress into their ֱs.“We want to leverage the available NEON data and samples because it’s a great space,” Jordan said. “It is designed to help learners grow their skills in a way that helps their ֱs but also advances the science and research being done.” Video of A Tour of NEON's Biorepository Video courtesy The College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences]]>
Portrait of ASU alum Martine Garcia Jr.

Chicano alumnus reflects on the impact of education, heritage

As a child, Martine Garcia Jr. remembers sitting in the back of the Oaxaca Restaurant in Phoenix where his mother worked. He would often see U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor come in for a meal and hear his mom speak with pride about ֱ’s first Hispanic member of Congress.Garcia could not imagine that one day Pastor would sit in the audience at ֱ State University's Hispanic Convocation and listen to him speak as the recipient of the 2017 Ed Pastor Outstanding Graduate Student Award. “It was amazing,” he said. “I got to speak on our Chicano culture. I got to speak on our heritage. I got to tell stories about my parents, about the things … essential to my success.” Garcia graduated that day with two master’s degrees, in management and legal studies. Just one year earlier he had earned a bachelor’s degree summa cum laude from The College of Liberal ֱ and Sciences.Graduating three times with distinction is something that Garcia never could have envisioned for himself. “It’s a feeling that can never be matched,” he said. “It’s pride. It’s not just pride in yourself, but pride in your family. It’s happiness. It’s a celebration. It’s also sadness that one chapter of your life is closing. It’s a myriad of emotions.”Garcia had no family history of higher education. He was the first in his family to graduate from high school. Yet, his parents always emphasized the importance of higher education.Growing up, he didn’t always take their advice to heart. He was an average student in high school, and he never aimed to earn a college degree. But after working an unfulfilling summer job after his senior year of high school, he reached a turning point. Garcia enrolled at Chandler Gilbert Community College (CGCC), where he discovered ASU’s transfer pathway program.At ASU, Garcia found his calling in higher education and passion for giving back to his community. Today, Garcia works as the assistant director of strategic initiatives for ASU Career Services, helping students from both similar and different backgrounds to his own by organizing clubs, coalitions and ֱ-readiness modules for underrepresented groups on campus and in the community. As the university celebrates this year’s Hispanic Heritage Month, Garcia reflects on his journey up to this point, and the impact education and his Chicano identity have had on his life.Embracing heritageEver since Garcia was young enough to understand, he remembers his grandparents saying to him, “You are a Chicano.” For his grandparents, it was an important term of empowerment, advocacy and social awareness, representative of the Chicano Civil Rights Movement of the 20th century. It’s a title that Garcia still strongly identifies with, he said. Martine Garcia Jr. with family at ֱ State University's Hispanic Convocation in 2017. Courtesy photo“We celebrate our heritage every day in every circle,” Garcia said, not just during one month. Hispanic Heritage Month is an annual celebration from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 that pays tribute to the enduring contributions and significance of Hispanic individuals in the United States. The monthlong celebration acknowledges the diverse heritages and cultures of individuals with ancestral roots in Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain and Central and South America.While Hispanic Americans celebrate their heritage year-round, this month provides an opportunity to celebrate with the wider community and explore the diversity of Hispanic identities, history and heritage. “I really love this month because more than ever, everyone else is celebrating the culture. It’s not just my culture. Now we can all have fun together and we can learn and talk,” Garcia said.  Giving back When Garcia began attending CGCC after graduating high school, his goal was to become an actor. He met with his first ֱ advisor and said, “I’m just here so I can get to Hollywood, dude. Show me how to do it.”Instead, the ֱ advisor asked Garcia what his interests were. ASU alum Martine Garcia Jr. with family. Courtesy photo“From what I’m hearing,” Garcia recounted the advisor telling him, “you want to inspire people. You love to talk to people and share your story. You like to bring out the best in yourself and in others.”The ֱ advisor encouraged him to explore communications as a course of study, get involved on campus and find an on-campus job. Garcia said the gesture of support was unfamiliar to him and felt like a handout.“It’s not a handout. It’s a hand up,” he said the advisor told him. “And it’s not for free. You need to help somebody with this information when you get a chance.”Garcia took the lesson from his advisor to heart. Ever since, he has always incorporated a culture of service into the work he does. “It's what helps our community grow,” he said.  Creating community In community college, Garcia became the founding president of the Male Empowerment Network (MEN) CGCC Chapter, a Maricopa County Community College District program focused on increasing the graduation and retention rates of minority men. To be in a room full of students like himself, who didn’t see themselves in education, building self-efficacy and self-advocacy was empowering, he said. When he first got to ASU, he thought he had lost that community. “I have a strong need for community. I need to be able to see myself in spaces that I’m in, and I need students to be able to do that,” Garcia said.ASU alum Martine Garcia Jr. is the assistant director of strategic initiatives for ASU Career Services. Courtesy photoOnce he transferred to ASU, he said the university rallied behind him and a few other transfer students who were members of MEN and helped them found a chapter at ASU. Once again, he was the founding president. “I just think that’s a unique experience to ASU, that any person can come in and say, ‘Hey, this is the community I need,’ and folks rally around and say, ‘Let’s give you the resources you need,’” Garcia said. In 2019, while working as a coordinator for ASU TRIO Student Support Services, Garcia encountered a similar situation on the Polytechnic campus. “I would see a lot of Chicano students here and the Chicano staff and faculty, but I didn't really feel the community coming together. So we built our own community,” he said.Garcia, along with four other staff members, created Poly Sol, a faculty and staff collective and branch of the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association at ASU, or CLFSA.In spring 2021, CLFSA added a representative from Poly Sol to its executive board to strengthen commitment and outreach at the ASU Polytechnic campus and the East Valley. Garcia served as the first representative in the new role.Now, Garcia is president-elect of CLFSA. He will serve in the upcoming year and continue fostering community and giving back.Navigating the futureAs students look to their futures and navigate the world, it can be daunting, but Garcia wants students to know that they are not alone. “I think it's really hard when you're 18 years old and you're being asked to make a decision that feels like it's gonna be the rest of your life,” Garcia said. “I think some advice I'd give is knowing that nothing, especially in today's world, is as definite as we feel it is.” Even Garcia said his journey has only just begun.“Other students should see themself in me because I see myself in them. This is part of everyone's journey. We don't know what we're doing exactly all of the time. We have an idea. But as long as you move toward that idea, that's important,” he said.To support ASU’s Hispanic students, staff and faculty, visit the ASU Foundation’s featured funds page and explore giving opportunities. ]]>
Six female professors pose for a group photo in an outdoor setting.

Empowering change in science education

The natural sciences division at ֱ State University has an impressive group of chairs and directors who are making waves in the scientific community and in higher education. Each member of the group leads one of the division’s six schools and departments, and is tackling a variety of innovative and expansive new directives, from tripling online biology enrollment to helping collect the first rock, soil and atmosphere samples from Mars. In this piece, ASU News interviewed each of them on their life experiences and ֱ successes, their accomplishments and current projects at ASU, and how they serve — both individually and collectively — as female role models in STEM and advocates for inclusion in the sciences.Donatella Danielli, School of Mathematical and Statistical SciencesDonatella Danielli, director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, has led an impressive ֱ in research, teaching and mentorship. Her accolades include several grants from the National Science Foundation and other national organizations, as well as the Extraordinary Faculty Instructor Award for her previous role at Purdue, among other recognitions. “I think that one of my ֱ-defining moments was the NSF CAREER Award,” said Danielli, who received the award in 2003. “I think it really set a different tone for the trajectory of my ֱ, and especially it gave me the confidence of knowing that my work was appreciated.”La Matematica, of which Danielli is co-editor-in-chief, is a high-quality mathematics journal set apart by its commitment to inclusivity and to a positive review experience, including a doubly-anonymous review process, meaning that authors and reviewers are anonymous to each other. “We’re very proud that we have been among those leading the way,” Danielli said. “We believe that it does make a difference in giving a more equitable outcome to the authors.”While Danielli is grateful for the awards and recognition she has received and knows they have helped her gain credibility in her field, she noted that the day-to-day notes and emails of gratitude are just as important. “I have a folder of emails from students and from junior faculty that I mentored with lines like ‘I didn’t do well in your class, but still you helped me get through it,’” she said. “These kinds of things to me are sometimes even more meaningful.”Now in her third year at ASU, Danielli’s proudest achievements are focused on educational access and mentorship. They include:Leading an innovative and adaptive new approach to core math curriculum in order to improve student success rates, with pilots launching this fall.Hiring several new teaching faculty to improve student-to-faculty ratios.Seeing a new data science program flourish, with the launch of a fully online version.Expanding the school’s postdoctoral research program.Providing one-on-one mentorship opportunities to postdoctoral scholars and assistant professors.Coincidentally, Danielli’s team of four associate directors is also all women. In regard to the all-female leadership team within the natural sciences division, she said, “I think that this sends a message that can inspire women to follow their aspirations. This is what is most important to me.