ASU conference aims to help youth achieve economic success

May 22, 2015

For many young people, the American Dream seems increasingly out of reach. The Southwest Pathways Conference at Arizona State University will bring together national and regional experts to explore solutions to this massive challenge.

The conference will be held at SkySong, the ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center, on May 28-29. More than 100 prominent speakers from around the nation will be in attendance, as well as teams of leaders from five states: Colorado, Utah, Nevada, New Mexico and Arizona. Southwest Pathways Conference graphic Download Full Image

One issue that will be examined during the conference is the burgeoning population of “opportunity youth,” young adults ages 16 to 25 who aren’t in school or employed. There are more such youth in Phoenix than any other city in America. This is also a big problem elsewhere in the Southwest, including Nevada and New Mexico.

“We’re focusing on the immense challenges that young people face in finding a foothold in the economy,” said Bill Symonds, director of the Global Pathways Institute and professor at ASU. “Our panels will explore ways in which we might create more promising pathways to success in the Southwest.”

The conference is being organized by the Global Pathways Institute, which is based at ASU. The institute was launched to identify and promote promising solutions to the current failure to prepare large numbers of young people for economic success.

Keynote speakers include ASU President Michael Crow; Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey; Jamie Casap, global education evangelist at Google; and Gayatri Agnew, director of career opportunity for the Walmart Foundation.

Afternoon breakout sessions will explore 13 of the most promising solutions and feature dozens of leading experts. Jared Veldheer, star offensive tackle for the Arizona Cardinals, will speak about his remarkable route to the NFL during an evening reception at the East Valley Institute of Technology in nearby Mesa.

An advocacy organization called Opportunity Nation ranks Arizona, New Mexico and Nevada among the bottom five in the United States for providing economic mobility for young people. The leader of Opportunity Nation and many of its partner organizations will discuss solutions they have designed to help promote economic opportunity.

The Southwest Pathways Conference aims to form a research consortium to inform policy and practice in the Southwest. Another major goal of the conference is to mobilize teams of diverse stakeholders to forge strong action plans for improving pathway systems in their states. A key focus will be on underserved minority populations, which have historically lagged in education and economic mobility. 

“ASU is pleased to host a conference that aligns so well with our commitment to access and inclusivity. The diverse student population of ASU truly reflects that of the state, and we consider diversity one of our greatest strengths,” said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

Panchanathan will serve as a panelist in a session on post-secondary pathway initiatives.

Registration is closed for the general public. However, members of the press who wish to cover the event may attend free of charge. Contact William Symonds,, for more information.

Allie Nicodemo

Communications specialist, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development


ASU, Arizona Western partnership provides bachelor's degrees in key needs for Yuma

May 22, 2015

Students at Arizona Western College’s Yuma campus will be able to complete a bachelor’s degree thanks to a new partnership with Arizona State University. The joint program between the two schools will offer degrees in three disciplines.

Students will be able to complete their ASU bachelor’s degrees on-site at one of the community college’s Yuma locations. Majors offered through the partnership were selected to address workforce needs in the greater Yuma area. Download Full Image

For example, ASU’s new bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice and a degree in organizational leadership starting in the fall of 2015 will help fill the need for well-qualified law-enforcement officers as well as prepare leaders for work in for-profit, non-profit and government agencies in the community.

A third degree in secondary education will be added in the fall of 2016, which will help graduate well-qualified candidates to fill a chronic shortage of teachers at the Yuma Union High School District, according to Associate Superintendent James Sheldahl.

“For the past several years, the district has had multiple math and science teaching positions go unfilled – some years as many as 20 (positions) district-wide,” Sheldahl said. The program also provides “a pathway to teaching for many of our talented (high school graduates) who otherwise may not have that opportunity.”

This new partnership, six months in the making, reflects Arizona Western College President Glenn Mayle’s commitment to bringing quality education programs to Yuma and La Paz counties and ASU President Michael Crow’s drive to provide a quality education to every qualified student and to fulfill the university’s responsibility to improve the opportunities in the communities around ASU.

The Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association has already approved ASU offering these degrees in this new location. Students will take their lower-division courses through Arizona Western College, then proceed into upper-division courses through ASU.

ASU is anticipating that the Arizona Board of Regents will approve a reduced level of tuition, whereby a full-time student would pay $5,500 for two semesters of full-time coursework for the 2015-2016 academic year – a significant savings (a savings of as much as $4500) over resident tuition at the ASU campuses in metropolitan Phoenix.

ASU staff visited Yuma on April 27 to recruit students for the new programs. Maria Hesse, ASU vice provost for academic partnerships, has been leading the partnership discussions along with Linda Elliott-Nelson, Arizona Western College (AWC) vice president, and Daniel Barajas, dean of AWC. Hesse, who is a former community college president, explained that the partnership plays to the strengths of both institutions.

“AWC provides high-quality college programs in beautiful facilities, with wonderful faculty,” Hesse said. “Students then finish their work through ASU, graduating with a degree from a top-tier research university, which is highly marketable. By sharing resources, we can offer the degree at a lower cost, something appreciated by parents and community leaders.”

Students and organizations who are interested in the fall 2015 programs can contact Clayton Kidd at for criminology and criminal justice in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and Kim Keck at for organizational leadership in ASU’s College of Letters and Sciences.

Students interested in the fall 2016 secondary education program can contact Laura Grosso from ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at

A partnership kick-off event is scheduled for Oct. 13, in Yuma at which presidents Mayle and Crow will both speak.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts