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De-Stress Fest at ASU's West campus to help students relax before finals

Live Well @ ASU supports student wellness programming year-round.
AMSA & BUDS are student-led ASU groups whose purpose is to help other students.
November 28, 2017

It’s that time of year when college students everywhere prepare to head home for the holidays, where they can catch up with friends and family and breathe a sigh of relief that they made it through another semester.

Before they can do that, though, they must make it through one last academic obstacle: finals week. And no one knows better than the students themselves just how stressful that can be.

“Before finals last year, I was so stressed out that I got myself sick and missed the exam completely,” ASU pre-med biology senior Tarana Darwaiz said.

de-stress fest flyer

This year, Darwaiz and others are taking steps to make sure that doesn’t happen to other students. This Friday, Dec. 1, the American Medical Student Association (AMSA), for which Darwaiz serves as president, the Barrett Upper Division Students (BUDS) group and Live Well @ ASU are hosting “De-Stress Fest” at ASU’s West campus from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. in the Verde Dining Pavilion multipurpose room.

The event is free and open to all ASU students looking to de-stress before finals. There will be snacks, massage chairs and guided meditation, and student leaders will be on hand to demonstrate how to make an aromatherapy body scrub and microwavable neck wraps from socks and rice; the leftover scraps of socks will be used to craft snowmen figurines that will be donated to Ryan House, a children’s hospice in Phoenix.

AMSA vice president, BUDS president and biomedical sciences senior Julia Lorence began brainstorming the event with AMSA treasurer and health sciences junior Amy Petersburg after returning from a Mayo conference in September.

“After coming back from Transform, I really wanted to bring back that spirit to the campus where we encourage each other and take time to rejuvenate,” Lorence said.

As pre-health majors, she and Petersburg know firsthand how stressful school — especially finals week — can be. They wanted to create an event where not just pre-health majors but all students could come together and take a moment to relax.

“Sometimes it’s hard to remember to step back because you get so caught up in schoolwork and family life that you get tunnel vision,” Petersburg said. “But taking that moment to kind of step back is really important.”

The duo reached out to Live Well @ ASU, which promotes wellness programming for students year-round, to be a part of the event as well. Brianna Mouton, a psychology senior and wellness supervisor with Live Well @ ASU, said she was excited to help out however she could because of how important stress management is to a student’s overall sense of wellness.

Student organizers of the De-Stress Fest
(From left) ASU biomedical sciences senior Julia Lorence, health sciences junior Amy Petersburg, Assistant Director of Academic Services for New College Advising Sue Lafond, pre-med biology senior Tarana Darwaiz and psychology senior Brianna Mouton are helping organize the De-Stress Fest, where student leaders will demonstrate how to make microwavable neck wraps from socks and rice; the leftover scraps of socks will be used to craft snowmen figurines that will be donated to children's hospice Ryan House.

“I think students think that in order to be successful, they have to be doing everything and never taking breaks,” Mouton said. There’s something she and her fellow student wellness supervisors refer to as the “pain game,” where students take pride in one-upping one another’s stress levels.

“Students will be like, ‘I only got two hours of sleep,’ and then someone else will say, ‘Oh yeah, well I only got one!’ It’s like this competition of who’s the most restless,” she said. “And it’s not healthy because people are overworking themselves and not taking care of themselves, and that also affects their academic success and their emotional well-being.”

Assistant Director of Academic Services for New College Advising Sue Lafond has been an adviser for AMSA students for about eight years. This is the first time she has seen students come together in this way to be mindful of not just their own well-being, but each other’s.

“What’s really exciting for somebody in my position to see is when you have a group of students that all have this similar goal … come together in a way that is so supportive and so encouraging,” Lafond said. “It’s really inspiring. And I think it will be inspiring for the next group of students that are following them, the underclassmen who are now starting to become engaged and seeing what’s possible.”

Top photo courtesy of

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ASU forging partnerships with China to speed global innovation

Entrepreneurial 'boot camp,' tourism college among new ASU-China initiatives.
November 28, 2017

University's ties span academic, entrepreneurship and cultural enterprises

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2017, click here.

At this week’s Global Education Summit in Beijing, the mother of an Arizona State University international student excitedly approached Michael M. Crow, eager to talk about her daughter’s studies and telling the ASU president that she was so thrilled to make the ASU connection on her home soil that she drove six hours on the off chance she’d get to meet him.

As ASU continues to pursue a deeper relationship with China and its universities, running into Sun Devil families across the Pacific might become commonplace.

The mom of a Chinese ASU student meets President Crow in Beijing
Julia (Fan Liyun), the mother of ASU computer information systems student Chenguang Li, meets President Michael M. Crow in Beijing on Monday.

Joining the Sun Devil family this semester were more than 250 young Chinese people who started classes at the first ASU location to offer undergraduate degrees in China. The students at the new Hainan University – Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College are learning in English and will graduate with ASU degrees in a venture that’s being funded by the Chinese government as a way to boost its travel industry.

“They picked ASU because we’re large and have the capacity to handle this kind of program, and also because we have a large tourism faculty that’s highly ranked in research,” said Kathleen Andereck, director of the School of Community Resources and Development at ASU, who is leading the program.

Over the past decade, the ASU-China ties have strengthened. More than 10,000 international graduate and undergraduate students attend ASU, with the largest group — about 3,000 undergraduates and 1,000 graduate students — from China. Last year, ASU hosted more than 250 visiting Chinese scholars.

ASU’s relationships with Chinese institutions range from simple student and faculty exchanges to high-level research deals, such as a partnership with Shandong University on “bio-inspired” cancer and vaccine research, water- and air-purification systems and advanced explorations of nanotechnology.

China is a huge economy, Crow said, and this week’s summit is a way to gather global technology companies, investors and education leaders.

“We can’t build universities quickly enough or scale them at a fast enough pace to be able to meet all of our educational needs,” said Crow, who noted that one of ASU’s design aspirations is global engagement.

“So this is an exciting meeting that allow us to figure out how to speed things up in terms of innovation.”

ASU’s initiatives in China span academic, cultural and entrepreneurial enterprises. 

Globally minded academics

The university’s academic partnerships extend across disciplines and schools. For example, the W. P. Carey School of Business offers two master’s programs in Shanghai, with classes in Chinese. Last year, those programs graduated 82 students.

New next fall will be an international graduate program in which the W. P. Carey School of Business is partnering with both Sichuan University in China and Woosong University in South Korea. Students will study one year at each institution and graduate with three degrees: a master’s of finance from ASU, a master’s of science in corporate finance from Sichuan and an MBA from Woosong.

“At W. P. Carey, our mission talks about the fact that our students have the understanding that they are part of this global environment,” said Kay Faris, senior associate dean for academic programs at W. P. Carey. “This is very important to us, and I can’t think of a better way to do it than to have students study in a different country.”

Since 2013, more than 250 Chinese students have graduated with ASU master’s degrees through the International Accelerated Degree Programs. This partnership with 28 top Chinese universities permits students to earn their undergraduate and master’s degrees in less time. More than 30 degrees are offered, including landscape architecture in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, geographic information systems in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and communication studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

The Chinese government has identified tourism as a growing enterprise, which led to the launch of the Hainan tourism college this year. That campus is teaching higher education the American way, which means fewer lectures and more interaction and writing, said Andereck. That’s an adjustment for the Chinese students, who are taking the one-credit ASU 101 this semester.

“Typically, students there don’t have as many opportunities to share what they’re thinking, and they noted that they appreciate being able to do that in this class,” said Andereck, who taught the first week of the course in September and will return in the spring to teach a one-credit freshman seminar.

“The students were so receptive to having us there, and they would say, ‘We will burst into tears when we finish this class.’ ”

Innovation and entrepreneurship

Entrepreneurship is another American-style concept that the Chinese are eager to study.

