Internship sparks career goal for New College student

June 7, 2010

Jessica Garcia sees the light at the end of the tunnel.  Rather than a freight train, it is a career-path opportunity she credits to her recent internship experience in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

A junior majoring in psychology at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Garcia has turned what she calls a “test drive” into a fulltime position serving the Attorney General’s unit chief in the Crime, Fraud & Victim Resource Center, and now has her sights set on a future she hopes will include a Ph.D. in forensic psychology and possibly a Juris Doctorate. Download Full Image

At Agua Fria High School in nearby Avondale where she graduated in 2004, Garcia was an honor roll student who excelled in theater and music.  She fully expected to further polish her musical talents after high school.

“When I was in high school, you could not have convinced me of being anything other than a music education major and joining the Sun Devil Marching Band,” she says, in reference to the ASU 350-plus member ensemble.  “Music was a huge saving grace in my life and I wanted to be able to share that with others.  I wanted to help children with music the way it helped me.

“Music was my whole life; I didn’t have a ‘Plan B.’”

After enrolling at Estrella Mountain Community College, Garcia first experienced a taste of life outside music, taking an abnormal psychology course.  However, she says she was still unsure of what her undergraduate degree might look like one day.  After receiving four different A.A. degrees, including an ATP (Associate in Transfer Partnership) with the New College psychology degree program, she turned her attention toward ASU’s West campus where Associate Professor Dawn McQuiston’s Legal Psychology Lab piqued her curiosity.

“I decided after graduating from Estrella Mountain that psychology was the place for me and the West campus was the best opportunity,” says Garcia, who is also a student in ASU’s Barrett, the Honors College.  “I looked up possible research opportunities and noticed Dr. McQuiston’s lab.  I knew I wanted to be a part of that lab and that it would be a good academic and future career choice.”

Once enrolled at the West campus, Garcia took “Psychology & Law” and “Correctional Functions” classes in addition to supervised research.  Then came the internship opportunity.

“I wanted to get as much experience as I could in law and psychology,” she says.  “I had already done a bit of research and presented it at a conference, so now I wanted to check out the law and forensic side of my degree choice.”
Elaine Jordan, a New College political science professor and director of the college internship program, worked with Garcia to target the Attorney General’s Office.

“Jessica has developed a real passion for forensic psychology and the logical next step was to get her the real-world, hands-on experience that is featured in any of our internships,” says Jordan.  “The AG’s Office was an ideal setting for Jessica; she took the ball and ran with it, which is the objective of an internship – giving a student the opportunity to prove him or herself in the professional workplace, while also giving them a taste of the real deal.”

Garcia indeed ran with it and was recently recognized for her “exemplary service” during the annual office Volunteer Appreciation Day awards ceremony.  Initially assigned to input data and answer and redirect phone calls, she quickly advanced to working with educational specialists in the Crime, Fraud & Victim Resource Center.  Additionally, at times she was called to assist in Attorney General Terry Goddard’s executive office and often stood in as a photographer at the Attorney General’s press conferences and community appearances.  Along the way, she grew a deep appreciation for the Attorney General’s Office.

“I never realized what a great resource the Attorney General’s Office is,” says Garcia, who will be working full-time with Unit Chief Thomas Reade, hiring office interns, helping schedule and coordinate events for the unit’s education specialists and assist with community outreach efforts.  “I knew the office was staffed with lawyers who served state officials; I just never realized how much they do for the community every day.  When I talk to constituents and try to help them solve their issues because they have been scammed or defrauded, had their identity stolen, or someone needs help getting their aged parents medical care, I think about what these people would do if we weren’t here providing answers and assistance.”

Reade, whose Crime, Fraud & Victim Resource Center represents the statewide crime prevention and education initiative, says Garcia’s grace under fire was evidence of her ability to take on real-world assignments.

“The first test I usually put my interns through is a trial by fire on the open phone lines,” he says.  “You will get people who are angry, crying, screaming, sobbing, cynical and any other emotion you can imagine.  Jessica was able to calmly handle each caller’s particular personality and find the answer for them.

“Enthusiasm is a definite quality she brought, as most new employees bring to a new job.  The most unique quality though is resourcefulness.  We are a state office, so the most logical answer to a problem is not always available; the ability to work with what we have is the key to the job, and Jessica has been able to do just that.”
Garcia is quick to espouse the value of an internship.

“I think you can learn a lot from a book, but you learn more from first-hand experience,” says Garcia, who hopes to land a prestigious Washington Center internship next spring after she receives her B.S. in psychology.  “The internship was a great way for me to get my feet in the door, and it really helped me to develop a sense of what I wanted.  It gave me a new perspective.

“I didn’t know what I wanted out of a degree or a career until I took the internship with the AG’s Office; without it I would have never come to have so many wonderful political and professional connections.”

She goes as far as to call an internship the ultimate proving ground.

“An internship is the icing on the great cake of your achievements.  You may have that 4.0 GPA, tons of community service and a near-perfect GRE, but nothing better prepares you for the world than actually living and working in it.

“It is like test driving your future.  Why wouldn’t you want to be given that chance?”

Steve Des Georges

director strategic marketing and communication, Enterprise Marketing Hub


Students will put 'chem-car' to national test

June 7, 2010

A team of ASU students will showcase their technological skills in a national competition organized by the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, one of the world’s leading professional engineering organizations.

They’ll take part in the National Chem-E-Car Competition during the institute’s annual student conference in Salt Lake City, Utah, Nov. 6 and 7. Download Full Image

The team earned its way to the national competition by finishing in third place overall this spring in the institute’s Rocky Mountain Region Chem-E-Car Competition at the University of New Mexico.

The contest requires teams to design and construct chemically powered shoebox-sized vehicles that produce a chemical reaction to start and stop the vehicles. Teams are told only hours before the start of competition about the distance their cars must travel and the amount of cargo that each vehicle will carry.

Representing ASU will be chemical engineering undergraduates Jacob Lenzi, Luis Moya, Tara Smith, Kyle Foster, Alison Davis, Brian Anderson, Andrew Chelsy, Mike Rosauri, and mechanical engineering undergraduate Mark Garrison.

At the regional event, they took first place for most creative vehicle design and first place in the project poster presentation part of the competition.

Engineering assistant professor Bryan Vogt, faculty adviser to the ASU student chapter of the American Institute of Chemical Engineers, explains that the team’s performance is an exceptional accomplishment.

Many successful teams work from previous models as a starting point for car design, Vogt says. The ASU team didn’t have a previously designed car from which to start, so “the car that qualified for nationals was built fully from scratch,” he says.

“Qualifying for the National Chem-E-Car Competition is very exciting for the entire team,” says second-year competitor Smith. “Our success in the regional competition validated the tremendous amount of hard work we put in over the spring semester. The car consumed about eight hours a week of my life for the entire school year, so it feels really good that it has performed so well,” says Smith.

The team hand built the car in a mechanical engineering machine shop, with assistance from Fred Pena, a research lab manager in the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, a part of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Students learned to advanced equipment and about designing problem-solving methods. They constructed three “chem-cars” before they were satisfied they had a vehicle ready for competition.

“It’s been a lot of work, but the hands- on experience has been priceless,” says Smith. “It really seals in our memories what we have been learning in class, and gives us a creative outlet.”  

The team’s vehicle runs through the use of thermal junctions that produce electricity by creating a heat transfer through the junctions. The team created a 110 Celsius temperature difference by using dry ice in an ethanol bath on one side, and the dissociation of sulfuric acid in water on the other.

“The Chem-E-Car’s success is proof of the value of the education I received in engineering at ASU. I’ve learned a lot by building the car,” Smith says.

“These types of projects provide important opportunities for hands-on experiences outside the classroom,” says Kyle Squires, director of the School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy. “That this team has done so well without starting from a previously designed vehicle speaks highly of their hard work and dedication. We’re looking forward to seeing them compete in the finals.”

The team received support from the USG Corp., the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and several local companies, including Schlumberger, Abbie Gregg Inc., Air Products and Salt River Project.

Written by Jessica Graham

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering