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


ASU graduate plans to empower others through social work

December 11, 2018

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

Kourtney Conn is the fall 2018 outstanding graduate of the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions in downtown Phoenix. Kourtney Conn School of Social Work outstanding graduate Kourtney Conn (Photo courtesy Kayla Kitts) Download Full Image

Service to others is an important part of who Conn is. It’s how she was raised.

“I’ve spent my whole life being passionate about serving people,” Conn said.

The Fort Collins, Colorado native chose to attend ASU after a visit to the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“I didn’t know anyone and had only spent a couple days visiting the campus, but I knew ASU was the right choice for me based on the culture and ASU’s commitment to the community,” Conn said.

Originally enrolled as a nutrition major, Conn wanted to make a difference in the lives of people with health issues. But, it never felt right. After talking to friends, family and even high school guidance counselors, Conn switched her major to social work. She hasn’t looked back since.

“On the first day of my social work classes, I genuinely cried tears of joy because it felt like I was where I belonged, like all my passion could finally be funneled into something,” Conn said. “Sitting in that lecture hall preparing for a career of loving and empowering others was the ‘aha’ moment.”

Conn had lots of experience helping others over the years. Her family would annually travel to Somoto, Nicaragua, a rural town near the Honduras border. There, they have helped build homes, hosted a kid’s camp in the small mountain community and paid for local students to attend college.

Kourtney Conn plays with kids in Nicaragua

School of Social Work outstanding graduate Kourtney Conn volunteers in Somoto, Nicaragua. Photo courtesy Kourtney Conn.

“After taking seven years of Spanish classes, I use my language skills to ensure our trips are not just about laying concrete blocks or writing checks, but rather creating positive and meaningful relationships between Americans and Nicaraguans.”

An internship at New City Church in Phoenix gave Conn the opportunity to create a “Foster Care Closet” where foster families could find needed clothes and toiletries. Conn created a system for processing and distributing supplies, recruited volunteers, designed marketing materials and conducted outreach to social service agencies to promote the community resource.

“This was a unique and creative concept that required a lot of thinking from a different perspective and problem-solving on the fly,” Conn said. “While it was certainly a challenging intern project, it helped me to recognize how I represent innovation — by leading with energy and empathy to create new solutions."

Conn is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College. She says being in Barrett is the best decision she’s ever made.

“It opened so many doors for me,” Conn said.

Through Barrett, Conn served as a peer mentor and a residential leader helping create positive first-year experiences for new Barrett students and serving as part of their support system. She also directed communications for the Barrett Leadership and Service Team.

Barrett scholars are required to write a thesis and Conn is thankful for the opportunity.

“My favorite experience in Barrett was getting to write a thesis about digital dating abuse trends among teens with social work professor Lauren Reed as my faculty project director and professor Jill Messing as my second reader,” Conn recalled. “I did a mixed-methods study analyzing survey data and created a project I am so proud of in a field where there is little existing literature.”

Conn and her social work professors are now hoping to get the thesis published in an academic journal.

“Being a part of Barrett has enriched my time at ASU immeasurably and I feel so grateful for the opportunity,” Conn said.

Her time at ASU is even more remarkable as Conn has dealt with health issues that could easily have prevented her from succeeding.

Conn has temporomandibular joint disorder or TMJD, a medical condition that occurs in the jaw joint and can cause considerable pain. For Conn, it’s required numerous medical appointments and physical therapy visits.

“No one ever knows what I’m talking about when I mention it because they think I’m referring to my jaw popping once in a while, not the extreme lockjaw and pain I deal with,” Conn said. “It’s hard to describe to anyone who hasn’t experienced it, but it definitely played a role in my academic career and learning how to persevere and stay focused despite physical pain.”

The greater obstacle, in her opinion, was her struggle with dysthymia. Dysthymia is also called "persistent depressive disorder," a long-term form of depression that Conn struggled with for many years. It wasn’t diagnosed until she got to college.

“As anyone who has experienced depression knows, it makes it feel nearly impossible to finish tasks successfully, be at your best, attend events or sometimes even just get out of bed,” Conn noted.

While the condition affected her academic productivity, it didn’t define her. She appreciates any opportunity to have a conversation about mental health or be open about health issues in general to reduce the stigma.

“I think it’s important to show that mental health issues can be a part of you, but not the entirety of you,” Conn said. “It’s possible to succeed, it’s okay to ask for help, and there is light at the end of the tunnel!”

