ASU grads committed to community solutions


December 8, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

More than 250 graduates will walk across the stage this fall as part of Arizona State University's College of Public Service and Community Solutions fall convocation. Among them are four women who are recognized as outstanding graduates from their respective schools — and exemplify a commitment to public service, innovative thinking and finding solutions for the issues in their community. Priscilla Guadarrama, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate. Photo by Adrianna Ovnicek/ASU Download Full Image

Priscilla Guadarrama
School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

For Priscilla Guadarrama (at left) walking across the graduation stage for School of Criminal Justice and Criminology means not only overcoming work, homework, an internship and full-time credit hours, but also the challenges of first time motherhood. Yet with all of this, she will be the first in her family to graduate from college.

She says motherhood, despite its challenges, taught her valuable skills, such as time management. She learned to juggle various activities along with her responsibilities as a mother and still felt that her quality of work as a student remained consistent.

“It’s definitely challenging,” Guadarrama said. Her son, Edison, was born a couple days before the 2015 spring semester.

Taking on motherhood in her senior year was doubly challenging as she took on credits as a full-time student in order to maintain her scholarship.

Despite her new responsibilities, Guadarrama also participated in out-of-class activities, including an internship at Moma’s House, a safe house that aims to rehabilitate female survivors of domestic abuse and sex trafficking.

For the last year and a half, Guadarrama worked with Assistant Professor Danielle Wallace as part of an undergraduate research team studying perceptions of race on disorder and researched how different racial groups perceive disorder.

The two began working together when Guadarrama approached Wallace with an interest in pursuing research.

“She’s the ideal undergraduate for me to work with because she’s excited to be here and she’s interested in the topic,” Wallace said.

She believes the findings of the research are important so law enforcement professionals and others are aware of any racial biases or prejudices that may interfere with their work or daily lives.

“She kind of took me under her wing. She taught me how to do research and got me interested in that area,” Guadarrama said. “After I had my son, she was very supportive as well. I wanted to have that kind of impact on other students.”

Guadarrama plans to get a doctoral degree to teach at the university level and conduct research addressing the victim to offender cycle as well as rehabilitation methods.

“We have these perceptions embedded into ourselves and we need to be able to liberate ourselves from them to be more open-minded to different situations and people,” Guadarrama said.

Leonor Camarena
School of Public Affairs

With involvement in a variety of areas, Leonor Camarena (photo below) exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit of ASU.

As part of her Barrett, the Honors College thesis, Camarena addressed issues of inequality in the ROTC program at ASU and other universities. She was in the Naval ROTC at ASU for four and a half years before she chose to disenroll.

As a result of her thesis publication, Camarena said the ROTC program implemented changes to better include female ROTC students.

“They’ve brought in female leaders within the military to speak to the females there, since there are very few women within the ROTC program,” Camarena said. The new addition gives students more insight as to what to expect as a female within the military and their leadership potential.

While pursuing her master’s in public administration, she worked two jobs and chose to continue her education through the summer as a full-time student.

A semester before graduating, Camarena found meaningful work at the local nonprofit Chicanos Por La Causa, which offers services to more than 200,000 individuals and families throughout Arizona, Nevada and New Mexico each year.

“They assist individuals in every capacity you could imagine, which is why I love it so much,” Camarena said. “My position is in housing, but we do everything from social work to helping with economic development.”

As she prepares to pursue her doctorate, Camarena has become interested in researching the barriers and challenges facing women in STEM (science, technology, engineering, math), in particular the experiences of Latinas in STEM.

“One thing I’ve noticed is there’s a lack with retention for women in STEM careers, and so I would like to pave that forward with future research,” Camarena said.

Brenna Bean
School of Community Resources and Development

The night before she began her freshman year, 18-year-old Brenna Bean (photo below) was involved in a traumatic car accident that left her with a spinal cord injury which paralyzed her from the chest down. But Bean’s determination and optimism turned the tragic event into something that would steer her career path and forge new passions.

Since the injury, she discovered a new passion for recreational therapy and disability advocacy, and now works to counter the stigma associated with persons with disabilities.

“I was able to still be involved in my community and still do the things I wanted to do post-injury,” Bean said. “It was the moment that I discovered that about myself that I knew I needed to help other people achieve that.” This fall, Bean is graduating from the School of Community Resources and Development with a bachelor’s degree in parks and recreation management with a concentration in therapeutic recreation.

