ASU New College graduate aims to serve persecuted minorities


December 7, 2018

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

Ileen Younan is carrying the weight of history on her shoulders. Originally from Midland, Texas, she is inspired by her Assyrian roots to serve her community. The Assyrian genocide during World War I devastated and scattered the remaining community away from their homeland of northern Iraq. Ileen Younan poses on the Tempe campus of ASU Ileen Younan Download Full Image

Younan connected with her culture through the Assyrian Student Association of Arizona while she pursued her English degree at the ASU’s West campus. She said the close-knit community of New College was perfect for cultivating her educational and professional interests.

“I never lacked any opportunity,” she said.

Younan’s pursuits proved to be well-rounded: She was involved with TRIO, the EARTH club, Canyon Voices Literary Magazine and the Arizona Legislative Internship Program, just to name a few. She also loved analyzing literature with her classmates. Before she starts at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in the fall, she’s working on her writing portfolio, which includes scripts, fiction and more.

After earning her law degree, Younan wants to honor her history as well as the skills and knowledge she has cultivated to give back.

“I hope to acquire a job as a state prosecutor and serve my community well,” she said.

She ultimately wants to do nongovernmental work to help Assyrians and other persecuted minorities.

“Educated Assyrians can help those in their homeland, so that the entire people may move forward,” she said.

As she closes the chapter on the first part of her Sun Devil journey, Younan talked with ASU Now about how she’s reflecting on her field and her experience thus far.

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

Answer: After completing my first year at ASU, I decided to focus more on self-improvement instead of only looking at a career end-goal. The English major was the best choice, because it would allow me to develop my writing, speaking and presentation skills all while hearing different perspectives as I’d analyze literature with other students.

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

A: It’s important to look at tasks and goals from an interdisciplinary perspective. With my major in particular, I learned to make sure my writing would be rooted in reality and also to look at what I read from different perspectives in order to create various possible interpretations.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU has numerous opportunities for undergraduate students to get involved, and the campus culture is exceedingly inclusive. A student is not just another number, they’re a part of a family. The professors also care about their students and are enthusiastic about the subjects they teach, so ASU seemed like an ideal place to learn and develop my skill set.

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

A: I’d say all the English professors at ASU’s New College taught me the same important lesson: to be enthusiastic about any text I read and to outline well so that I won’t be stressed when writing a final paper. This advice has served me well and helped me manage my time more wisely.

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

A: Students should not compare themselves to others all the time and instead focus on improving themselves. There’s also no such thing as being completely productive, no matter how well a person plans their day. It’s not a bad thing for students to rest and give themselves a little credit for their hard work. In fact, it’s a must in order to avoid burning out.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus would be a tie between Fletcher Library, which offers a great, quiet space to study, and the TRIO Student Support Services STEM office, where fun events are always around the corner.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m graduating a semester early and was accepted to ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, so my intent is to secure temporary employment until school starts. I’d also like to update my writing portfolio.

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

A: I would create a program centered around helping the displaced Assyrian population of the Nineveh Plains in northern Iraq. Assyrians are a Christian ethnic minority considered indigenous to Iraq. However, since the devastation caused by ISIS, thousands of Assyrians have been forced out of their homes and have fled the area in order to avoid religious persecution.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-4255

Religious studies major dedicated to improving the human condition


December 7, 2018

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

For religious studies graduate Nathaniel Harris, a Phoenix native, empathy and spirituality have guided his studies and his extracurriculars. Nathaniel Harris sits in front of a temple Nathaniel Harris Download Full Image

Harris always knew he wanted to be a Sun Devil, and once at Arizona State University, he decided to major in religious studies during an introduction to religion course taught by Professor John Cunningham.

I had always been interested in understanding the human condition and how other groups interpret the esoteric or venerated aspects of life. Professor Cunningham, with his enthusiasm and care and respect, sold me on my major,” Harris said.

That idea of caring for others was a thread through Harris’ time at ASU. He became involved in a number of student organizations, serving as student president of ASU Hillel and student coordinator for Recovery Rising, an organization that supports students in recovery.

Outside of ASU, he also served as sustainability chair for the Tempe Coalition, a local organization that seeks to reduce drug and alcohol use among Tempe youth. He also found the time to chair Alcoholics Anonymous meetings, teach yoga classes and spend a month living in a Buddhist monastery in Taiwan.

Harris is about to embark on another adventure of understanding and service — he plans to join the Peace Corps. He talked to ASU Now about his Sun Devil experience and what he’s learned along the way.

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

Answer: I learned that you can’t save everyone. Individuals are completely free to make their own choices, but what you can do is create a system that gives individuals the opportunity to thrive.

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

A: Study what you find interesting.

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 the Poly campus at night. With its desert landscape and farms, you get an amazing sense of calm. On Tempe campus it’s the grove of trees behind Old Main. There’s something magical about them flowing in the rare wind that we get.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on going into the Peace Corps, teaching English in some rural community somewhere and taking a nap.

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

A: I would put that money toward making a more empathetic system. $40 million is a lot of money to me as an individual, but to society as a whole it’s a drop in the ocean. The primary focus of that money would be advocacy toward creating a more equitable system of life.

Written by Logan Maro, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-4255