Class of 2014: ASU students get ready to graduate
Editor's Note: This is an ongoing feature that is part of our coverage of ASU's spring commencement. Check back for updates, as more student profiles will be added leading up to and throughout the week of graduation.
This spring, more than 12,000 students are set to graduate.
They come from diverse backgrounds and a wide range of disciplines. They are looking to start businesses, change the world, travel to new places and learn new cultures. Some of them are outstanding graduate award winners.
Here's a look at the class of 2014.
“Poetry can be used to reclaim national identity in times of political and social crises,” explains Jake Adler, who will graduate this spring with a bachelor's degree in creative writing, focus in poetry. In April, the Fulbright Program awarded Jake Adler for his research proposal on the influence of the revolutionary Indian poet Rabindranath Tagore. He will be funded to travel and work in Calcutta, India, for nine months.
Raquel Aviles once considered herself a long shot when it came to furthering her higher education, but the 40-year-old mother of three has beaten the odds and next week she’ll experience the big payoff as the School of Letters & Sciences Outstanding Graduate for 2014.
Since coming to ASU, Megan Best has researched many subjects, from chameleon color change to primate dentition. Set on a career in primatology, she is graduating in May with bachelor's degrees in anthropology and biological sciences with a concentration in animal physiology and behavior.
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.
Named an Outstanding Teacher Candidate by ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Lauren Edgar plans to join Teach For America in June after having already produced classroom results that most educators strive for. Edgar's work helped her students achieve 80 percent math proficiency – among the school district's highest scores – in an assessment used to predict the next round of AIMS test outcomes.
Asked what especially interests him about geography, Jason Edmunds hones in on the concept of studying place and time. He found this passion for geography after a life trajectory that led him from high school straight into the workforce, and after some years' success in the high-tech industry, with positions as a project manager, technical editor and consultant.
A native of Tegucigalpa, Honduras and the first in her family to earn a college degree, Alejandra Frost graduated with a 3.98 GPA. She was selected as the outstanding graduate of the School of Community Resources and Development for the Spring 2014 College of Public Programs Convocation.
Creative and musical ASU graduate Devon Johnson is finding a way to combine his passions for film, history and teaching as he joins Teach For America in June. “I’ve always wanted to be a teacher,” says Johnson. “So I’m going to keep film as my passion and do what I want to do, which is teach.”
Channeling her inner urge to create and try different things, Katelyn Keberle decided to major in materials science and engineering. The 21-year-old has focused on exceeding expectations at every opportunity that crosses her path, and so it comes as no surprise that she is this year's outstanding engineering graduate.
Who will suffer most if things go wrong with nuclear power? Dean Kyne answers the question with a first-of-its-kind dissertation on nuclear risks from an environmental justice perspective. Kyne graduates this May with a doctorate in environmental social science from ASU's School of Human Evolution and Social Change.
Father and daughter Karl and Stephanie Lauk graduated together with degrees in electrical engineering from Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Now the two new graduates will join Stephanie’s mother and Karl’s wife of 30 years, Wendy, as ASU alumni.
Alasdair Martin went from slinging French fries to earning the Department of Economics dean's medal. Working as a cook at a local fast-food restaurant, he asked himself, "Do I really want to do this for the rest of my life?" Now, he is graduating from ASU with high honors and plans to become a college economics professor.
Brandy Naleski was inspired to get her master's degree in applied behavior analysis as a result of her experiences with her son who was diagnosed with autism at the age of two. "As any parent would, I immediately delved into researching and trying to learn everything I could about this disorder."
At 7, Andres Neal was selling gum on the street in Mexico to help get food for his family. This month, he’ll graduate from the College of Technology and Innovation, earning a bachelor's degree in engineering with a mechanical systems focus. Already he has had several second job interviews, and executives are impressed with all the hands-on experience he has gotten.
When Amanda Orozco began her studies at ASU in fall 2010, she started out as a biology major intending to concentrate on conservation biology. Four years later, the California native has taken her love of nature down the environmental science route. Orozco is this year's Dean’s Medal recipient for the School of Earth and Space Exploration.
Armed with undergraduate degrees in molecular biosciences and biotechnology, political science, and international studies from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, Nisarg Patel is ready to pursue a doctorate at the Harvard School of Dental Medicine. Patel, who is an entrepreneur, scientist and avid volunteer, is the 2014 Outstanding Graduating Senior.
During his time at ASU, Oscar Patterson-Lomba has earned a reputation as an exemplar of cross-disciplinary scholarship – studying some of today’s most profound health issues using tools pulled from mathematical and computational epidemiology, evolutionary biology, statistics and network theory. His dissertation looks at infectious diseases in the context of urban environments and drug resistance. He has accepted a postdoctoral appointment at the Harvard School of Public Health.
Marlynn Radford-Brown has earned a degree in construction management from ASU despite setbacks and tough times. She hopes to able to earn a law degree while working in construction management. She’s interested in litigation related to the construction and engineering industries, as well as contract law and related aspects of the fields.
Clemente and Maurilio Rico Rodriguez were born five minutes apart in a small town in Mexico. This month, they graduate from The Design School in ASU's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the first members of their family to go beyond elementary school.
Upon graduation, Alexis Roeckner plans to pursue a career in sustainability education. "I chose to major in sustainability because I wanted to receive the tools I needed to change the world – or at least one small corner of it. I wanted to be a part of the solutions."
Arizona Gov. Jan Brewer recently recognized Savannah Sanders, who has dedicated her undergraduate career in social work, o giving sex trafficking victims a voice in the criminal justice process. The recipient of the 2014 Triumph Over Tragedy award, Sanders is about to celebrate another achievement this month when she becomes the first person in her family to graduate with a bachelor's degree.
Carley Tafoya isn’t planning on earning a six-figure salary after earning her law degree. Tafoya will work for change and justice for her people, the Jicarilla Apache Nation. Tafoya has excelled during her years at ASU, most recently by being named the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist in American Indian studies as well as being nominated for the Dean’s Medal in justice studies. She is also this year’s recipient of the Jean Chaudhuri Memorial Scholarship.
Ben Warner is using his research findings to refine current water management policy in the rural, semi-arid region of northwestern Costa Rica. He will receive his doctorate in sustainability this May from ASU's School of Sustainability.
When Mauro Whiteman enrolled at ASU’s Cronkite School in 2010, he suspected it would be an exciting time. He didn’t realize he’d be in for a major adventure. The 22-year-old senior has covered a major election cycle for the Associated Press, visited Nogales, Ariz., and Mexico, to report on complex border issues, witnessed the birth and death of the Occupy Phoenix movement, and helped cast a national spotlight on the plight of post-9/11 veterans.
Throughout Erica Wiedemeir's college career, she's produced videos for ASU Video Production, interned for Showtime in New York City and has interviewed celebrities. After graduation she hopes to work in media in NYC. "I love to hear about people's lives and stories."