ASU grad found community, major that tapped into her passions


April 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Anna Ciza Deogratias, who’s graduating from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a major in communication, began her ASU journey at the Downtown Phoenix campus as a nursing major. ASU communication graduate Anna Ciza Deogratias Anna Ciza Deogratias, who came to ASU from the Phoenix Union High School District, found her passion for communication close to home, at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Download Full Image

“I entered as a nursing major because that's what my parents wanted me to do and, of course, I wanted to make them proud,” said Deogratias, who came to ASU after graduating from the Phoenix Union High School District. “I tried it for a semester, but I quickly realized that I was wasting my time and opportunities to learn things that I was passionate about.

“I remember scrolling down through the ASU website in my search for another major. Once I clicked on the major map for communication and saw the classes I would take, I realized this was the major I was looking for!” she said. “I love talking to people and learning about different cultures, so I was really excited.”

She eventually added a minor in theater to her program, too, from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

As a first-generation college student, the one thing Deogratias said she worried about most when deciding on which university to attend was how she was going to pay for her education.

“My parents didn’t have the money to pay for my education, so I really had to apply for a lot of scholarships and attend the university that offered me the most money. ASU did that for me,” she said. “Plus, the Downtown Phoenix campus was close to home and the low teacher-to-student ratio was really nice.” 

Deogratias said she had support from a number of scholarships during her undergraduate years, including the Doran Community Scholars Program, Sun Devil Family Association Scholarship, Benjamin Gilman Scholarship, a Phoenix Union High School District Scholarship, a Kiwanis Club of Phoenix Scholarship, a Be A Leader Foundation Scholarship and College Success Arizona.

She also worked as a College of Integrative Sciences and Arts community assistant in the Taylor Place residence hall her sophomore and junior years.

“I had such an amazing experience and learned a lot about how to lead people, plan events and solve problems. The CA position helped me to be more confident, especially when it came to speaking in front of people,” Deogratias said. “I used to be a very shy person when I first moved from Tanzania to the U.S. at the age of 9, and I still can't believe I grew out of that!

“I also got close to some of my coworkers, and some of the residents I met during my first year as a CA have become some of my closest friends,” she said. “It was a really fun, rewarding job to have as a college student and I’m grateful that I had that opportunity.”

Anna shared more with ASU Now about her undergraduate experience and her future plans.

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

Answer: I learned to find a balance between my social life and school. When I first started, I was so super focused on school that I forgot to enjoy college. And that’s where my friends that I met at ASU came in. They would invite me to go out to eat, get ice cream, see movies or just simply hang out.

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

A: In the four years I have been here at ASU, this semester was the second time I had the opportunity to be taught by a black professor, whom I had for the African American Theatre class taught at Tempe campus. His name is Donta McGilvery. I have learned a lot in that class and one of the most important lessons he taught me was to not let anyone underestimate me and the potential that I have — whether that be a professor telling me that the paper I wrote wasn’t good or getting rejected by “important” people. No matter what, I should strive to make my dreams come true for the next person to be able to start theirs.

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

A: To be still and know that it’s going to be OK. It may not be OK now, but trust me, it’s going to be OK.

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

A: For studying, I loved reserving a room in the library at the Downtown Phoenix campus or studying in one of the lounges in Taylor Place. The tables outside of Starbucks were a really nice spot to meet with friends.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A:  I plan to take the GRE exam and pursue a journalism master’s program in ASU’s Walter Cronkite School. I also hope to get hired by a TV station, because I want to work in the TV/film industry. 

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

A: I would tackle the diversity problem in Hollywood. I think having people of color and their stories told is so important. I remember when I first saw Lupita Nyong'o on screen one day — the feelings I had were just indescribable. I still have goosebumps every time I see her speak or on screen. I want the next African child to have the same feelings and know that it really is possible.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

602-496-1454

Planning graduate is driven to tackle queer and transgender housing issues


May 1, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

It’s important to Beth Freelander that the future of planning is inclusive, and she plans to use her voice and education to ensure that it happens.   Beth Freelander, a master's degree in urban and environmental planning May 2020 graduate. Photo courtesy of Beth Freelander Download Full Image

“I always think it's important to include the voices of the people who would be impacted by a project and I would want to make sure that my idea actually suited the needs of low-income queer and transgender minorities,” Freelander said. “The best way to ensure it meets their needs is to include them in decision-making.” 

