School of Life Sciences graduate advocates seizing opportunities in life, on campus


November 30, 2018

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

As Allyson Shaw reflects on her past several years at Arizona State University, she said she feels proud of her accomplishments. Shaw serves as the director of Nature at ASU, a university environmental professional development organization. She worked as a research assistant her freshman year and, more recently, conducted her own research, studying the disease ecology of urban house finches. Allyson Shaw holds two house finches During her undergrad, Shaw studied the disease ecology of urban house finches. Download Full Image

“Just a few years ago, I never thought I’d be doing research, I never thought I’d be in a club, I never thought I’d be doing anything I’m doing now. It’s crazy how a few years can take you so far if you really take advantage of everything that’s offered,” Shaw said.

Shaw, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the School of Life Sciences this December, said she recommends students become a ‘yes’ person when it comes to university experiences. But, she adds, make sure you follow through with the activities you agree to.

“We (Nature at ASU) have issues with students who want to be involved but a lot of people don’t show up. People say, ‘Yes, I’m so interested, this is really great for my resume’ — you get a stellar recommendation from the faculty adviser — but then no one actually comes for the meeting. I learned early on if I just show up for things, it’ll get me far. Just showing up and committing.”

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

Answer: My field is in conservation and ecology; I realized this was something that I wanted to study further when I went on an environmental field trip in middle school to learn about swamp and ocean habitats. Ever since then, learning about ecosystems and conserving them has been something that I have been extremely passionate about.

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

A: I took a class called Conservation of Biodiversity with Sharon Hall a while back that focused on how we can combat conservation issues in a human-dominated world, and that class had several interesting discussion points on issues that I had never even thought of. The biggest theme I took away from this class was that if we want to conserve our natural world or work to combat climate change or save a species, it all starts with humans. We cannot go into a random area and start to do conservation projects on a species if the people in the area do not want us there or us to conserve that species. I think that really shows how there is a slight disconnect between the scientific world and everyone else. There should be a larger bridge of connection, but I think that we are doing better now than we ever were.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because I knew this was a good school if you want to change your major or want to explore different areas of study. I never ended up changing my major, but it was nice to know I had options.

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

A: My mentor, Dr. Kevin McGraw, has taught me several important lessons here at ASU. Probably the most important lesson he has taught me is that when you succeed at something — and you are really proud of it — try even harder. A lot of people want to slack off after they have accomplished something, but the most important thing to do once you are successful is to use that positive energy to keep going up.

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

A: Take advantage of every opportunity given to you. If someone mentions an internship or a cool job, go for it, even if you think you can't get it. You'll never know how much opportunity is out there until you start going for it.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus is definitely the sitting area behind the Virginia G. Piper Writers House on Tempe campus. It's a great spot for studying and thinking about life while connecting with nature a little bit. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would definitely like to travel. But I am also looking into PhD programs in parasite ecology in avian species, too, for next fall.

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

A: I would invest a lot of that money into clean energy to help us deviate from our dependence on fossil fuels. I would also love to put money into ecosystem restoration services, where I could fund various areas to be regrown while also hiring people from around those areas to work on those projects to put the money back into their economy.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

480-965-8986

After finding her calling, ESL grad will serve those in need through language


November 30, 2018

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

A passion for working with different cultures and languages that began on a summer trip to Russia as a nursing undergraduate came full circle when Jenifer Fedun recently found herself back in the country, this time as an Arizona State University online graduate student working toward her ESLEnglish as a Second Language master’s degree through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Jenifer Fedun Jenifer Fedun. Download Full Image

The Los Angeles native was prompted to switch from nursing to ESL over the course of four years in an international service program at California Baptist University that took her not only to Russia, but also China, India and Taiwan, where she helped lead ESL lessons in classrooms and found it very rewarding.

Fedun’s own late mother was an immigrant who came to the U.S. from the Philippines with her parents and 11 siblings. Along the way, they experienced challenges that included racism, separation and financial hardship, but they ultimately found success and happiness in their new home country. Fedun said their stories inspired her to use her skills in ways that can make similar experiences easier for immigrants and refugees.

“In general, I just want to be able to help immigrants and give them tools to have a successful start and future in America,” Fedun said. “My mother and her family were immigrants and have been successful in this country, and I want that for all immigrants and/or refugees I meet.”

Fedun talked to ASU Now about finding her calling, maintaining straight-A’s and serving communities in need.

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

Answer: My “aha” moment occurred during the summer after my first year as an undergraduate at California Baptist University. I was originally a nursing major but after doing a nursing internship, I started to have doubts about whether I could see myself doing it long term. It was not until I was overseas in Russia during the summer working with orphans that I realized I loved working with people from different cultures and who speak different languages. One of our translators casually told me, “You know, if you teach English, you can do this all the time.” From that moment on, my passion for teaching English as a second language grew and took me to many different countries. My ASU master’s program even brought me back to Russia — where it all started — to teach ESL for my internship.

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

A: It was not until I took my “approaches to research” class that I realized how much time, research and effort went into making a single scholarly article, paper and/or study. It made me have a profound respect for the scholars who dedicate their time to the furthering of knowledge in their field and inspired me to have such a work ethic. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because I saw it was one of the top online graduate schools and had the exact graduate major that I wanted to study.

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

A: Ruby Macksoud, my professor for my internship class, taught me the importance of experience. There is only so much you can learn from books, but you will learn the most by putting what you have read and learned to practice.

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

A: Do your best and God will take care of the rest. Remember that where God guides, he provides, and he will get you through even the hardest of times in school and in life. Also, remember that it always seems impossible until it’s done; if it were easy, everyone would do it; and it will be 100 percent worth it.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on becoming an ESL professor at a community college or university. In general, I just want to be able to help immigrants and give them tools to have a successful start and future in America. My mother and her family were immigrants and have been successful in this country, and I want that for all immigrants and/or refugees I meet.

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

A: I would create centers that would provide free education, housing, health care, food and job training for refugees and immigrants entering this country.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657