Graduating student thrives in cross-disciplinary digital culture program


December 1, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates.

Geology. Dance. Math. Michelle Migliaccio has a lot of interests. When the White Plains, New York, native started college she double majored in geology and dance and minored in math, but only found her true passion when she transferred to ASU as a digital culture student in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. Photo of Michelle Migliaccio Michelle Migliaccio is graduating with a BA in digital culture with a focus on interdisciplinary arts and performance. Photo by Tim Madril Download Full Image

“I still do love science and am fascinated by the Earth and just how massive and ancient its existence is, but splitting my time between something more objective, despite being investigative like geology, and working in the creative and artistic field of dance was taxing on me,” she said. “I decided to leave school because it stopped feeling beneficial to me."

During her year off, she continued studying dance at a local college and a professor recommended ASU.

“I applied here on a whim because I felt burnt out and without direction,” said Migliaccio, who is graduating with a BA in digital culture with a concentration in interdisciplinary arts and performance. “I wanted something more cross-disciplinary, and I found the digital culture program. It was something completely new, and I knew it was what I wanted.”

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

Answer: I learned that it is important to keep constantly creating. Just the process of following through with an idea, and creating the space for constant development of ideas in important for growth.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU specifically for the digital culture program and because it was recommended to me as a school. I didn't feel like I should apply anywhere else; it was just a gut feeling.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: One of the lessons that has stuck was given to me by Theresa Devine, and it was about having conviction and getting your art out there. She helped guide me on how to use my intelligence and voice to create a space for myself in the arts. She constantly reminded me to keep creating, keep searching for spaces to show, and I think that type of individual focus that she showed me how to apply to myself is one of the most important things I have learned in school. She taught me lessons about being — being myself with my work and to keep pushing for space for that.

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

A: It would probably be to actually talk to your professors. I was lucky enough to have professors who reached out to me and learned about me through my writings and creations, so that they could help guide me. I'm generally stubborn, so approaching professors was something I struggled with, but their knowledge goes so much further than the material they teach, and many of my professors have helped me identify my influences and organic practices that distinguish me as an artist. They helped me get to a place where I felt comfortable calling myself an artist.

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

A: My favorite spot would be probably be the Secret Garden.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would like to get an MFA in something along the lines of interdisciplinary digital art. This year and a half after graduation, I really want to cultivate a strong portfolio to achieve that goal. I would like to work designing performance spaces and creating interactive art, in a live or museum setting.

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

A: If given $40 million I would like to tackle the issue of depleting drinkable/usable water. I'm not sure how much of a dent $40 million would make globally; it could potentially be used to restructure agricultural policies in developed countries where most of the food production goes to waste.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

480-727-4433

Double-major grad wants good questions and better answers


December 1, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates.

Graduating Arizona State University student Matthew Contursi began his college career as an electrical engineering major. “I loved computers and seeing how you could push them,” the Scottsdale native said. “Especially with regards to AI.” Graduating ASU student Matthew Contursi / Courtesy photo During summer 2018, graduating Barrett, The Honors College student Matthew Contursi participated in the ASU "Game of Thrones" Study Abroad program in Iceland, Ireland and Croatia. Download Full Image

But within the first few days, Contursi felt out of place. “I realized it was not the environment for me.” In contrast, Contursi’s coursework in biodesign had intrigued him. “The questions they were trying to answer and how they were trying to answer them gripped my focus.” He switched his major to the BS in Molecular Biosciences and Biotechnology program and all was well.

Sort of.

“For the first semester, it was brilliant!” Contursi said. “Into my second semester of it, I realized something felt like it was missing.”

Contursi eventually discovered that "something" — a humanities core, a way to articulate both questions and answers. In true interdisciplinary fashion, the Barrett, The Honors College student’s interest in the consequences of science — not just the application of it — led him to complete dual bachelor’s degrees. He even picked up a graduate level course on science policy taught by President Michael Crow on the way.

Our interview begins here just as Contursi learned of ASU’s BA in English (Writing, Rhetorics and Literacies) from his composition instructor.

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

Answer: As I talked more and more about the major with my ENG 105 professor and the director of the major, I felt it was a better idea to add it on as an additional major! I felt it covered as many topics in the humanities as I wanted to explore. It had elements from history, philosophy and more entailed in its subject depth. With these two majors (biotechnology and English), I felt like I had finally found my niche in academia. At times, the workload was overwhelmingly difficult, if anything due to the variety of projects I would need to finish in a semester, but on reflection, I would not have wanted to experience my undergraduate career in any other way.

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

A: I think the most poignant thing I've learned at ASU in regard to my own growth has been that if you are trying to solve any problem in only one way, odds are you are attacking the question incorrectly. You have to approach all questions from many different perspectives. That view has helped me grow personally and allowed me to view myself through different lenses to realize what I need to do to grow. This view probably comes from working towards a degree in rhetorics, where the basis of the thought is that different viewpoints exist and none of them are inherently incorrect; it's about how they are applied.

Video: What is Writing, Rhetorics and Literacies at ASU?

Above: Matthew Contursi offers his perspective in this explanatory video about ASU's degree in writing, rhetorics and literacies.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it offered me an amazing combination of financial support and professional opportunity. There is so much that is happening on the campus on any given day of the week, either in terms of the research that is hosted here or the clubs on campus. Just the campus's sheer size is both daunting and exciting.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I think the professor that has taught me the most important lesson was Professor (Alice) Daer. Although she no longer teaches here, she taught me that the choices I make should always lead to more opportunity for myself. Just having that choice is better than not having it at all.

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

A: My best piece of advice would be to remember to breathe and learn what you want to do day-to-day and be intentional in those pursuits. So often I think we got lost in planning for future events that we forget about the days we have to live to get there; and so often we get distracted that there needs to be a reminder to refocus.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus for just being has to be the seventh floor of LSE (Life Sciences E-wing) during sunsets.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans right now are to continue onto graduate school here at ASU for a Master of Science and Technology Policy. I hope one day to conduct policy analysis and science communication for firms in D.C. before moving back to the West Coast.

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

A: I think the problem I would try tackling would be creating avenues (to make information) not only credible but understandable to an incredibly large audience. We have so much information online now, but so much of it is false or misunderstood. Creating a system that is both respected and widely known for deriving the truth from all this information would be an amazing accomplishment.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English

480-965-7611