Graduate explores intersection of sustainability, music on path to dream job


December 11, 2014

Jonathan Gregoire is going places.

At the end of this semester, Gregoire will have earned a doctor of musical arts in music (organ performance) from the ASU School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. But the talented musician has already landed a job as the associate director of music and principal organist at St. Andrew United Methodist Church in Plano, Texas. black and white portrait of ASU grad Jonathan Gregoire in a tuxedo Download Full Image

In a sense, things have come full circle for Gregoire, who says he was first drawn to the organ as a child at church. That youthful fascination with the instrument grew into a lifelong study, which brought Gregoire to Arizona State University to work with Goldman Professor of Organ Kimberly Marshall for his graduate degree.

During his time here, Gregoire says he has had a number of unique opportunities, including performances in Germany and the Netherlands. But some of his most interesting work has been, unexpectedly, in the realm of sustainability.

After taking a class on music and nature with professor Sabine Feisst, Gregoire became interested in the intersection of sustainability and the organ. Subsequently, he began working on a dissertation exploring sustainable practices in organ building.

Gregoire explains that organ pipes often contain lead, a hazardous material, but that little has been done to move away from this model of manufacturing. In his dissertation, Gregoire surveyed current practices in organ construction, while looking at sustainable material alternatives that would not result in a deterioration of sound quality.

In some ways, he says, organ builders have already been using sustainable practices for years in terms of salvaging and reusing materials. “When it comes to organs, there is such a great respect for history and tradition,” says Gregoire.

In his new position at St. Andrew, Gregoire will bring this history and tradition to bear as a performer and musical director.

Gregoire says the School of Music, and Marshall in particular, helped prepare him professionally to navigate the musical workforce. He feels better prepared to connect with musicians and non-musicians alike, which is a huge asset for his long-term goal: to be the dean of a music school.

By all accounts, the ASU School of Music has set him off on the right path to one day fulfill this dream.

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum

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ASU vice provost perseveres despite challenges in educational career


December 11, 2014

Eduardo Pagan grew up in Mesa, Arizona, on the “wrong side of the canal” in an environment where many of his friends entertained visions of sports stardom rather than school, and career aspirations usually consisted of landing a job to cover bills.

Not having any designs on the academic side of life himself, Pagan instead dreamed of playing football for Frank Kush’s team at Sun Devil Stadium as he listened to games on a transistor radio with his father on their home’s front porch. Eduardo Pagan and family Download Full Image

“I never made it,” said Pagan, Arizona State University vice provost and associate professor in the Office of Academic Excellence and Inclusion. “You have to have talent when it comes to sports.”

After his dreams of playing football for ASU were “horribly dashed,” Pagan stayed connected to the university through his mother, who worked as an administrative assistant at the university. Visiting campus was an opportunity for Pagan to wander ASU, a “mystifying place that was like Oz to me.”

Pagan’s mother always emphasized the value of education in her children’s lives, even if Eduardo was in a “stumbling-through-life” stage during his early years. After attending community college, he transferred to ASU, where he decided to major in business with dreams of a Wall Street future.

“I had no aptitude for accounting, so l dropped out of school,” he said. “I really studied hard and just could not do it.”

Marriage and having a child brought a stiff dose of reality to Pagan’s life, as did a word of advice from a co-worker at a local bank who told him that he needed a college degree if he hoped to progress in his career.

That advice drove Pagan once again to ASU, where he discovered a love of history after his adviser noticed a trend in liberal arts elective classes he had taken in the past.

“I realized that I belonged in the liberal arts. I came back to ASU on probation, and history resonated to my core. It fascinated me. I could not get enough of it, and I poured myself into it. I ended up on the Dean’s List,” he said.

Taking a class with associate professor Lynn Stoner in Latin American history inspired an idea to become a university professor. After being accepted to the University of Arizona, he earned his master’s degree in Latin American history.

“I had a huge sense of inferiority that I couldn’t cut it because of my first two years of college. I felt tremendously embarrassed by that,” he said.

Pagan did cut it, and went on to earn his doctorate through the Rockefeller Foundation’s Project 2000 that allowed him to apply to 10 graduate programs. He made it into Princeton University, earned his doctoral degree in U.S. history and landed his first job at Williams College in Massachusetts. However, frigid east-coast winters proved too much of an “alien environment” for a native desert dweller.

But it was there he began working with first-generation students, a practice he continues to this day at ASU, where he eventually returned after a department chair position became available in what was then the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

“I see myself in these students. Many of them are balancing family, and many are returning students,” he said. “When I was a student, I found it empowering to hear the stories of my professors. When you feel like an outsider, it’s good to hear someone telling you to stick with it. If I can do it, they can do it.”

That’s why ASU President Michael Crow’s vision of providing access to academically qualified students and being judged not by who the university excludes but who it includes resonates with Pagan.

“The vision of access is a very personal commitment that I have. It’s beyond thrilling to be working at an institution that also has that commitment and working with a president who believes this,” Pagan said.

Pagan’s firsthand experience of having a chance at higher education reflects his drive to see other non-traditional students succeed, as well as inspires him to instill a love of learning in his own children.

“Education is transformative. It is fundamental and it is one of the most important things that you will do in life. It is an investment in yourself,” he said.

It’s also a reason to work hard for the success of first-generation and non-traditional students, and to continue his own lifelong path in teaching and learning the subject he loves.

“When you find a topic that ignites your curiosity, you want to learn more. That’s what I found in history. I’m deeply committed to helping students who may be from a non-traditional background to find their inspiration in learning and realize they can do it,” he said.