First Dean's medalists honored in liberal arts and sciences

April 4, 2012

Honoring academic achievement, Dean’s Medals will adorn 18 of the 4,000 ASU seniors graduating with degrees in natural sciences, humanities and social sciences this spring. The medal was created by Robert E. Page, Jr., dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, to recognize the top graduating student in each of the degree-granting schools and departments in the college.

This is the first year this highly competitive award will be given. 2012 Dean's Medal Download Full Image

Those honored are ASU seniors Michael Kenney, Mirna Hodzic, Christopher Swift, Deanna Stover, Christopher Jelen, Bryan Rock, Gina Mazza, Stevie Louise Dunn, Sean Cohmer, My Huynh, Amanda Willman, Latanya Hatahli, Chelsea Patchen, Briana Tyson, Cindy Quintero, Sebastian Paz, Catherine Loden and Alexandra Tsontakis.

“I congratulate each of these students for their academic success and their drive to embrace the many opportunities that a liberal arts and sciences college offers,” says Dean Page, who is also the ASU vice provost and a Foundation Professor in the School of Life Sciences. “These are exceptional pioneers, with vision to translate the skills they’ve sought out at ASU into tools to change the world.”

The medalists come from a diversity of backgrounds. Some students, like Loden, grew up in small towns. Originally from White Oaks, Texas, with a population of 5,600, Loden double-majored in sociology and psychology at ASU. She was also a member of First Team PAC-10 All-Academic Women’s Cross Country and has pursued work with refugees from Nepal. Other medal winners arose from immigrant roots, such as Alexandra Tsontakis.

Tsontakis will leave ASU with three bachelor’s degrees in global studies, political science and economics. She is bound for medical school and “motivated to improve the lives of people,” notes Patrick Kenney, incoming dean of social sciences in the college.

Three medal winners, Kenny, Hodzic and Swift, will also receive the ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award, in natural sciences, social sciences, and humanities.

Outstanding social science graduate Hodzic will complete a degree in global health and two minors: one in speech and hearing science and the other in sustainability. She is a member of ASU’s Barrett Honors College and served as a peer mentor with the President Barack Obama Scholars Program. She was chosen as a Dean’s Medalist for her academic excellence, her extensive undergraduate research activities in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and her service with the ASU Global Health Student Association, where she served as co-president. Hodzic came to ASU from North Canyon High School, was awarded an ASU Presidential Merit Scholarship, and will pursue her interests in public health in a graduate program in the fall. 
Swift, the outstanding humanities graduate, will receive three degrees: history, economics and political science. A senior in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Swift came to ASU from Gresham, Oregon. He is a member of the Barrett Honors College, an ASU Gammage Scholar, a J.P. Morgan Chase Scholar and also a recipient of an ASU National Merit Scholarship. Swift has been accepted to Stanford Law School as a candidate for Juris Doctor.

The third double-awardee, Kenney, graduates with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and is the outstanding natural sciences graduate. Also a member of Barrett Honors College, he received a highly coveted Goldwater Scholarship in 2011 for his undergraduate research with Devens Gust, a Foundation Professor in ASU’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. In addition, Kenney served as a peer mentor with the Obama Scholars program.

“Doing well in traditional academic course work does not always correlate with being a creative, productive experimental scientist, and many students can excel in one of these areas but not the other. Michael Kenney is one of those few individuals who has great talent in both,” says Gust, who is also the director of ASU’s Center for Bio-Inspired Solar Fuel Production. “Michael’s research is directed towards finding new ways to harvest solar energy in order to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. In the laboratory, he can solve problems creatively, he works hard, and he has developed a wide variety of skills in both organic synthesis and the use of different kinds of instrumentation. Michael will be attending graduate school in chemistry next fall, and has the tools and ability to make major contributions to the discipline, and to society.”

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


New degree targets students aiming to educate community members

April 4, 2012

University students who aren’t looking to become certified teachers, but who do aspire to fill leadership roles in educational settings with children and adults, have a new bachelor’s degree option. The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU is now offering a B.A.E. degree in educational studies, which provides a strong general foundation in education through research and discussion of current issues and best practices in education, educational psychology, and child development.

Students may pursue the new educational studies degree on all four ASU campuses in metropolitan Phoenix: Tempe, West, Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix. Holland Crook playing soccer Download Full Image

“The motto for this program is ‘the community is your classroom,’” said Martha Cocchiarella, assistant division director for teacher preparation in Teachers College. “During four semesters of their studies, educational studies students will be placed in community settings working with children, youth and adults in a service learning internship. Their community placements will be aligned to their areas of interest and the population or populations they want to serve.”

The degree may lead to career opportunities in settings such as non-profit leadership, workforce development and training, community education and entrepreneurialism, or provide a path to professional work with museums, zoos or athletic organizations. Students will be able to choose an area of focus such as environmental science, special education, technology and more. Courses have been developed to specifically address the topics of environmental science and technology.

Students majoring in educational studies may choose to pursue post-graduate work in a variety of fields, leading to careers as guidance counselors and media specialists, among many others. Students may even use the degree as a route to a master’s degree in education and teacher certification. That’s the case for ASU student-athlete Holland Crook, whose goal is to become certified as a special education teacher.

Because it would have been challenging for Crook to juggle an undergraduate student teaching experience in special education with her schedule of practices and games as a varsity soccer player, she will pursue her educational studies degree along with a minor in English literature. She then plans to continue her studies with Teachers College, enrolling in the MAC (Master’s and Arizona Certification) program in special education. The MAC program enables students to obtain Arizona teacher certification as well as a master’s degree.

“Earning a master’s was already a goal of mine,” Crook said. “The ability to pursue the educational studies degree as an undergraduate will move me toward my career goals while also enabling me to make the most of my soccer experience at ASU.”

The educational studies degree teaches critical skills such as the ability to evaluate the impact of educational programs on diverse populations, apply principles of learner motivation in evaluating learning environments, and make effective decisions based on a sound understanding of legal and ethical issues in education. All students will graduate from the program with extensive experience in integrating technology into an educational environment.

“Educational studies is a great degree option for students looking to pursue a career path enabling them to plan and implement ideas that will have a positive impact on the community,” Cocchiarella said.

For more information, contact or (602) 543-6358, or visit