Sun Devils score impressive number of Academic All-Americans


October 16, 2014

For Sun Devil Athletics, the most visible measure of success typically comes from the scoreboard. But behind the scenes, when it comes to academics, ASU’s athletes are putting up some very impressive numbers as well.

Since 2000, ASU has produced 70 Academic All-Americans – a number surpassed by just six schools in the country. In the Pac-12 alone, only Stanford, with 86 Academic All-Americans, has produced more. In the more than 60 years that Academic All-American awards have been given out, ASU has the 16th-most in the nation and ranks third in the Pac-12, behind Stanford and UCLA. Arizona State softball player hitting the ball Download Full Image

Academic All-Americans are selected from a national pool of scholar athletes by the College Sports Information Directors of America. An athlete must have at least a 3.2 grade point average, depending on the sport, and be a significant on-field contributor to the team.

Jean Boyd, a defensive back for the Sun Devils in the early 1990s, is now the senior associate athletic director for ASU’s Student Athlete Development. He points to the many changes in the university as a whole that have impacted the academic success of ASU’s student-athletes.

“Look at what has happened at ASU in the last 15 years,” says Boyd. “We’ve seen Dr. Crow’s arrival as president, ASU’s rapid ascent as a highly regarded academic institution, the continued evolution of Barrett, the Honors College, and the effort to increase the number of merit scholars. It all really ties in together.”

Boyd says the change in campus atmosphere has helped open up recruiting circles so that some of the highest achieving athletes in all sports are considering Arizona State University in greater numbers. Barrett is a key draw for many of the athletes, with nearly 40 Sun Devil student-athletes enrolled in the honors program.

“Our coaches, especially the ones who have been here for a longer period of time, would say we are able to get in the conversation with a different profile of athlete than we were 20 years ago,” Boyd says. “The status of ASU has moved from ‘good school with a social life’ to ‘great academic institution.’”

Kevin McGraw, a faculty member in the School of Life Sciences, serves as chairman of the Sun Devil Athletics Board, a group of faculty members and key university administrators focused on keeping strong connections between academics and faculty and Sun Devil Athletics. In his four years with the board, he has seen firsthand efforts to help students reach athletic and academic success.

“I’ve been most impressed with how ASU personalizes the student-athlete support and enhances their academic experience in a diversity of majors,” McGraw says. “Recruiting academically strong kids is a priority, and once they arrive on campus they're off and running."

Across the board, ASU’s academic numbers are continuing to rise according to Boyd. This past spring, he says Sun Devil Athletics saw the highest overall GPA for its students for a single semester – a 3.05 for 525 students in the program. The school also hit record marks for the Academic Progress Rate, a measurement by the NCAA showing the progress of every athlete in the program toward graduation.

Boyd says his bottom line in all of the academic support efforts is simple: to help the students succeed in all that they do.

“Our goal is that every individual student-athlete would maximize their human potential as they compete for championships,” he says. “We want to help them become a champion for life.”

For a complete list of ASU Academic All-Americans visit: http://www.thesundevils.com/ViewArticle.dbml?&DB_OEM_ID=30300&ATCLID=208257057.

Gary Campbell

Media Relations and Marketing Manager , Fulton Schools of Engineering

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Degrees from ASU's New College lead to some of this year's 'best jobs'


October 16, 2014

“Another day, another reason to get better at math.”

So begins a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting on a ranking of most desirable careers – based on environment, income, growth potential and stress level. ASU New College graduates walking to commencement Download Full Image

Compiled by CareerCast.com, a job search website, the ranking lists mathematician, statistician and actuary as three of the four “best jobs of 2014.” Also in the top 10 are software engineer and computer systems analyst.

“Not many people can say that they jump out of bed to begin their workday, but I can,” said Jessica Grado, a recent graduate of Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, who is putting her applied mathematics degree to work as an actuarial analyst at a Scottsdale actuarial consulting firm called Optumas.

“Two years ago, I had no knowledge of what actuarial science was, nor the fulfilling, lucrative career path it offered,” Grado said. “It wasn’t until my first year in New College when a professor took personal interest in my career development and introduced me to the actuary profession. It was the smallest gesture and yet the most impactful influence on my personal career path.”

Applied mathematics is just one pathway to a desirable career path among many offered by New College, the university's core college on ASU's West campus. Other bachelor of science degree offerings include applied computing and statistics.

“Our faculty members conduct research at the cutting edges of their fields,” said Roger Berger, director of New College’s School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “Undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience by participating in this research. Our main goal, both in and out of the classroom, is to teach students how to continue to learn.”

Like Grado, Buffy Lloyd benefited from working under the mentorship of the school's professors. Lloyd, who returned to college as a single mother of five children, considered various career paths in the medical field before honing in on applied mathematics as her major. After completing her bachelor's degree in 2012, she is now pursuing ASU’s doctorate in biomedical informatics and a graduate-level statistics certificate.

And like Grado, Lloyd was influenced by the caring attitude of the school's professors. She first met with Erika Camacho.

“For two hours, this passionate woman not only encouraged me to become an applied mathematics major, but gave me an abundance of resources in books and online materials that would provide additional support,” Lloyd said. “Following our meeting, she introduced me to Dr. Omayra Ortega.”

Camacho and Ortega encouraged Lloyd to attend and make presentations at national conferences, participate in national workshops and apply for scholarships.

Ortega invited Lloyd to participate in the Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group. “I was so grateful for this opportunity,” Lloyd said. “I was only beginning my applied mathematics program and did not feel that I had the skills to contribute. Dr. Ortega was patient with me and spent an extraordinary amount of time teaching me the skills necessary to conduct research within her group.”

The support of Camacho and Ortega was typical of Lloyd’s New College experience.

“Each professor provided me with ample office time to be completely successful in my academic studies,” she said. “They all encouraged me to apply to graduate school and provided me with the tools and skills necessary to be successful as a graduate student. I absolutely would not be where I am today had it not been for the applied mathematics dynamic team of support. This team is invested in all of its students and truly wants them to be successful.”

Applied computing major Lisa Tsosie has gained valuable experience through her work with faculty member Yasin Silva. Tsosie is part of a team working to develop an application called BullyBlocker, which aims to prevent the cyberbullying of adolescents on Facebook by extracting information from an adolescent’s Facebook data and alerting parents to potential issues.

With encouragement from Silva, Tsosie earned a Google Women of Color Scholarship to attend the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, last fall in Minneapolis. She was selected to receive one of the highly competitive awards from more than 900 applicants, and she made a poster presentation about BullyBlocker during the conference.

“As a BullyBlocker participant, I am gaining the kind of networking experience that will benefit me as I pursue the professional world of computer science,” Tsosie said. “Learning the kind of language that’s used to persuade, inform and request support is important if I want to establish a solid, reliable network within my field of interest.”

Tsosie is preparing to land one of those “Best Jobs,” as identified by CareerCast.com, after graduation. She can be encouraged by the experience of Grado, who credits New College in helping her land her actuarial job with Optumas.

“ASU and New College played a significant role in the acquisition of my current position,” Grado said. “ASU not only equipped me with the necessary education needed to fulfill the job requirements, but also provided me with a networking platform that I could leverage in attaining this position.”