“But we should keep in mind that people are chosen because they are the right person for the job — and they happen to be women.”Nancy Manley, School of Life Sciences“You should always be ambitious for yourself. Don't ever ask permission to do the things that you want to do. Assume that you can do them just like anybody else can do them.”That’s the advice that Nancy Manley received from her mentor Nancy Hopkins when she was a doctoral student at MIT. Manley’s current research focuses on the thymus, the primary organ responsible for the generation of T cells. She is researching the neonatal thymus’ cell production, a process that will be required to understand how to engineer thymus organs for transplant patients. She also serves on the organizing committee for the Global Thymus Network.Now entering her second year as director of the School of Life Sciences, she is reinventing structures in undergraduate programs, graduate admissions, research groups and more. “SOLS started 20 years ago, so the timing is great for us to reimagine ourselves, and that's what we're going to do,” she said.  The school will be the first at ASU to use an umbrella admissions structure for doctoral candidates, meaning that students will come in with a cohort of colleagues and spend their first year experiencing different labs and research topics before having to commit to one specific program.“When you are part of a larger cohort, you have a feeling that you're not the only person who's trying to do what you're trying to do,” Manley said. “And it makes a huge difference in your ability to recruit and retain students.”Manley also runs the only lab in the world that studies the embryonic development of the parathyroid glands, which regulate the body’s calcium levels.“That's probably the project that has the highest likelihood of leading to a clinical treatment of anything in my whole ֱ,” she said. Manley is proud to be a part of a group of female leaders in the natural sciences division.“Women and girls who want to be scientists can see that it's something that you can do, and that this is a job that you can have and that you can be successful and achieve at a high level,” she said. “A cadre of strong and talented women have all achieved this at ASU.”Tijana Rajh, School of Molecular SciencesTijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, joined ASU two years ago ready to lead and encourage students, faculty and staff to explore innovative research and collaboration.Rajh grew up in the former country of Yugoslavia and spent 25 years at the Argonne National Laboratory, a research facility with the U.S. Department of Energy.She conducted some of the earliest research on quantum dots, nanoparticles made from semiconducting materials. Her research now focuses on developing self-adapting nanostructures for converting and storing energy as well as a hybrid system for the sensing of biomolecules, including quantum qubits, one of the simplest units in quantum information science.Over the course of her tenure as director, she has continued the school’s growth of being a top program in chemistry and biochemistry and encouraging the development of faculty and student research.“I am very passionate about expanding teaching into nontraditional areas,” Rajh said. The renovation of the Bateman Physical Sciences Center, which houses the school, allows for the expansion of new educational programs, utilization of state-of-the-art technology and conducting sustainable research experiments. Rajh is proud that the school is implementing new programs this year that utilize:Digital laboratories that leverage smart systems, connected devices and cloud capabilities for learning general chemistry principles.An undergraduate research program that incorporates a course-based research experience in biochemistry classes and engages students in the process of scientific discovery. A platform that expands the school’s research portfolio to incorporate societal factors into research and education.“We aim to use laboratory renovations to enhance students' training in transferable skills for post-graduate ֱs. In this new teaching space, student collaboration will be strengthened, and innovative new experiments will be implemented. We are also applying electronic record-keeping to reduce environmental impact and better prepare students for upper-division courses and real-world applications of the skills they learn,” Rajh said.“The future holds even more potential as we work with other programs at The College and university. Only by combining the expertise of science, business and arts can we tackle global societal challenges.”Patricia Rankin, Department of PhysicsOver the years, Department of Physics Chair Patricia Rankin has explored research interests from particle physics and the symmetries of nature to the very issue of female representation in STEM fields, specifically in leadership positions. Among her notable achievements are an Outstanding Junior Investigator Award from the Department of Energy, A Sloan Fellowship, and being principal investigator on an NSF ADVANCE Institutional Transformation Grant.“When I started my ֱ in physics, the argument was very much that the lack of women in physics was a lack of role models,” she said.Then best practices shifted to training women to be better negotiators and networkers, with the idea that they needed to develop skills traditionally seen as masculine in order to achieve ֱ success. But that wasn’t enough either. There has been a recent shift from “fixing the women” to looking at systemic barriers such as education and hiring practices and how to improve processes and therefore welcome diverse perspectives, in regard to gender as well as other marginalized groups. Rankin emphasized that the current approach moves away from a stereotypical expectation of how women should behave and lead — and the diverse panel of leaders in the division of natural sciences is a great example. “By getting a large number of women in leadership roles, there’s actually a variety for us to show a range of styles, so people understand that there is not just one style of leadership that is traditionally feminine or one style of leadership that is masculine,” she said.“I hope what people are going to start to realize is that there are good ways of leading a unit and ineffective ways of leading a unit. And I think the women who have made it up into leadership roles have generally done so by being more effective rather than less effective.” Rankin is most proud of her work at ASU related to public outreach, access to physics education, and the connections between physics and public policy. Accomplishments in these areas include:Developing a Universal Learner Course on physics, energy and the environment that will run again in spring 2024.Encouraging physics graduate students to found an American Physical Society Chapter that has been recognized for its innovation in creating public-facing videos that break down complex scientific topics. Facilitating ASU’s recent partnership with the Association for Women in Science, which advocates for women in STEM and provides students with free access to ֱ and other professional development resources.“I started off as a very traditional physicist working at the frontier of how the universe works, and I’ve evolved into a somewhat nontraditional physicist using the techniques of physics to look at societal concerns,” she said. “The chance to work on science literacy and connect physics to current problems that we need to be paying attention to is something that I am really enjoying while it allows me to give back to society.”Tamera Schneider, Department of PsychologyTamera Schneider is the most recent addition to the natural sciences leadership team at The College, taking over as the chair of the Department of Psychology in July.Over the course of her ֱ, she has gained extensive experience in leading university-wide research and brings decades of knowledge in both the psychology and neuroscience fields.Her research focuses on emotions and psychophysiological stress resilience, the science of persuasion to promote behavioral change and the science of broadening participation, which uncovers barriers for underrepresented groups in STEM fields.“I always believed that if I just applied myself I could reap the rewards of my efforts and talents. However, having led behavioral research for an NSF ADVANCE Award for almost a decade, I’ve learned substantive research about the accumulation of disadvantages for underrepresented groups in STEM. This was news to me,” Schneider said.“As a woman leader, and a woman in STEM, I am happy to apply this knowledge and other skills I’ve learned about opening doors for those who often believe the doors are closed.”As she looks ahead in her role with ASU, she keeps in mind the lessons she’s learned throughout her own ֱ.Schneider shared that her focus at ASU is enhancing the culture and capacity for collaboration and shared goals to build upon the department’s strengths. To do so, it is important to listen thoughtfully and consider the goals and needs for the organization itself and those involved.As a leader, Schneider believes it is her responsibility to bring together everyone in the department to have the best understanding and get the most impactful results.“The most important thing I’ve learned over the course of my ֱ is that there is often overlap in broader goals where people can agree on a path forward,” she said. “That’s what I strive for — every person or every team gets a win, and in doing so we all adjust a little to move closer to the  the collective goal.”Meenakshi Wadhwa, School of Earth and Space ExplorationMeenakshi Wadhwa’s impressive ֱ has taken her around the world — from studying meteorites in Antarctica and volcanic rocks in Iceland to the formation and evolution of the solar system.When she joined ASU in 2006, she began as a professor and the director of the Center for Meteorite Studies (now the Buseck Center for Meteorite Studies). The center houses the world’s largest university-based meteorite collection that is used for geological, planetary and space science research at ASU and around the world.Wadhwa serves as the program scientist for NASA’s Mars Sample Return program, working with scientists and engineers to bring back the first samples from the planet Mars.She has also been involved with several advisory committees for NASA and the National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine, and served as the president of the Meteoritical Society from 2019 to 2020.Wadhwa became a member of the National Academy of Sciences earlier this year, which is one of the highest honors for a scientist. She is one of only 15 members among all of ASU’s active faculty.In 2019, she began her appointment as the director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration and her focus has been on propelling ASU as a world-leading institution for exploring the Earth and space. She also seeks to bring once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, like the ones she’s experienced, to ASU students.“I have been fortunate to have had incredible research and collaborative opportunities that, growing up as a young woman in India, I never thought would be even remotely possible for me,” she said.“This perspective drives my motivations as an academic leader — I am always seeking ways to create more and better research and educational opportunities for our students.”Entering her fifth year as director, Wadhwa is proud of the work the school has done related to online education, virtual-reality learning and leading-edge scientific and space research. Accomplishments in those areas include:Engagement in dozens of active or in-development space missions, including the NASA LunaH-Map, the NASA Psyche mission, the NASA James Webb Space Telescope and the NASA Mars 2020 Perseverance mission.Launching the world’s first online bachelor’s degree in astronomical and planetary sciences.Creating highly engaging educational programs through immersive and experiential learning environments through programs such as Dreamscape Learn.“It’s been amazing to see the evolution of the school and the natural sciences from when I joined ASU over 17 years ago,” she said. “It has been particularly thrilling to see how we are using technology and innovation to advance ASU’s charter of inclusive excellence.”Lauren Whitby contributed to this story.Top photo: From left to right: Donatella Danielli, Tamera Schneider, Meenakshi Wadhwa, Nancy Manley, Patricia Rankin and Tijana Rajh. Photo by Meghan Finnerty]]>
Drones spell out ASU in the sky over the football stadium

ASU students design spectacular drone halftime show

A team from ֱ State University animated the sky with 600 lighted drones in a spectacular show before more than 53,000 people at Mountain America Stadium on Saturday night. The four- to five-minute drone show during halftime of the ASU football game was designed by three students and a professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the ֱ. The drones danced in a space above the scoreboard that was as big as a 30-story building, swirling and zipping around to create a series of three-dimensional animations, including a drum, the ASU logo, a spinning pitchfork, Sparky and a gigantic football helmet. The drone colors were synched to the Sun Devil Marching Band, whose members wore glowing LED bracelets that emitted radio signals. The show was the culmination of nearly three months of work by Ana Herruzo, an associate professor in The Design School and the School of ֱ, Media and Engineering, who recruited Henry Beach, in his third year of a Master of Fine ֱ program in theatre (interdisciplinary digital media), and Alba Olivé Martí and Derrek Sekito, both fourth-year animation majors in the School of Art. View this post on Instagram A post shared by ֱ State University (@arizonastateuniversity) Beach, who was the project manager and production director, said he was thrilled with how the show turned out after endless hours spent in front of a computer screen in the design phase. “The crowd's reaction was amazing — to hear them cheer when the drones would transition to a new scene,” he said. “But mostly the scale of the drone show was just so beyond anything we expected. We spent weeks building out our show in pre-visualization so that we could wrap our heads around what the design of the show would look like in reality, but it's just so hard to depict the volume it actually takes up in air space over the stadium.” The show was set to the marching band's performance of the music of Elton John, marking the 50th anniversary of the release of “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road.” The project was done in partnership with Nova Sky Stories, a drone company founded by Kimbal Musk, brother of Elon Musk, and was funded by a donation from the Swette family, longtime donors to ASU. Tricky technical details Herruzo’s background is in large-scale, interactive audiovisual shows — “anything that interacts with people at a large scale,” she said. She teaches immersive experience design and leads the MEDIAted eXperiences Lab in the Media and Immersive eXperience Center in Mesa. She was first approached about the project in June, ensuring a short timeline for such a big project. Herruzo said the goal was to follow the donor’s wishes to “electrify the marching band.” Then she began collaborating with Nova Sky Stories, which was founded by Kimbal Musk in June 2022. He was inspired to found the company in 2021, during the pandemic-impacted Burning Man gathering in the Nevada desert, when the iconic burning of the large wooden man figure was instead a drone show. Musk said that a friend suggested collaborating with ASU because of the high quality and cutting-edge educational practices of The Design School. "I have always been interested in supporting and exploring the intersection of art, technology and education, and this idea quickly appeared to be a fantastic fit,” he said. Herruzo hired her student workers in August, and they began working on the design, which had several constraints. Because the drones are not allowed to fly above people, there was a strict “bounding box” space above the scoreboard. The drones took off from the practice field next to the stadium. “This design is specific to these 600 (drone) points, and there are very tricky technical details they had to learn and they did such a good job,” she said. As the project and production manager, Beach juggled many responsibilities — everything from dealing with the company that provided the LED wristbands to making sure there was a tent with food for the drone pilots the day of the show. He coordinated with the stadium facilities team, the marching band and Nova Sky Stories. And he worked with Olivé Martí and Sekito to create a software tool to visualize the animated show. “There are a lot of design constraints when working on a drone show in terms of how they have to model the animation and account for things like making sure the drones don’t collide with each other in the air,” said Beach, who is a research assistant in the MEDIAted eXperiences Lab. “So when modeling and working on these designs, they did a great job of adapting their own style to the limitations of the medium.” After designing the show, the team’s models were uploaded to Nova Sky Stories, which programmed its small, lightweight drones. Olivé Martí is on the Sun Devil water polo team. “It was very interesting to me to bring art and sports together, so that was really exciting,” she said. “At the beginning, me and Derrek were doing storyboards when we realized the limits. At one of the meetings, I was really happy with one of my models, and everyone said, ‘That’s not going to work.’ So OK, I had to completely change it. “When you’re working on it, you feel like 600 points will not be enough.” Sekito said he had never done anything like this but was excited to learn the process and the tools. “We had a specific bounding box we had to animate in because the drones are not allowed to fly over people, and we had to keep the power lines in mind,” he said. “It was a challenge at first. There were a lot of different parts and everything was always changing, so we had to stay flexible in our design.” Herruzo said that the faculty in the School of ֱ, Media and Engineering are hybrids of technology and design. “And the students who graduate from here have those skills,” she said. Video of ASU drone show lights up game night: ֱ State University (ASU) Video by ASU Media Relations A new medium Saturday’s event was the first drone show ever held at ASU, but Herruzo is working with Nova Sky Stories to continue the collaboration in a class that would teach drone design. Jeremy Stein, chief operating officer of Nova Sky Stories, sees drone shows as a new way of telling stories. "Drone light shows, and the version of art we call ‘sky stories,’ are a mega powerful new medium that combines amazing art, technology and enormous scale," he said. "Our images in the sky can be the size of the tallest buildings while touching the hearts of global audiences.” Stein said that Sky Stories is just scratching the surface of artistic expression. “We are now embarking on a new generation of ideas to create with this medium, educate across many disciplines and discover technological advances,” he said. “Similar to when the camera was invented, new forms of art and expression will now surface. It’s incredibly exciting.” Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute, said that the partnership will benefit students. “Thanks to outstanding faculty like Ana Herruzo and our leadership at the intersection of art, design and technology, ASU students are able to learn from partners like Nova Sky Stories, who are at the forefront of this new medium,” he said. “Not only do the students get high-level professional experience — in this case, they also have the extraordinary opportunity to see their own designs come to life in the sky above the stadium.” Stein said that educating students on this new medium is important. "As humans, we can only realize the potential of this new medium by inviting all generations to take part," he said. “Ensuring that our efforts are open-sourced will allow for many ideas to rise. Thus, it is critical to create bridges with education leaders such as ASU’s Design School. Nova Sky Stories is thrilled to explore opportunities to support a new generation of designers to test the boundaries of what is possible.” Top photo: Some 600 dancing drones fill the sky above Mountain America Stadium during halftime on Saturday, Sept. 23. The show was the result of a collaboration between Nova Sky Solutions drone entertainment company and ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the ֱ’ choreography, and thanks to a donation by the Swette family. The four- to five-minute show featured designs including Sparky, Forks Up and the Sun Devil pitchfork, a highlight of the Sun Devils’ final PAC-12 football game against USC. Photo by Nova Sky Stories ]]>
ASU student Emra Muslim holding a sign that reads "Thank you so much!"

Honors students at ASU thrive with scholarships

For Emra Muslim, a first-year student in Barrett, The Honors College at ֱ State University, a donor-supported scholarship is the boost she needed to start off right at the university. For Mary Murphy, a senior honors student, a scholarship has helped her keep going in the face of despair.Both students say they’re grateful for the scholarships they received through the honors college, but for vastly different reasons.Muslim, a political science major, feels that the Austin James Service Scholarship will help pave her way as a freshman and first-generation student whose parents immigrated from Bosnia to the United States in 2001. Murphy, a senior majoring in Russian and political science, said the Barrett Emergency Student Fund is the lifeline and support she needed to remain at the university after escaping with her young child from an abusive marriage.There are many merit- and need-based Barrett Honors College student scholarships available to students in need, and applications for the 2024–25 academic year open on Nov. 1 and close on Feb. 1, 2024. Need-based aid requires that a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) be on file. Oct. 1 is the FAFSA form submission deadline.Paola Gale, associate director of development for Barrett Honors College with the ASU Foundation, said the impact of scholarships is significant in the lives of students.“Scholarships provide the essential funds needed to obtain a top-tier education, and in some cases, keep students in the university. But the positive effects of the scholarships extend beyond the student recipients. The impact that will happen as a result of their future professional endeavors is incalculable. Many lives will be changed for good, as a result of one donor, one student, one scholarship philosophy,” she said.Recalling the challenges her parents faced leaving their beloved, but politically unstable and war-torn homeland in eastern Europe, Muslim is equally as grateful for their sacrifices as she is for the opportunities the four-year Austin James Scholarship affords her.“As a daughter of immigrant parents, I know that I’m having this experience because of the sacrifices they made for me to be here today,” said Muslim, who aspires to be a lawyer serving the Bosnian community. “Being chosen to receive a scholarship means someone believes in me and what I want to accomplish."Three weeks into the fall 2020 semester, physical threats and stalking forced Murphy and her child to flee their home — leaving everything behind, including a job, car, apartment and personal belongings — and enter a high security shelter.“With a lot of help, I stayed in classes that semester. By the end of the semester, though, I made the decision to drop out of Barrett in order to provide stability for my child and myself, as I could not see a way to continue to provide stable housing and continue studying in Barrett,” Murphy said.She notified her Barrett thesis director and honors academic advisor of her situation and they encouraged her to apply for the Barrett Emergency Student Fund, which provides support for students to continue their education while experiencing life challenges.“The support and help offered enabled me to not only stay in Barrett and continue toward completion of my degrees, but also to thrive here,” said Murphy, who used funds for housing expenses.“The benefit extended far beyond the financial help I received. Support from the Barrett leadership, faculty, staff and donors in the form of this tangible financial help made me feel valued and seen, and helped me remember I was not alone. Knowing that they are all in my corner and want me to succeed in my education encouraged me and helped me to keep moving forward,” she added.Muslim and Murphy are two of many honors students who have received scholarships specifically designated for Barrett students.In the 2022–23 academic year, 662 honors students were awarded scholarships with a total value of over $1.3 million. In the same time period, 23 students received a total of $13,522 in assistance from the Barrett Emergency Student Fund.According to Gale, there are many opportunities to support Barrett students and initiatives. Donors can make gifts of cash and stock, put Barrett Honors College in estate plans or take advantage of company matching gift programs. To inquire about these options, contact Gale at paola.gale@asufoundation.org.]]>
Woman smiling in front of a backdrop of flowers.

ASU Thunderbird alum creates scholarship to send students on Semester at Sea

Karen Simon, a retired banking executive and distinguished alumna from the Thunderbird School of Global Management at ֱ State University, has made a generous donation to create the Karen J. Simon '83 Semester at Sea scholarship for Thunderbird undergraduate students. This philanthropic initiative aims to provide Thunderbird undergraduates with the opportunity to embark on a transformative global journey through the Semester at Sea program.Simon's deep appreciation for her European ancestry, fueled by her father's post-World War II immigration from Berlin, Germany, inspired her passion for international experiences. After graduating from the American Graduate School of International Management, now ASU Thunderbird, in 1983, she joined a global financial institution, which eventually led her to relocate to London, where she resided for over two decades. In 2019, after a 36-year ֱ at J.P. Morgan, Simon retired as vice chairman in investment banking, during which she conducted business in over 50 countries. Today, she serves on the board of directors for three public companies, two of which are in Europe and one in the United States. Recently, Simon was invited to join the Semester at Sea board of trustees, which sparked her idea to establish this scholarship due to the strong synergies between Semester at Sea and Thunderbird, both of which emphasize international leadership education."I always wanted to live overseas and explore diverse cultures," Simon said. "My goal with the (Semester at Sea) scholarship is to encourage as many T-birds as possible to learn about the Semester at Sea program and, hopefully, sign up for this magical study abroad opportunity — with or without financial assistance. It is truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and if I can pay it forward and inspire others to pursue an international ֱ, that is an added bonus!"Semester at Sea offers students a unique opportunity to gain insight into diverse cultures, economies, geographies and artistry. Beyond the traditional on-campus experience, students develop valuable life skills, such as handling travel challenges, interacting with host families and collaborating with peers from different backgrounds. These experiences foster self-confidence and resiliency, and provide a first-class academic education.Paw NaSimon's Thunderbird degree opened doors to a fulfilling international ֱ. Reflecting on the advice she wishes to impart on current and future T-birds, she said, "You have more power than you think. Seek out what brings you joy and be persistent in pursuing your goals. It took me seven years to get transferred to London! Remember to take risks and develop constructive relationships."The impact of the Karen J. Simon Semester at Sea scholarship is already felt by Thunderbird students Paw Na, Jesse Marquez and Emma Salazar, three of the recipients whose lives and academic journeys have been significantly influenced by this initiative.Na, a current Bachelor of Global Management student, shared her experience and said, "I once thought Semester at Sea was impossible until I attended a Thunderbird seminar about the Karen Simon scholarship. It became a dream come true during my junior year of college."I feel very privileged and fortunate to be a member of a community with such a dependable networking environment that always gives back to their community. Thunderbird has taught me the value of always giving back and remaining humble."Jesse MarquezMarquez is a first-generation Mexican American and the first person in his family to attend college. He is enrolled in Thunderbird's Online Bachelor of Science in International Trade degree program through the Uber and ASU online partnership and is passionate about creating a more prosperous and peaceful world.“Growing up in poverty, I know firsthand the struggles that come with a lack of financial resources and access to education. Breaking the cycle of poverty for as many people as I can is something I am deeply passionate about,” he said. "Being awarded this scholarship has proven to me that there are good people in the world who continue to pay it forward. In Karen Simon, I see a role model of what I hope to achieve someday. I want to do the same someday and provide scholarships that financially empower dedicated students to help them achieve their goals."Emma SalazarSalazar is a current Bachelor of Global Management student pursuing the international business, language and culture track, which requires two years of foreign language study. She has traveled a lot already in her life and has always had a sense of wanderlust for more.“I am excited to truly challenge myself and see how everything in my life will affect how I take on this journey. This scholarship allowed me to see a better future for myself, full of opportunities, and look out for positives because you never know how life will gift them to you."I want to set an example as a scholarship recipient who made the most of this experience. I am sincerely grateful for Karen Simon; she has truly improved my life, and I can’t wait to make her and my family proud,” Salazar said.]]>
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