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Navajo student finds success through involvement at ASU


July 31, 2013

Transitioning from living in a small reservation town to a university environment can be difficult for some American Indian students.

Diedra Vasquez (Navajo and Tohono O’odham) grew up in the town of Chinle (population: 4,518) on the Navajo Reservation. She remembers feeling homesick frequently during her first year at ASU, after moving away from family and friends. Diedra Vasquez Download Full Image

“A lot of students struggle with coming from the reservation and small towns,” she said. 

Driving home almost every weekend during her first year helped allay her feelings of homesickness, but she now advises students to become involved in activities instead.

“My advice is just to get out there and get involved, in classes and in university activities like student organizations. That’s the thing that really helped me deal with homesickness, friends here and organizations that I joined,” Vasquez said. “Find out about American Indian Student Support Services and start getting involved. When I came here, I was so quiet. I got to know more people and broke out of my shell.”

Joining Nations (Native Americans Taking Initiative on Success) provided Vasquez an opportunity to be part of an organization that offered academic workshops, motivational speakers and social events where she met many people.

“We were there for each other, kind of like a little family,” she said. After serving on the organization’s executive board, she moved up to vice president, and eventually president of the organization.

Working a part-time job with the American Indian Initiatives office at ASU as a student liaison has provided her with many opportunities, such as being able to participate in the Tribal Nations Tour, where ASU students and employees travel to the far reaches of the state to encourage American Indian students to go to college.

“I tell young people my story and give them advice,” she said. “We’ve gone to all of the tribes in Arizona except for two.”

That includes hiking eight miles down to the Havasupai Indian Reservation in the Grand Canyon as part of the tour to talk to young people there about college.

“We also go to college fairs and talk to families. It’s not just recruiters who are going out, but actual students who share their stories and tell the students, ‘if I can do it, you can do it,’” Vasquez said.

Some families then come to the university to tour campus and learn more about ASU. Vasquez recently spent two hours with an American Indian family, telling them about the university and showing them around.  

Vasquez is planning to return to her community after she graduates from ASU in December with a degree in American Indian Studies from ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She hopes to start a program that encourages younger children to seek higher education.

“I took one American Indian Studies course and thought, ‘I could do something with this back home,’” she said. “My main goal is to go back to my community and work in education by setting up programs to prepare students for college. We didn’t know what college was until probably our junior or senior year when everyone started to talk about it.”

Changes that she would like to see in her community are making college classes more accessible to students on the reservation and enhancing curriculum to reflect more of a college preparatory experience.

An American Indian Studies professional seminar class that she took provided hands-on experience in addressing educational issues in Indian Country. Vasquez’s group focused on designing a college preparatory school, complete with a sketch of the school, policies and discussion of issues, such as working with the community to approve the school.

“We have to think about the issues in real-life situations,” Vasquez said. “I was really excited for the school in the future. That’s the ultimate dream for our group – to set up a preparatory school on our reservation.”

W. P. Carey School, Mayo Clinic team up to offer dual degree


July 31, 2013

Mayo Clinic is known as a nonprofit worldwide leader in medical care, research and education. Now, a select number of students from the Mayo Medical School are participating in a cutting-edge program that allows them to get both their M.D. degree from Mayo Medical School, and an MBA from the highly-ranked W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University.

“This program is helping to educate some of the brightest medical minds of our future in such a way that they will be more aware of the business side of medicine, the patient experience and the costs for us, the taxpayers,” says Amy Hillman, W. P. Carey School dean. student kneeling beside a child Download Full Image

Michele Halyard, vice dean of the Mayo Medical School – Arizona Campus, says, “The collaboration between Mayo Medical School and the W. P. Carey School of Business brings valuable synergies to the education of both future physicians and business leaders. The dual-degree program provides Mayo Clinic physicians in training with complementary competencies in business management, payer systems and accounting practices. This, along with a superb clinical education at Mayo Medical School, will prepare them to be leaders in the complex world of medicine in the 21st century.”

ASU began a strong collaborative relationship with Mayo Clinic in 2002. This particular joint degree program was launched in 2009 and has turned into a highly desirable choice for just a handful of select students from the Mayo Medical School.

Yingying Kumar was one of the first to graduate from the joint M.D./MBA program. She was looking for a way to supplement her strong medical education with a business background to help her stand out in the job market.

“I realized that the business and leadership skills I would learn in the MBA program could help me advance to a higher position in a clinic, or even run my own practice in the future,” says Kumar. “I got a better understanding of roles and how hospitals run. I also got the perspective of non-medical students from my business classmates. I think the MBA will help me keep the patients’ voice in consideration at all times.”

Students who take the dual-degree program spend two years at the Mayo Medical School. Then they spend one or two years in the W. P. Carey School’s MBA program, currently ranked top 30 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. They return to medical school afterward to finish up their studies. The whole experience is facilitated by both schools to be virtually seamless for the Mayo students who qualify.

“I first began considering this program after volunteering in Honduras on a medical service trip and learning that the villagers we helped had little or no access to health care,” says Mayo M.D./W. P. Carey MBA student Jack Jeng. “We visited an empty rural medical clinic abandoned by its staff because it did not have a sustainable business model. That helped me realize that a successful health care organization needs more than a great medical facility, dedicated professionals and good intentions. Proper planning and smart business principles are also required to ensure patients continue to benefit from high-quality care, something I personally experienced at the Mayo Clinic.”

Jeng, who has already completed the MBA portion of the joint program, adds, “I was blown away by the opportunities and support at the W. P. Carey School of Business. They offered me valuable knowledge and experience I hope to use throughout my career. As a future physician with business understanding, I aspire not only to help people directly, but also to make meaningful contributions to improve the lives of countless patients who aren’t actually sitting in front of me.”