ASU Law helps Puerto Rico native through turmoil of Hurricane Maria to pursue baseball dream

December 4, 2018

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

Growing up in Puerto Rico, where sports are embedded in the culture, Chanel Zapata developed a passion for baseball early in life. Chanel Zapata, Soon to be Graduate with a Master of Sports Law and Business from the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

“It just has a lot to do with my identity and being from Puerto Rico. I don’t like to say baseball is who you are, it’s what you do. But in Puerto Rico, it can be a little twisted,” she said with a laugh.

The San Juan native, 23, left Puerto Rico to attend the University of Tampa, but her sights remained firmly set on a career in baseball. So when she heard about the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law master of sports law and business program at Arizona State University, she knew it would be the perfect fit.

From day one of orientation, it exceeded her expectations. She was impressed with the litany of guest speakers and networking events, and perhaps most notably, having a class taught by former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

But during her first semester, tragedy struck back home in Puerto Rico in the form of Hurricane Maria.

She wasn’t able to reach her mother by phone for a month. During that time, her mom lost her job, and her brother was unable to attend school.

“Violence was very prevalent,” Zapata said. “There was a lot of looting in San Juan. It came to the point where my family had no power, no clean water.”

Her mother and brother were forced to relocate to Florida, and all the turmoil made it nearly impossible for Zapata to focus on her studies.

“There was so much uncertainty in my life, and I was here alone,” she said. “It was so tough, and school was not a priority in that moment.”

But Zapata was a priority for the school. And she said the people at ASU Law went out of their way to help her through the crisis.

“The faculty really supported me, which I thought was incredible,” she said. “They kept checking in on me and making sure that I was OK, and that meant so much to me and my family.”

And that kind of support is what she hopes to offer in a career as a liaison for Latin American baseball players.

Chanel Zapata

“My goal is to become an educational and cultural coordinator,” she said. “Helping the players learn English as a second language or Spanish as a second language. Helping them adapt to the culture here in the United States or wherever they’re settling into. And over 90 percent of the players in the minor leagues do not go to the 40- or 25-man roster, so I want to be able to help guide their careers and figure out what is their next step, what are they going to do after baseball is over.”

But first, a special graduation celebration with her mother is in order.

“I’m super excited because my mom has never been to Arizona,” Zapata said. “She’s flying in for the commencement, and I’m hoping to show her Sedona and other parts of the state and everything that I do here.”

Lauren Dickerson

Marketing and communications coordinator, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


ASU a perfect fit for biochemistry graduate

December 5, 2018

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

Darian Takase always knew she wanted to pursue a career in medicine, but where she would go to school to earn her undergraduate degree was another story. Takase had lots of options and decided to take an unconventional approach to selecting her college — drawing a name out of a bowl. A simple leap of faith brought Takase from Hilo, Hawaii to Arizona State University. Darian Takase Darian Takase Download Full Image

Initially she started off studying as a biology major, influenced by her grandfather who is a physician and one of the first OB-GYN's on the Big Island. It was during her second year at ASU that Takase discovered her love for chemistry and changed her major to biochemistry to accommodate both interests.

School of Molecular Sciences Professor Scott Lefler taught Takase in one of his biochemistry classes. Takase credits Lefler and the professors here at ASU with guidance and support in achieving her academic goals.  

"Darian was a pleasure to have in class with her high level of interest in biochemistry and her positive attitude,” Lefler said. “Whatever career path Darian chooses, she will certainly be successful. I look forward to seeing the results of her time at ASU impact the greater world."

Takase is very involved on campus at ASU. She is part of Alpha Omega Chi and was an intern in the Science is Fun class with Professor Jim Klemaszewski. The Science is Fun interns give hands-on demonstrations at on campus events like Open Door and Homecoming, as well going out to visit local k-12 schools and participating in community events.

“Darian was an outstanding ASU Science is Fun intern,” Klemaszewski said. “She has a positive energy and strong interpersonal skills that enhance her knowledge of and love for science.”

After graduation Takase plans to stay on as researcher in the Precision Neuro Therapeutic Lab at the Mayo Clinic and will be applying to medical school in 2019.

Takase answered some questions about her time at ASU, offered some advice for current students and what her plans are for the future.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: I’ve always wanted to pursue a career in the medical field, so I originally started off as a biology major. However, I started to realize around my sophomore year that I was far more interested in chemistry. I thought biochemistry would be a middle ground between the two and I ended up loving it!

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

A:  was genuinely surprised at the relationships I was able to form with my professors. Going into ASU was intimidating just because it’s such a large school but at the end of the day, if you truly find the time to get to know your professors and ask questions, they will remember you.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: If I’m being completely honest, I chose ASU out of a bowl. I was accepted into quite a few colleges which all had something different to offer so me being the indecisive person I am, decided to write them all down on pieces of paper and just pick one and go with it. Although it might’ve not been the most educated way to pick my college education, I am so happy I chose ASU. The school spirit is unbeatable, the campus is gorgeous, and In-N-Out is 5 minutes away.

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

A: Dr. Lefler was definitely one of the most influential professors I’ve had at ASU. As far as class material goes, I can now recite the TCAtricarboxylic acid cycle in my sleep. However, outside of class, Dr. Lefler took the time to talk with me about my life goals and helped me grow as an individual. 

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

A: To those still in school, get involved! Currently, I am in Alpha Chi Omega, do research at Mayo (Clinic), teach chemistry labs at ASU, and have an internship at Honor Health Emergency Department. The amount of opportunities ASU has to offer is virtually endless and the connections you make along the way can really set you up for your success after graduation.

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

My favorite spot on campus is the new student pavilion. It’s a great place to study and meet with friends. I love going on the balcony area around sunset and doing my homework outside.

A: What are your plans after graduation?

I currently hold a research position at the Mayo Clinic where I study MRI images of malignant brain tumors also known as glioblastoma multiforme. I hope to continue my research there while I study for the MCATMedical College Admission Test. I plan on applying to medical school this coming cycle but until then, I also want to do some traveling! 

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

A: If I was given $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would tackle ocean pollution. More specifically, I would like to put funding towards cleaning up the Great Pacific garbage patch gyre. When I was growing up in Hawaii, I learned about the importance of conserving our marine ecosystems so that future generations could still enjoy it. However, I know that the Great Pacific garbage patch, which is located in between Hawaii and California, poses a huge threat to marine life. It’s pretty obvious that the marine life is being affected by it but we are also consumers of these animals, so the implications have the ability of coming back to haunt us.

Alumni and Special Events Coordinator, School of Earth & Space Exploration