Business school grad combines economics, math to create social value

May 5, 2014

Inspired by a sense of duty to the world, David Choi, a senior majoring in economics and supply chain management and mathematics at Arizona State University, is on a mission to tackle hunger and food security issues.

“With the help of structured thinking and decision-making, I hope to develop a skill set that can be useful in helping solve business and social problems,” said Choi. “For example, allocation of government resources to combat hunger can utilize mathematical models to optimize locations of food hubs and banks in food-scarce regions as a short-term solution, and offer incentives to farmers to facilitate better production and distribution of food in the long term.” portrait of David Choi Download Full Image

A Tempe native, David Choi graduated from Corona del Sol High School before applying to colleges, including ASU and several Ivy League universities. He chose ASU for its affordable world-class education, and took the bulk of his classes at ASU's W. P. Carey School of Business and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

At ASU, Choi has maintained exemplary grades in his dual business major with a 4.14 GPA. He has also served as head of the W. P. Carey Business Ambassadors program, which uses a select group of students as community liaisons. In addition, he has visited South Korea on the U.S. Federal Government’s David L. Boren Scholarship and worked as a research assistant in the W. P. Carey School’s Department of Supply Chain Management.

He has also been named a U.S. Presidential Scholar, National Merit Scholar, McCord Scholar and JPMorgan Chase Scholar, as well as an SAT Top Scorer, among other honors and awards. As a profitability intern at Boeing Company, Choi created, developed and implemented ideas for cost-saving improvements in the company’s production and supply chain. He also co-founded Onvard, a startup that focuses on online employee training.

“Before joining ASU, I wasn’t sure of the direction I wanted to take,” he said. “Being here has shaped me into the person I want to be. I’m never going to be a finished product, but am glad to be on the right path.”>

After graduation, the economics and supply chain management student plans to delve deeper into his topic of interest and will be joining a master’s degree program in management in science and engineering at Stanford University in California.

“I have always been intrigued by the way math and science impact decision-making,” he said. “The program will introduce me to the quantitative and qualitative models that can be utilized to become a better manager and decision-maker.”

Choi hopes to pursue management consulting as a career, with a focus on startups. He would eventually like to work on a doctoral degree in economics and become a professor.

“Having volunteered at food banks and witnessed the widespread hunger in low-income families, I would like to conduct research to aid economic development, especially in terms of food security,” he said. “I also want to teach because I’d be helping the next generation. I would have been through everything that my students are going through and help them along the way. I’d consider being able to conduct research on my topics of interest a bonus.”

Choi ultimately hopes to keep adding value to everything around him and improve the lives of others.

“The world’s an amazing place, and we rely on each other for social growth,” he said. “I think there is a sense of connectedness in adding social value to the world.”

Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business, said, “We are very proud of David’s accomplishments thus far and are confident that he’ll achieve his dreams, and in doing so, give back to so many.”

Media projects manager, Office of Knowledge Enterprise Development

Exceptional future teacher joins Teach For America to follow her passion

May 5, 2014

In an age when college students pick a major before ever setting foot on campus, Lauren Edgar took a circuitous route at Arizona State University to discover her passion for teaching.

Named an Outstanding Teacher Candidate by ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, the talented and hard-working 2014 graduate plans to join Teach For America in June after having already produced classroom results that most educators strive for. Lauren Edgar posing in a grade school classroom Download Full Image

“Lauren has a goal-oriented mindset that produces exemplary work,” said Aaron Carman-Smith, ASU’s iTeachAZ site coordinator for Roosevelt and Isaac school districts in Phoenix. “She consistently exceeds expectations, yet is humble and always seeks feedback. Our other iTeachAZ teacher candidates see Lauren as a leader, and they look to her to share her ideas, teaching methodologies and resources.”

One of those ideas was an “AIMS math boot camp” Edgar developed for her fourth-grade students who had scored among the lowest in the school district on their third-grade Arizona's Instrument to Measure Standards (AIMS) math test. Edgar has spent the last year completing her student teaching residency, known as iTeachAZ, at V.H. Lassen Elementary School in the Roosevelt district under mentor teacher Linda Gayles.

“I created a mock AIMS math test for the students, and used that data to see what kind of help each child needed,” Edgar explained. “Then, I spent 15 to 20 hours tailoring the boot camp curriculum to each student and providing the kids with individual study packets.”

Edgar’s time and effort paid off when her students achieved 80-percent math proficiency – among the school district’s highest scores – in an assessment used to predict the next round of AIMS test outcomes.

“I had extremely high expectations for them, and I knew they could do it,” Edgar said. “I always tell my kids, ‘I’m on your team and I’m on your side.’ They know I’m a student, and I talk with them about that. It helps them understand that they don’t have to grow up in a place like Scottsdale to get a college degree. If they work hard enough, they can do it.”

Edgar knows from experience about hard work, having been employed full-time at The Westin Phoenix Downtown hotel while student-teaching nearly 40 hours a week and completing her ASU education classes. She said she has worked as many as three jobs at once while pursuing her college degree: “It’s been a huge learning experience that has tested my perseverance.”

Growing up in Portland, Ore., Edgar credits her single mother, who had no opportunity for a college education, with instilling in her daughter the drive to succeed.

“From the beginning, I had a very strong woman in my life who was relentless,” she said. “My determination to do the best that I can comes from her. As a first-generation college student, it was never a question of 'if' I would go to college, just 'how' I would make it happen.”

Edgar decided to leave the Northwest and come to ASU as a way to mature and expand her horizons. That she did, exploring a variety of majors – from nursing and retailing, with a minor in Italian, to public administration and pre-law – before finally discovering education.

“When I got into my education classes, I knew I was home,” she said.

Edgar explained that her academic journey at ASU taught her a lot about her own learning style, and that has inspired her approach to teaching. She said she found out that she learns best when instruction is very visual, auditory, hands-on and kinesthetic. Consequently, she is determined as a teacher to connect with individual students based on how they learn.

To help her fourth-graders visualize cellular structure, for example, Edgar bought jello molds and had the youngsters build their own cells using jello, green M&M’s, raisins and Whoppers. She also used her own resources to purchase batteries, wire and light bulbs so her students could build simple electronic circuits in order to understand how they work.

“Being able to see the lights work, to physically see that, was so critical,” Edgar said. “I just gave them the materials and let them experiment. I kept asking, ‘What’s happening here?’ It took their unit vocabulary words off the page and connected them to something they did.”

After graduation, Edgar has committed to becoming a Teach For America corps member for at least two years, assigned to Dallas, Texas. According to the TFA website, 90 percent of the student population in the Dallas Independent School District receives free or reduced lunch, and only 14 percent are prepared for college. According to Edgar, it’s a perfect fit.

“For me, I have grown passionate about working in Title I schools, surrounded by communities with strong cultures,” Edgar said. “I share the same core values as Teach For America, both in what I want to achieve and what I want to provide for my students.

“I want to see what I can learn from the students, parents and community that will help me develop as a teacher. I don’t feel I’m done learning.”

See the full list of ASU graduates who are becoming Teach for America corp members.