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Downtown Phoenix campus opens doors to excitement

February 10, 2019

The schools and units of ASU's downtown campus enthralled guests with learning activities and demonstrations

The fun kept rolling Saturday with the second of Arizona State University's Open Door events, where members of the community were invited to check out the exciting work being done by the schools and units of the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Visitors to the campus learned about drone piloting, had a chance to hold a sheep brain, crafted origami cats, got hearing screenings, saw a Van de Graaff generator in action and uncovered the wonders of DNA.

If you missed out, don't worry: There are two more free Open Door events:

  • West campus: 1–5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
  • Tempe campus: 1–6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23

Read more about what's in store at each campus here, including information on the free app that can help visitors map out the activities they want to visit. Get free tickets in advance online. 

Video by Dana Lewandowski/ASU

Check ASU Now after each event for photo galleries and video.

More: Open Door at the Polytechnic campus

Top photo: Marcos Hernandez tries his hand at a gong at Health North during the 2019 Downtown Phoenix campus Open Door on Feb. 9. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU Online undergraduate degrees ranked No. 2 in the nation by US News & World Report

ASU online master's in education is ranked 13th in US, up from 36th last year.
January 15, 2019

Four online master’s degree programs at ASU also were ranked in the top 10 in the country

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2019.

The online undergraduate program at Arizona State University has been ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, earning a score of 98 out of 100.

The program moved up two spots, having ranked fourth in the magazine’s 2018 list with a score of 95. ASU Online, with 90 undergraduate and 64 graduate degree programs, reached more than 50,000 students in the 2018 calendar year. Embry-Riddle University grabbed the top spot for online bachelor’s degree programs, with a score of 100, while Ohio State and Oregon State universities tied for third place, each with a score of 96. The list was released Tuesday after the magazine assessed 1,545 online degree programs for 2019.

U.S. News & World Report provides several higher education rankings throughout the year, most recently rating ASU as the most innovative university in the country for the fourth year in a row. 

Four online master’s degree programs at ASU were ranked in the top 10 in the country: The online MBA and non-MBA graduate degrees in the W. P. Carey School of Business both were ranked sixth, and the master’s degree in criminal justice in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions also was ranked sixth. The master’s degree in engineering, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, placed ninth in the country, up from 11th last year. 

The online master’s degree in education, in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was ranked 13th in the country with a score of 92. That program was ranked 36th last year, with a score of 82, and 40th in 2017.

U.S. News & World Report did not rank individual online undergraduate programs. The magazine scored its “Best Online Bachelors Program” based on four categories: engagement, services and technologies, faculty credentials and training, and expert opinion. 

Engaging students for success

ASU Online provides high levels of engagement to its students, each of whom is assigned a “success coach.” 

“My favorite part of the job is being able to connect with students and make an impact on how they do and help with any challenge they have at that time,” said Erika Stiller, one of the success coaches.

“A lot of times, students don’t know who to reach out to when they have questions, and a lot of it is helping with timing — learning how to manage your family, your work and other responsibilities on top of school.”

Part of encouraging success is helping students learn how to address issues as they come up.

“I’m helping them learn to think critically and figure out their own problems, not just tell them what to do,” she said. “I’ll ask, ‘How did you handle a situation like this before?’ I help them to figure out the answer on their own.”

Stiller said that online programs are sometimes stereotyped as being impersonal, but the success coaches offer that personal touch.

“It’s having that person you know you can always go to who wants you to do well.”

Online students enjoy flexibility, services

Online students have access to many sources of support. Nibia Orona, an Air Force veteran who’s majoring in corporate accounting, said she has gotten help from the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and also from career coaches.

“For me, being old-school, it was hard to ask for help,” she said. “I was trying to trudge through and get those answers on my own. But I realized I had to reach out and use those resources, and come to find out, I made serious progress in what I was having issues with.”

Orona, 61, said she chose ASU Online because she had been out of school for many years and couldn’t see herself sitting in a traditional classroom as she pursued her degree.

“I would tell people to not be afraid to take that chance as they get older because I run across a lot of different age groups in my classes,” she said.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up — I get to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

Top-notch faculty and new technology

ASU Online has also made advances in technology. Last year, it became the first program in the country to offer a virtual-reality biology lab course, with students using headsets to complete their lab requirement as part of a partnership among ASU Online, Google and Labster. Several courses, including ecology, physiology and cell biology, are piloting the technology this session, according to Michael Angilletta, a professor in the School of Life Sciences who teaches the lab.

