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ASU engineering student motivated by passion for social entrepreneurship


January 13, 2016

Ngoni Mugwisi recalls the dry, 110-degree heat that welcomed him to Arizona — and the United States — for the first time.

This sweltering introduction marked the beginning of a four-year journey that has seen the Arizona State University electrical engineering student achieve success in academics, leadership, social entrepreneurship and impact on the ASU community. Ngoni Mugwisi played an instrument from his native country of Zimbabwe for visitors at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Homecoming Block Party. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

It is the continuation of a longer journey that began in Zimbabwe with a childhood marked by the sacrifice and perseverance demanded by life with his supportive but financially impoverished mother.

Overcoming challenges to excel in school

His upbringing in the city of Gweru, Zimbabwe, was punctuated by nearly monthly evictions from one house to another. Eventually, Mugwisi’s mother and siblings were forced to relocate to rural Mberengwa, Zimbabwe, where living costs are lower.

Mugwisi, however, remained with other family members in Gweru, where the education system was better. Though he was frequently excluded from school because he was unable to pay the required fees, Mugwisi still managed to excel by borrowing books and class notes from other students.

“Science always fascinated me, and I was curious to know what happened behind the scenes of everyday processes and beneath the surfaces of technologies,” Mugwisi said.

Motivated by his curiosity and those interests, he earned the highest-ever test results on the national exams at his high school, leading to a Joshua Nkomo Scholarship, one of the most competitive scholarships in Zimbabwe.

As a senior, Mugwisi earned perfect test scores in the natural sciences and graduated a term early. His performance made him one of 32 Zimbabwean students to be selected for the 2012 class of the United States Students Achievers Program, which helps African students to apply to U.S. universities.

ASU’s commitment to the ideals of the New American University appealed to Mugwisi, particularly its emphasis on local impact, social embeddedness and accessibility for students from all walks of life. He was also attracted to ASU because of the academic, entrepreneurial and leadership opportunities it offered.

“At ASU I knew I would find a nurturing climate that would propel me to succeed as an entrepreneur,” Mugwisi said.

He made his way to ASU with a full-ride scholarship from the MasterCard Foundation Scholars Program — a $500 million, 10-year initiative to educate and prepare young people, particularly from Africa, to lead social change and make a positive impact on their communities.

Progress through entrepreneurship

The commonplace hunger Mugwisi experienced as a child living in poverty has evolved into a passion for improving communities through social entrepreneurship.

As a freshman in ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, he started the Stair Gardens Project, a sustainable food-source venture that uses a tiered gardening system to empower small-scale rural farmers to increase their food production. The venture was started in conjunction with the Fulton Schools’ Engineering Projects and Community Service (EPICS) program.

The system enables people in rural areas, including many areas across Africa, to sustainably grow vegetables despite limited access to water and fertile soil. The tiered agricultural approach saves land space while increasing the output of vegetable harvests, despite using only small plots of land.

The Stair Gardens Project (SGP) won against 191 other ventures competing at the 2015 Social Venture Challenge, held in conjunction with the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGI U) conference at the University of Miami in March 2015.

“With the seed funding we earned we transformed SGP into a spinoff venture called Solar Water Solutions and successfully implemented the first phase of the product design in Zimbabwe in summer 2015,” Mugwisi said.

Solar Water Solutions also won a $1,000 prize in the Fulton Schools Startup Center’s recent eSeed Challenge.

Mugwisi’s determination and commitment to serving others earned him three EPICS awards in two years, including the Global Impact Award for the Stair Gardens Project venture.

After his team’s performance at CGI U, Mugwisi won a Resolution Fellowship, which is given to young social entrepreneurs by the Resolution Project to help connect them with an array of resources for support through the nonprofit’s network. The Resolution Project aims to generate leaders with a lifelong commitment to social responsibility.

Mugwisi is co-founder of two ASU student organizations, Diners We Care, a food waste reduction and diversion initiative, and Africa Rises, which provides African students with a platform for self-representation and for correcting stereotypes about themselves and their countries.

He also serves as the Region 6 Programs chairperson for the National Society of Black Engineers. Mugwisi develops and implements programs to promote academic excellence, education outreach and pre-collegiate engagement for the society in 11 states. He is also a mentor to fellow students in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, and chair of the ASU chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Mugwisi conducted undergraduate research through the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative for two semesters under the supervision of Jean Andino, an associate professor of chemical engineering. His research focused on experimental studies of carbon dioxide photoreduction employing titania-based catalysts to create alternative energy sources.

Music connects him to home and to others

In addition to developing initiatives to give back to his home country and other developing nations, Mugwisi connects with his home country through music.

He enjoys playing the mbira, a traditional African musical instrument also known as the thumb piano. He recently performed at the Fulton Schools’ ASU homecoming block party and at a reception at the Zuva Gallery in Scottsdale.

“It is my own serene way of balancing my busy life. I am glad a number of people I have played for share the same love for the music,” he said.

Mugwisi is on track to graduate in May 2017 and plans to attend graduate school.

“I plan to continue living at the intersection of my passions,” he said, “and I will follow my path wherever it leads.”

Written by Rose Serago, rose.serago@asu.edu, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

From tribal law to concussion conference: ASU Law highlights achievements

Graduates dominate bar exam results; faculty receive international attention


January 13, 2016

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University has highlighted the achievements of its students, faculty and alumni over the past three months, including providing assistance to tribes, being named among the brightest law graduates of 2016, and being asked to speak on climate change, solar energy, Islamic State funding and the concussion epidemic.

  Professor Robert Miller ASU Law Robert Miller is a professor of law at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. He is also the faculty director of the Rosette LLP American Indian Economic Development Program at ASU Law. Download Full Image

Students

Simon Gertler (JD Candidate) will clerk for the Indian Law Resource Center in Montana. The center provides legal assistance to indigenous peoples of the Americas to combat racism and oppression, to protect their lands and environment, to protect their cultures and ways of life, to achieve sustainable economic development and genuine self-government, and to realize their other human rights.

Simon Goldenberg (JD Candidate) was selected as a law clerk for the Native American Rights Fund (NARF). The fund has provided legal assistance to Indian tribes, organizations and individuals nationwide who may have otherwise gone without adequate representation. NARF has successfully asserted and defended the most important rights of Indians and tribes in hundreds of major cases, and has achieved significant results in such critical areas as tribal sovereignty, treaty rights, natural resource protection, and Indian education. Goldenberg will be clerking in NARF’s Colorado office.

Eun Hyung “Thomas” Kim (JD Candidate) was profiled on his undergraduate school’s website. Pacific Lutheran University asked Kim about meeting Justice Sandra Day O’Connor and life at ASU Law. 

Chase Milea (JD Candidate) has been named among "The Best-and-Brightest Law School Graduates of 2016" by Tipping the Scales, a website founded by John Byrne, former editor-in-chief of Fast Company and Businessweek.com, that focuses on helping prospective students get into law school.

Racheal White Hawk (JD Candidate) has been named among "The Best-and-Brightest Law School Graduates of 2016" by Tipping the Scales, a website founded by John Byrne, former editor-in-chief of Fast Company and Businessweek.com, that focuses on helping prospective students get into law school.  

 

Faculty

Professor Kenneth Abbott contributed a piece to the November 2015 issue of Global Policy, "Reinvigorating International Climate Policy: A Comprehensive Framework for Effective Nonstate Action." Free access to the article is available through February. 

Professor Dan Bodansky was quoted in a USA Today article highlighting Pope Francis' encyclical on climate change. On Nov. 17, he also took part in a panel at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. The panel discussed the climate talks in Paris.

Professor Laura Napoli Coordes was quoted in the Arizona Republic regarding the financial situation of Arizona's Solana Generating Station’s parent company.  The Spanish company, Abengoa, is facing a possible liquidation of its assets through bankruptcy in its home country.

Professor Adam Chodorow was quoted in Le Monde about the United Nations Security Council’s unanimous vote for a binding resolution aimed at drying up funding sources of the Islamic State. The article is in French, but Google Translate will help you read. Professor Chodorow also brought his perspective to an article in Foreign Policy Magazine looking at how long the Islamic State can continue to govern based on the people they are taxing. In addition, he analyzed Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson's tax plan based in an article in Slate.

Professor Emeritus Dale Furnish published an article comparing two different judicial doctrines, forum non conveniens and lis alibi pendens, in the journal XIV-XV ANUARIO ESPANOL DE DERECHO INTERNACIONAL PRIVADO 321-358 (2015). He presented the article at conference at the Universidad Complutense in Madrid in May 2015. He also published a book chapter, “Globalization and Crisis: How is International Insolvency Managed?,” for Cursos de Derecho Internacional y Relaciones Internacionales de Vitoria-Gasteiz 231-304 (Universidad del País Vasco, 2014).  

Professors Betsy Grey and Gary Marchant co-wrote the op-ed, "Facing Concussion Epidemic Head-On," for the Arizona Republic as part of ASU Law’s conference, Safeguarding Brains: The Law, Science & Ethics of the Concussive Injury Epidemic.

Professor Erik Luna discussed the need to reform criminal sentencing laws at a panel at the justice summit hosted by the Charles Koch Institute. The summit was called “Advancing Justice: An Agenda for Human Dignity and Public Safety.”

Regents’ Law Professor Gary Marchant gave the prestigious 2015 Dr. Leroy Burney Lecture at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in November. His presentation was called, "Who Wants Your Genetic Information and Why?" His video presentation is available here.

Professor Robert Miller was the keynote speaker at the annual Collins Lecture conference, “The Gospel of Conquest," put on by the Ecumenical Council of Oregon on Nov. 19. He spoke about American Indians and the international law called the Doctrine of Discovery, which was used to legally claim North America for Europeans and then the United Sates. Professor Miller also had two papers in the 2015 Top Social Sciences Research Network Papers in American Indian Law. "Consultation or Consent: The United States Duty to Confer with American Indian Governments" and "The Doctrine of Discovery, Manifest Destiny, and American Indians" were ranked Nos. 4 and 12, respectively. You can read both selections here. Professor Miller also discussed the Dollar General case on Native America Calling.

Professor Troy Rule was quoted in Scientific American, where he helped outline the laws (and lack thereof) for drone activity.

Professor James Weinstein helped define the difference between protected speech and hate speech in this Associated Press article looking at the rise of incendiary language.

 

Alumni

1970s

Judge Elizabeth Finn (JD ’70), who presides over Glendale City Court, was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association’s Hall of Fame on Oct. 27. She has been a judge for 36 years and is Arizona’s most senior judge. Hall of Fame inductees are chosen for their contributions and impact on the history of the county bar and legal profession, their community involvement, and their tenure in the industry.

Van O’Steen (JD ’72), a founding partner of O'Steen & Harrison, PLC, was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association’s Hall of Fame on Oct. 27. He has had a general civil practice, emphasizing personal injury, defective products, and nursing-home abuse and neglect. Hall of Fame inductees are chosen for their contributions and impact on the history of the county bar and legal profession, their community involvement, and their tenure in the industry.

Joe Sims (JD ’70) has stepped down as a partner at Jones Day after 45 years. He is now formally of counsel at the firm. Sims took part in many high-profile antitrust cases, including AOL-Time Warner in 2000, Sirius-XM in 2008, and AMR Corp.-US Airways in 2013. In honoring Sims, The National Law Journal described him as an M&A and antitrust “trailblazer” and noted that, “no lawyer in modern times has had more impact on the antitrust agencies’ relationship with the modern bar.” After graduating from ASU Law, Sims started in the U.S. Department of Justice’s antitrust division, witnessing the breakup of AT&T and ultimately becoming deputy assistant attorney general within the division before joining Jones Day in 1978.

1980s

Shawn K. Aiken (JD ’83), a shareholder at Aiken Schenk Hawkins & Ricciardi in Phoenix, has become a Fellow of the American College of Trial Lawyers. His practice focuses in complex commercial litigation, mediation and arbitration.

Booker T. Evans Jr. (JD ’89), a white-collar criminal defense attorney and commercial litigator at Ballard Spahr in Phoenix, has been honored by the Arizona Diversity Council as one of the 2015 DiversityFIRST individual award winners. The DiversityFIRST Award honors individuals, community groups, nonprofits, and businesses within the legal, academic, corporate, or health community that have demonstrated outstanding achievements and sustained commitment to the pursuit of cultural diversity and inclusion in the community and workplace.

Kevin O'Malley (JD ’80), a shareholder with Gallagher & Kennedy in Phoenix, was inducted into the Maricopa County Bar Association's Hall of Fame on Oct. 27. O'Malley is a member of the Gallagher & Kennedy board of directors and head of the firm’s litigation and public bidding and procurement departments. Hall of Fame inductees are chosen for their contributions and impact on the history of the county bar and legal profession, their community involvement and their tenure in the industry.

1990s

Kelly Kral (JD ’98) of Dyer & Ferris LLC, was honored as member of the year by the Maricopa County Bar Association. Her areas of practice include family law, wills, trusts, conservatorships, guardianships, elder law, mental-health law, and other areas of law pertinent to such cases and special matters.

2000s

Christopher R. Houk (JD ’00) has joined the Law Firm of Gillespie, Shields, Durrant & Goldfarb to lead the firm’s Employment Law group. Prior to joining the firm, Houk served for more than six years as a federal trial attorney for the EEOC, preceded by four years as assistant Attorney General for the Arizona Attorney General’s Civil Rights Division.

Andrea “Andy” Landeen (JD ’06) has joined Quarles & Brady’s Phoenix office. She focuses primarily on the representation of lenders and other creditors in pre- and post-judgment litigation. Her practice emphasizes litigation including commercial contracts, deeds of trust, enforcement of promissory notes, and security agreements.

Lindsay A.M. Olivarez (JD ’09), a family-law attorney at Udall Shumway in Phoenix, joined the board of directors of the Association of Supportive Child Care, a private, non-profit corporation dedicated to enhancing quality of care for children in Arizona. She has represented clients in an array of family-law issues including divorce, custody, relocation and modification actions.

K Royal (JD ’04) was honored with the Association of Corporate Counsel's Robert I. Townsend Jr. Member of the Year Award. She was selected from more than 40,000 fellow members of the association worldwide for her contributions to the Association of Corporate Counsel. She is vice president, assistant general counsel and privacy officer at CellTrust Corp. in Scottsdale.

2010s

Blake Atkinson (JD ’13) joined Fennemore Craig in Phoenix as an associate. He practices intellectual property, including patent prosecution and litigation, trademark registration and litigation, and copyrights. He concurrently earned his MBA while earning his JD.

Chase A. Bales (JD ’12) joined Jennings, Strouss & Salmon in Phoenix as an associate in commercial litigation. He is experienced in the representation of managed-care plans and providers in complex litigation involving health-law issues. Prior to joining Jennings, Strouss & Salmon, Bales worked at Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck as an associate, focusing his practice on health care and political law litigation.

Philip Brailsford (JD ’14) joined Fennemore Craig in Phoenix. Brailsford focuses in business litigation. Before practicing law, he served in the Mesa Police Department for more than 19 years.

Mike Bercovici (MSLB ’15) was named the 2015 Pac-12 football Scholar-Athlete of the Year. The former ASU Football redshirt senior quarterback was also the recipient of the Lee Roy Selmon Community Spirit Award, which recognizes athletes who go above the call of a student, amateur or professional athlete by demonstrating a deep care for others and their community. 

Robert Clarke (JD ’15) tied for the second-highest score on the July 2015 Arizona Uniform Bar Exam. He tied with another ASU Law graduate, with the top scorer also hailing from ASU Law. According to data from the Committee on Examinations in Arizona, ASU Law is the only law school in the state to have taken the top three spots on the bar exam since 1991.

Mark DeLuca (JD ’15) joined Foster Swift Collins & Smith in Michigan as an associate. He is part of the firms Trusts & Estates practice group. DeLuca is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Kyle Orne (JD ’15) had the highest score on the July 2015 Arizona Uniform Bar Exam. A passing score is 273. The average score in July was 279.23, and Orne earned 360. Two other ASU Law graduates tied for second-highest. According to data from the Committee on Examinations in Arizona, ASU Law is the only law school in the state to have taken the top three spots on the bar exam since 1991.

Christopher Waznik (JD ’15) tied for the second-highest score on the July 2015 Arizona Uniform Bar Exam. He tied with another ASU Law graduate, with the top scorer also hailing from ASU Law. According to data from the Committee on Examinations in Arizona, ASU Law is the only law school in the state to have taken the top three spots on the bar exam since 1991.

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

480-727-9052