March 27, 2019

Inaugural event showcased the best student ideas from across the university

The first Change the World event showcased how Arizona State University students are making a difference through their art, entrepreneurship and good works. 

Hundreds of students from every campus participated in the festival, held Wednesday at Sun Devil Stadium. Singers, dancers and poets performed on three stages around the stadium concourse. Five separate pitch competitions highlighted students’ best ideas and projects in education, sustainability, technology and health. 

Elizabeth Williamson, a sophomore majoring in medicinal biochemistry, displayed her digital and colored pencil and pen illustrations. She said she’s passionate about creating art, which provides a balance in her busy life. 

“It’s more than a hobby because it’s something I try to do regularly,” she said.

One of her artworks portrays a demon character based on hydrofluoric acid, inspired by a lab class.

Williamson decided to show her art in Change the World because she wanted to share her vision.

“I think I’m bringing something new to the table with my style and ideas about the universe,” she said. 

Nithara Murthy, a freshman majoring in global health, performed a spoken-word piece describing the reactions she faces when people find out she’s bisexual.

“Everyone always asks me, ‘Are you a 50-50’? As if I’m standing in a grocery store line and checking out apples or oranges,” she said.

“I like personalities. People. The way their smiles crinkle when they laugh at the edge of their mouth. Their pure, unadulterated kindness — similar to qualities that many of you look for in people. So it’s bizarre to me that people ask the question, ‘Do you prefer girls or guys?’ when I just like people, plain and simple.”

A capella group The Undertones performs

Members of The Undertones, a jazz a cappella group, perform at sunset at the inaugural "Change the World" at Sun Devil Stadium on Wednesday, March 27, 2019. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The event kicked off with an ASU alumnus who has already made a huge difference in people’s lives. Mark Huerta, the co-founder and CEO of the nonprofit 33 Buckets, addressed the crowd.

“We’re all here because we want to change the world, but how do you go about doing something like that?” he said. 

“Let’s attune our minds to the idea that every single moment, there’s an opportunity to make a change and that every single moment is therefore precious.”

Huerta, who earned a degree in engineering, said he never imagined starting a nonprofit.

“Frankly, I feel like an imposter all the time,” he said. “There are many times I didn’t know what to do next or even failed. I can’t tell you how many grant competitions we applied to and didn’t receive any funding at all.”

He said the 33 Buckets team was instilled with purpose, and that they viewed the issue of lack of clean water as an injustice.

“So we set out solving each challenge, one moment at a time,” he said.

“So let’s keep our eyes open tonight and take the time to notice others and establish meaningful connections. You don’t need to start a multimillion-dollar company or a nonprofit to make a difference. Sometimes it’s those little interactions that make us all changemakers in our own unique way."

Change the World was organized by the ASU Council of Presidents, Undergraduate Student Senate, Graduate and Professional Student Association and Changemaker Central student organizations. Tyler Brown, a junior majoring in sports business and accounting, is chief of staff on the Programming and Activities Board and was on the steering committee for Change the World. He said that last year’s Innovation Day was the inspiration, and the student leaders started planning in November.

“The goal was to not turn anybody away. We wanted everybody to have the opportunity to perform or pitch or show off their artwork,” he said.

“I think it will be a point of inspiration for everyone who comes to see the impact that these people who are in their classes or dorms are having on the world. Then they’ll be inspired to go out and do their own thing."

Everyone who attended Change the World was invited to vote on their favorite performer or pitch team by texting, and the winners got cash prizes.

Some student organizations competed in the pitch competition to raise money, including SPARKS, a group that visits high schools in rural Arizona to generate interest in attending college. Other students pitched community organizations they’re part of, such as Phoenix Allies for Community Health, which provides free health care to medically marginalized people, such as those with no insurance.

Nargish Patwoary

Nargish Patwoary pitches PACH (Phoenix Allies for Community Health) at the inaugural "Change the World" event at Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“At PACH, we won’t ask about your documentation, we don’t care about your insurance coverage and we certainly don’t want your money,” said Gina Toma, a PACH volunteer who is majoring in medical studies at the West campus. “We are changing the world on a weekly basis with the help of our ASU volunteers and alumni.”

Nargish Patwoary, who is majoring in biomedical sciences, said that PACH relies on donations.

“Ninety percent of our expenses goes toward labs and diagnostic imagery,” she said. “We are a discrimination-free zone. 

“PACH is a humanitarian effort to restore the right to be healthy.”

Other organizations came to recruit members and show everyone what they’re doing. The International Service Devils, based at the ASU Polytechnic campus, had a photo display of the group’s recent spring break trip to Guatemala, where they worked on health-care and construction projects.

“This is the first Change the World, and it seemed really interesting,” said Galahad Davis, a sophomore majoring in aeronautical management technology and the group’s treasurer.

“We like to go to different events not only to recruit people but also to see what the other clubs are doing and to network and exchange ideas, so Change the World seemed perfect.”

Top photo: Sustainability and urban planning sophomore Thomas Cazares looks at pictures from the Poly Photo Club exhibit at the inaugural "Change the World" at Sun Devil Stadium on March 27. The event was designed to showcase what ASU students are doing to change the world, with more than 400 students in 30 performances, 140 exhibitions including 45 arts and film, and 135 pitches representing all the colleges and schools. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503