“Many faculty think the learning outcome of a lab is for students to do a specific skill, like pipetting fluid, but in reality a very tiny fraction of students, fewer than 1 percent, actually go into a research lab like the one we work in,” he said.

“So the important thing is the critical thinking, the quality of reasoning, and putting into practice how you solve problems and draw conclusions with data. That’s what you can capture in real-life simulation.”

Angilletta said that storytelling in the virtual-reality world allows for a deeper learning experience. In the ecology course, the lab is set on a newly discovered planet.

“You’ve been sent to this planet to discover what lives there,” he said. “You follow the chemical and physical laws of science, but everything is novel. You can’t Google the answers.”

In physiology, the students “travel” to Antarctica.

“They study seals who dive in freezing cold water, and they’re doing (virtual) experiments on animals they would never get close to,” he said.  

Angilletta emphasized that the online labs are just as rigorous as the immersion labs, with lab reports using real data from published studies.

“Labs hadn’t changed much over time — they’re very mundane, cookbook things and I hated them,” he said.

“I would much prefer problem-solving with a narrative that gets me engaged.”

Angilletta would love to see the virtual-reality technology advance to open-ended scenarios.

“In these labs, there’s a constrained path — it’s not like anything is possible. But imagine a situation where anything could be done,” he said.

“You want students to learn that they could blow something up if they do something wrong. That’s how the brain learns complex things.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU criminology school ranked among best in the nation

January 14, 2019

U.S. News & World Report has ranked the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate online degree at Arizona State University No. 6 in the United States. It is the fifth straight year the school has been ranked as one of the top schools in the nation. The program ranked No. 2 in 2015 and 2016 and No. 5 in 2017 and 2018.

“The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU is once again ranked among the best online graduate programs,” said Cassia Spohn, director of the school. "This is a reflection of the fact that our online courses are developed by full-time faculty in the school and are taught by highly qualified faculty and faculty associates.” Criminal Justice graduate Nicholas Costello Nicholas Costello, who earned his master's degree in criminal justice, with his mother, Debbie (left), and wife, Whitney, at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions reception for spring 2018 online student graduates. Download Full Image

The school was one of the first to offer graduate online degrees at ASU, which U.S. News and World Report this year ranked No. 2 for all online undergraduate programs. The school’s criminology doctoral program is ranked No. 5.

“Our online graduate courses are rigorous, challenging, and reflect the state-of-the-art in terms of pedagogy and technology,” said Spohn, one of the nation’s leading criminology scholars.

Most of the school’s more than 300 online graduate students are professionals in the criminal justice field seeking a graduate degree to improve their career opportunities. Nicholas Costello became police chief of Frostburg, Maryland, soon after obtaining his degree in 2018.

“The educational value is is top notch,” said Costello. “I learned a great deal — the course readings were exceptional, the instructors were highly qualified. The coursework was just right to really get you to engage the material and really understand what you're reading and learning about. I've been very pleased with that.”

Obtaining an online degree at ASU while working full time wasn’t easy, but Costello says it was worth it.

“It's going to make you a better police officer. It's going to hone your knowledge and your skills. It's going to improve your communication skills,” said Costello. “And it's really going to give you a broader understanding of society, of people, of the issues and give you a little bit different perspective on things.”

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU In the News

Podcast focuses on children of incarcerated parents

Two million children in the United States have parents in jail or prison. The consequences can be substantial. Trouble at school and home and poor physical and mental health are just some of the issues they face.

Judy Krysik, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University spoke with Stephen Koonz on the "Forensics InService" podcast. Krysik, the director of the ASU Center for Child Well Being, talked about the problems faced by kids who have a parent locked up and an upcoming national conference that addresses the subject.  child Photo by Michał Parzuchowski courtesy of Unsplash
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The Children of Incarcerated Parents National Conference brings together professionals from many  child well-being disciplines to share information and research with the goal of reducing the stigma and impact of parental incarceration. The conference will be held April 14-17, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Renaissance Downtown Phoenix Hotel. For more information visit:

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Social work doctoral student wins prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research scholarship

January 11, 2019

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected Mónica Gutiérrez, a second-year ASU PhD student in social work, as a Health Policy Research Scholar.

Gutiérrez is one of only 40 students in the nation selected for the prize. She plans to focus her research on understanding the impact of displacement, gentrification and connection to place within low-income communities and how these factors contribute to the health and well-being of vulnerable families. She is particularly interested in the use of community-based participatory research to inform social policy and systems change. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Mónica Gutiérrez. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar Mónica Gutiérrez is a doctoral student at the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. Photo by Alexis Bojorquez Download Full Image

The award is valued at $120,000 and is disbursed over a four-year period.

“I feel personally connected to many of the communities that are directly affected by health inequities," said Gutiérrez. "I hope as a result of my research and the training acquired through the fellowship I can lead and collaborate across sectors to inform social policy and urban planning."

Gutiérrez believes a diverse pool of researchers and policymakers is needed now more than ever.

"With different voices in the conversation, policies and solutions can be more inclusive and relevant to a broader range of communities," she said.

Gutiérrez, a first-generation college student, earned her Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University and Master of Social Work degree from ASU with a concentration in planning, administration and community practice. In addition to her coursework, Gutiérrez is a research specialist at ASU’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, where she works with communities to conduct evaluations and disseminate findings regarding research-based interventions aimed at eliminating health disparities.

She also is a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides migrant students with academic support during their first year in college to establish a strong foundation for continued academic success. As a beneficiary of mentorship herself, Gutiérrez believes mentoring plays an important role in student achievement and retention especially for first-generation college students.

"I have always had a calling to serve my community and help give back just like the many mentors I have had in my personal and academic journey,” she said. 

As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Gutiérrez will join a diverse group of scholars to collaboratively tackle persistent health challenges by creating innovative solutions through research.

“This new cohort of scholars is committed to research that challenges long-held notions about the health of our communities,” said Harolyn M.E. Belcher, director of the Health Policy Research Scholars program, director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I am thrilled to work alongside them as they continue to develop into the kind of leaders who can enact real change and ultimately build a culture of health.”

Written by Miguel Vieyra

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New associate director sees research from ASU's Morrison Institute helping to inform policy-making

New research director wants Morrison work to drive policy decision-making.
January 7, 2019

Making data-driven results accessible to decision-makers is the goal for Melissa Kovacs

“ASU research has purpose and impact,” states one of the eight design aspirations of Arizona State University. Melissa Kovacs, the new associate director for research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, brings an entrepreneurial mindset to the job, emphasizing that the work fulfills that institutional objective.

 “The entrepreneurial mindset is thinking about who the end consumer is, and our product is our research — evidence-based, data-driven research — that we want to get to everyone who could possibly use it,” said Kovacs, who was named to the post last month.

Melissa Kovacs is the new associate director for research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research center that’s housed in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. The center includes the Latino Public Policy Center and the Kyl Center for Water Policy, and last year it completed a multi-year, five-part report on child neglect as well as an analysis of voting trends.

“The work that comes out of Morrison informs everyone from voters to academics to policy-makers and community leaders, and I’m looking at continuing that and amplifying it and making sure that everything is digestible and accessible to all of these groups,” she said.

Kovacs founded FirstEval, a data analytics and statistics consulting firm, and is former research director for Maricopa County's Justice System Planning and Information department, where she oversaw research and evaluation projects of the criminal justice system.

“What makes me excited is when you see decision-makers and policy-makers act on evidence-based research,” she said. “When the research is done, there is a conclusion and there’s a finding and you see that guiding the decision-making: That’s my bliss.”

Arizona has some policy challenges, she said.

“It’s a tough state to be a child, which is my own personal lens,” she said. “But that also presents opportunities.”

She sees Arizonans as open to working together.

 “I found that in Arizona, people are so open to collaboration and networking,” she said. “That’s an attitude I didn’t always see when I worked on the East Coast.

 “And that makes for a great business climate and a great climate to accomplish things.”

Top photo: Downtown Phoenix glitters at night. Photo by ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Communication research receives university seed funding to study the 'internet of things'

December 19, 2018

The Institute for Social Science Research at Arizona State University has awarded seed-grant money to Professor Pauline Hope Cheong at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication to advance research on how individuals and populations communicate on and with internet-enabled devices.

Cheong, who studies communication technologies and culture, will serve as principal investigator on an interdisciplinary study in the new skills and digital literacies that we need to function in the age of the "internet of things." Professor Karen Mossberger of the School of Public Affairs in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions is the co-principal investigator on the project.  Pauline Cheong Professor Pauline Cheong studies communication technologies and culture. Download Full Image

Cheong explained that internet use today is no longer restricted just to our computers, tablets or smartphones: It's present in the applications, devices and sensors in our cars, homes and neighborhoods — it's even in our microchipped selves.

“Thus, the internet of things refers to the ecosystem of computing devices embedded in everyday objects that collect, interact and exchange data,” Cheong said.

Results of the study will inform how we understand new mediated communication practices, and how public policy and technology design can accommodate a diversity of actors and goals and can decrease risks, particularly for populations that are economically and socially vulnerable or excluded. 

Cheong says that the growth of “big data” and these connected devices multiplies risks for data breaches, hacking and other cyber threats.

“Additionally, decision-making, problem solving and strategic skills — deciding on potential benefits and risks, and when and how to use a technology — are greatly increased with the privacy and security concerns raised by (the internet of things).” 

“What does this mean for the human capacities and communication skills needed to function in this era of hyperconnectivity?” said Cheong.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


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Aiming high: ASU grad student pursues dream of flight

December 18, 2018

Luke Air Force Base commander invites former Sun Devil walk-on cornerback for the ride of his life

Arizona State University graduate student Anthony Lawrence recently got a taste of what his future life could be like when he strapped into the back seat of an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

His Dec. 11 ride in a two-seat jet fighter used primarily for training student pilots marks the symbolic beginning of Lawrence’s path toward fulfilling his childhood dream of flying.

“The flight was amazing, from takeoff to landing,” Lawrence said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations of anything I could have dreamed of.”

The Georgia native’s passion for flying began around age 5 after a family trip to an air show, and it eventually led him to an aviation enrichment program at his local airport during high school, followed by four and a half years on active duty with the Air Force starting in 2011.

“I went to a few air shows growing up and then that really turned into hopefully one day becoming a fighter pilot,” Lawrence said. “So here I am.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Lawrence, who transferred from an active-duty unit in California to a reserve squadron in Tucson, will have a chance at becoming a fighter pilot when he returns to active duty in January to attend Air Force Officer Training School, followed by flight school.

While at ASU, Lawrence received his private pilot’s license in 2016, played football for the Sun Devils as a walk-on that same year and earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies this past May. He was also an active member of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center outreach team and starred in an orientation welcome video with fellow veteran Marisa Von Holten.

“All of those things are something I am passionate about, and it kind of just came easy to me to put in the work because I knew it would pay off in the long run,” said Lawrence, who also credits the Tuskegee Airmen for inspiring him to fly.

ASU alumnus Brig. Gen. Todd Canterbury, 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke, met Lawrence during ASU’s Salute to Service week in November and subsequently invited him to fly, something the service does as part of the Air Force’s Orientation Flight Program

“It really came through him, and I’m just eternally grateful for the opportunity to even be here,” Lawrence said after the flight. “An experience like this just gives you that carrot at the end of the road letting you know that this is the culmination of all the hard work that you’ve put in up until this point and beyond to try and work for.”

Currently, Lawrence is an ASU Online graduate student in the homeland security program with the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Through ASU, through networking, through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Luke Air Force Base, that’s how it’s all possible,” Lawrence said. “I’m definitely feeling inspired, more inspired than even before, knowing that the work ahead will lead to something like this in the future.”

Top photo: Future Air Force officer Anthony Lawrence walks away from the F-16D in which he just flew at Luke Air Force Base on Dec. 11. The ASU Online graduate student will soon attend the Air Force's Officer Training School and flight school. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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ASU Lodestar Center offers nationally recognized training to boost nonprofits' efficiency

ASU's Lodestar Center offers new training to help nonprofits be more efficient.
December 18, 2018

Grant from governor's office helps organizations learn best practices for recruiting, keeping volunteers

The lifeblood of any nonprofit organization is its volunteers — those people who gladly donate their time for a cause that stirs their passion.

Thanks to a new grant from the Governor’s Office of Youth, Faith, and Family, Arizona State University is helping nonprofits in the state to better manage — and appreciate — their volunteers. The ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation won the funding last summer to offer the nationally recognized “Service Enterprise Initiative” program. Ten state nonprofits are wrapping up the training now, and the center is accepting applications for the next cohort to begin in February.

“It shows our volunteers that we’re really trying,” said Elaine Starks, executive director of Power Paws, a Scottsdale-based organization that trains assistance dogs. The nonprofit has about 30 volunteers and aims to place about 12 dogs a year with people who have diabetes or post-traumatic stress disorder or who need mobility assistance. Volunteers foster the dogs while they are being trained.

“Some of our volunteers have been with us for 10 years, and we want to show them that we’re making an investment in them and recognizing them.”

The grant allows Lodestar to offer the program at a cost of only $430 for the nonprofits, which can then begin the national certification process by the Points of Light Foundation The foundation was created in 1990 in response to President George H.W. Bush’s 1989 inaugural address, which compared service by volunteers to a “thousand points of light.”, a nationwide organization that works to increase and improve volunteer service. The Service Enterprise Initiative training is based on research that pinpointed 10 practices that nonprofits should incorporate to be most efficient, such as standardizing training, setting up a tracking system and communicating clear expectations.

The training helps nonprofits of any size to become more effective, according to Cynthia Thiede, director of professional development education for the ASU Lodestar Center’s Nonprofit Management Institute. The center is in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“They all want to do better at managing their volunteers, and they want a higher retention rate,” she said.

The Points of Light Foundation estimates that, after the training, organizations can expect a return of $3 to $6 for every $1 invested in effective volunteer engagement. The research found that nonprofits that engage volunteers in productive ways are equally as effective as agencies without volunteers, but at almost half the median budget.

Starks started to revamp the volunteer procedures at Power Paws after she was promoted to executive director a year ago, and she said the Service Enterprise Initiative training has improved that process.

“It helped me to see that we needed to provide our volunteers with more structure,” she said. “To have an invested volunteer, you need to give them an outline of your expectations.”

Previously, Power Paws volunteers had to agree to a two-year commitment. Now, in the new system, dogs will attend training more frequently, reducing the commitment to one year, and volunteers will get a better picture throughout the process of how close their dog is to being placed. In addition, other volunteers will provide short-term respite to the dog-fostering volunteers.

“Our volunteer program was put together 17 years ago, and it needed to be freshened up,” Starks said.

 The Maryvale Revitalization Corporation, which manages 2,500 volunteers a year, works to build collaboration among non-profits, faith-based communities, government initiatives, schools and local businesses in West Phoenix. Jaime Lyn Gonzales, the director of programming, said that the training included a valuable "diagnosis" of the agency.

 "Much of what we believe about our vision and practices for engaging human capital proved to be true, while some areas of improvement were highlighted," she said. "We appreciated seeing and embracing these, as many of those opportunities aligned with improvements in practices and policies that were already in development. This also provided our team and board of directors with the validation to move forward in these investments."

Pat Bell-Demers, executive director of the Sonoran Arts League, said the training revealed a lot of “aha moments.”

“It was an eye-opener to get through the diagnostic and uncover those weaknesses and those strengths,” she said.

The Sonoran Arts League, which is based in Cave Creek and has more than 400 volunteers, promotes arts in the community with exhibits, classes, artists-in-residence, studio tours, veterans’ programs and a gallery.

One of the training sessions teaches nonprofits how to calculate the return on investment for volunteers’ work.

“Being able to identify the value that these individuals bring is priceless,” Bell-Demers said. “They open up doors, bring us relationships and help further our mission.”

The training helped the league set up a strategic action plan, she said.

“Boards of directors come and go all the time, but this plan is timeless,” she said.

Top image by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Criminal justice outstanding graduate motivated by difficult life experiences

December 13, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Arizona State University graduate Philip Wellwerts beat the odds and then some. His father was incarcerated just a few months before he was born. He continues to serve out a lengthy prison sentence. Growing up, Wellwerts watched his birth mother battle her inner demons with drug addiction. He felt he had no choice but to cut all ties with her due to her continued substance abuse. Philip Wellwerts Philip Wellwerts poses with his cap before graduation. Wellwerts is a proud Marine Corps veteran who served in Afghanistan before pursing his college degrees. Download Full Image

“Overall, the crime, drug usage, and violence I witnessed growing up were the motivating factors that allowed me to overcome my childhood challenges,” Wellwerts said.

As a kid, he heard his great grandfather talk about joining the military during World War II only to be discharged because he had lied about his age. He was too young. His great grandfather eventually joined the Marine Corps following the war.

So, Wellwerts set his sights on military service out of high school. Like his great grandfather, he became a Marine.

“Statistically, the odds were stacked against me as many people in my situation growing up would not have made it through high school,” Wellwerts noted. “I made the decision early in my teen years that I would not be a victim of the deteriorating cycle my family created.”

Wellwerts rose to the rank of Sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps. He learned the best way to lead was by his own actions and his own resolve. With limited resources, he ensured his battalion’s readiness in Afghanistan as the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment helped with the withdrawal of U.S. military forces in 2014. He was awarded the Navy and Marine Corps Achievement Medal for his work.

“I got back from Afghanistan on September 11, 2014,” said Wellwerts. “It was a surreal moment during my enlistment because it almost felt like coming back on that day was written in a movie script.”

But for the Phoenix native, the script wasn’t complete. It was simply switching scenes.

Wellwerts married his high school sweetheart, Sandra, whom he met at Apollo High School. When he was discharged from the Marines in 2015, they moved back to Phoenix. She began to teach high school math in Glendale. He enrolled in Glendale Community College.

The aptitude he showed toward military service helped him excel as a college student. But it wasn’t easy.

“During night classes I would find myself exhausted during some courses, but I felt wide awake during my criminal justice classes,” Wellwerts recalled. “I just had a personal passion that would keep me intrigued.”

Sandra and Philip Wellwerts

Sandra and Philip Wellwerts at a Marine Corps Ball. Sandra earned her Bachelor's degree in Computational Mathematical Sciences from the ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in 2013 and her Master's in Secondary Education from Grand Canyon University in 2015. Philip earned two degrees in December 2018: a Bachelor of Science in Criminology and Criminal Justice and a Bachelor of Science in Public Service and Public Policy.

He soon transferred to the the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at the ASU West campus in Glendale. It was there that adviser Karla Moreno-Arias suggested the first-generation student seek a second degree. Moreno-Arias pointed out that his GI Bill would pay for two majors if they were taken at the same time.

“I sent him an e-mail to congratulate him on his success and he responded with ‘hey, if you wouldn't have told me that it was possible, I wouldn't have done it,’” Moreno-Arias said.

Wellwerts dedication paid off. He is the fall 2018 outstanding graduate of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. He graduates with a second degree in public service and public policy with an emphasis in business from the School of Public Affairs. Both schools are in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions in downtown Phoenix. And both are top ten rated schools in the nation based on US News & World Report rankings.

“It was pretty difficult going from a criminology and criminal justice class to a public affairs class because you were looking at society from a different lens, but I would say they both balance each other out very well,” Wellwerts said.

During the fall 2018 semester, Wellwerts interned with the Phoenix Fire Department's Community Assistance Program or CAP. As a CAP team member, he provided on-scene crisis intervention and victim assistance services throughout Phoenix.

“My internship allowed me to experience the situations that people find themselves in; it can be the worst day of a person’s life,” Wellwerts said. “It gave me more insight so I can understand what people are going through and how they see their situation.”

His own situation growing up continues to guide his future. The dual-degree graduate plans to go back to school in a couple years to earn an MBA from ASU’s W.P. Carey School of Business.

“Business and money management have become a personal venture,” Wellwerts said. “I’ve seen what happens financially when you have incarcerated family, drug-induced household members and mismanagement of family funds.”

It also helped that his commanding officer in the Marine Corps highly encouraged Wellwerts to get a business degree.

“He would often say that, “Everything is business,” Wellwerts recalled.

First, the former Marine hopes to get hired on with the Phoenix Police Department. Ultimately, Wellwerts would like to work in narcotics. He knows his life experience and education can make a difference.

“If I could help just one family so that a child does not have to experience what I suffered through as a kid, it will be worth it.”

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions