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Students find passion, friendship among hundreds of clubs, activities

Popular 'Pitch Perfect' movies draw students to a cappella group tryouts at ASU.
August 23, 2018

A cappella auditions draw ASU students looking to keep music in their lives

Finding a place to meet friends and be creative is one key to happiness at Arizona State University, and among the more than 1,000 clubs and organizations are several dozen related to playing an instrument or singing. Among those are five different groups who sing a cappella — an activity popularized in the “Pitch Perfect” movies.

Those groups held auditions earlier this week and drew many students who brought their love of music from high school to college with them.

“It might sound cliché but when I saw ‘Pitch Perfect’ I just loved it and I said, ‘I want to do that when I get to college’ and I’m in college now,” said Mauri Barnes, a freshman majoring in film and media studies who was trying out for the Tempetations and Undertones, both co-ed a cappella groups.

Adriana Whitmore has been singing since age 9 and was in the Chicago Children’s Choir and Voice of Chicago. She knew she wanted to continue singing when she got to ASU but wasn’t sure how, until she saw the all-female Pitchforks group perform at the ASU Welcome for incoming freshmen last week.

“I saw them and fell in love and I had to try out,” said Whitmore, who admitted to being a little nervous about the audition.

“Once you start and show them what you’ve got, you have to lay it all on the table,” she said.

Hundreds of students attended the a cappella auditions held at the Music Building over several days this past week.

“We’re looking for people who are going to help accelerate our mission, which is to create a space to make music and support each other as women and be a part of the a cappella community,” said Brittany Sabia, a junior majoring in biological sciences and president of the Pitchforks, who are now in their 27th year at ASU.

Video by Jamie Ell/ASU Now

A cappella music is singing without musical accompaniment, and Sabia said Pitchforks members pick a theme and choose songs to tell a story around it.

“Last year, we were discussing the different aspects of being a woman and we had ‘Sorry Not Sorry’ and a mashup of ‘Still’ and ‘Rise’ that brings tears every time we perform it,” she said.

“We also did ‘Independent Women.'"

Because the singing groups typically have fewer than 20 singers, the members become very close.

“I’ve definitely come out of my shell a lot. I came to ASU a little bit nervous and I’ve blossomed over the years having this group of girls behind me,” Sabia said. “Everyone before me was a role model and an influence in some kind of way.”

This will be the fourth year that Eli Bliman, a senior majoring in marketing, will be in the all-male Priority Male a cappella group.

“The first thing I did my first week at ASU was audition,” he said. “I was super involved in my high school choir before I came to ASU and I knew it would be my one non-negotiable. I had to try out.”

Research has found that students who make connections and are involved in university life are more likely to stay in school and graduate, according to Kendra Hunter, senior associate dean of students.

“It’s critical for students to be involved and to get that sense of belonging by contributing to a community and feeling that sense of pride,” she said.

Hunter said that freshmen are still discovering their interests and can be involved in several different activities.

“Whatever it is that students are interested in, if there’s not a club or organization that’s in existence, they can create their own,” Hunter said.

ASU offers clubs and organizations at every location, and students can explore the huge variety through the OrgSync web site, by asking academic advisers and residence hall staff or by visiting the Student Pavilion on the Tempe campus. There are several welcome events scheduled throughout the semester.

Bliman said he values the camaraderie he’s found in Priority Male and, while it’s intense, the singing is a creative outlet.

“When rehearsal starts at 7:30 every Monday and Thursday, basically the rest of your responsibilities go by the wayside,” he said.

“It becomes all about the rehearsal and focusing on what you have to do, which is create the most streamlined a cappella music you can.”

Bliman has arranged for the group and been a soloist. His favorite song they’ve performed? “I Want To Be Your Man” by Zapp.

“It’s a super old ‘80s ballad kind of situation that I arranged for the group,” he said. “It’s a good guy number — very soulful.

“And we get to wear these really nice bowties.”

Top photo: Mallory Pierson sings with the all-female a cappella group ASU Pitchforks at the ASU Welcome at Wells Fargo Arena on Aug. 14. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Student veterans seeking to boost academics, career prospects needed for new scholar program

August 23, 2018

Application deadline is Sept. 2 for program that offers a range of support

Arizona State University is searching for challenge-seeking military veteran students to sign up by Sept. 2 for a new program that aims to improve academics and carve a path toward career success.

The Veterans Scholar Program is an initiative by the Pat Tillman Veterans Center in collaboration with the Public Service Academy, made possible by a $100,000 kick-start grant by the ASU Foundation engagement program Women & Philanthropy.  

Participants can earn up to a $1,000 stipend to use for expenses related to starting a new career, such as purchasing a new suit, attending a professional conference or paying for a certification exam.  

However, there is more to the Veterans Scholar Program than money.

“The goal is to really elevate student veteran success,” said Brett Hunt, Public Service Academy executive director. “We do that in three different ways … academic, professionalism and networking.”

Academically, there will be monitoring and tutoring help if needed, Hunt said. The professionalism side will focus on training veterans on everything from building a LinkedIn profile and writing effective resumes to preparing for job interviews. The third element focuses on involving veterans in more networking.  

“Those three components all come together,” Hunt said. “When they complete the program, they will be eligible for a tiered professional-development stipend based on their active participation in the program and improved GPA.”

“Participation” means veterans’ involvement in events that support the program’s three components, and engagement in at least one volunteer service opportunity each semester. The first volunteer event for this initial cohort will be a joint session with Public Service Academy students planned for November during ASU’s Salute to Service, Hunt said.

Any veteran graduate student or undergraduates in their junior or senior year may apply to compete for a slot, but the ideal candidate is a middle-of-the-road student.

“For the most part, society looks at veterans as we’re either heroes or homeless,” said Army veteran Michelle Loposky, Pat Tillman Veterans Center assistant director of outreach. “So we’re either overachievers or underachievers, but there is this big mass of veterans in the middle who are just the average individual. So we really want to target those students who just need a little extra step up to improve in their academics.”

Loposky said there is another reason veterans may want to jump on this opportunity.

“There is one thing that a lot of us veterans miss from the military, and that is a challenge,” Loposky said. “This is a way to get them focused on a mission, to challenge them, to see that they can also achieve this in their academic pursuits.”

Running the Veterans Scholar Program will be ASU seniors Miryam Valdivia Romero and Gary Schell. As veterans, they have experienced the challenges of transitioning from military service and see great value in a program that will prepare veterans get to their next stage in life.

“The beauty of the VSP is that we can help with the transition process, the next level,” said Schell, a Marine veteran and criminal justice major. “Whether they want an internship, graduate school position or whether they’re going to their career profession, whatever that next transition is for them, the VSP can be there to be the advocate and help that process go more fluidly.”

Valdivia Romero, a veteran still serving in the Navy Reserve and studying criminology, homeland security and French, experienced transition challenges and is looking to make it better for others.

“As a veteran coming in I didn’t give myself time to adapt into the civilian life when I came back from deployment; I just dove into school,” said Peru native Valdivia Romero. “This is a perfect opportunity for me to give back to a community that has given me so much.”

The Veterans Scholar Program is aiming for 100 student veterans to start their first cohort, with future cohorts selected near the start of every fall semester. A kickoff leadership seminar for all those chosen this year takes place Sep. 21. The seminar will include workshops on networking, career advice and a guest speaker. 

This new program exemplifies how the ASU community strives to take care of student veterans by creating opportunities to help them succeed. Michigan native Schell attests to the fact that ASU bests peer schools.

“I had heard of the Tillman Center and then I applied to MSU [Michigan State University] and ASU,” Schell said. “It was night-and-day difference as to the veterans assistance. It was hands down ASU on top.”  

Top photo: ASU seniors and military veterans Gary Schell and Miryam Valdivia Romero rehearse a presentation Aug. 22 in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center about the new Veterans Scholar Program. Schell and Valdivia Romero are in charge of managing the program.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications