Social innovators, doctors: a look at our 2012 outstanding graduates

April 30, 2012

Editor's Note: This is an ongoing feature that looks at individual ASU graduates. Check back for updates, as more profiles will be added throughout the week of graduation.

This spring, 10,000 students are set to graduate. Download Full Image

Some will teach, others will travel and many will innovate – changing the landscape of education, health, government, the economy and the environment. 

Here is a look at the class of 2012.

Class of 2012 graduates

Bedar Fars Aziz: law
Bedar Fars Aziz has focused on government and administration law in the hope of being able to make a difference when he returns to Kurdistan.

Blaine Bandi: legal studies
After working for nearly three decades in health care administration, Blaine Bandi wanted to better comprehend how legislation, regulation and policy shapes health care delivery.

Eric Beeler: sustainability
Sustainability senior Eric Beeler has made real contributions to sustainability practices at ASU. He recently received a Pitchfork Award for Outstanding Sustainable Project.

Arianne Cease: biology
While working as a Peace Corps volunteer in Senegal, Arianne Cease witnessed a locust invasion that devastated the local farmers. Determined to tackle this global dilemma, Cease embarked on a new research path and enrolled in ASU’s School of Life Sciences.

Maisoon Chowdhury: biochemistry
Maisoon Chowdhury first came to ASU on an exploratory track with the help of an Parents Association Scholarship. After stints in global health and global studies majors, Chowdhury finally found her passion for optometry.

Victor Diaz: educational leadership
Victor Diaz didn’t always believe that he would one day walk across the commencement stage and accept his doctorate in educational leadership.

Jacqueline Ginter: parks and recreation management
Jacqueline Ginter, who will earn her bachelor's degree in parks and recreation management this spring, would like to continue working for Arizona State Parks, where she was an intern.

Carrie Grant: English literature and sociology
ASU senior Carrie Grant has created a blog to address, and possibly find solutions for, the digital evolution of one specific group of publications: literary presses.

Tina Hakimi: biomedical engineering
Graduating biomedical engineering major Tina Hakimi made an impact during her years at ASU through her efforts to help others.

Claudia Gonazalez Jimenez: law
Claudia Gonzalez Jimenez will receive the Janet S. Mueller Oral Advocacy Award, given for excellence in oral advocacy and moot court competition, at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law’s convocation.

Eric Lehnhardt: biomedical engineering
Four years ago Eric Lehnhardt came to Arizona State University, where he met the love of his life, discovered his passion and started a new social entrepreneurial venture with a team of students to feed the Valley’s hungry.

Raquel Lopez: applied mathematics
A love of learning, a desire to teach and a mother’s inspiration will culminate in a doctorate in applied mathematics this spring for Raquel Lopez.

Chelsea McIntosh: biochemistry
As she graduates with a doctorate in biochemistry, Chelsea McIntosh says she came to ASU because of the university’s emphasis on photosynthesis and solar energy research.

Ann Morton: fine arts
Ann Morton did not foresee the depth of change coming in her life when she resumed her art education at ASU in 2003. A successful graphic designer for more than 20 years, she felt the need to change her focus.

Julie Nagoshi: social work
Julie Nagoshi has devoted a career to higher education so she can explore why people do the things they do, particularly in regard to gender and acculturation.

Max Scott: sustainability
Sustainability senior Max Scott has a lot to be proud of. As the president and founder of the country’s first Honor Society for Sustainability, he recently won the Outstanding Student Leader award at the Pitchfork Awards for demonstrating excellence in leadership.

John Shea: criminology
The way John Shea sees it, if he can focus on online classes while trying to juggle family and work, then anyone can do it. The 43-year old father was in the middle of the spring 2012 semester when his wife gave birth to their son.

Fonda Walters: education
Fonda Walters has reached the pinnacle of educational attainment at Arizona State University by earning her doctoral degree in education through the Leadership for Changing Times accelerated program for working professionals.

Erica Warkus: conservation biology and ecological sustainability
When Erica Warkus began her undergraduate career at ASU, she had no idea that four years later she would be studying marine biodiversity, on the path toward becoming a doctor.

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Grad meets future wife, starts new venture at ASU

May 1, 2012

Four years ago Eric Lehnhardt came to Arizona State University, where he met the love of his life, discovered his passion and started a new social entrepreneurial venture with a team of students to feed the Valley’s hungry.

His ASU journey started when he joined the Barrett honors community his freshman year, and quickly became fast friends with other students on his floor. Eric Lehnhardt Download Full Image

“We wound up having a very close-knit floor," Lehnhardt says. "We did a secret Santa that first year and still do it.”

One of those original students on his floor is now his fiancee, Loni Amundson. After meeting as friends during their freshman year, the two began dating about a year later and will be married in Flagstaff, Ariz., in August. “We were friends from the beginning,” he says.

Lehnhardt also discovered biomedical engineering at ASU. Choosing this major offered the chance to use his engineering skills to improve health care while working in a challenging field.

Another highlight was the Engineering Projects in Community Service (EPICS) program in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering that proved to be an inspirational endeavor, as it was instrumental in developing the FlashFood concept to feed the Valley’s hungry that earned top Microsoft Imagine Cup national honors.

“EPICs was a really interesting course," Lehnhardt says. "Students problem-solve and tackle things that are not typical engineering problems. The emphasis is on social entrepreneurship.”

That spirit of social entrepreneurship earned Lehnhardt and his ASU team – Jake Irvin, Katelyn Keberle, Steven Hernandez and faculty advisor Richard Filley – a first place finish in the Microsoft Imagine Cup U.S. Finals in the Design Software category for their FlashFood project that focuses on providing food to areas in the Valley that are “food deserts,” or only served by fast food or convenience stores for a mile or more. Some people who live in these food deserts have to choose between dinner and paying for necessities, such as electricity.

“There are a lot of food deserts and food insecurity in Phoenix," Lehnhardt says. "At the same time, there is a lot of perfectly good food that goes to waste here. The main issue is distribution.”

FlashFood uses a system of text messaging, a smartphone app and a website to take food left over from events, such as a convention or catered seminar, and then distribute it as quickly as possible to the hungry in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

Those who have leftover food can use the app or visit the website and then put the information into the network to alert volunteer drivers to pick up food and transport it to a needy neighborhood, where those in need are informed through text messaging that food is available at a specific location.

“We’re currently developing our pilot program,” he says. So far the project has earned $14,000 in prize money, and FlashFood has advanced to the Imagine Cup World Finals, set to take place this July in Sydney, Australia.

Between his time working on FlashFood and studying for classes, Lehnhardt also has contributed to research in Michael Caplan’s lab, where he has focused on translational work, such as working with cells that line the arteries and veins, and examining how the cells change in micro-environments in order to explain disease states such as diabetes. Caplan is an associate professor in the School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, in ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

“I have diabetes on both sides of my family,” Lehnhardt says.

Lehnhardt also enjoyed a stint working with cells in Krystyn VanVliet’s lab at MIT for a summer internship, and he traveled abroad for a semester in Spain during his sophomore year. In Spain he traveled the country and enjoyed the culture that eschews stress.

“I loved the relaxed culture,” he says. “That was one of the best experiences of my undergraduate career.”

After graduation this May, the summer will bring a new challenge when he undertakes an internship for a company that makes materials used in medical devices. After that, he may continue his studies, or he may pursue FlashFood and help solve the Valley’s hunger problem.