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'Angel' donor meets the grateful ASU student whose tuition she has funded.
August 14, 2017

Freshman tells benefactor that she has gotten him closer to his dream of becoming a doctor

Going to college is all about making connections — to professors, mentors and new friends. The Sun Devil Family Association has created a new kind of connection, as scholarship winners get to meet the “angels” who helped pay for their tuition to Arizona State University.

“I think what ASU does with education is superior, and I want to make sure that every child has a chance to get an education. It’s important to me,” said Junette West, a donor who met the student she funded on Monday.

West shook hands and posed for photographs with freshman Jesse Nguyen, who admitted to being a little nervous about meeting and thanking his benefactor.

“This person made my college career,” he said. “She is my extra step to becoming closer to being a doctor and getting that dream job.

“I’m planning to major in biological sciences, but I’ve heard that freshmen change their majors a lot,” Nguyen told West, who is an accountant for a real-estate company in Phoenix.

Nguyen, who is from Phoenix and went to Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, said he chose ASU because he wanted to be in Barrett, the Honors College.

“And it’s not too far from my family, who I know will try to reach out to me every other day.”

Nguyen is the third student that West has funded through the Sun Devil Family Association, a part of the ASU Foundation for a New American University, a private, nonprofit organization dedicated to raising resources to advance ASU.

The two met at a breakfast the association held for all 55 of its scholarship winners this year. Five of those winners were funded by “angels," who can meet their students informally or at association events throughout the year.

Each Sun Devil Family AssociationBesides the scholarships, the Sun Devil Family Association also provides an emergency fund for students, Thanksgiving dinner for students who can’t go home, tutoring support and events for families. scholarship winner receives $5,000 and is selected based on financial need, academic achievement and community service, and most have faced special circumstances, such as being the first in their family to attend college or being in the foster-care system. The association also provides recipients with a support system, community-service activities and social events.

West said she received a similar scholarship years ago when she attended what was then Grand Canyon College, now Grand Canyon University.

“This is so much fun because the idea behind it is that the student has a face to go with the scholarship,” which forges a more personal bond, West said. “They then will want to give back, and it will develop philanthropy in them.”

West has two sons who graduated with engineering degrees from ASU.

“They’re both working in their fields and doing well, and I’m excited about that,” she said. “I started working with SDFA when my oldest son was a freshman, and I stayed involved even though my kids aren’t here now because I believe in helping students like Jesse get the education they deserve.”

Steve Murow, another "angel," knows what it’s like to struggle. He started college in the 1970s but had to drop out after a few years when his father died and his mother became seriously ill.

“I had no money. There was no angel to help. No emergency loan to be had. No family association to rescue me. No scholarship program,” said Murow, who described how he was able to stretch one box of macaroni and cheese over three days.

Now the owner of a construction consulting company, he received his degree in California last year. He joined the association in 2005, when his son was a freshman at ASU.

“It’s weird being called an angel when I’m the one blessed,” said Murow, whose donations benefitted a student who is now a senior studying aerospace engineering.

The scholarship winners had a chance to share their gratitude at the event. Megan Dalton, a nursing major, has received the Sun Devil Family Association scholarship three times.

“I remember when I was a senior in high school and I got the email that I got the scholarship and I walked outside my classroom and I was so ecstatic that I did a happy dance and was screaming in the hallway,” she said. “And every time I’ve gotten that email, it never changes. One thing that does change is how inspired I am to reach my goals, and that’s because of you guys.”

James Deibler, a public service and public policy major, is a transfer student and wants to work with people who have disabilities after he graduates.

“I have autism, and I am trying to overcome it by graduating from ASU like I graduated from Glendale Community College,” Deibler told the room full of people.

“I currently work at Basha’s and at the University of Phoenix Stadium to raise money for college. Without the support of the scholarship, I would not be able to go to ASU.”

