Graduating music student aims to create a sustainable solution with science and music


April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

A high school field trip to ASU helped Alexis Mitchell, Barrett honors student graduating with a Bachelor of Music in oboe performance and a Bachelor of Science in materials science and engineering, discover the possible connections between these two distinct disciplines. Alexis Mitchell Alexis Mitchell's honors thesis project involves using measuring equipment to plot oboe cane characteristics and relate them to reed performance with the goal of creating a material viable for synthetic reeds for oboists. Reeds are also influenced by weather and humidity. Mitchell is trying to solve these problems by identifying a synthetic material for more sustainable practice and access. Download Full Image

“Mitchell’s academic accomplishments are not only unique with her concurrent music and engineering degrees, she is also an innovative problem solver with her pursuit to create a sustainable solution for music practice and access,” said Heather Landes, director of the ASU School of Music. “She has been an active member of the School of Music community performing in all of our large ensembles, with her woodwind quintet and as a soloist, in addition to being involved in the community teaching young musicians and volunteering her time at schools.”

Mitchell’s honors thesis project combines music and science and involves using measuring equipment to plot oboe cane characteristics and relate them to reed performance with the goal of creating a material viable for synthetic reeds for oboists. Reeds are also influenced by weather and humidity. Mitchell is trying to solve these problems by identifying a synthetic material for more sustainable practice and access.

“Making oboe reeds is an art form that requires time and advanced technique and years of practice,” said Mitchell.  “Younger players are often not equipped with the necessary skills to create good reeds, and other students simply cannot afford the tools and materials.

“Materials science and engineering is basically the creation of materials that last longer or are stronger, cheaper or better than anything that is already being used. It’s all about combining different forms of science — chemistry for composition, physics for forces that materials are put under and engineering for innovating and creating.”

Mitchell has her own private studio of young oboe students and has volunteered her time with her Driftwood Woodwind Quintet performing and teaching sectionals at the Arizona School for the Arts, Dobson High School and Southwest Elementary School.

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

Answer: I knew from a very young age that I wanted to study and major in music. It wasn't until my senior year of high school that I discovered the field of materials science and engineering on a field trip to ASU. Once I was introduced to this field I immediately started seeing possible connections between the areas, including the subject of my honors thesis (synthetic reed development). After seeing these connections, I knew that I wanted to pursue concurrent degrees in both disciplines.

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

A: I discovered a love for chamber music while attending ASU. Through the chamber music course, I ended up playing with a reed quintet composed of current and former ASU students for almost three years. I attended four summer music festivals focused purely on chamber music, and I will be attending two more chamber music festivals this summer.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU primarily to continue studying with Professor Martin Schuring, who has been such an amazing teacher and influence in my life. I also chose ASU because both the School of Music and the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy were supportive of my pursuit of concurrent degrees.

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

A: For your first couple of years in college, say "yes" to every single academic and professional opportunity that presents itself. Then when you start to feel overwhelmed, teach yourself that you are allowed to say "no" when you get too busy. It is important not to let opportunities slip away, but it is even more important to monitor your mental and physical well-being.

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

A: My absolute favorite place on campus is the raised carpeted areas on the second floor of the music building between the west and east wings, which a friend once coined "the people shelves." I have spent so much time sitting there talking with friends or studying between classes.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be attending the Boston Conservatory at Berklee in the fall to pursue a Master of Music in oboe performance. I will be studying with Rob Sheena, oboist and English horn player in the Boston Symphony Orchestra.

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

A: Though unrelated to both of my areas of discipline, this is something I am still passionate about. With $40 million, I would start a nonprofit that would provide financial incentives to cities that pledge to switch over their energy usage to 100 percent renewable energy. Burlington, Vermont, is the first city in the United States to get 100 percent of its power from renewable sources, such as hydroelectric and solar power, and sets an excellent example that more cities need to follow in order to decrease our effect on climate change.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music

480-727-7189

Hugh Downs School graduate to bring communication skills to law school


April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Hannah Fowl not only received an ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award, she is also a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean's Medalist. She says the best thing she did in school was to break out of her comfort zone, which allowed her to grow through new experiences. Hanna Fowl is graduating with a degree in human communication, with a minor in Spanish. Download Full Image

The Glendale, Arizona, native is graduating with a degree in human communication, with a minor in Spanish. She took some time to answer questions about her time at Arizona State University.

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

Answer: I was sitting in a first-year course in another college and realized that I wasn’t remotely interested in any of the prospective careers being discussed because none of them were related directly to people. Human communication merged the topics that were of interest to me, with the knowledge that would prepare me for a successful career doing what I enjoyed. 

Q: What made you choose ASU? 

A: My dad is an alumnus, so I was always interested in ASU. Also, being from Arizona originally, I was aware of the prestige of the university, as well as the opportunities available to students. These factors, coupled with a generous scholarship, made my decision to attend Arizona State very easy.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I will be attending law school in the fall of 2018.

Hannah Fowl

Hannah Fowl receives a certificate of completion from the Federal
Correctional Institution in Phoenix.

Q: Is there a particular faculty member at ASU who was influential?  

A: Absolutely. I was incredibly lucky during my time at ASU to have some world-class professors, who care deeply about both the material and the students. Dr. Kristin Dybvig-Pawelko was both my professor and internship coordinator, and her constant encouragement and assistance were very meaningful to me.

I also had the opportunity to take a class taught by PhD student Dayna Kloeber, M.A. From this, I became a course assistant for her Communication of Happiness course last fall. Dayna’s insight, advice and support were instrumental in my success, both inside and outside the classroom. She has been an incredible role model, and I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to learn from her.

Also, academic adviser Jason LaBret was always so encouraging to me and had wonderful advice regarding career and course suggestions. My time spent in his office was always extremely positive and productive.

Q: What were the most useful classes you took? 

A: Honestly, every single class I took in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication has been useful in my professional and personal life. Particularly, the following classes were both interesting and enlightening: Being a Leader with Dr. Tracy, The Communication of Happiness with Dayna Kloeber, Relational Communication with Bailey Oliver, and Communication Approaches to Popular Culture with Dr. Quinlivan.

Q: How did this school help prepare you for your current career? 

A: The Hugh Downs School of Human Communication has helped me hone my communication skills, which has allowed me to feel confident in my networking abilities. These networking skills have fared well throughout various encounters with law school admissions faculty. 

Q: If you have interviewed for a job, what experiences at this school did you talk about? 

A: I have discussed group projects and the collaborative effort needed for success. I feel that the cooperation and communication skills required for a group project are extremely relatable to working with others in a professional setting as well.

Q: Were you involved in any student organizations or clubs? 

A: Yes! I was a member of Pi Beta Phi, and I was also involved in the greater Greek community by serving on the ASU Greek Conduct Board. 

Q: What advice do you have for students who may be following your path?

A: Get involved and be yourself. The best things I did for myself pushed me out of my comfort zone and subsequently led to personal growth. Professors within the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication want to help you succeed, and one of the most important things I figured out during my four years is that it isn’t a weakness to ask for help or admit you do not understand. Communicating with my professors was one of the most beneficial things I did academically, as it allowed me to enhance my learning experience, as well as build relationships with some incredible people.

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

A: Arizona State University is extremely diverse, which has exposed me to a multitude of opinions, ideas and schools of thought I never knew existed previously. One of the most important things I believe I have learned at ASU, from both my classes and my personal experience, is that we as humans are similar, even if we don’t see it ourselves. Obviously, we are individuals, and I believe it is imperative to embrace what makes us unique, but I also believe that as a society, it is important to focus on what unites us as people, rather than what divides us.

Hannah in front of the Sandra Day O'Connor Courthouse

Hannah Fowl, who has plans for law school, visits the Sandra Day O'Connor U.S. Courthouse in Phoenix.

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

A: I have always loved the little bamboo fountain, located on the south side of the Durham Literature and Language Building. It is very peaceful, and I love hearing the water, especially when I am studying.

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

A: This is such a tough question to answer because there are so many deserving causes. If given $40 million, I would work to tackle the funding issues that plague disabled veterans and their quality of care. Their service and sacrifice for this country are immense, and I would love to provide them with the top-of-the-line medical and mental health services, free of charge.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

480-965-5676