Next week, ASU will co-host the U.S.-China Youth Forum on Entrepreneurship, Innovation, and Economic Opportunities in Shenzhen — considered the Silicon Valley of China. The event will pair 50 American with 50 Chinese entrepreneurs, and they will learn about what’s required to enter both the Chinese and U.S. markets. Speakers will include Nate Blecharczyk, co-founder of Airbnb.

William Brashears, director of global initiatives at ASU, said the participants will get mentoring, attend panel discussions and network with each other.

“We feel the most important part of this will be to make connections with top Chinese entrepreneurs and build long-term relationships,” he said, “and see what the Chinese are doing with accelerators and incubators — the entire innovation movement in China.”

One young entrepreneur who was selected to attend the forum is Sam Hendren, an ASU junior who is majoring in global logistics management in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Hendren already knows a lot about doing business with China. As a high school student, he founded Tech Gone Wild, an electronics accessories company.

“We sold cases for phones, tablets and other electronics, which we manufactured in China and worked with them to import into the U.S.,” said Hendren, who paused his company when he started at ASU.

“I was doing everything over the internet without being there, so that’s one reason I’m excited to see what it’s like firsthand. We have assumptions and hear things, but I’m really hoping to see the entrepreneurship culture in China.”

ASU is also offering entrepreneurship “boot camps” through the new Global Innovators Alliance. The first group, 20 students from Sichuan University, attended an intensive two-week session at ASU’s Tempe campus last summer, learning how to take a business idea from concept to reality, as well as how to navigate American business culture.

China, long a manufacturing powerhouse, is looking for ways to nurture home-grown innovation. One of the students at the camp, Shan He, an English language and literature major at Sichuan, wants to be a part of that.

“I know Americans have done this for a longer time and have already built a culture of doing this,” she said. “I would like to do consulting to promote this culture and creativity in China to help startups.” 

A window into culture

Cultural exchange is another vital aspect of ASU’s partnerships, and the university was an innovator in this area. The Sichuan University-Arizona State University Center for American Culture was the first of its kind when it was created in 2011. Its success led to the American Centers for Cultural Exchange, or ACCEX, a bilateral network of 11 American cultural centers on university campuses in China, funded by the U.S. Department of State.

Each center runs outreach activities, lectures and performances to create a more accurate understanding of American culture and everyday life, according to Brashears, who is director of the Sichuan-ASU center.

For example, the Sichuan-ASU center created a program on race in America that it took to four universities in China. This past summer, scholars from ASU visited to discuss Latino culture, and the center ran a hugely popular video contest for the Chinese students.

“This was about showing the diversity of American culture that had not been touched on before in China,” he said.

A longer established cultural partnership is the Confucius Institute at ASU, with Sichuan University and the Ministry of Education in China, which promotes language and culture programs. The institute, which just marked its 10th anniversary, offers Chinese language courses, summer camps for kids, faculty exchanges, study abroad for ASU students and artistic performances.

And the Confucius Institute reaches into the metro Phoenix community, supporting 14 “Confucius classrooms” at schools around the Valley that teach Mandarin to K-12 students, with several using an “immersion” model in which entire subjects are taught in Mandarin.

College sports is another uniquely American concept that is intriguing to the Chinese, who don’t have a system of encouraging students to pursue athletics at an elite level while they earn a degree. Coaches from China have visited ASU for the past two years to see how it’s done. The visits are part of an initiative by the Pac-12 Conference to strengthen ties with China.

The coaches spent three months on the Tempe campus, observing how a Division I athletics program works. They attended practices of the men’s and women’s basketball, swimming and track and field teams, learning about sports medicine, nutrition, sports psychology and academic support.

Under its “One Belt, One Road” global trade initiative, China is reaching out to the world, and ASU is ready with expertise in higher education, research and entrepreneurship, Brashears said.

“All of their universities are beefing up their language studies, intercultural communication and global communication,” he said.

“It’s an impressive movement."

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now


Top photo: Shan He, an English language and literature student at Sichuan University, was one of 20 Chinese students to attend an entrepreneurial "boot camp" at ASU this past summer in a partnership between the two universities. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now