Campaign ASU 2020 is rallying the campus community and beyond to support the university as it continues to redefine higher education. Following the public launch of Campaign ASU 2020 earlier this year, the ASU Foundation announced that donors set a new yearly fundraising record: $220 million in new gifts and commitments. For more information on the Sun Devil Family Association, click here.


Top photo: Freshman Jesse Nguyen meets Junette West, the donor who funded the Sun Devil Family Association scholarship that he received. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Student reporting investigation finds as many as 63 million in US exposed to potentially unsafe drinking water

August 15, 2017

Carnegie-Knight News21 initiative headquartered at ASU's Cronkite School collects thousands of pages of records

The Carnegie-Knight News21 program, a national multi-university reporting initiative headquartered at Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, released a major multimedia investigation Monday into water pollution and its impact on health in the U.S.

Twenty-nine students from 18 universities traveled to 25 states, interviewing hundreds of individuals and collecting thousands of pages of state and federal statutes and records for “Troubled Water.”

The project found as many as 63 million people — nearly a fifth of the country — were exposed to potentially unsafe water more than once during the past decade, according to an investigation of 680,000 water-quality and monitoring violations from the Environmental Protection Agency. The project is at

“Troubled Water” includes a 26-minute documentary, more than a dozen multimedia stories as well as databases and data visualizations documenting the issues surrounding water pollution. Portions of the investigation will be published by major media partners. Last year’s News21 investigation included The Washington Post,, USA Today Network, The Dallas Morning News and The Philadelphia Inquirer, plus a number of nonprofit online news sites.

“Water is a universal concern, which makes it important to everyone, whether you live on a ranch in Texas or on a Native American reservation in Wyoming,” said Jacquee Petchel, News21 executive editor. “But one of the reasons we decided to investigate water quality nationally is because so many rural and disadvantaged communities often are the most impacted by contaminated water. We saw this across the country from tiny towns in Louisiana and Vermont to urban areas like Milwaukee and East Chicago, Indiana.”

News21 Troubled Water
Elizabeth Sims, an Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow, films at Scott Mills Falls in Scott Mills, Oregon, for this year's Carnegie-Knight News21 investigation. Photo by Agnel Philip/News21

News21 was established by the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation to demonstrate that top journalism students can produce in-depth reporting and multimedia innovations. This year’s project also includes support from Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Hearst Foundations, Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Louis A. “Chip” Weil, Diane Laney Fitzpatrick, Fred W. Smith and Dallas Morning News.

Petchel supervised the student reporters’ investigative project with award-winning journalists who serve on the faculty of the Cronkite School, including Leonard Downie Jr., former executive editor of The Washington Post and Weil Family Professor of Journalism; Christina Leonard, director of the Reynolds Business Reporting Bureau; and Pulitzer Prize winner and Professor Steve Doig. News21 staff also included web application developer Bhuvan Aggarwal, data visualization developer Hari Subramaniam, digital production editor Rian Bosse, copy editor Alex Chihak and visuals co-editors Alex Lancial and Jim Tuttle.

Work on the project started in January with a video-conference seminar on water-pollution issues taught by Downie and Petchel. Students heard from experts on the topic, analyzed data, researched topics and conducted interviews across the country.

“We chose ‘Troubled Water’ as this year’s topic because the drinking water of so many millions of Americans from coast to coast is now or has in recent years been contaminated in various ways,” Downie said. “Some news media have focused on the problem in some communities, such as the lead contamination in Flint, Michigan, drinking water, but News21 is the first to investigate all the sources and impacts of water pollution nationwide, with its own data analysis and on-the-ground reporting in every region of the country. The student journalists produced deeply reported stories and vivid photographs and video for the project’s many media partners around the country, plus an in-depth documentary.”

From late May to the end of July, the student journalists completed a 10-week fellowship, working out of Cronkite School newsroom on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. They crossed the country in multimedia reporting teams, examining the impact of industrial pollution, farming waste, pipe deterioration and the cost of contamination, among issues.

Fellow Brandon Kitchin, a junior at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, traveled across the South from Texas to Florida, shooting photos and videos and interviewing numerous individuals for the investigation. Kitchin’s work focused on environmental justice issues in the South, uncovering stories of African-American communities fearful of crumbling pipes and tainted drinking water.

“There’s a major disconnect between what the data says, and what the people up top are saying,” Kitchin said. “It blows your mind.”

The investigation found that many local water-treatment plants, especially in small, poor and minority communities, cannot afford the equipment necessary to filter out contaminates, which can include arsenic, found naturally in rock, chemicals from factories and nitrates and fecal matter from farming.

“We spent months investigating the enormous impact of industrial dumping on water quality, which is far more pervasive than many people realize,” Petchel said. “I consider this an important public-service project that we hope will resonate with every household in America.”

Fellow Jasmine Spearing-Bowen, a graduate student at the Cronkite School, traveled to northeastern Oklahoma to investigate the Tar Creed Superfund site, a 40-square-mile area previously minded for zinc. When the mines shut down in the 1970s, she said the effects of the pollution were so devastating that residents of four towns had to be relocated.

Spearing-Bowen said working on the project provided valuable professional experiences that will help her when she graduates. 

“Having the experience of doing an investigation like this is amazing,” she said. “Our group of fellows has been great.”

Over the past eight years, Carnegie-Knight News21 projects have included investigations into voting rights, post-9/11 veterans, marijuana laws and guns in America, among other topics. The projects have won numerous awards, including four EPPY Awards from Editor & Publisher magazine, the Student Edward R. Murrow Award for video excellence and a host of honors from the Society of Professional Journalists and the Hearst Awards Program, considered the Pulitzer Prizes of collegiate journalism.

The universities participating in the 2017 Carnegie-Knight News21 program are ASU, American University, Dublin City University, Elon University, George Washington University, Hofstra University, Kent State University, Louisiana State University, St. Bonaventure University, Syracuse University, Texas Christian University, University of Alabama, University of British Columbia, University of North Texas, University of Oklahoma, University of Southern California, University of Tennessee and University of Texas at Austin.

Carnegie-Knight News21 fellows are supported by their universities as well as a variety of foundations, news organizations and philanthropists. This includes The Arizona Republic, The Dallas Morning News, the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation, Veronica Guerin, Hearst Foundations, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, John and Patty Williams and Louis A. “Chip” Weil.

The fellows are:

  • Fraser Allan Best, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Bryan Anderson, Elon University
  • Macee Beheler, University of Oklahoma, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow
  • Bryn Caswell, University of Alabama
  • Claire Caulfield, ASU, Chip Weil Fellow
  • Maria Esquinca, ASU, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow
  • Jordan Houston, American University, Knight Foundation Fellow
  • Andrea Jaramillo, ASU, Hearst Fellow    
  • Lauren Kaljur, University of British Columbia      
  • Brandon Kitchin, Texas Christian University
  • Rachel Konieczny, St. Bonaventure University   
  • Jenna Miller, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Amy Molloy, Dublin City University, Veronica Guerin Dublin City University Fellow
  • Elissa Nuñez, George Washington University
  • Fionnuala O’Leary, Dublin City University, Veronica Guerin Dublin City University Fellow
  • Agnel Philip, ASU, Don Bolles/Arizona Republic Fellow
  • William Taylor Potter, Louisiana State University
  • Alexis Reese, University of North Texas, Dallas Morning News Fellow
  • Corinne Roels, ASU
  • Michael M. Santiago, Syracuse University
  • Karl Schneider, Kent State University     
  • Elizabeth Sims, University of Oklahoma, Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation Fellow
  • Briana Smith, Hofstra University
  • Jasmine Spearing-Bowen, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Adrienne St. Clair, ASU, Reynolds Fellow
  • Nicole Tyau, ASU, Hearst Fellow
  • Jackie Wang, University of Texas at Austin           
  • Chelsea Rae Ybanez, ASU, Hearst Fellow              
  • Bliss Zechman, University of Tennessee, John and Patty Williams Fellow

Communications manager , Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication