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Taking the scenic route

Honor Soluri will reprise her Army flag-toting duties at her ASU commencement.
ASU student Honor Soluri sings the praises of West campus' smaller class sizes.
December 11, 2015

ASU English student traveled around the world and back again to finally achieve her dream of a college education

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

It might be hard to believe, but there is such a thing as too much of the Golden State. Or at least, that’s how Honor Soluri felt in 2010 at the age of 22.

“I had just gotten laid off and I was sick of California for whatever reason. I just wanted to go see the world,” recalled the soon-to-be Arizona State University graduate.

Soluri had been taking classes at a community college in her hometown of Monrovia when she lost her job. However unfortunate at the time, it served as the impetus that led her to enlist in the U.S. Army.

Before she knew it, she was off to basic training in Missouri, then to Virginia where she trained for a job as a mechanic, and finally to her actual duty station in Georgia. There she worked maintaining vehicles in the motor pool until she was deployed to Kuwait in 2012.

The nine months she spent in Kuwait were sometimes nerve-wracking, but Soluri found solace in the company of her fellow soldiers.

“The people I was there with I was very close to. I’d see them every day ... they were like family, so it was pretty comforting having them there,” she said.

The experience also gave her the opportunity to exercise the team-player skills she’d learned while playing varsity volleyball all four years of high school.

Though she was thoroughly enjoying her time in the Army, throughout it all Soluri harbored the desire to one day return to college and get a degree — something the GI Bill allowed her to do once her service was complete in 2014.

“As soon as I knew [my service] was up, I wanted to go back [to college],” she said. “Especially considering the opportunity of the GI Bill, it would have been silly of me not to go. It would be a mistake to waste an opportunity like that that, that not a lot of people get. It was an inspiration for me.”

At that time she was ready to return to the West Coast, but not California per se. She settled for Arizona.

“It’s close to California but not quite as expensive,” she said.

ASU was her first choice because of the good things she’d heard about the university and because it seemed like a “fun and exciting place” to continue her education.

Having been an avid reader since she was young, Soluri gravitated toward English as her major:

“I've always loved reading. Growing up, my parents had a fairly extensive library and I enjoyed making my way through as many books as possible. English has always been my favorite subject out of all my classes in both high school and community college, so when it came time for me to choose a major, the choice was very simple for me.”

Opting to earn her degree through the English program offered by the School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural StudiesThe School of Humanities, Arts and Cultural Studies is an academic unit of the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University’s West campus. at ASU’s West campus, Soluri “couldn’t be happier” with her decision.

“I love the small size of the campus and the classes,” she said. “I think smaller class sizes are better because they allow for students to develop a good rapport with both instructors and classmates.”

In spring 2015 Soluri served on the editing team for Canyon Voices, the online literary magazine for ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, something she calls “an amazing experience.”

And though she’ll be graduating next week, Soluri has no plans to leave ASU any time soon.

“Ideally, I’d like to continue on to graduate school at ASU and get my master’s degree in communications so that I can do something in human resources for the VA,” she said of her future career plans.

“Giving back to the veteran community is something that's very important to me.”

Those attending New College’s commencement ceremony on Dec. 15 will get to see Soluri briefly reprise a role she used to fill in the Army — she’ll be carrying the gonfalon for her school.

“It’s kind of funny because I used to carry a flag in the Army, so at least I won’t worry about dropping it or being awkward with it,” she said with a laugh.

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Geography student tackles earth puzzles

December 11, 2015

Interest in Papago rocks grows into new discoveries

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

When Ron Dorn, professor and instructor of Emily Kaba’s course in Landform Processes, began talking about “geomorphology puzzles,” and especially the odd-looking rocky hills just north of campus in Papago Park, Emily Kaba was intrigued.

Kaba came to ASU from Dubai in the United Arab Emirates, where she’d been born and raised. With a multilingual family in which she learned Norwegian from her mother and Arabic from her father, Emily attended a British school. As a senior in high school under the British system, she chose three topics to focus her studies on: theater, performance arts and geography. 

“In geography, we were expected to conduct research, and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it,” said Kaba.  She chose to focus on water sustainability — but still intended to focus on theater and performance arts in her college studies, until she visited her brother, who was at that time studying at ASU.

“I loved the ASU campus and the desert environment, and ended up the next year as a freshman here, majoring in geography,” Kaba said.

As a sophomore, she had an opportunity to do an internship with ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City, where she researched the process of decision making within Arizona’s irrigation districts.

It was that same semester that Dorn introduced her to the many questions that exist about landforms and how they came to be. He told her that the rocks that form the rounded caves of the Papago Hills — with their small clusters of smooth holes — are called “tafoni,” and that scientists don’t fully understand how they form. He told her about a few hiking trails where she could look at tafoni in real life — and along with the trails, Kaba discovered her honors thesis research path.

ASU student Emily Kaba in the lab.

Emily Kaba hopes to turn her findings into a submission for a scientific paper.

Kaba was able to train to use one of ASU’s powerful electron microprobes. She gathered samples of tafoni from Papago Park as well as Picketpost Mountain near Superior, Arizona, and on a trip home, was also able to collect samples from a site in neighboring Oman. She mastered the art of preparing the samples for the electron microprobe and analyzing the microprobe’s images together with results of X-ray analysis — processes more typically undertaken as part of doctoral or post-doctoral studies.

Her observations and analysis began to reveal some pieces of the puzzle. In all three locations, chemical and physical processes work together to erode rock into the unique tafoni surface. The processes in the samples from Papago Park and Oman appeared to be quite similar — but although the Picketpost Mountain rocks look very similar, they appeared to have a very different history.

Another key finding is that processes operating on the tiniest components of the rock influence those operating at a slightly larger scale, and these in turn generate the tafoni forms that we see.

These findings are novel enough to be published, and writing at least one paper to submit to a scientific journal is high on Kaba’s post-graduation to-do list.  

ASU student Emily Kaba

It was on the hiking trails in
Papago Park where Emily Kaba
discovered her honors thesis
research path: studying tafoni,
rocks with small clusters of
smooth holes.

This and top photo by
Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Initially I thought there might be one finding to write up as a scientific paper,” said Kaba. “But my work kept going down new side-paths — with each new finding the puzzle grows larger.”

Kaba’s immediate plans after graduation focus on finding employment in a setting where she can continue to build research experience, while also using skills she has developed in GIS, or geographic information science.  Together with coursework, Kaba built expertise in GIS working in her last two years at ASU as a GIS research aide with the MapStory project, which is housed in ASU’s Decision Theater.

Kaba will graduate summa cum laude in December with a major in geography, a minor in sustainability, a certificate in GIS, and recognition as a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist.

“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.  “She is a talented geographer, with outstanding GIS skills, and passion for ASU and our school.”

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning