If researchers at ASU don’t anticipate a societal problem like water shortage or energy use before it begins, Panchanathan said, “the blame squarely should fall on Arizona State University.”

The university has quintupled its research performance in the past 10 years, reaching over $600 million in total research expenditures in 2018.

Panchanathan credited the Graduate College’s dean, Alfredo Artiles, with much success in carrying out a new vision for the future of graduate education through universitywide initiatives administered by the Graduate College.

One example is the new Office of Distinguished Graduate Fellowships. The office supports all units throughout the university to increase the number of impressive awards, fellowships and positions held by ASU researchers and professionals, including graduate students, postdocs and even faculty.

The office aims to increase ASU’s representation within well-established fellowships and awards, like the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowships Program or the Ford Foundation Fellowships. New Ford Fellows and NSF Graduate Research Fellows were present at the celebratory event.

The office also partners with external entities to create a new distinguished fellowship program for ASU graduate students where a gap exists, such as the partnership with the U.S. Department of Military Science to create the ASU/Army Master's Degree Fellowship Program. This new fellowship program is specific to ASU master's students in any field of study, and it provides a fully funded master's degree, including a stipend to live on. 

Additionally, the Office of Distinguished Graduate Fellowships works with an external sponsor to place ASU researchers in positions of influence in Washington, D.C. An example is the AAAS Science and Technology Policy Fellowships Initiative. Many of the students, postdocs and faculty who benefitted from Artiles’ new Distinguished Graduate Fellowships initiative were present at the event.

At Celebrating Excellence, students were asked to share "impact" words describing their research, funding or time at ASU. Words included "life-changing," "progress," "empowering," "interdisciplinary" and — mirroring Panchanathan's speech — "responsibility."

This year’s event punctuated a special moment for the Graduate College, which just reached its 80th year of operation.