ASU outreach programs pave the paths for new Sun Devils

September 26, 2018

"How am I going to pay for college?"

"What can I expect when I get there?" Access ASU Alumni Access ASU alumni celebrated the beginning of the semester with faculty, staff and students at a reception at ASU's West campus. Photo courtesy of Cassandra Aska Download Full Image

"How can I make sure I’m ready for a career?"

These are some of the questions that freshmen Ivette Romo, a sociology major, and Ashley Hernandez, a global management major, wrestled with before they became Sun Devils this fall. 

Romo and Hernandez were two of nearly a dozen alumni of Access ASU outreach programs who were honored earlier this semester at a reception at Arizona State University's West campus. The gathering provided an opportunity for students to meet and network with Vice Provost Todd Sandrin, ASU West Dean of Students Cassandra Aska and other staff, faculty and students in an informal setting.

Hernandez said that she always knew she wanted to go to college — both her parents have degrees — but being part of ASU CAMP was crucial to her transition to college, because “they are here for me financially and emotionally.”

The CAMP program helps ensure the success of first-year students from migrant backgrounds through a range of financial and academic support services. As a high school student, Hernandez worked as a receptionist to contribute to household bills and had significant responsibilities at home: caregiving, cooking and cleaning while her parents worked. Although she said these responsibilities took time away from her studies, Hernandez believes these experiences helped prepare her for life.

“They prepared me for college because they gave me independence,” she said.

Hernandez chose ASU because of the Thunderbird School of Global Management and because she earned a full-ride scholarship. She is excited to gain more maturity in college and to work in a foreign country before she comes back to Arizona to run for the state House.

Like Hernandez, Romo also knew she wanted to go to college from an early age. Her mother had earned a two-year degree, and she was inspired to earn a bachelor’s degree to jump-start her career. When the American Dream Academy program became available during her senior year at Westview High School in Avondale, she and her mom signed up.

“I did it because it was going to benefit me in the long run, and it did. It helped me to learn what resources to use,” Romo said.

Romo’s instincts paid off. She not only learned what to expect in college, how to apply and what it might be like to live on her own — she also got great guidance on financial aid and earned an Obama Scholarship after she applied early to ASU.

She chose the West campus because she values having a smaller environment, one-on-one connections with her professors and mentors all around her. 

“I’m excited to make connections so that when I graduate I’ll know where to go … and I’m excited that everyone knows each other,” Romo said. She hopes to be a criminologist and perhaps minor in Spanish.

Access ASU helps students and families chart a path toward their higher education goals, and the program's alumni are an excellent example of the impact these efforts are having in our community, said Associate Vice President of Educational Outreach and Student Services Sylvia Symonds.

Symonds said that Hernandez, Romo and the group of Access ASU alumni are part of the most academically accomplished freshman class in ASU’s history; about 55 percent of the Class of 2022 earned merit-based scholarships.

“They, along with their classmates, demonstrate ASU’s commitment to access and excellence,” said Symonds.

Being a proud first-generation Sun Devil herself, Symonds said it’s special to see students start their journeys at ASU.

“It is a wonderful feeling for our staff to celebrate with students and families,” she said. “I know how meaningful this accomplishment is and have experienced firsthand the transformative power of higher education. We couldn’t be more excited to welcome our students and families to the Sun Devil family.”

Written by Hannah Moulton Belec

Passing on the spark: New physics professor aims to inspire

September 26, 2018

Antia Sanchez Botana grew up in the northwest of Spain and was drawn to physics at an early age. The subject appealed to her natural curiosity.

“The need of trying to explain why do things happen, that curiosity is what drove me to science,” she said. She also credits her high school physics teacher, who became her role model and steered her career as a physicist. Antia Botana “Most of the people were working in high energy, but I was always drawn to condensed-matter physics,” Antia Sanchez Botana said. “I always wanted to understand why the components that went into my phone were chosen, why they worked that way.” Download Full Image

That career now has led her to join Arizona State University as an assistant professor in the Department of Physics. 

Botana attended the University of Santiago de Compostela in Spain as an undergraduate; there she began to refine her research interests. While completing her master's and doctoral degrees, she had the opportunity to study abroad, spending four months in Vienna, Austria, and three months in Washington, D.C., in the naval research lab. She then went on to accept a postdoctoral fellowship at the University of California, Davis and afterward at Argonne National Lab in Chicago.

Her research employs density functional theory to direct the computational design of materials with novel functionalities. She works on topics ranging from superconductivity to frustrated magnetism, thermoelectricity and confinement effects in nanostructures.

“Most of the people were working in high energy, but I was always drawn to condensed-matter physics,” she said. “I always wanted to understand why the components that went into my phone were chosen, why they worked that way.”

She is excited to join ASU’s faculty and energized by the university's commitment to excellence and diversity. She is eager to engage with students and build her research group, hoping to serve as that spark of inspiration for her students — “getting to motivate their curiosity for research the same way it happened for me,” she said.

When it comes to teaching a new generation, particularly those who don’t already have an interest, the reputation of physics can sometimes be its greatest challenge. Students tend to come with a preconception that the subject will be overly difficult and the worst experience of their education, but Botana insists it does not have to be that way.

“That’s why I think it’s important on our end to show students that physics is beautiful — the preconceptions of physics being a horrible subject, it’s not that horrible, it really is not,” she said.

She is also excited at the prospect of founding her own research group. “I intend to bring together materials physics and mineralogy,” she said. “Materials, going back to nature – because no one has more experience making materials than nature itself.”

When she isn’t studying nature’s material modeling, Botana has a wide variety of hobbies. She is fond of photography and architecture and likes to combine those interests as she travels. She also enjoys running and practices Pilates. 

Dominique Perkins

Events and Communications Coordinator, Department of Physics