After graduation, Coon plans to work in the area of gender-based violence intervention. Ultimately, she wants to return to school to earn her master’s degree and a PhD. Her goal is to do gender-based violence intervention and prevention research.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Public policy graduate prepared to tackle education issues

December 6, 2018

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

When Hurricane Irma slammed the state of Florida in September 2017, School of Public Affairs outstanding graduate Max Goshert left the comforts of Phoenix to help those in need. Max Goshert lead the effort to recall Arizona's Superintendent of Public Instruction Max Goshert talks to members of the media after filing petitions to recall Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas Sept. 1, 2015. Photo Courtesy: James Anderson, Cronkite News Download Full Image

“I think that my experiences there were more helpful to my degree,” said Goshert, who is earning a master’s degree in public policy, “because I got to see what public policy in an emergency situation looks like.”

Goshert assisted shelters with logistics in Orlando and Miami, helping analyze data and provide information to get supplies where they were needed. His decision to help others caused him to miss classes and forgo the first part of the fall 2017 semester. It also dashed any chance he had of graduating in the spring.

It’s a decision he doesn’t regret. If anything, it taught him the important role public policy can play.

“Without well-crafted public policy, communities don’t operate in the ways that they should, especially when you put the strain of a massive, category five hurricane barreling down on them,” he said.

Max Goshert

Max Goshert volunteered in Orlando and Miami following Hurricane Irma in September 2017. He helped the Red Cross with logistical needs at shelters set up to help victims.

Goshert benefited from his experience working in the nonprofit sector. After earning a bachelor’s degree in marketing from the University of Arizona in 2012, he participated in Public Allies Arizona, an AmeriCorps program administered through the Lodestar Center for Nonprofit Management and Leadership in the School of Community Resources and Development. Goshert was placed with St. Vincent de Paul in Phoenix and was hired on full time after his 10-month placement. He supervised dozens of volunteers every day and helped raise money and in-kind donations for the nonprofit that serves people in need. Goshert then went to work for the American Red Cross, where he coordinated drowning prevention and life-saving classes in aquatic facilities throughout Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada and Southern California.

When he returned from helping out after Hurricane Irma, Goshert resumed his full-time job at the local Red Cross and his education at ASU.

His hands-on approach to learning included competing in the Cyber 9/12 Student Challenge, a national student competition that challenges students to come up with high-level policy recommendations to immediately respond to a major cyber incident.

The experience sent him to Washington, D.C., where Goshert’s team advanced to the semifinals. Those teammates have turned into lasting friends, including one who was an online student from Tennessee.

Max Goshert and the ASU Cyber 9/12 Challenge team

From right to left: Max Goshert, Zak Ghali, ASU professor Brian Gerber, ASU professor Scott Somers, Salvador Ortega and Becca McCarthy.

Goshert is also on track to earn his Master of Education Policy from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU in the spring of 2020. He plans to eventually work in education policy.

“I think that the only way we can avoid our society heading in a bad direction is by dedicating ourselves to educating the population,” he said. “One’s education should never end.”

He has big goals for improving education at a state level, and eventually at a national level.

“Our country is among the highest spenders of all developed countries in education, yet we have so little to show for it — and a large part of that is due to inequality in education, said Goshert. “What we could do to improve education in our state because it’s so poor as it is, is to focus on inequality on education.

“That can be addressed by, among other things, summer educational programs or year-round schooling,” he said. “Right now, those who can afford that do it and those who can’t fall behind.”

Goshert decided to pursue his graduate degree after leading a statewide effort to recall former Superintendent of Public Instruction Diane Douglas. He felt Arizona’s top education official was not adequately addressing Arizona’s dismal educational performance, instead focusing on what he called trivial issues. Despite mobilizing volunteers statewide, they could not obtain the required 366,128 signatures by the 90-day deadline.

“I was so lucky to have a chance to lead over a thousand people all across the state to talk to their fellow Arizonans about why we need better leaders for our education system,” said Goshert. “My experience with the recall is what drove me to pursue a master’s in public policy at ASU in hopes that I could assist our leaders in building a better future for Arizona’s youth.”

Goshert credits the School of Public Affairs graduate program with providing him a multifaceted approach to public policy and a wide array of policy discussions.

“I have learned so much from each of the classes that I’ve taken that I’ve been able to apply,” Goshert said. “I loved this program because there was so much diversity as far as the information that we were presented.”

Goshert is already putting his degree to work as a senior research associate for the Grand Canyon Institute, a Phoenix-based nonpartisan think tank that provides analysis of fiscal and economic issues from a centrist perspective.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions