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May 10, 2019

Get to know some of the most outstanding graduates from across the university

On May 6, thousands of ASU students will move their tassels to the left side of their mortarboards and head into the next phase of their journey. Before they do, ASU Now is taking a look at some of the most impressive graduates.

WATCH: Check out a playlist of interviews with this year's outstanding graduates

woman sitting in front of window with city view behind her

ASU grad connects K–12 students to higher education

Andrea Garza, a senior studying psychology and justice studies with a minor in sociology, knows the importance of having someone to turn to when you’re unfamiliar with higher education. And being a first-generation college graduate, she felt strongly about being that connection for others.

woman posing in grad cap on Palm Walk

ASU grad hopes to decrease disparities in public health

Lucia Garcia used to think that a career in the health field meant being a clinician. She graduated this week from Arizona State University’s College of Health Solutions with a degree in public health, a minor in Spanish and the knowledge and know-how to take full advantage of the many career paths a degree in her chosen discipline can offer.



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ASU grad finds skills, 'home' in Sun Devil Fitness Complex

For Jaclyn Leake, a senior from Chicago graduating with a degree in exercise and wellness and a minor in kinesiology from the College of Health Solutions, classes and experience at a neurological rehabilitation facility helped her find her way to doctoral school after graduation.



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Kinesiology major makes the gym his classroom as SDFC personal trainer

Working as a personal trainer is a great way to help others and gain experience in the exercise and wellness field. But for graduating senior Ryo Kataoka, the job was a way to learn outside the classroom about the science taught in his classes.


woman posing for photo on Palm Walk

Fulton Schools’ youngest graduate gets head start on making an impact

Emily Alcazar started taking college courses when she was 12 years old. This month she graduated magna cum laude from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the age of 17.


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Dean’s Medalist uses music, education to advocate for Native Americans in Arizona

Libraries and hip-hop might not seem the most obvious pair. But for Arizona State University alumnus Alexander Soto, both are platforms to illustrate the struggles facing Native Americans in Arizona and to forge a path forward. Soto graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program. He was recognized during convocation as a Dean’s Medalist.

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ASU grad advocates for access and sustainability

Noel von Mizener has always been passionate about sharing her love for education with others. Majoring in supply chain management and business law with a certificate in applied business data analytics, von Mizener kept busy during her time at Arizona State University doing what she could to help K–12 students and make a sustainable difference.

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Grad combined chemical engineering with Arabic studies

When you’re applying for a job after graduation, what sets you apart in a field of worthy contenders? For Yusef Sabri, it’s the minor and certificate in Arabic studies that he picked up while earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Sabri, who graduated this month, said his knowledge of Arabic has “opened up several doors.” He has already received multiple job offers.

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ASU becomes academic home for graduating transfer student

Brianne Jones is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences (cell, genetics and developmental biology). She made ASU her home after starting her college experience at two other schools.


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Triple major first-in-family to graduate from college

Erika Flores is the oldest of four children, born into a close-knit Mexican American family. While they did not attend college, her parents encouraged all of their children to do so. And Flores said she always knew she would pursue higher education. This spring, she becomes the first in her family to graduate from college — and she earned three majors.


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A magical experience guided graduate to seek a new path

As a child, Emily Rose Nugent was always interested in how things worked. When she rode the rides at Disneyland, her dad would explain their mechanics and what made certain effects possible. Nugent, a Barrett, The Honors College student, decided to become a chemical engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University. She also has a minor in business.

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Starbucks partner earns degree after developing passion in leadership and management

A resident of Lockport, Illinois, online student Jen Schmidt found her way to Arizona State University through an educational benefits program between Starbucks and ASU. Now she's graduating with a degree in organizational leadership through the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.

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Professional dancer turned electrical engineer graduates from ASU Online

Jessica Columbus realized her interest in engineering at a young age but put her degree on hold to pursue another passion — ballet. Years later, Columbus discovered Arizona State University and decided it was time to complete her degree in engineering — but this time as an online student.

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On the border, grad hopes to make a difference in immigration policy

Joanna Williams didn’t travel lightly on her purposeful journey to earning a master’s degree in public policy, and she’s leaving Arizona State University with more than a diploma. The director of education and advocacy at the Kino Border Initiative (KBI) said she now has greater means to promote policies that respect the rights and dignity of migrants.

woman posing on Downtown Phoenix campus

Criminal justice grad's research on trouble spots in policing gives her hope

Katharine Leigh Brown is the spring 2019 outstanding graduate for the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. She wants her research on fairness and police-citizen interaction to unlock mysteries of how and why the criminal justice system does what it does and how to make that system better for everyone.

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ASU graduate completes degree with hopes of creating more accessible mental health resources

ASU Online student Shauna Hughes has been hard at work achieving her lifelong dream of earning a Bachelor of Arts in psychology. Hughes was originally an English major, but as she neared the completion of her degree, she decided to follow her passion for making therapy more accessible to all by switching to psychology.

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Receiving help led applied biological sciences graduate to help others

It was an early exposure to medical issues in William Harper’s family that sparked Harper’s interest in majoring in applied biological sciences and pursuing a career in medicine. He completed his degree in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and will be among the thousands of students graduating on May 6 looking to make the world a better place.

man standing on ASU's Palm Walk

Dream to become a physician coming true for microbiology graduate

Zach LeBaron felt ASU offered him a community where he could constantly evolve and grow. As it turns out, ASU was a perfect fit. LeBaron is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has been accepted to Creighton's School of Medicine.

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Communication graduate set her sights on the entertainment industry

Imagine maintaining a perfect GPA throughout your college career and still finding time to work and perform in a band. That has been the experience of senior Alexa Graves, who is graduating summa cum laude this spring with a degree in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and a minor in film and media studies.

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Student reaches graduation milestone through Starbucks College Achievement Plan

When it came time to choose her degree program, ASU online student Carrie Hough decided to major in the Business (Communication) program through the W. P. Carey School of Business, which has allowed her to grow her expertise as a manager and strengthen her communication skills within her current role at Starbucks.

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The future looks fun for outstanding grad who discovered joys of recreational therapy

Having fun is a lifelong habit of Kelly Walsh. It’s important to her as a person aspiring to remain healthy and strong in her quest to help improve the lives of others. But now having fun for Walsh, the spring 2019 outstanding graduate for the School of Community Resources and Development, is also part of a framework for rigorous thought and scientific practice.

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Driving toward a profusion of literary voices

Representation matters. It certainly did for online student Daniel Murillo. When he saw parts of his experience represented on the page, when he encountered writers who were like him, who he really was became … possible. Murillo is earning a BA in English this spring, and has secured a competitive ConversaSpain teaching assistantship postgraduation.

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Mexico Fulbright Scholar recounts ASU journey

Mexico City native Carlo Altamirano Allende is graduating from ASU with a PhD in social dimensions of science and technology. His research has taken him back to Mexico to learn about the impact of the nation’s constitutionally mandated energy reforms on indigenous communities.

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From senior master sergeant to master's degree, grad sees value of access to education

Senior Master Sgt. Joshua Loescher, who is graduating from ASU with a master’s degree in public safety leadership and administration, is the spring 2019 outstanding interdisciplinary graduate for Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

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Most fulfilling part of ASU graduate’s college experience was helping others join the university

Ethan Barlow’s parents encouraged him to venture away from the familiar surroundings of the state where he’d grown up and experience a new environment during his college years. Barlow recalls being appreciative of that advice as soon as he arrived at ASU.

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Geography student discovers passion and community at ASU

Often students arrive at college with set plans on what path they want to take over the next four years. Abigail Johnson was one of those students, but as she prepares to graduate from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this spring, she advises others to not be afraid to change up their plans.

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Drawn to the outdoors since her childhood, ASU grad seeks career protecting the environment

Linzy Jane Voytoski had no hesitation about studying engineering at Arizona State University. She wanted to carry on the legacy of her “family of engineers” ­— especially a grandfather who graduated from ASU with a degree in electrical engineering more than 50 years ago.

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Helping peers engineer a rewarding experience at ASU

Zachary Tronstad’s most rewarding experiences at ASU have been helping people and finding inspiration to make an impact through engineering.

Gabriela Huckabee

Honors graduate's passion is in the stars

A high school class schedule snafu led Gabriela Huckabee to a scientific discipline that would become her passion. Huckabee will graduate Arizona State University on May 7 with a bachelor of science degree in astrophysics with honors from Barrett, The Honors College, and the Dean’s Medal from the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Leo Alaniz

Future doctor pursues dream via the ASU Online biochemistry program  

In the online biochemistry degree program of Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences, Leo Alaniz found two things: a program that would fit his needs and unconditional professor support.  

Jonathan Thomas Lyle

Outstanding graduate gains respect for construction industry 

Nearly 15 years ago, Jonathan Thomas Lyle dropped out of high school and didn’t know what the future had in store for him. He never thought he would spend 10 years in the Army and later be graduating with honors from Arizona State University. His future, though, turned out better than he could have expected.

Levi Louis Riley

ASU graduate wants to raise the standard of health care 

Improving the lives of others has been a lifelong goal for Levi Louis Riley. He aspires to practice medicine and raise the standard of care in his hometown. To accomplish his goal, he knew he needed the best affordable education available to him and decided to attend Arizona State University.

Brianna Chavez


ASU graduate helps fellow students find success 

Brianna Chavez has demonstrated the defining qualities of a great leader by seizing every opportunity for personal and professional growth in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “I’m eternally grateful to the university for providing me with infinite opportunities to get involved,” said Chavez.

Jennifer Harrison

Master of Social Work grad draws from history and legacy to help others

Jennifer Harrison’s master’s degree in social work bears proof she has the training and knowledge to be an effective professional. But the summa cum laude graduate of Arizona State University will put so much more than that into her career of helping people.

Aly Perkins

Change maker hopes to use public policy to live university charter long after graduation

Aly Perkins’ academic transcript bears the look of a young scholar in a hurry to get to the next level. Her success in advanced placement classes gave her a large head start in college. The Arizona State University graduate completed her bachelor’s degree in three years.

Dulce Parra-Barrera

First-gen college student grateful for diverse perspectives

Post-graduation, Dulce Parra-Barrera has secured a position with the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Program, a teaching exchange managed by the government of Japan. It’s a dream come true for this native of Goodyear, Arizona, who had always hoped to teach English abroad.

Cinthia Garcia



Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College grad doubles down on bilingual students

Cinthia Garcia found her calling as a teacher in high school, but she didn’t discover her niche until she was in college. Garcia, who will graduate from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College next month with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education (bilingual education and English as a second language), is ready to start her career and transform lives.

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Biology grad changes career choice after taking ‘filler’ class

When transfer student Kassandra Kellenberger signed up for a science course to fill one of her future degree requirements, she thought she would just check it off her list. Instead, she ended up changing her major to biological sciences and will completed her undergraduate studies this spring with a Bachelor of Science.


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Urban planning graduate inspired to tackle transportation issues

One class, one subject, one professor — it can be just one thing that can spark a new interest for a student. This was the case for Monika Mlynarska when she took a transportation planning course.


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Communication major makes global connections, from Argentina to Spain

Connecting with people around the world and finding international internships might seem daunting for an undergraduate, but ASU communication major Abby Perez found it surprisingly simple to take her passions global.


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Master's graduate focuses on improving support for refugees and host countries

With her third master's degree, Nathalie Mokbel is showing no sign of slowing down. She has set her sights on her next adventure: becoming Dr. Nathalie Mokbel so she can support and educate the next generation of changemakers.


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ASU student named Big Brothers Big Sisters mentor of the year

Sanford School graduating senior Hsiao-Ya (Sofia) Chen was recently named mentor of the year by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona.


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Gymnast makes her path at ASU, earns Pac-12 top academic honors

Anne Kuhm, who is graduating from ASU's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a liberal studies major, was named Pac-12 Women’s Gymnastics Scholar-Athlete of the Year for 2018–2019.


woman in cap and gown posing on Palm Walk

Community health grad a ‘leader among her peers’

Leadership has been a through line of Alise Townsend’s Sun Devil experience. While pursuing her community health degree from ASU’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, she also devoted a great deal of her time to extracurriculars focused on leadership, service and philanthropy.


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Dual major from School of Social Transformation awarded Dean’s Medal

Emily Morris is among the outstanding students awarded a Dean’s Medal by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences for the spring 2019 semester.


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ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy’s first graduating class is now graduating from ASU

Edward Meza was part of the first graduating class from ASU Prep Poly STEM Academy in Mesa, Arizona, and now he and others from the class of 2015 are preparing to graduate from Arizona State University.


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Psychology undergraduate receives Barrett award for outstanding research

Isabel Strouse's senior honors research thesis on IUD use and memory won the Barrett, The Honors College's award for outstanding research. The psychology and biology double major will be recognized at convocation on Saturday, May 4, at Wells Fargo Arena in downtown Tempe.

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Art and technology meet to inspire Sun Devil grad

Hunter Wickersham literally left his mark on Arizona State University. Go into the Technology Building on the Polytechnic campus, back into the print shops and photo studios and press equipment, and there it is, 10 feet high and 40 feet long: the History of Print wall.

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Interior architecture student draws on theater background in design projects

Working in an ensemble theater that has a focus on civic dialogue turned out to be a useful background for Courtney Davis when she decided to pursue a master’s degree in interior architecture at ASU.

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ASU grad wondered what it took to be smart — now she’s headed to Harvard

Leah Nakaima grew up in Uganda witnessing inequities. Now she’s graduating from ASU and moving on to Harvard, working her way toward her dream of being Uganda’s first female president. 

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Interdisciplinary studies graduate from Hopi Nation finds passion to serve Native youth

Daniell June Albert is from the Hopi Tribe in Northern Arizona. Her Hopi name is áaqawsi, which translates to Sunflower, and she is Parrot and Kachina clans from the village of Old Oraibi, Third Mesa. Albert is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in special events management and in communication. 

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Biological sciences undergraduate first ASU Online student admitted to veterinary school

ASU online biological sciences major Cody Sorce wasn't sure how he would balance his career and school, but he completed his degree this spring and will attend veterinary school in Minnesota in the fall. 

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Goldwater Scholar aims to solve global health issues

Meilin Zhu, a student at Barrett, The Honors College who will be receiving her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a concentration in medicinal chemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences at Arizona State University in May, was inspired by her father’s passion for research and her older sister’s positive experience at ASU and Barrett.

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Graduate's passion for science and math earns a triple degree — by accident

Sierra Murphy will be graduating in May with not one bachelor’s degree in STEM, but three bachelor’s degrees from Arizona State University — a BS in biology, a BS in mathematics and a BA in chemistry. 


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Doctoral grad discovers importance of community

Graduating ASU English education doctoral student Katie Alford admitted that her most important lesson had nothing to do with her subject matter. Instead, it was in learning to lean on others. My colleagues have taught me so much,” Alford said, “especially how learning does not happen in isolation; it happens in community.”

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Microbiology student discovers power of mind and meditation during academic journey

Isaiah Sampson has had his sights set on a career in dentistry since he was a teenager. And while many students change their direction over the years, Sampson has held his focus and made calculated decisions to achieve his goals.

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MasterCard Foundation Scholar, School of Molecular Sciences grad inspired to dream bigger 

Ntombizodwa Makuyana will be graduating in May from Arizona State University’s School of Molecular Sciences with a degree medicinal biochemistry, but this is just the first degree she plans to receive as she has her sights set on pursuing her MD-PhD next.

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Alaska to Arizona: ASU grad finds his intellectual home

What college is right for you? What will you major in? These are difficult questions and choices for any 18-year-old. But when Brian Sweeney graduated from high school in Anchorage, Alaska, he had a feeling the answers to both were 3,600 miles away from home, at ASU. Sweeney is graduating in May 2019 with two bachelor’s degrees.

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School of Molecular Sciences grad fulfills both her passions as a STEM major and athlete

Vanessa Davis chose to attend Arizona State University because it fulfilled both of her passions — to pursue a degree as a STEM major and compete at the collegiate level in track and field. Davis will graduate this May with a degree in chemistry.

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ASU grad’s campus composting program inspired future career in sustainability

ASU grad Taylor Bakeman followed her sustainability passion at ASU, launching a first-of-its-kind composting program in her residence hall.

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Musician finds her university groove in integrative health program

Health issues sidelined Carol Mas’s music career, then opened the door for another adventure, college. Now, at 63, Mas is preparing to graduate with her bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

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Music graduate’s passion for music and Holocaust studies leads her to new path: jurisprudence

In her four years at Arizona State University's School of Music, Caitlin Kierum accomplished a lot, exploring her passions and finding new ones. She is graduating in May with two degrees, a minor and two certificates.

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Music graduate hopes to have positive impact on students

It took losing music for Aliyah Qualls to realize how much making music meant to her. Music had been a part of Qualls’s life since she was young, but in middle school, she quit the band program. “I did not realize how much music making meant to me and that it was what I truly wanted to do until I was unable to play,” said Qualls, who is graduating in May with a Bachelor of Music in music education and a minor in criminology and criminal justice.

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Gamer and clarinetist shows commitment to service and sisterhood

The term “sisterhood” holds special meaning to School of Music and Barrett, The Honors College graduate Charlotte Burton, who graduates in May with a Bachelor of Music Education, a Bachelor of Music in clarinet performance and a PreK-12 music education teaching certificate.

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From leading campus tours to joining a medical brigade, biology senior pursued array of opportunities at ASU

Cheyenne Piepmeyer is a self-proclaimed go-getter, and her resume supports that claim. “I’m one of those people who wants to take advantage of every opportunity that’s given to me,” said Piepmeyer, who is graduating this May with her bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the School of Life Sciences and a minor in Spanish from the School of International Letters and Cultures.

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Aviation graduate reaching for the sky

Carlee Cramer went on a "discovery flight" as a young girl and got the flying "bug." She earned her private pilot’s license her senior year in high school and now she’s graduating from ASU with a BS in aeronautical management technology (professional flight) from the Polytechnic School.

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Graduate discovers the personal in the political

As someone who lives with systemic lupus, Jordan Garcia often felt dismissed by doctors, because you can’t see a headache or feel someone’s exhaustion. Then the ASU political science graduate took a course called “Everyday Forms of Political Resistance." With the powerful newfound realization that the personal is political, she dove headfirst into exploring the topic further in her thesis.

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Fleischer Scholars camp convinced first-generation student to pursue ASU

When Mickey Glover was student at Cesar Chavez High School in Phoenix, he was not thinking of going to college. In the summer before his senior year, he was invited to attend the free, weeklong Fleischer Scholars camp at ASU and it changed everything.

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Physician earns executive MBA at ASU to work on a better health care system

Chizoba Ngwube has spent years helping patients, but over time, she realized that she could help heal the health care system as well. Ngwube, a family physician and hospitalist for Banner Health, just completed an executive master's degree in business administration at ASU.

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‘Winning the game’: ASU language grad confronts challenges with creativity

Mary “Katie” Kennedy is a model of undergraduate achievement. The ASU student is finishing two Bachelor of Arts degrees this spring, in English (linguistics) and Asian languages (Chinese), and will begin a master’s program in linguistics and applied linguistics at ASU this fall.


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ASU Army vet, father of four follows passion for rangeland management, conservation 

ASU applied biological sciences graduate Keaton Davis has always loved the outdoors. He's accepted a position with the U.S. Forest Service, working on the Tonto National Forest.

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Speech and hearing graduate hopes to give future patients a voice

Inbal Donenfeld-Peled was doing the mandatory two-year military service her native Israel requires when she met Uri, who was born with bilateral congenital deafness. As she got to know him, he told her about his speech therapist and audiologist and all they had done to improve his life. Donenfeld-Peled graduates this spring with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science from the College of Health Solutions.

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Fascination with disease leads to a career solving health challenges with data

Growing up in Nairobi’s Kibera slums, Joan Kwamboka’s daily life was routinely interrupted by communicable disease outbreaks. While many in her community reacted with fear of these periodic epidemics, Kwamboka was fascinated.

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Academic achievement times three: Moen triplets set to graduate from ASU with honors

Triplets Claire, Grant and Anders Moen will graduate from Arizona State University with honors from Barrett, The Honors College in May. They thrived in the smaller community of the ASU West campus, where they found opportunities for research, work and service to fellow students.

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Graduate uses biochemistry opportunities at ASU to forge a path to medical school

For Connor Vuong, a senior in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a soccer injury in high school left him with a broken finger that needed surgery and a newfound appreciation for what it really means to be a doctor.

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Flexibility of online classes allows soon-to-be graduate to balance work, home and school

Juggling work and a toddler is a daunting task. When you add the desire to earn a degree, it might seem impossible. For Alexandria Smille, earning a Bachelor of Science in urban planning through ASU Online meant that she could utilize the flexible nature of the courses to fit them into her life, all while learning the skills she needed to positively impact our communities.

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Philosophy student graduates with degree she's passionate about

Keziah Ampadu-Siaw struggled to find a degree that was right for her. She changed her major several times during her time at Arizona State University, but after taking her first philosophy class with Cynthia Bolton, she began to think about pursuing a degree in that direction. She will be graduating this spring with a bachelor's degree in philosophy and a minor in women and gender studies.

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Computer information systems grad inspired to build tech that makes a difference

The moment that computer information sciences major Thomas Haver saw the Apple Watch, he knew he wanted to work on technology that makes an impact on society. Driven by this will to make a difference and his love of tech, Haver decided to attend ASU.

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Graduating art student gets inspiration from ancestors

When artist Edgar Fernandez transferred to Arizona State University, he was looking for new inspiration. “I discovered the inspiration I was looking for was within me all along, from my skin color to my ancestors and grandparents,” said Fernandez, a 28-year-old Chicano student who graduates this May with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in painting.

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Aspiring to greatness in giving

Not only is Jackson Kellogg graduating from Barrett, The Honors College with a perfect GPA, he’s already garnered an endowed linguistics fellowship typically reserved for advanced graduate students.

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Family and human development graduate works to impact education gap

As a first-generation student, Abigail Duarte had to figure out of the intricacies of college by herself, but that didn’t stop her from experiencing all that she could as she pursued her bachelor’s degree from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

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Film student started own company while still in school

At 19 years old, Krystina Owens started her own production studio while attending ASU. Now the 21-year-old, who is a student at Barrett, The Honors College, manages 11 employees, is expanding her company into two divisions and is graduating this May with a bachelor’s degree in film and media production from the School of Film, Dance and Theatre.

student holding sign that says "I am an innovative Sun Devil because of the the support of my peers and W. P. Carey faculty and staff!"

W. P. Carey School graduate comes full circle with Business Ambassadors

Eli Schifman, who is graduating with degrees in finance and economics, was named the W. P. Carey Outstanding Undergraduate for the spring semester.

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First graduate of a growing school sets the bar high

This May, Elana Quint will graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in civic and economic leadership, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, a minor in business, and as a graduate of Barrett, The Honors College. Quint is also being recognized by The College as a Dean’s Medalist.

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Graduating ASU linguist-lawyer works to improve, clarify speech rights

Amanda Weaver, a Phoenix attorney with Snell & Wilmer, is completing her PhD in applied linguistics at ASU this spring. She is a specialist in the linguistic considerations of the First Amendment entitlement, and she has analyzed provisions affording free speech in constitutional documents — not just in the U.S. but also in another geopolitical hotspot: Russia.

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Risks pay off for digital culture student

Erick Fowler made a big decision when he chose to go to college 1,000 miles away from his hometown in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Fowler graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture with a concentration in film and with a minor in design studies.

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ASU exercise and wellness grad grows with on-campus positions

Alereese Gonzalez has worn many hats during her time at ASU. Aside from earning her degree in exercise and wellness, Gonzalez held three different student worker positions. She says she loved each of them, but her time as a community assistant at the Taylor Place residence hall was her favorite.

Sarah Dillon

Grad learned to value herself as a researcher, student and person while at ASU

Sarah Dillon, who will be receiving her master’s degree in geological sciences this May from ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, jumped at the opportunity to work on an analytical instrument in the SIMS lab, which had been a goal of hers.

David Ackerman

Dean's Medalist combines love of math, programming and astronomy

David Ackerman chose to attend Arizona State University not only because it was affordable and close to home, but because it offered the opportunity to get involved in research right from the start. His combination of research, contributions to the university and impressive academic record earned him the honor of Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences this semester.

Emily bobel

Psychology graduate researches link between childhood trauma and impaired control over drinking

Depression and anxiety disorders affect almost 20% of the American population, including 25% of children between 13 and 18 years old. Emily Bobel, a psychology major, wanted to find out if depression could be a missing link connecting childhood trauma and problems with alcohol consumption.

Nathanael Pierce

Philosophy major leaves legacy of opportunity for undergrads

A history and philosophy double major, Nathanael Pierce is an ardent proponent of involvement in academic pursuits beyond the minimum requirements and wanted to bring that opportunity to students at ASU.

Cami Mcintire

Personal Growth in Human Relationships class helps graduate find her field of study

Cami Mcintire, a family and human development major in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, talks about the importance of taking classes you love, getting to know your faculty and following your passion. 

Aira Valera

Sanford School grad follows her passion for helping families

Aira Valera resisted outside pressures and found a major she was passionate about: family and human development. Here, she shares practical advice on finding yourself — and finding the best restrooms on campus. 

Bailey Reynolds

Life lessons propel conservation biology graduate toward environmental law 

Bailey Reynolds chose to attend Arizona State University for three reasons. First, it’s close to home. Second, its dedicated to inclusivity. And third, she figured with a school as large as ASU, she would have a lot of opportunities to find her calling. And find it, she did.

Emily smith

Psychology undergraduate strives to help families and kids in need

Have you ever wondered how infants convert a bunch of different sounds into language?  Emily Smith, who will graduate with a double major in psychology and human development, completed an honor’s research thesis on that questions.

Alex Miller

An early love of space exploration led ASU grad to a career in the stratosphere

Early trips to the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum instilled in Alex Miller a dream of human space exploration which later developed into a keen interest in robotic space exploration and astronomy. This May, Miller will be graduating with a PhD in Exploration Systems Design.

Clive Matsika

Analyzing data brings opportunity for mechanical engineering student

May graduate Clive Matsika, a mechanical engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was one of five students globally to be awarded a Facebook National Society of Black Engineers Analytics Scholarship to attend NSBE’s 45th annual convention in Detroit.

Chiara Hommel

Dual history and biology undergrad puts her thesis under lights 

Chiara Hommel wanted to work with animals and began her career at ASU as a biology major, but after taking a history class her sophomore year, she decided to add on another degree.

Kimberly Terasaki

ASU creative writing graduate is a wizard with words

Graduating Arizona State University student Kimberly Terasaki has known since she was a child that she wanted to be a writer. That a book series about a boy wizard was “birthed” the same year as she was may have helped to inspire her career choice; in essence, Terasaki and Harry Potter grew up together. Terasaki is completing a Bachelor of Arts in English (creative writing) this spring, with a minor in sustainability. 

Paula Kibuka Musoke

Global health student finds passion, mentors and more at ASU

For Paula Kibuka Musoke, college has been about pushing herself out of her comfort zone. As a native of Norway, it’s hard to imagine a more drastic climate difference than the deserts of Arizona, and yet that is exactly where she chose to make her academic home.

Alexa Drew

A proud Sun Devil ready to launch into a scientific career

Alexa Drew had always planned on attending ASU, but it wasn’t until her time at Mesa Community College that she realized that her interests were specifically geared towards both astronomy and biology; and that ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration had the bachelor’s degree she was looking for. 

Brandon Favre

Science’s 'cool' factor inspires molecular biology master’s degree graduate

School of Life Sciences graduate Brandon Favre tackled both genetic engineering and graduate student mental health while getting his Master of Science at ASU. And it all began with a bacteria modified to glow under a black light.

Lena Bonds

Graduate aims to set example for son with social work career

“I think it’s really important that anyone that has gone through any kind of adversity, to use that as a fuel to go and help others,” said Lena Bonds, an online student in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Bonds is graduating with her bachelor’s degree from the T. Denny Sanford School for Social and Family Dynamics in May.

Colin Redman

Computer science student develops software for gathering evidence for speech and debate 

Graduate Colin Redman has spent the past eight years competing in speech and debate — four years at his high school in Los Alamos, New Mexico, and four years as a member of ASU’s Forensics Team housed in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

Rosemary Huck

Student athlete pursues interest in geography 

Water and earth are two driving forces in Rosemary Huck's life. The Manchester, England, native, who came to ASU to play on the water polo team, used her time here to learn more about geomorphology, the study of the physical features of the surface of the earth and their relation to its geological structures.

George Brusch

First-gen student defeats ‘imposter syndrome’ to earn PhD

George Brusch, who will graduate with his PhD in biology this spring, fought to build a community for underrepresented students after struggling to find his place in a university setting.

Bryce Newberry

Cronkite student said no to all roadblocks

Bryce Newberry is a "yes man" in the best sense. He's always up for a challenge and never shies away from a new opportunity. This has served him well as a student and as a journalist. “I’m of the belief that when a student is in college, you should say yes to as many things as possible. You never know what might lead to something else,” he said.

Anna Wanless

Lifelong Sun Devil turns longtime interest in weather into degree

When Anna Wanless was growing up, her Sun Devil parents brought her to campus and football games. At the same time, she became interested in meteorology. That passion brought her to the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, where she studied geography, with a concentration on meteorology and climatology.

Avery Underwood

Open doors help biology master’s degree grad find niche

Born and raised in Tempe, School of Life Sciences graduate student Avery Underwood always wanted to attend Arizona State University. She found a perfect research fit in assistant professor Melissa Wilson's lab after seeing a guest lecture by Wilson talking about her background in mathematics and her research on sex differences.

Paris Masek

ASU doctoral grad transforms communities with food knowledge

Paris Masek is graduating from ASU this spring with a PhD in English literature. That seems straightforward; however, like most of Masek does, it’s not. That this Phoenix resident is earning his doctorate represents a circular, holistic journey, a repurposing of experiences and knowledge into something transformational.

Brittany-Rose Tribulski

ASU Online grad uses her education in humanity

Brittany-Rose Tribulski had been teaching English for some time already — even spending a year and a half in Thailand with the MediaKids organization. But the Riverside, California, resident recognized that to meet her goals as an English teacher she needed more: more expertise, more research, more knowledge.

Erin Bottino

Mangiamo! ASU grad blends study and sustenance

Graduating ASU student Erin Bottino has managed to combine two very different areas of study — a BA in writing, rhetorics and literacies in the Department of English and a food system sustainability certificate in the School of Sustainability — into one, logical focus: food literacy.

Ellie Millon

It's all business for 2019 W. P. Carey School graduate

Henrielle “Ellie” Millon has had an interest in business since she was in high school. That interest led her to ASU where she will graduate with two bachelor of science degrees — one in finance and the other in marketing — from the W. P. Carey School of Business in May. She also will receive honors from Barrett, The Honors College. 

Fargo Tbakhi

Theater grad finds a second home at the Hugh Downs School

Fargo Tbakhi first learned about the Hugh Downs School and its performance studies program from friends his freshman year who encouraged him to take a class with Jennifer Linde, artistic director of the Empty Space Theater. The decision, Tbakhi said, “basically altered the course of the rest of my college career.”  

Alexandria Paterson

East Asia studies student hopes to have international political impact

Alexandria Paterson’s desire to have a positive impact on the world goes back to when she was a young child and has continued to push her forward into becoming the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester.

Walker McCrae

Sparky is more than a mascot to 2019 Barrett graduate

Walker McCrae, an ASU student set to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in business data analytics and sports business with honors from Barrett, The Honors College, had an alter ego during his undergraduate years: Sparky.

Maryam Abdul Rashid

Sustainability grad brings international perspective

Maryam Abdul Rashid took a big risk enrolling in the School of Sustainability at Arizona State University. Coming from Malaysia, she said sustainability was a foreign concept and people back home questioned what her future might be. But she took the leap anyway — with a big payoff.

Kaitlyn Vanklompenberg

Communication grad credits an optimistic outlook

Senior communication major in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Kaitlyn Vanklompenberg applied and was accepted to ASU's Leadership Scholarship Program, following in the footsteps of her older sister Kat. It also allowed her to develop and craft her leadership skills, as she says, "truly becoming a better leader and human."

Rachel Hill

Spanish lit grad named Dean’s Medal recipient

Rachel Hill, a mother of three enrolled in a 4+1 degree program for Spanish literature and culture, was recently named a Dean's Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures.


Maedeh Moayyednia

After fleeing persecution, film student eager to tell stories like hers 

Maedeh Moayyednia’s journey as a refugee has inspired her to become a storyteller through the art of film. Moayyednia, who will earn a bachelor’s degree in film and media production at ASU, has been named the outstanding undergraduate in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Top photo: Kristin Fanara (left) laughs with Avvi Valdez at the spring 2018 ASU commencement at Chase Field. Photo by Arizona Board of Regents

 
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Tuning in to 3 aspects of women's health

May 10, 2019

3 ASU profs share insights into women's health for National Women's Health Week

The popular adage that men are from Mars and women are from Venus might seem an antiquated notion nowadays. Yet even as our society looks more critically at gender constructs, there’s no denying the scientific biological differences between the sexes and the effects they have on our health.

In acknowledgement of National Women’s Health Week, ASU Now tapped a trio of experts from the College of Health Solutions whose research focuses on various aspects of women’s health over the lifespan: physical, cognitive and emotional.

Read on for their enlightening — and possibly reaffirming — insights.

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Let’s get physical

Barbara Ainsworth, College of Health Solutions Regents’ Professor, has spent most of her academic career trying to understand the differences between physical activities men and women tend to engage in. During her postdoc fellowship at the University of Minnesota, she noticed men tended to report more activity related to sports and recreation while women tended to report more activity related to housework and child-rearing. She took what she learned and helped to incorporate it into national surveys that measure physical activity.

Barbara Ainsworth

Regents' Professor Barbara Ainsworth goes over work with Associate Professor Cheryl Der Ananian at the College of Health Solutions. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Question: How does women’s energy expenditure tend to differ from men’s?

Answer: Women spend a lot more time and energy in taking care of the house and taking care of children. Those are probably two of the biggest differences, still to this day. Women do the housekeeping, cooking, picking up (and) maintaining children’s lives, especially young babies. That expends a lot of time and energy.

Q: Is that kind of energy expenditure still beneficial to one’s health, compared to what we think of as more traditional physical activities, like recreational sports or strength training?

A: Absolutely. Any time you’re moving and expending energy, that’s beneficial for your health. The question is how intense is that movement. Even lighter-intensity activity has health-enhancing value but 150 minutes per week of moderate activity is recommended. Things like vacuuming, especially if you’re going up and down the stairs, can be moderate or even vigorous exercise. So I would caution us from generalizing that men get more or better exercise than women. Also because women don’t only do housework as physical activity, and men don’t only do recreational sports as physical activity.

Q: How does a woman’s ability to perform physical activity change as she ages?

A: When women start to become menopausal, usually around 40, we see tremendous changes in skeletal mass and muscle tissue, as well as changes in metabolism that predispose women for putting on weight. So without stepping up exercise and engaging in weight training, it’s very easy to start losing skeletal mass and increasing body fat, which in turn makes it harder to exercise.

Q: How can a woman adapt physical activity as she ages?

A: What we’re seeing as women are aging now, especially women in their 50s and 60s, is there is much more emphasis on being physically active in terms of walking more. I think everybody can start off walking, that’s very easy. And if you have access to a gym membership, you can do water exercises because they’re easy on the joints, and if you’re overweight, it’s easy because of the buoyancy. And women should try to engage in activities that put resistance on muscles. I always say don’t let people lift things for you. Groceries, doors … At least maintain the strength that you have.

Q: What advice would you give women in regard to maintaining their physical health?

A: It’s very important for women from college on to try to maintain a healthy lifestyle, because as women get involved in the workplace, they’re going to be very busy because often, they’re also the ones who go home and maintain the house and children. So try not to give up exercise and maintain some level of active engagement across your lifespan, especially past retirement years. It’s really easy to fall out of that practice and really hard to get back into it.

Sending you forget me nots

Blair Braden, College of Health Solutions assistant professor, has conducted much of her research on sex differences in cognition, at one point even constructing a human-size version of a lab rat maze to assess differences in spatial memory. Her research looking into how hormones affect women’s cognition in animal models has revealed that by-and-large, progestins in birth control and menopausal hormone therapies have a pretty strongly negative affect on memory.

blair braden

ASU Assistant Professor B. Blair Braden poses for a portrait with the MRI machine she uses in her Autism Brain Aging Laboratory research. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Question: How do men and women differ cognitively?

Answer: There are domains that we have slight advantages in, with the caveat that while there are slight advantages, it's not deterministic. Women usually have a better verbal memory than men and the flip side of that is that men tend to do a little bit better with spatial stuff. But women can be fantastic at spatial things and men can be fantastic at verbal things. Also, women are more frequently diagnosed with depression and anxiety.

Q: What accounts for those differences?

A: In both human and animal models, where women are at in their (menstrual) cycle will influence how they perform spatially. Women have all these things going on with our hormones that affect our cognitive abilities, whether we're cycling naturally or we’re taking hormones to not get pregnant or to mitigate menopause. Men have a much more constant milieu of hormones. ... So it just adds this whole other factor that men don't deal with. In terms of depression and anxiety, research shows that the brunt of housework and child-rearing still falls on women. So stress related to family maintenance definitely more adversely affects women, and we are not at our cognitive best selves if we're under stress or we’re feeling anxious or depressed.

Q: How do hormones affect a woman’s cognitive health over her lifespan?

A: When women are of child-bearing age, a lot of them complain about memory problems in their third trimester of pregnancy. That’s when their bodies are producing a lot of progesterone, which can have an adverse affect on memory and cognitive ability. With menopause, the rapid loss of hormones can be detrimental to the brain and puts women at risk for pathological aging, or Alzheimer’s disease. But how your body responds to hormones is likely influenced by how it lost them. So if you had surgical menopause and all of your hormones were gone in one day, then there's some research to suggest that giving you hormones back is beneficial, to sort of ease the shock of that. Whereas, there’s also research to suggest that if you’ve gone through natural, transitional menopause, and your ovaries still do kind of release these residual hormones that are actually kind of more like male hormones, that maybe giving you hormone therapy is not so beneficial. So that makes it really mucky. If anything, what we can take away from this is that hormones can be really powerful for affecting our cognition.

Q: What advice would you give women in regard to balancing cognitive health with the need to take hormone-based medications?

A: Birth control and hormone therapy exist for real reasons; women don't want to get pregnant and women don't want to have hot flashes. And those are very legitimate reasons to take medication. So they shouldn’t have to suffer because they’re scared of not knowing how those things will affect them cognitively. Women should pay attention to these things about themselves, and if they’re not feeling good, if they’re feeling like their cognitive abilities are not as they were before they started taking medication, then maybe consider that that could be something they could try changing. Talk to your doctor and try to go through the research about your specific case with your doctor as much as you can. I think the National Institute of Health’s recommendation right now is to take hormone-based medications for the shortest amount of time that you need to manage your symptoms. And I think that's pretty good advice. But as a society, we should also demand for better. Demand more funding to be able to optimize cognitive health for women as we age.

I get so emotional, baby

Colleen Cordes, College of Health Solutions assistant dean and clinical professor, wants to disrupt the typical health care model by providing mental health care in the primary care setting in order to comprehensively address the mental and physical well-being of patients.

Colleen Cordes

Assistant Dean and Clinical Professor Colleen Cordes poses for a portrait at the College of Health Solutions. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Question: What are some of biggest concerns regarding women’s mental and emotional health today?

Answer: I think part of the challenge is stigma. Women are a little bit more likely to seek out services than men but there's still a lot of stigma associated with mental health care. There’s the assumption that we should be able to handle things ourselves or the assumption of weakness if somebody is seeking out care. With women in particular, who are trying to juggle multiple demands at work and at home, it can be difficult to balance all that. Never mind issues like postpartum depression or postpartum anxiety.

Q: What are some ways issues of mental health can differ between men and women?

A: Women are faced with the unique evolution of their bodies that over time can affect health and well-being. Oftentimes puberty is around the time that depression and anxiety onset occurs, and we see unique challenges during the child-bearing and child-rearing ages, as well as menopause and the hormonal changes that occur there. So our bodies uniquely contribute to mental health in a way that men may not necessarily experience. The prevalence of depression and anxiety is higher in women than it is in men. My particular area of interest, which has more bio-psycho-social ramifications, is addressing issues of sexual health and well-being for women.

Q: How is that related to women’s mental health?

A: If women are experiencing mental health concerns, they're often times going to experience body image challenges, or perhaps interpersonal difficulties that may influence access to sexual pleasure. Their ability to kind of stay in their body during sexual encounters and really experience that pleasure is going to vary pretty considerably. If you're constantly worried about those kind of things and not attending to the physical sensations in your body, that’s going to impact things as well. We know that women experiencing depression, for example, experience lower levels of libido and a decreased in sexual interest.

Q: How does a woman’s emotional and mental health change as she ages?

A: The age of onset for depressive symptoms and anxiety symptoms is typically adolescence. So if a woman emerges with those symptoms in adolescence, she’s much more likely to carry them into adulthood. In adolescence, you often see depression or anxiety associated with body image. With pregnancy, you oftentimes see postpartum anxiety and depression and even stress when it comes to conception in the first place. In the elderly, we see issues of anxiety and depression that are exaggerated by isolation and changes in physical functioning or the onset disability.

Q: Do you ever find that women feel pressure to ignore mental health issues?

A: I do think that society places an incredible amount of pressure on women today to be perfect. They’re expected to be strong and successful at work while still being motherly and good-natured at home, and those kinds of expectations of perfection can definitely set somebody up for mental health concerns.

Q: What advice would you give women in regard to taking time for their mental health?

A: Recognize that it's OK to prioritize yourself and your well-being. Culturally, we tell women that they are supposed to take care of other people. And that's OK — that's often a wonderful thing that provides a lot of fulfillment, but you're going to be much more effective at taking care of other people if you take care of yourself first. I have four children and if I’m not taking care of myself on a day-to-day basis, there’s no way I could be effective in taking care of them. For me to be the best mom, the best partner, the best whatever, I need to engage in some self-care.

Top photos by Pexels

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657