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ASU's New College helps students make connections

March 25, 2014

Adrian Escobedo spent part of his childhood in Texas; Lisa Tsosie lived in Oregon as a teenager. They both found their way to a college and a campus of Arizona State University that create an ideal atmosphere for students to connect with professors, their fellow students and their passions.

The college is ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the core college on the university’s West campus in northwest Phoenix. Escobedo is a New College freshman majoring in psychology with a minor in communication. Tsosie is a senior planning to graduate in December with a degree in applied computing and a writing certificate. New College enables both students to pursue their wide-ranging academic interests while experiencing personal growth through activities outside the classroom. Adrian Escobedo & Lisa Tsosie Download Full Image

“What I like the most about being a student here is the interaction with peers of different backgrounds, the extracurricular activities West provides, and the professors,” said Escobedo, who played soccer in high school and who aspires to a career as a clinical sports psychologist.

Escobedo serves as a New College volunteer and a Young Life volunteer leader at the West campus. “Being a New College volunteer has got me connected with mostly everyone in New College and in some parts of other colleges on campus as well,” he said. “I'm learning that it is truly valuable to have connections with various people, because they can help you in situations that you don't have control over, when they do. Being a Young Life volunteer leader has helped me make even more connections with other people and build relationships with them.”

Tsosie, meanwhile, has worked since she was a sophomore on computing-related projects with Yasin Silva, a New College assistant professor who earned his PhD in computer science from Purdue University.

“Yasin is a wonderful – and typical – example of New College faculty members,” said Marlene Tromp, the college’s dean. “Most small colleges simply don’t have the exceptional faculty records that we have at New College. We bring together the best of a small-college experience, with its close personal relationships, and a top-tier research university, with its cutting-edge research faculty. And our professors share a genuine interest in working closely with students, helping them develop the critical thinking skills that are so important for career success.”

One of Tsosie’s projects with Silva is an effort to develop “BullyBlocker,” an application that aims to prevent cases of adolescents being cyberbullied on Facebook by extracting information from a youngster’s Facebook data and alerting parents to potential issues.

Silva encouraged Tsosie to apply for a Google Women of Color Scholarship to attend the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing, last October in Minneapolis. Tsosie was selected for a scholarship from hundreds of applicants. At the conference she made a poster presentation about the BullyBlocker project.

Attending the conference was an eye-opening experience. “I never knew that there was so many women seeking, pursuing, and succeeding in technical fields,” Tsosie said. “Meeting powerful, intelligent and competent women really reminded me that just because I may be inexperienced, it doesn't mean I'll always be any less qualified.”

One of New College’s advantages for both faculty and students is its wide variety of lab facilities – and not just science and computing labs. There is the sound and video lab, computer gaming lab, law and cognition lab, and CALL (Communication Assessment and Learning Lab), along with scientific facilities like the black widow spider lab and state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, among others.

These resources enable students to work with faculty on cutting-edge research, often receiving financial support from New College. The NCUIRE (New College Undergraduate Inquiry and Research Experiences) program pays stipends to students who successfully submit proposals to conduct research with faculty guidance.

Tsosie attests to the approachability of New College professors. “I like how the classes, even the ones that are relatively large for the West campus, are still small enough for me to feel comfortable asking questions, or approaching the professor for clarification after the class,” she said. “I think my success as a student is due in part to the fact that professors take time to know their students as individuals.”

Along with small class sizes, the West campus boasts a range of modern amenities including a new fitness center, dorm and dining facility. Fletcher Library, which opened in 1988, is the original building on campus. It combines the service and values of a traditional library with a state-of-the-art approach to the Information Age (and also features a Starbucks just inside its entrance).

Students at the West campus can make use of a shuttle service to travel to other ASU campuses in metro Phoenix. Buses carry students to home football games at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Fans of lacrosse can watch the Sun Devil men’s lacrosse team play its home games on the West campus.

And for students from 14 Western states, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) provides an opportunity to pursue most New College bachelor’s degrees and pay significantly less than the full price of nonresident tuition.

At the end of the day, it’s the simple things that make New College and the West campus a special place for students. “Most of all, I like the community of the campus,” Tsosie said. “I can walk to Starbucks and see several familiar faces.”

A listing of New College’s degree programs may be found at

ASU undergrads find success in entering medical school

March 26, 2014

More than 375 Arizona State University students have been accepted to medical schools over the past five years, many at the top schools in the nation. Sun Devils currently are cracking med school texts at Yale, Dartmouth, Columbia, Harvard, Stanford, Northwestern, Mayo and University of Chicago, to name a few.

ASU’s Health Professions Advising Office is a busy place, with about two dozen students visiting each day to find out what careers are available, what courses to take and what the requirements are for different professional schools. The office also advises students who are aiming for law school. med student simulating giving oxygent to mannequin Download Full Image

“Students are often surprised that we have such an active pre-professional advising program,” says Philip Scharf, senior academic director of the office. “I often talk to high school students who wonder why we don’t have a pre-med major. They don’t realize that medical schools aren’t interested in your undergraduate major. Schools look at your GPA, especially your science GPA, and your MCAT score.”

ASU has more than 20 pre-med science majors

ASU has more than 20 science majors that are considered pre-med, though many students are in engineering, business or psychology. Recently, several dance students and a piano major were accepted to medical school. English majors with a science background do particularly well on the MCAT, according to Scharf.

The ASU undergraduate curriculum provides an excellent grounding for medical school, Scharf says. ASU’s School of Life Sciences was recently ranked in the top 25 of all research institutions in the world by a leading higher education and careers research company based in the United Kingdom.

By sophomore year, students come to the pre-health office to sign up for field internships, and Scharf also encourages them to pursue research opportunities in their departments. By junior year, many take workshops on writing personal statements and applications. They keep track of the dates for the MCAT (medical school) and DAT (dental school) exams, and many will participate in mock interviews.

New BS in medical studies offered this fall

For the first time this fall, ASU will offer a bachelor's in medical studies through the College of Health Solutions, opening yet another pathway for students interested in health careers. The program will be rigorous and interdisciplinary, focusing on health promotion and exploring new delivery models.

Responding to planned changes in the MCAT as well as the evolving field of health care, the program will provide students a well-rounded foundation in social sciences, humanities, interprofessionalism and leadership, in addition to the medical science prerequisites necessary for graduate programs in medicine and health care.

“With health care reform, providers need to understand health policy and economics, and they should be better prepared to talk to their patients about issues of health promotion,” says Keith Lindor, dean of the College of Health Solutions. “This is a degree that will prepare people for health care delivery, how to better influence the health of a population before they become ill.

“Lifestyle choices having to do with food, exercise and stress are major determinants of the health of a population. Students coming into the health profession must understand their broader role. There’s so much to learn, why not take advantage of the undergraduate years to gain a background in these issues, rather than trying to force everything into three or four years of medical school?”

Core coursework will have medical focus

Some of the core coursework will be recast with a medical focus, Lindor says. An English class may focus on the literature of medicine, for instance, and a science class may be biostatistics. Other courses will include applied medical and health care ethics, global health and the cultural aspects of health.

“We hope this will be an attractive alternative for students not only from Arizona, but from other states, who want this kind of a program. Some medical schools will value this diversity of experience, and see it as a model of efficiency.”

Another advantage to the program is that it will give students the background to enter a number of different health-related careers, Lindor says. The vast majority of students interested in health don’t apply to medical school, and less than 50 percent of those who apply will be accepted. New occupations are constantly being formed, and as health care reform proceeds, new roles will be created.

ASU pre-med students have advantages over other schools

ASU students aiming for medical careers have enormous advantages over other schools in that there are so many opportunities at the university and in the Phoenix area for undergraduate research and clinical work, according to both Scharf and Lindor.

“We have formalized internship programs with Scottsdale Healthcare, Banner Good Samaritan, Maricopa Integrated Health Systems and Mayo Clinic,” says Scharf, “and students are good at finding work experience to gain credit. And while there are incredible research opportunities on campus, students also do research at the Translational Genomics Research Institute and at Barrow Neurological Institute.”

ASU has built a close relationship with Mayo Clinic, with Mayo medical students coming to campus to pursue dual degrees, and ASU pre-med students participating in activities on the Mayo Clinic campuses.

Selected ASU pre-med students from Barrett, the Honors College can apply to participate in Mayo Medical Scholars, a multi-year program in which they shadow physicians and have lectures and hands-on learning experiences at the Mayo Clinic campus in Phoenix. Another program, the Mayo Physicians of Tomorrow, provides an opportunity for selected students from Barrett to spend two weeks during the summer at an experiential learning program at Mayo Medical School in Rochester, Minn.

For more information on health-related majors at ASU, go to