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ASU grad wants to make impact through entrepreneurship

ASU business grad wants to make an impact through entrepreneurship.
December 13, 2016

International student launched event to help refugee children from Central America

Juan Pablo Forno realized when he came to Arizona State University that it’s not only important to determine the “why” of your purpose, but also the “who.”

“If your work only has an impact on yourself, it is very easy to cut yourself some slack when things get hard,” said Forno, who has been named the Outstanding Graduate in the W. P. Carey School of Business for the fall 2016 semester.

“But when you have someone who you are working for and someone else has a stake in the outcomes of your work, thinking of them will push you when you can’t push yourself.”

Juan Pablo Forno is the Outstanding Graduate of the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Forno, who received a degree in business entrepreneurship with a minor in international business, spent a lot of his time at ASU thinking of other people. A native of Guatemala, he transferred to ASU two years ago from a small college in Oklahoma and joined the Hispanic Business Students Association his first semester here.

As head of community relations for that group, he launched an event in 2014 that helped refugee children who came to the Phoenix area as unaccompanied minors after fleeing violence and poverty in Central America.

“They don’t have any type of normal childhood, so we tried to make them feel like kids again,” said Forno, who organized a day of games, recreation and food at a local park for the kids, who live in shelters. Student volunteers at the event were trained in how to deal with children who suffered trauma.

He was gratified that the shelter staff told him the children were less emotionally closed off after the event.

“It helped to kick-start the healing process,” he said.

Forno said he’s grateful for the support that ASU offers to international students.

“Even ASU’s charter goals and values is very inclusive, and I never felt like I had less of an opportunity here because I was international,” he said. “But it also comes with sacrifices. I haven’t been home or seen a lot of my family in two years.”

Forno answered some questions for ASU Now:

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I was an exchange student in Italy after high school, I was so grateful for the experiences that I got the chance to enjoy — experiences that most people in my country never get the chance to live. I decided that I wanted to devote my life to helping people who were dealt the bad hands. I saw business as something that it is so woven into the fabric of our lives that it was the largest potential to drive change and progress. Entrepreneurship is the spirit of business and it is what drives this country, so what better way to make an impact than through entrepreneurship?

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I came in as a transfer student because it was a school that offered a plethora of opportunities for people who want to get involved. Whether it was student organizations, highly regarded academic standings, networks or just the overall values for what the school stands for, I thought ASU had the complete package. I also had my uncle who lived in Mesa, and being an international student, having a family member nearby is super important.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: I would tell them that what they learn in their classrooms is only half of the education that they can get at ASU. I learned more from student organizations and leadership roles than I ever learned from a teacher. It is also the best way to have an impact on others and in the community.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I intend to go back home to Guatemala for a few months, and then I will come back to the U.S with a temporary work permit. I will be working with a non-profit called Advance Guatemala, but I will also look for a job that will help foster my leadership skills.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think that if we are serious about staying in this planet for more than 100 years, we ought to pay more attention to the repercussions of running businesses with a limitless perspective in a world with limited resources. There are a lot of problems that I would like to tackle, but they would all mean nothing if we don’t have a place to live. Protecting the environment is something that I am very passionate about. If I had $40 million, I would use it to advance the search of effective sources of energy that are sustainable.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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December 13, 2016

Randy Cerveny, professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, says records can teach us about our planet

It might seem hard to believe, but there recently was an ocean wave as tall as a six-story building in the north Atlantic. 

The World Meteorological Organization on Tuesday classified the 2013 rise between Iceland and the British Isles as the largest wave ever monitored by an ocean buoy, measuring taller than 62 feet (19 meters).

Randy Cerveny

It’s the latest extreme record verified by the Geneva-based United Nations agency that keeps track of world’s weather, climate and water, which Arizona State University professor Randy Cerveny helps run by leading the WMO’s confirmation group and curating the events it substantiates at ASU.

Among the oddities in the archives that Cerveny maintains: a 2.25-pound hail stone that fell in Bangladesh in 1986; and 1.25 inches of rain dropping in one minute in Maryland in 1956.  

Cerveny, a climatologist who teaches in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, says it can take anywhere from a few months to a few years to verify an extreme event and that a lot can be learned from these records. He discusses his work with ASU Now:

Question: Why keep weather records?

Answer: First, by knowing what the extremes are we can gain a better idea of how our climate is changing over time.

But there are other reasons, such as engineering or medical concerns. Engineers need to know what the absolute strongest winds are, for example, in order to properly design buildings. Doctors need to know how hot an area can actually get to be better prepared for medical emergencies.

On a less serious note, I’ve been told some of this information has even helped settle some serious bar bets and bragging rights.

Q: What can these records tell us?

A: Basically, they give us a snapshot of how wild and violent our world can be. Extremes are the worst of the worst — the hottest, coldest, windiest and so on. So knowing them tells us how bad (or how good) the weather on our planet can be.

Q: Is there anything we can learn from the records to help us understand the dynamics of our planet?

A: Absolutely.

Knowing more about the absolute limits of our weather better informs us about all types of weather up to those limits.

In our recent evaluation of the longest-distance and -duration lightning flashes, we realized that we would have to literally rewrite one of our fundamental definitions of lightning.

The current professional definition, which dates back to the 1980s, states that lightning is an event that “lasts less than a second.” But with improved technology, we now know that lightning, in rare circumstances, can actually last many seconds.

Our investigation of lightning extremes helped to confirm that fact.

Q: From your perspective, what is among the most interesting records?

A: Probably the most interesting has been the world’s hottest temperature, as there has been a huge amount of interest in that record, and it has been cited in most encyclopedias and textbooks for more than a century. The current record for hottest temperature is 134 F, recorded on July 10, 1913, in Furnace Creek, Death Valley, California.

It also has been a very contentious record, with vocal supporters and critics around the globe.

Interestingly, our initial investigation in 2012 of what was then the record involved a life-threatening situation. Indeed, when we first discounted the original hottest temperature of 136 F back in 1922 Libya, one of our members, a Libyan meteorologist, was actually in Tripoli as the revolution in 2011 occurred. He managed to escape to the rebel side with his family while, he said, gunfire was occurring around them.

Q: What is among the most offbeat records?

A: Probably our recent determination of the longest-distance and longest-duration lightning flashes (199.5 miles in Oklahoma and 7.74 seconds in southern France, respectively).

The high-quality engineering work to determine those records is really quite impressive.

Everybody probably has experienced the static on the radio when lightning occurs. We used that idea of radio waves to accurately position exactly where and when a lightning flash starts and stops, employing a large network of very sensitive and complex radio sensors over an area.

It was a clever use of existing technology to gain clarity of a natural phenomenon.

Q: Why are we fascinated by weather extremes?

A: I think that our culture has always tended to promote the biggest, the highest, the strongest, etc., and that interest has led to great interest in the extremes of weather.

Books from organizations such as the "Guinness Book of World Records" have always captured the interest of the public.

Having been fascinated by those type of books as I was growing up, I find it interesting — and a bit humbling — to now be one of the group of experts that Guinness now calls to verify its own weather records.

Q: Will we see more records fall in the future?

A: Absolutely. Our climate has changed, is changing and will continue to change, and as part of that, the extremes of climate also will continue to change.

With the creation of the WMO’s Archive of Weather and Climate Extremes under the authority of the United Nations (and hosted through Arizona State University), we will continue to officially monitor and verify those extremes.


Top photo by Ove Tøpfer/

Associate Director , Media Relations & Strategic Communications