Freelander, a master's degree in urban and environmental planning May 2020 graduate, says she wants to make sure that those who have historically been left out of planning are heard, especially in affordable housing and homelessness issues. 

“As a queer person, I know that other people in my community deal with homelessness at a higher rate than most other populations, and I care deeply about my queer and trans siblings,” Freelander said. “I want to see them have the same things that I have, which is a stable house — something that I’ve always been very privileged to have all my life. It’s something that’s been close to my heart when I consider these issues.” 

Faculty members recognized her compassion, leadership and dedication to the field. 

“Beth is a great student, who is attentive in class and consistently produces really strong work. However, that’s not what stands out most about her: She’s extraordinarily thoughtful,” Meagan Ehlenz, assistant professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning said. “She thinks critically about whatever issue we’re discussing and considers how that maps on to her own experiences with planning.

“Beth has an ability to find the balance between leadership and support roles and I think that’s something that will serve her well in the field of planning.”

Ahead of commencement, we asked Freelander a few questions about her time at ASU:

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: One thing I was looking for was faculty that aligned with what I was interested in. At ASU a lot of the professors have an equity lens or are looking at grassroots-type planning, and that’s something that’s really important to me. It didn’t hurt that ASU offered me a generous funding package that also made it a good financial choice. Also, my wife really didn’t want to go anywhere with snow, so this fit the bill for that too. 

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

A: This idea in planning called “wicked problems.” I know that nothing is perfect and I’m not overly idealistic, but I was hopeful coming into this program that there would be things that were clear cut, like, "This is the right thing to do, this is the right fix for this problem." But this idea of wicked problems, problems that are just unsolvable, really changed my perspective from, "How do I fix this" to "What are the tradeoffs that I need to consider and what is really important to do even if it means sacrificing in some other idea?"

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

A: Dr. Meagan Ehlenz has really taught me to know my worth and recognize my potential. She’s done this because her teaching style is just so rooted in her belief that her students are capable and can accomplish whatever is set in front of them if they are given the right tools and guidance. She really invites us to join in the assumption that we are all capable and we’re valuable to the team. That’s helped me stretch myself and to see myself in a new light. 

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

A: I have a couple of pieces of advice. First off, it’s — you get out what you put in. I think of this (graduate school) as an investment I’m making in myself. Like any investment, what you get out of it is dependent on how much you put in. So, choose the things you want to do and work hard at them. 

I also would say don’t be afraid to ask for help because the professors I have had have always been very willing to help me, and always have genuinely wanted to see me succeed. I would imagine that they feel that way about any of their students. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus? 

A: The Coor computing lab and the tables outside of Coor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m hoping to get hired on at the Maricopa Association of Governments where I’m interning presently, but I don’t know yet, so hopefully that pans out. 

Q: What is your dream job? 

A: I think I’m still figuring out what my dream job is. Initially, I really felt like it was in a city local government working on the issues I’ve talked about, like working on affordable housing, homelessness and bringing the public into planning, especially those that have historically been left out of planning. But at this point, I am remaining open to figuring that out as I go.  

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

A: I would want to invest that into some sort of affordable housing, like long-term affordable housing options for queer and trans people, specifically those of color or immigrants who face some really heavy discrimination and barriers to jobs and housing. I think that is especially pertinent to me in the midst of COVID-19. One, I know that there are many people who are struggling with housing to begin with, and two, I know that there are many queer and trans people that are staying in homes that are not a healthy or affirming space for them, so just being able to use that money to provide some other options for those folks would be great. 

David Rozul

Communications Program Coordinator, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

480-727-8627