Herberger Academy student heads to National Spelling Bee

May 15, 2012

Sumaita Mulk won’t just be sightseeing when she travels to Washington, D.C., later this month. She’ll be calling on her sprachgefühl (speller’s intuition – and, yes, she knows how to spell it) when she competes in the Scripps National Spelling Bee, May 29-31.

Mulk, 12, is a student at the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy, an initiative of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She qualified for the national competition by winning the Arizona Educational Foundation’s statewide spelling bee and will be one of 278 spellers competing for the national crown, which carries a $30,000 cash award and other prizes. Sumaita Mulk Download Full Image

While she confesses to a certain amount of nervousness, Mulk says she’s excited about the prospect of competing.

“The thought of all that money gets me motivated," she says. "But I think my parents are actually even more excited than I am.”

Mulk, a Goodyear resident, says the cliché about hard work paying off is true regarding her spelling success.

“I think I’ve always been a relatively good speller, but most of my spelling ‘talent’ comes from studying for at least an hour every day. I do have some natural speller’s intuition, but it’s been honed quite a bit from studying.”

The Herberger Academy, located on ASU’s West campus, is completing its inaugural academic year and has attracted gifted students from across metropolitan Phoenix. The academy is Arizona’s first university-based school specifically designed to meet the unique educational, social and emotional needs of gifted young adolescents.

“Our curriculum breaks down barriers between subject areas to make learning more meaningful for students,” says Kimberly Lansdowne, executive director of the Herberger Academy. “We also have more flexibility than a traditional school in terms of enabling students to spend additional time pursuing specific interests they are passionate about.”

“I like how the teachers provide plenty of time to work on homework and spelling," Mulk says. "This helps me a lot because every bit of studying helps. Attending the Herberger Academy has helped my spelling prowess.”

That prowess led Mulk to win the Arizona competition by successfully spelling “oubliette,” a word of French origin that means a dungeon with an opening only at the top. She has a variety of tools up her sleeve to spell whatever word may come her way during the competition.

“It depends on the word,” she explains. “Sometimes I KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid), other times I use my knowledge of stem and the word’s language of origin, and still other times I just guess and rely on my sprachgefühl.”

Mulk’s bottom-line advice for others who want to follow in her footsteps: “Study, study, study.”

Applications are now being accepted for gifted students interested in joining the Gary K. Herberger Young Scholars Academy when the next cohort begins its studies in August. More information is available at http://herbergeracademy.asu.edu/.

Journalism graduate wins Fulbright Award

May 15, 2012

A recent graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication has received a Fulbright award. Dustin Volz was awarded a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to Indonesia through the Fulbright U.S. Student Program.

Volz is among more than 20 ASU graduates who won the prestigious grants this year. For the past three years, ASU has ranked in the top 10 universities nationally in the number of students accepted to the Fulbright Program. Download Full Image

The program, sponsored by the U.S. Department of State, is the largest U.S. international exchange program, sending U.S. students, teachers, professionals and scholars to study, teach, lecture and conduct research in more than 155 countries. The Fulbright U.S. Student Program offers fellowships for U.S. graduating college seniors, graduate students, young professionals and artists to study, conduct research or be an English teaching assistant abroad for one academic year.

Volz is the fourth Cronkite student in six years to win a Fulbright. Last year, Lauren Gambino received the Alistair Cooke Award in Journalism to the United Kingdom. In 2007, Ian Lee, now a Middle East correspondent and frequent CNN contributor, won a Fulbright award to study in Egypt; that same year, Emily Falkner won a Fulbright English Teaching Assistantship to the Slovak Republic.

In addition, professor Steve Doig, the school’s Knight Chair in Journalism, served as a Fulbright Distinguished Chair in Portugal during the fall 2010 semester.

Volz, 22, of Media, Pa., earned bachelor’s degrees in journalism and history, and a master’s degree in mass communication from ASU. He was honored at the school’s graduation ceremonies as the ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate.

He will spend nine months in Indonesia teaching English and studying the country’s evolving journalism industry.

"I am extremely honored to be traveling to Indonesia with a Fulbright award,” Volz said. “This award will allow me to combine my passions for journalism and teaching in a new and challenging environment.

"Indonesia has possessed a free press only since 1998, making the country's budding journalism industry, by U.S. standards, young and rapidly evolving,” he added. “I plan to spend time outside the classroom interviewing journalists, scholars and civilians to better understand the role journalism plays in shaping public opinion, particularly as it relates to perceptions of other countries and the Western world.”

As a freshman at the Cronkite School, Volz co-founded Downtown Devil, a student-run online news startup that has grown into an award-winning publication with more than 50 staffers. He also interned for the Arizona Capitol Times and the Arizona Republic, and was a graduate research assistant at the Center for the Future of Arizona. He reported on politics and immigration for Cronkite News Service in Washington, D.C., and also investigated the safety of the nation's food supply as a Carnegie-Knight News21 Fellow.  

He was honored with three Hearst Journalism Awards this year for feature writing, breaking news reporting and opinion writing, and shared in two Society of Professional Journalists’ team awards at the regional and national levels. He also contributed to a depth reporting project on immigration and border issues in the Dominican Republic that won this year’s prestigious Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award.

After his Fulbright year, Volz plans to return to the United States to participate in Teach for America, a national corps of recent college graduates who commit to teach in under-resourced urban and rural public schools for two years.

Reporter , ASU Now