Family and human development grad aims to help children in need

December 6, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Two weeks before the start of the fall 2016 semester, Ayeleth Aragon came to Arizona State University as part of the very first Early Start cohort in the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. Three and half years later, Aragon is graduating a semester early with her BS in family and human development and hopes to enter a career helping children in need. Profile picture of Ayeleth Aragon Ayeleth Aragon. Download Full Image

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

Answer: When I was scrolling through the list of majors I was not sure exactly what area I wanted to go into. I read a couple of descriptions and when I got to family and human development, it caught my attention. I am the oldest of seven children and the first thought that ran through my head was that with this major I would be able to help my siblings out a lot better than I already was. Once I started taking major-related courses I noticed that I really enjoy this major and it is perfect because I have always wanted to work helping out others.

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

A: One of the first things I learned when I came into college was about the two different mindsets, growth and fixed mindset. I always thought that if you were good at something then you were good and there was nothing you could do about it. My professors and this major let me see things differently and helped me shift my mindset and now I work hard at the things I did not think I could do before.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When it came to choosing a college after high school, my main focus was choosing a school I could afford … I applied to many schools and was accepted to all of them, but in the end, I had my mind set to a community college that I could pay on my own with hard work. One day my counselor called me in and an ASU representative was there. We talked about finances and they helped me make it possible to go to a university close to home that wanted to help me to go to school and keep succeeding.

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

A: I have two professors that helped me a lot while I have been here; Dr. Stacie Foster and Dr. Amy Reesing. These two professors let me see the more positive side of life and they truly cared about my future. When I needed help or just someone to talk to, I could walk into their office hours and ask for help. They both had a lot of faith in me even when I thought I was not doing as well as I wanted to. 

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

A: A piece of advice I would give to those who are still in school is to manage your time wisely. I struggled with that quite a bit. Also, do not give up on something that looks difficult. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve what you want. 

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

A: I really liked sitting outside and enjoying the view while I sat and read my books. One of my favorite spots was the benches outside the Cowden building.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Right now, I am working as an assistant teacher for a preschool and after college I would like to continue working with children. I plan on going back to school but I will take a short break to work first.

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

A: I would like to spend that money helping children who do not have the resources we have here in the U.S. I took a course named Gender, Culture and Development and we read a book about how women and children live in Africa. They were very descriptive about the food they ate and how many children are not nourished the way a child should be.

John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


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ASU sculptor envisions a human community living and working on Mars

ASU sculptor envisions a human community on Mar for thesis project.
December 6, 2019

Herberger outstanding graduate student creates project with Interplanetary Initiative

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

Roy Wasson Valle has had a flourishing art practice in the Valley for several years, but decided he wanted to expand his horizons, so he returned to Arizona State University to pursue a master’s of fine arts degree.

“I needed access to a new circle,” said Wasson Valle, who is graduating this month and has been named the Outstanding Graduate Student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Wasson Valle earned his bachelor’s degree in sculpture at ASU in 2003, and his professor from that time, Jim White, persuaded him to seek the master’s.

“He said, ‘It may open up doors you didn’t know were closed.’ And that’s absolutely true, and even further, it also revealed doors I didn’t know existed,” Wasson Valle said.

The sculptor works frequently with his wife, artist Koryn Woodward Wasson, in creating large-scale installations. Much of their work is meant for a general audience, which often means kids.

“It’s my job to make connections and present something they don’t normally see, so having it accessible to the public is important, and that it’s not necessarily in a museum space,” he said.

“It’s what I think of as a third space — not quite a store and not quite a museum. The best way for that is pubic art and then you have a real responsibility to the people who paid for it and experience it.”

One path the degree program opened for Wasson Valle led him to the Interplanetary Initiative at ASU, an interdisciplinary project to create practical methods for humans to live and work in space. He sat in on some meetings and eventually took on the project that became his master’s thesis — a vision of what a human work site on Mars would look like in the 23rd century.

His speculative “Mars Made: Retroforms” exhibit was an immersive environment that envisioned a new world. The display, at ASU’s Grant Street Studios in Phoenix, included a living and working “pod,” housed in a trailer inside the studio. Wasson Valle designed details inside the pod like scientific equipment, storage space and even stickers with a “corporate logo” on them.

The other part of the exhibit imagines the surface of Mars. Wasson Valle created a huge mural in the space from a NASA photo of Mars, which he made into a three-dimensional image (when viewed through the provided 3D glasses).

The Interplanetary Initiative had some requirements for what the project should include, but Wasson Valle had freedom to speculate.

“I took the idea further into the future, where there was artist’s residency on Mars, which had a well-established community. This is the work that’s a reaction to that experience,” he said.

“I’m not making the claim that this is supposed to be Mars. This is supposed to be for people on Earth who haven’t been to Mars.”

The exhibit included tall, colorful installations that are meant to represent saguaros.

“I saw in this idea that there would be a lot of southwest desert type of plants that could maybe survive well underground on Mars in lava tubes,” he said.

“I was very interested in transforming flat work into 3D work, so I spent a lot of time designing these columns.”

The design was printed onto lightweight, corrugated plastic, which was folded around dowels and hung from the ceiling so they spin around.

The elaborate lights hanging from the ceiling were made on a laser cutter and the pieces fitted together.

Almost everything in the show can be disassembled and stored flat.

“The more that I work on shows, the more I consider how it’s going to be stored afterward. You run out of space,” he said.

Wasson Valle answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: You did a lot of research on Mars for this art work. What are some of the most interesting facts you discovered?

Answer: I know a lot more than I ever did but there’s so much that I don’t know. Even for me, this is inspiration to learn more. It’s supposed to inspire people to think about living and working on Mars. It’s the inspiration for new generation. The more I’ve been working on it and thinking about it, sending people to other planets is a monumental task and there’s a lot of argument about, ‘Why should we spend these resources?’ Whenever we think about how thin the atmosphere is, we start to appreciate what we have. This is to create an effort to preserve what we have.

But I do know a few facts about Mars. One of the most interesting is that there is snow on Mars and it looks like fog because the snowflakes are the size of red blood cells.

Q: What was your ‘aha’ moment when you knew you wanted to be a sculptor?

A: My father was a sculptor, so it’s in my upbringing. I was always making toys and things. He did a lot of work in a church, which is an installation where you’re thinking about how the space is being used and where all the elements will be. I was used to thinking of sculpture in a full environment, not just in a white gallery.

I’ve always done three-dimensional work. I did a lot of work on cardboard and I would cut out the pieces, paint them and assemble them. When I came to ASU I was an intermedia major because I thought I could use digital media and have more freedom. Then I took a sculpture class with Jim White and he said, ‘You should switch to sculpture because you can do whatever you want.’ For me, it really resonated and made sense.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who wants to pursue a master’s in fine arts?

A: It’s important to take a break between the two things (undergraduate and graduate degrees). It’s important to have some time to process everything you’ve been doing, and to work out in the world for a few years. It doesn’t have to be 13 years like I did. But it’s important to have some space to put all the parts together.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?

A: I spent a lot of time at the Nelson Fine Arts Center, which I also did before (as an undergrad), because it’s a beautiful spot. It’s peaceful and I really like the pink walls. I’m attracted to human-made spaces that are empty.

Top image: Roy Wasson Valle, the Outstanding Graduate Student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, created the “Mars Made: Retroforms” exhibit at the Grant Street Studios in Phoenix. On the wall of the studio is a mural-sized photo of the surface of Mars, and to the left is his interpretation of a saguaro on Mars, made of lightweight corrugated plastic. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now