“After being injured, I discovered how much inequality there was for people with disabilities,” Bean said. “I think that it’s really important for us as a society to start moving in a more positive direction and accepting people with disabilities as capable and equal.”

She is currently interning at St. Joseph’s Hospital Barrow Neurological Institute and volunteers at the Virginia G. Piper Sport & Fitness Center for Persons with Disabilities. She’s also a member of the ASU wheelchair basketball team, which is in its first season.

“In looking toward social equality for person with disabilities, half of the battle is helping the individuals achieve their own goals and perceive themselves as strong, capable, confident members of society despite their limitations,” Bean said.

Last year, Bean received the Arizona State Therapeutic Recreation Association Student Recognition Award for her community involvement.

“Her spirit and vitality has been an absolute asset to Arizona State University. I can only imagine what she’s going to accomplish in the years ahead,” said Kelly Ramella, faculty advisor to the Arizona State Therapeutic Recreation Student Association.

Bean will continue to play wheelchair basketball for ASU through the rest of the 2015-16 season, stay personally immersed in adaptive sports and work toward further recognition as a wheelchair basketball player on the national level. She hopes to earn her therapeutic recreation certification and continue with a graduate education to study rehabilitation, disability studies or exercise and wellness.

“I really believe that every person, regardless of disability or not, has the right to be happy through recreation and has the ability to be happy through recreation,” Bean said.

Mocha De los Santos
School of Social Work

As the first in her family to graduate from college, Mocha De los Santos (photo below) didn’t let failing two courses deter her from achieving a diploma.

De los Santos worked her way up throughout the last year and a half through to become a manager of the Central Arizona Shelter Services (CASS). CASS is the largest shelter provider in Arizona, offering supportive services for men, women and children experiencing homelessness in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

“It’s been a great experience,” she said. “I feel like this is where I’ve grown into the person that I am today. It’s allowed me to make errors, fix them and learn overall career-wise that this is what I really want to do.”

There, De los Santos worked with her team to help rebuild the lives of people dealing with various social stigmas and individual transitioning from prison back to society. As shelter manager, she enacted a plan to keep the shelter at full capacity at all times by calling incoming families a few days earlier.

“As a social worker, it is literally your job to create social change,” she said. “CASS has been that stepping stone for me to change the population that I’m working with and help them grow into sustainable individuals.”

Written by Adrianna Ovnicek and Andres Guerra Luz

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recognizes fall 2015 Dean’s Medalists


December 8, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

During the fall 2015 convocation ceremony on Dec. 15, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will honor their best and brightest undergraduates from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. Dean's Medalist James Cornelison from the Department of Physics at Arizona State University. Dean's Medalist James Cornelison from the Department of Physics at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

These students — selected by their department or school for demonstrating excellence — will be awarded a Dean’s Medal to wear with their graduation regalia and will lead their fellow graduates during the processional.

The Dean’s Medalists have impressed their professors, schools and departments by going above and beyond in their academic careers. Through advanced coursework, innovative strives in research and impressive GPAs, these students will impact communities locally and internationally as they go on to develop themselves professionally.

Meet this year’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalists:

Benjamin Bresnahan

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Major: History
Accomplishments: Bresnahan conducted undergraduate research on the role of public perception in the Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle trials in the 1920s and how this led to the rise of “yellow” journalism.
Volunteer Work: In association with ASU and The Salvation Army, Bresnahan served as a tutor to underprivileged and underserved middle school-aged children in reading, writing and math comprehension.

“Benjamin Bresnahan stands out as an undergraduate at ASU. He is bright, competitive, intellectually curious and intrigued with ideas. He has a strong and positive work ethic,” said Gayle Gullett, associate professor of history.

Bianca Cruz

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences
Major: Biological Sciences
Accomplishments: Originally from Puerto Rico, Cruz learned English when she came to the U.S. at the age of 12. She volunteered as a laboratory aide in the summer of 2014 at the Puerto Rico Department of Natural and Environmental Resources Fisheries Laboratory and in 2015 as a laboratory aide at ASU’s Neuer Laboratory conducting her own experiments involving water column modeling.
Future Plans: Cruz has been applying to graduate schools to continue studying the biological carbon pump in the ocean and the mechanisms that drive it.

“(Bianca) impressed me immediately by her intelligence and drive and motivation,” said Susanne Neuer, professor in the School of Life Sciences.

