Spring 2020 grad continues family tradition of loyal Sun Devils


May 10, 2020

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

Jacob West is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in geological sciences from Arizona State University’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. West, who is a triplet, will join 16 other family members who have earned their degrees at ASU over the years, including one of his sisters who earned her degree last year. His other sister will graduate this December. Jacob West, spring 2020 grad from ASU's School of Earth and Space Exploration, will join 16 other family members who have earned their degrees at ASU over the years, including one of his sisters who earned her degree last year. His other sister will graduate this December. Download Full Image

West made the most of his time at ASU, earning a field geology certificate, working at the School of Earth and Space Exploration's Mars Space Flight Facility as a spectrometer lab technician, and participating in a study abroad program in Sicily, where he studied how geologic environments interact with people and could create hazards.

“I got to observe several volcanoes during my stay including Mount Etna and Stromboli,” says West. “I also was able to experience Sicilian culture and learn about their history, language and food.”

It was this trip to Italy that got West particularly interested in studying volcanoes, which led to his honors thesis under the guidance of School of Earth and Space Exploration Associate Professor Amanda Clarke.

“My honors thesis was centered on studying the habits and compositions of volcanic bombs produced by the El Tecolote cinder cone in the Pinacate Volcanic field,” says West. “My goal was to try and map the bomb distributions, create archetype or species classifications and determine areas on species die-off or concentrations.”

As part of our series of features celebrating students graduating this spring, we reached out to West to learn more about his experiences at ASU and his goals for the future.

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

Answer:.I think my "aha" moment was when I was out hunting with my grandpa and he started to explain why there was a hill here and not over there, what the rock we were standing on was, where it came from, so on and so forth. It was at the point I realized that I wanted to know so much more about the rocks, and I knew that I would enjoy figuring it out. Thus, I decided to major in geological sciences. 

It surprised me to see how interconnected everything is, how volcanoes affect tectonics, how tectonics affect sedimentation, etc. It was mind-boggling how one event could trigger possibly a dozen others; on the massive tectonic scale down to the small grains of sand, everything has a reason for doing what it is doing.

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

A: Stephen Reynolds gave me the best piece of advice that carried me through many of my courses. He told me that you can't just look at the big picture, because you'll miss the details that the small picture is trying to tell you. With those small details, you can often see that the big picture isn't enough and sometimes you need a bigger picture to understand everything. Long story short, don't gloss over the little details, no matter how insignificant they seem.

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

A: For those of you still in school, my advice is two-fold. Get to know your professors, because they can open doors you never even knew existed and put the effort in to know the material, because odds are that's what you'll use for the rest of your life to build yourself up and establish a good position in the industry. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I plan on working in the industry for a year or two, working as a consultant or geotechnician, building skills that will help me choose what direction I want to go for a master's degree.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345

ASU grad’s service in student government helped hone her passion for policy


May 10, 2020

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

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Hanna Salem’s biggest takeaway from Arizona State University was learning to think holistically about inclusion in her path to leadership.  Hanna Salem in front of Old Main at ASU's Tempe campus ASU grad and Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Hanna Salem. Download Full Image

One of the first things she got involved with at ASU was the Tempe Undergraduate Student Government. Salem started her college career as an intern for USG and ended up as the student body president of the Tempe campus. She's currently finishing up her term.

“I’m very proud of winning my campaign to be student body president, but within that I’m really proud that me and my team have been able to accomplish all of our campaign promises,” she said.

Salem was especially proud of her team's work on providing free menstrual hygiene products in ASU restrooms and increasing financial aid to students.

Her involvement in USG is one of the factors that led to her choosing her major, public service and public policy with a concentration in law and policy and a minor in women’s and gender studies. 

After changing her major several times, Salem realized her passion for political science and policy from the work and from the people she surrounded herself with.

“It's made me realize that I'm going into the right career path, and I’m still passionate. This really secured that public policy and public service is something I want to do in the future,” she said.

During Salem's ASU career, she earned the Spirit of Service Scholarship and Dean’s Scholarship. Overall, Salem said her experience at ASU was invaluable.

“Even though I didn’t expect to come to ASU, I had the best time here and I am so appreciative to every single person who has made my experience what it has, so thank you to ASU,” Salem said.

As she prepared to graduate, Salem reflected on her time at ASU and her advice for students.

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

Answer: I had changed my major like three or four times before becoming a public policy major. I just wasn't really happy with the prior majors I had chosen, and I knew that there was a thing in me that wanted to help people. I just didn't really know how I wanted to do that. 

I think the “aha” moment for me was when I was just surrounding myself with a lot of public service and public policy people and I realized that these were the conversations I wanted to have too.

I am incredibly happy with the decision [to change majors] and a lot more passionate about my academic work than I was at the beginning of my ASU career.

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

A: I think my biggest takeaway from ASU has been how to live my life with the charter in mind. It's changed my way of thinking and how I think about actions and avenues within my life. 

I’ve never really been in a place where diversity is so celebrated. So now that I have that foundation, I feel like my actions and the way I make decisions is totally altered thanks to the ASU charter. I just have a better way of approaching problems now that I am looking at things more holistically than I was before.

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

A: Something that I challenged myself with at the beginning of my fourth year was to say yes to everything. I really made it a point to go to events that I would never really typically go to. That’s helped me a lot in terms of making friendships and new relationships but has also made me appreciate ASU in a completely new way. My biggest advice is to just start early and take advantage of all the opportunities and events.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I really liked the location; I really liked that it felt like a mini city within a bigger city. I really don’t know what came over me, but I was like, "I think that this is where I need to be." It was a very last-minute decision, but it was a great decision nonetheless.

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

A: Definitely education. I think education is the root of all of our problems, but I also think it’s the solution to all of our problems. So if we invest more time and money into youth essentially we are going to have a better and stronger society, economy and world in general.

Written by Madeleine Williamson, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-4255