ASU psychology dean's medalist works to eliminate stigma around mental health

January 11, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here

Each semester, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University recognizes one student per department as a Dean's Medalist. The award is based on academic performance but also for being a great example of what you can accomplish when you find your true passion and go all in. Ariana Ruof, a senior in the Department of Psychology, received the prestigious honor for the fall 2017 semester.  Ariana Ruof, Dean's Medalist, ASU Department of Psychology Ariana Ruof, Dean's Medalist, ASU Department of Psychology standing in front of the Psychology Building. Photo: Robert Ewing Download Full Image

Ruof graduated with both a bachelor's of science in psychology, and a bachelor's of science in family and human development and she worked in two research labs, the Arizona Twin Project and the Social Addictions Impulse Lab (SAIL lab).

 As the lab manager of the SAIL lab, Ruof studied impaired control as it related to alcohol use in college students and members of the community. The goal of her research project was to better understand impulsivity, stress and other behaviors related to alcohol use.

While in the ASU Department of Psychology, Ruof has earned many other awards, including the New American University President’s Scholarship and the Zita M. Johnson Child Study Scholarship. On top of that, she founded the Psychology Engagement Team and helped create Mental Health Awareness Week at ASU, for which she received a Cooley Leadership and Service grant.

 “Ariana demonstrates natural leadership skills and a sense of service. She can organize a small army of people to mobilize toward a common goal in a short period of time. Ariana Ruof is truly an exemplary student overall and truly worthy of the Dean's Medal,” said the nomination committee from the Department of Psychology.

 All of her success has not gone to her head, thanks in part to her family. When Ruof left for ASU, her parents made the choice to help improve the lives of children who were less fortunate and became foster parents.

 “Along with my research experience, interacting with foster children led me to be interested in the genetic and environmental influences of child development and family processes,” Ruof said.

Like her many awards, Ruof had many choices for college. She applied widely, to Stanford University, Harvard University, San Diego State University, and the University of California at San Diego but chose ASU for proximity to family and undergraduate opportunities in research.

"In the Barrett Honors College, I received a high-level education similar to what I would have had at an Ivy League school, but I was able to save a lot of money." 

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

Answer: I don’t feel like I had a single “aha” moment that led me to my field of interest; however, there were some key moments. In high school, I had always thought I wanted to be a teacher but I also had a deep interest in science, specifically when it came to learning about the brain. My mother was the one who encouraged me to look into psychology.

Working with the Boys & Girls Clubs also made me realize I was particularly interested in child development and family processes, which led me to focus on Developmental Psychology and Family and Human Development.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: During the summer before my junior year, I decided to study abroad with Barrett, The Honors College in Italy for three weeks. This trip was the first time I had ever been out of the country and the first time I took a trip by myself, as I did not know any of the other students. This experience taught me a lot about other people, other cultures and my own identity. The classes I was taking and being in a foreign country were both experiences unlike anything else I had done as an undergraduate.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I’m not really sure why, but I have always liked the courtyards near the Student Services building. I feel like this area of campus is quieter and kind of peaceful with the shade from the trees but it is still close enough to busier areas of campus like the MU.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Before my PhD program starts in the fall, I will be working in the Social Addiction Impulse Lab (SAIL) and Arizona Twin Project (ATP). Both labs have given me part-time jobs. In SAIL, I will continue to be lab manager and in ATP I will be the iMotions coordinator and will run a coding team. In the fall, I will be starting a PhD program in Family and Human Development here at ASU with Kit Elam on projects related to genetics, child self-regulation and family processes.

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

A: This question is really tough because there are two things I am really passionate about. The first is eliminating the stigma surrounding mental health and giving better, more local access to more specialized mental health resources for people. I spent a lot of time as an undergraduate working towards this effort with my club, the Psychology Engagement Team. As a junior, I had spearheaded a Mental Health Awareness Week and brought the ASU Tempe campus and the Tempe community together to raise awareness for resources for various mental health disorders, such as anxiety and depression. I would probably use the money to continue efforts such as this that aim to reduce the stigma surrounding mental health.

My other passion is making sure children understand the importance of higher education and that even though they may come from an underprivileged background, they can still get a higher education to improve their lives. As a sophomore and a junior, I worked with a student organization called SPARKS and we traveled all over Arizona and southern California  speaking to K-12 students at low-income schools and at Boys & Girls Clubs about how they have opportunities to gain higher education. I would also use the money to promote efforts to give educational access and opportunities to these students.


Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Music alum, acclaimed opera singer to perform at ASU, lead master class

January 11, 2018

Internationally acclaimed mezzo-soprano Angela Brower, who is an alum of the School of Music in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, returns to ASU this week to perform in a recital with Professor Emeritus Eckart Sellhmein and to lead a vocal master class for ASU voice students.

Brower, who has been called one of the most sought after lyric mezzo-sopranos in the world, has had a career singing with many of the most prestigious opera houses in the world, including The Bavarian State Opera (her home company), The Vienna State Opera, The Salzburg Festival, The Royal Opera House Covent Garden, The Paris Opera, Glyndeborne Opera Festival and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Angela Brower Angela Brower Download Full Image

She graduated from Arizona State University in 2006 with a Bachelor of Music in vocal performance.

“Angela is a true standout for her success in having reached the pinnacle of the operatic profession with performances at many of the most prestigious opera houses throughout the world,” said Dale Dreyfoos, professor in the School of Music. “As a student, we all knew that Angela was something incredibly special — with her exceptionally beautiful voice, charming and naturally engaging stage presence, superb work ethic, and her wonderfully kind, positive, sincere and down-to-earth personality.“

Dreyfoos worked with Brower in acting classes for opera/musical theatre and in his productions of “Oklahoma!” and “The Magic Flute.” He said most special was working with her on scenes from “Hansel and Gretel” and “The Marriage of Figaro” — both of which have become two of her most celebrated roles with performances at Munich’s Bavarian State Opera.

“I feel incredibly blessed to have had the opportunity to work with her when she was at ASU and am so thrilled that she is now able to share her many exceptional gifts with audiences throughout the world,” Dreyfoos said.

The recital takes place at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 16, in Katzin Concert Hall. (Purchase tickets here.) The vocal master class for voice students takes place at 10:45 a.m. Jan. 12, in Katzin Concert Hall, and is free and open to the public.

In a recent interview, she shares her reflections as a former student at ASU and on her career success.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study opera?

Answer: I was a young undergrad at ASU studying with professor Jerry Doan. I had done several musical theater productions during high school and loved being on stage. I was still exploring my developing voice and was not convinced yet about opera. Professor Doan had given me my very first aria to learn, Mozart’s "voi che sapete," from “The Marriage of Figaro” and I wanted to know how it was supposed to sound since I had never heard an opera. I happened upon some recordings by Anne Sofie von Otter and Susan Graham and was struck by the fact that, even though the singing was in a foreign language, they were captivating me through their expression. I could feel the emotion through their interpretation of the text and music. I knew then that what I wanted to do was to learn how to communicate with my audience, even in a foreign language. That became my calling — to sing opera, or art song, so that my family and friends who only speak English could understand the emotion and be moved by the message of the song.

Q: What was an important event or experience you had at ASU?

A. My teachers, my classes and my friends all shaped who I am today. I learned so much from singing in two choirs each semester, from learning art song in class to pedagogy from professor Doan. I learned from performing two recital programs with my friends and fellow singers and loved attending weekly studio where I would hear beautiful singing and perform. I discovered how to be a better actress from the incredible Dale Dreyfoos, ASU music professor. I also learned how exciting and thrilling classical music was to sing and discovered how my voice was better suited for classical singing and not just musical theatre. Lastly, I learned about the history of music and music theory; how to study and practice; and be patient with my own development. ASU introduced me to my love of opera and art song.

Q: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or from a faculty member or fellow student — that changed your perspective?

A. Professor Dreyfoos had an exercise in his opera workshop class where he would have us make a character/aria analysis. We would have to write out the text for our aria, line by line; translate it into English, word for word; then write our personal subtext for what we were singing. This is the best exercise I could have learned and still do today. I write the background, the backstory for my character and take from the text what he or she is truly saying; how I, Angela Brower, would express what my character is trying to say — using my words.  

Q: What skills have you learned in the School of Music that helped you conquer any challenges in your professional or personal life?

A. I learned from my voice teacher Professor Doan to let the voice go naturally where the voice is going to go. He never categorized me as I was developing and let my voice move and grow into what it was going to be. His influence taught me to never box myself in and to allow my voice to grow. I label myself as a lyric mezzo, but my voice is still growing and developing. I choose my repertoire carefully to always serve the direction in which my voice is going naturally.

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

A. Dream big and work hard! I was an insecure student and singer. I still have to fight insecurity, but I keep going. As a student, I was too curious to stop wondering how far I could go. My drive came from my goal, my mission and my calling that I still have within me — to share the gift of music with everyone. Classical music should not be boring. If it's boring, we are doing it wrong; we are approaching it wrong; and we are performing it wrong. As musicians, we are charged with a duty to communicate, inspire and uplift through live performance or recording the always powerful message of the music. That is the reason we choose to be musicians instead of engineers, doctors, lawyers, etc. — to believe that you as a musician has something to say that only you can say. We are all unique, and this uniqueness gives us the ability to impact our audience. My advice? You must find where you personally fit in in this calling. Why are you studying music? How do you want to change and improve our world through the power of music?

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music