Brenna Goodwin

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology
Majors: Psychology and Philosophy
Accomplishments: Beyond completing two bachelor’s degrees as an honors student, Goodwin worked as a research assistant in the Cognitive Science Prototype Abstraction Lab for one semester before starting her honors thesis work with the Embodied Cognition Lab.
Thesis: Goodwin’s thesis focused on electrical activity in the brain and how performing a task with a partner increases motor-neuron activity. Her work, built upon findings of a graduate student, included collecting and analyzing complex data. Dr. Art Glenberg, director of the Embodied Cognition Lab, anticipates using her findings in an upcoming publication in a prominent journal.
Future Plans: Goodwin plans on going into full-time ministry when she graduates.

“(Brenna) has shown strong performance in every aspect of our program. … We are extremely happy to recognize (her) achievements with the psychology department’s Dean’s Medal,” said Michelle Shiota, associate professor of psychology.

Chanelle Johnson

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Major: Sociology
Minor: Psychology
Accomplishments: Johnson has a passion for improving the lives of others, locally and internationally. For the past two years, Johnson participated in a local event to give away free dental services. She is a long-standing volunteer at a senior living home, has worked with abused and underprivileged children, served meals to homeless individuals and traveled to Ecuador to improve teaching techniques.
Future Plans: Johnson plans to pursue a graduate degree in marriage and family therapy.

“Chanelle’s compassion, thoughtfulness and dedication to improving the lives of others coupled with her outstanding academic record have impressed so many of us in the Sanford School community,” said Lois Goldblatt, an academic success coordinator.

Cody Inglis

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies
Major: Political Science
Accomplishments: Inglis has worked with the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, assisting Dr. Lenka Bustilkova on research into the far-right groups of Ukraine. He also co-founded a small-run publishing house for local art, poetry and music and has been playing in shows with his band and exhibiting his photography since 2010.
Thesis: Inglis’ honors thesis, entitled “Curation and Hegemony,” deals with the dynamics of international recognition of secessionist states.
Future Plans: Inglis plans to pursue a master’s degree in comparative history at Central European University.

“Cody embodies the core tenets of the school … his academic research and personal life engage political phenomena within social contexts at all levels of analysis: local, national and global,” said Richard Herrera, associate director of the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Dalton Worsnup

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Science
Major: Mathematics
Accomplishments: Worsnup changed his major to math after taking one course. He enhanced his advanced mathematics education through research internships in commutative algebra at the University of California, Los Angeles and foundational mathematics at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Future Plans: Upon graduation, Worsnup plans to become a naval aviator in the Navy. While in the Navy, he wants to pursue a PhD with focused studies in space systems in hopes of becoming an astronaut one day.

“Mr. Worsnup is an outstanding example of what it means to live the art and science of mathematics,” said Tracey Hayes on behalf of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Science scholarship and awards committee.

Emily Kaba

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Major: Geographical Sciences
Minor: Sustainability
Certificate: Geographic Information Science
Accomplishments: Kaba showcased a passion for learning and an invaluable commitment to the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, impressing her professors with her preparation, attention to detail and probing questions.
Thesis: Kaba’s honors thesis was inspired by the Hole-in-the-Rock at Papago Park and how this phenomenon was formed. As a part of her research, she mastered how to use one of ASU’s powerful electron microscopes. Her research will be submitted to the prestigious Earth Surface Processes and Landforms serial of the British Geomorphological Research Society. 

“We feel very lucky to have been Emily’s academic home,” said Patricia Gober, interim director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Emma Fleming

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures
Major: Business Law and International Letters and Cultures (Classics)
Accomplishments: Fleming will be completing concurrent degrees in business law and classics in Latin. She was a member of the Dean’s List every semester at ASU and is a member of Eta Sigma Phi, an honorary society for classical studies. While completing her studies she also tutored and taught young children.
Thesis: Elementary Latin curricula.
Future Plans: Fleming has been accepted to several prestigious law schools and plans to attend one in the fall. 

Eric Escoto

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Major: Earth and Space Exploration (Geological Sciences Concentration)
Accomplishments: Escoto returned to pursue his degree after nine years in the workforce. He conducted undergraduate research with Assistant Professor Christy Till and earned the Ron Greely Planetary Geology Scholarship, which is awarded to one student annually.
Thesis: Volcanism in Hawaii and the processes that occur prior to eruption.
Future Plans: Escoto is currently applying to doctorate programs in geologic science.

“(Eric) is an exemplary role model for the many non-traditional students … he demonstrates that life and work experience can be an asset, not a hindrance, in your education and there may be more doors open to you than perhaps you realized,” said Christy Till, assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Hallie Sussman

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences
Major: Biochemistry  
Accomplishments: A recipient of the 2015 Biochemistry Award, Sussman has been working in Professor Neal Woodbury’s laboratory at the Biodesign Institute on projects involving photosynthetic reaction centers as part of her honors thesis. She is expected to be a co-author on at least one of the papers that result from the research.
Future Plans: Sussman plans to attend graduate school to pursue a doctorate degree in biochemistry.

“(Hallie) serves as a great example of a molecular sciences student in that she has worked hard both on understanding at a deep level the operation of (bio)molecules and how to apply this understanding to create solutions to real-world problems,” said Kevin Redding, chair of the undergraduate program committee for the School of Molecular Sciences.

James Cornelison

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics
Major: Physics
Minor: Astrophysics
Accomplishments: Cornelison returned to school after gaining military experience. As a student researcher, he conducted renovations on a radio and implemented software-based signal processing for the telescopes under the guidance of Dr. Christopher Groppi.

“His academic accomplishments are impressive, and he is certainly a student we should be very proud of,” said Ixchell Paape, the academic manager of the physics department. 

John Bruno

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation
Major: Justice Studies
Minor: Political Science
Accomplishments: Bruno is a first generation student who demonstrated determination to succeed. He was accepted to ASU as a transfer student in the spring of 2014. He recently joined the Golden Key International Honor Society.
Future Plans: Bruno hopes to continue his education by attending law school.

“(John) … is a good example of overcoming and succeeding in academia,” said Frank Piña, assistant director of academic services in the School of Social Transformation.

Justin Peterson

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Major: Urban Planning
Minors: Sustainability and Business
Certificate: Geographic Information Science
Accomplishments: Peterson was selected as a Dean’s Medalist for his range of community service, including membership in the Student Planning Association and the Tempe Bicycle Coalition, extensive work at Tempe’s Escalante Community Garden and an internship with the City of Tempe’s Community Development Office.

“Justin is really dedicated, committed to community service and a high-achieving student,” said Dr. Kevin McHugh, associate professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Noah Leben

Dean’s Medal: Department of English
Major: English (Creative Writing)
Accomplishments: Leben was the first-prize winner of the English department’s 2015 Swarthout Poetry Award, and he has won a number of writing awards. In addition to his activities in creative writing, Leben was selected to participate in the Kakehashi Project, a student exchange program between Japan and the United States.

“(Noah) strikes us as not only a top-notch English student and creative writer, but as the ideal well-rounded, wide-ranging undergraduate we all hope to find in our classes,” said Robert S. Sturges, professor of English.

Susana Valenzuela

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Majors: Human Communication and Spanish Linguistics
Minor: French
Accomplishments: In 2014, Valenzuela was awarded one of the top scholarships in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She served as an undergraduate teaching assistant and as a classroom apprentice, helping students succeed in their classes.
Future Plans: Valenzuela plans to go to graduate school.

“(Susana) is dedicated to moving forward and knows what it takes to be successful, she always works hard at whatever she is doing,” said Carol Comito, academic success specialist in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. “She is a true leader.”

Theresa Pena

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Major: Global Health
Accomplishments: Pena, an Army veteran, was selected as a Dean’s Medalist for her excellence in student engagement. Beyond her academic achievements, she also participated in a health and environment lab internship at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

“She has worked diligently and successfully to balance both work and school,” said Stefanie Bobar, academic success specialist in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

Wendel Friedl

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics
Major: Economics
Minor: Psychology
Accomplishments: Wendell served eight years in the U.S. Army Reserve and three years in Iraq as an infantry officer in the U.S. Army. He received a Bachelor of Arts in sociology and returned to ASU for a second degree in economics.
Future Plans: Friedl plans to pursue a graduate degree in cognitive psychology with an emphasis on decision neuroscience and neuroeconomics. 

“It is truly an honor for the department to nominate Wendel Friedl as the department’s CLAS Dean’s Medalist,” said Jose Mendez, chair of the awards committee for the economics department.

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

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