Home Page Display: 

School of Molecular Sciences graduate receives Moeur Award

December 1, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Sabrina Mango successfully completed her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU. Mango came to ASU from Gilbert, Arizona, receiving the New American University Scholarship President’s Award from ASU. Sabrina Mango, School of Molecular Sciences recipient of the Moeur Award. Download Full Image

While at ASU, Mango earned second place in the English 105 division of the ASU Writers’ Place Awards. She also gained new perspectives.

“I learned that you can learn something from everyone," she said. "I was a tutor, so I was familiar with teaching other people, but sometimes I learned from the students I tutored. Every person has a unique story, and you can learn something when you’re looking and listening.”

One of the lessons Mango values most came from her calculus professor, Mark Ashbrook: “Either make progress, or ask for help.” This advice resonated with Mango, and she took it to heart, now graduating with a 4.0 GPA, summa cum laude, and as a recipient of the Moeur Award, reserved for ASU students with the highest academic standing through all semesters of study.

Outside the classroom, Mango has been interning for a local cosmetics laboratory since the summer of 2019. She credits her internship with giving her the opportunity to transition directly into a career right after graduation. At the end, she reflects back to the beginning.

“On my first day of class, I forgot to bring paper to write notes down. I remembered a pen and pencil, but I didn’t have a single piece of paper. I was really embarrassed for forgetting to bring the bare-minimum materials but look at me now! I’m graduating with a full-time job lined up at a company I really enjoy working for. The moral of the story is: Your bad days aren’t indicative of your whole future.”

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences


Doctoral graduate shares her passion for Colombian cinema

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Fall 2020 graduate Cindy Bonilla-Cirocco says her peers should always keep an open mind about their studies and career path.  Fall 2020 doctoral graduate Cindy Bonilla-Cirocco stands in front of an old brick building. She is wearing her graduation regalia, including a maroon and black gown, blue hood, and black cap. Fall 2020 graduate Cindy Bonilla-Cirocco will be receiving her PhD in Latin American literature and culture in December. Earlier this year, she successfully defended her dissertation on the Caliwood movement of the 1970s in Colombian cinema. Download Full Image

“I would encourage students not to limit themselves and to do their research about what other options are out there,” said Bonilla-Cirocco, who will be receiving her PhD in Latin American literature and culture. “You never know when you may find a great opportunity you weren’t expecting if you keep yourself open to it!” 

Luckily, Bonilla-Cirocco took her own advice. 

Midway through the process of researching and writing her dissertation, she enrolled in a Latin American film course taught by Spanish Professor Cynthia Tompkins that changed the course of her doctoral studies. After writing a paper about the 2015 documentary film "Todo comenzó por el fin (It All Started at the End)" by Colombian director Luis Ospina, Bonilla-Cirocco switched her dissertation topic from Latin American graphic novels to Colombian cinema. 

“I was immediately drawn to his work and wanted to know more,” she said. “It was a drastic change, and I had to essentially learn all about Latin American cinema, as well as Colombian cinema, on the fly as I wrote my dissertation.”  

With Tompkins’ assistance, Bonilla-Cirocco published her paper about “It All Started at the End” in the academic journal Confluencia from the University of Northern Colorado. She then developed it into her dissertation by including additional research and analysis on Ospina and other members of the “young and subversive” Caliwood filmmaking collective that he was a part of in the 1970s, including Carlos Mayolo. 

“Bonilla-Cirocco succeeds in highlighting the political commitment of these filmmakers, who risked international success by rejecting and lampooning the Colombian ‘pornomiseria’ movies of the time that profited from showing the most sordid aspects of the third world, both in terms of the production of a movie as well as penning a manifesto of their own,” said Tompkins, who also served as Bonilla-Cirocco's dissertation committee chair. 

Bonilla-Cirocco said she was determined to convey her newly discovered passion for Colombian cinema in her dissertation, which she successfully defended in October. 

“This was a challenging task, and at times I felt overwhelmed, but I knew what my end goal was and I refused to let so many years of hard work and intellectual growth go to waste,” Bonilla-Cirocco said. “Finishing my dissertation is one of the proudest moments of my life.” 

During her time at ASU, Bonilla-Cirocco volunteered at various events, such as the School of International Letters and CulturesLanguage Fair and Homecoming, where she represented SILC’s Spanish Department. She also was a member of the organizing committee for ASU’s Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, which involved connecting with Spanish-speaking communities around the Valley to showcase various cultures. Bonilla-Cirocco, who was raised in Colombia, served as a liaison to the local Colombian community in particular. 

“Cindy has an incredible work ethic. She is unassuming, diligent, always well prepared and very professional,” said Associate Professor of Spanish Jesús Rosales. “I believe that Cindy is a socially concerned scholar who is committed to sharing her knowledge, not only with fellow academics, but also with underprivileged communities unable to receive a university education.” 

Bonilla-Cirocco chose to complete her doctoral studies at ASU after first earning her bachelor’s degree due to the distinguished reputation of the Spanish program. Doing so allowed her to accept a position as a teaching assistant for Spanish courses at all levels, as well as working as a research assistant for Regents Professor of Spanish David William Foster. 

Foster was the original chair of Bonilla-Cirocco's dissertation committee before he died earlier this year, and he had served as a mentor to her for many years. 

“There was no better example of a person who was deeply committed to and passionate about his work and his students,” Bonilla-Cirocco said. “I am honored to have known and worked under him, and I learned things from him that I will remember for the rest of my life." 

Bonilla-Cirocco is grateful that Tompkins, who was a member of her dissertation committee at the time, was able to step up into the role of chair and guide her to completing her dissertation and graduating this fall. 

“While the dissertation is a tribute to the Caliwood movement in general, Bonilla-Cirocco's work is essential in filling a gap in Colombian national cinema,” Tompkins said. “I’m happy to report that Cindy managed to convey her project to Ospina,” one of the directors she wrote about, prior to his death in 2019. 

After graduating in December, Bonilla-Cirocco hopes to pursue a job in the Foreign Service with the U.S. Department of State. She’s also considering work in academia. 

“When I entered (the School of International Letters and Cultures) as a graduate student, a professor told me that these would be the best years of my life. I can say now, without a shadow of doubt, that these years here at (ASU) have been the most memorable so far,” Bonilla-Cirocco said. “During my time at (the school), I grew as an individual, as an intellectual and as an educator.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

Aid to Navajo Nation is aim of talented biochemistry graduate

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Inspired by her aunt Nonita Adair, who was the first Navajo woman to earn a Doctor of Pharmacy degree (1992), Stacee Tallman will graduate in December with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU. ASU graduate Stacee Tallman in her cap and gown Stacee Tallman is graduating in December with a Bachelor of Science in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU. Download Full Image

Tallman transferred to ASU from Diné College, a public tribal two-year college in Tuba City, Arizona, serving the 27,000-square-mile Navajo Nation. Moving with her husband and kids to Phoenix to continue her education wasn’t easy, but Tallman was extremely motivated.

American Indian students make up less than 1% of all college students in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and only about 13% of all Native Americans have a college degree. Tallman's ambition is to help change this statistic in a very positive way.

Tallman also recognizes that the Navajo Nation has been hit extremely hard by COVID-19 and wants to do anything she can to help. As a result, she is participating in one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials. She will also pursue a Doctor of Pharmacy at either Midwestern University or the University of Arizona with the aim of returning to her hometown of Tuba City to fill a pharmacist position at Tuba City Regional Health Care.

Congratulations are also due to Tallman for being awarded the 2019 Ted Brown Memorial Chemistry Scholarship. The scholarship is privately funded and was established in honor of Emeritus Professor Ted Brown. It is awarded annually to a first-generation undergraduate student. Preference is given to Native American students who have an affiliation with a federally recognized or state-recognized tribe.

Awards ceremony

From left to right: Marcia Levitus, Stacee Tallman, David Rasely and Neal Woodbury at the 2019 SMS Student Award Ceremony. Photo by Mary Zhu

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I didn't really have an "aha" moment. I have always dreamed of becoming a pharmacist. I transferred to ASU from Diné College, after I progressed as much as I could in completing the prerequisites for pharmacy school.  You see, they don't have the staff to teach physics, or general chemistry, or organic chemistry, or any upper division science courses in Tuba City. I was fortunate that before I transferred they took on a new faculty member, and I was able to get anatomy and physiology checked off my list. So, I moved my husband and kids to Phoenix to continue my education. I chose ASU, because although NAU was a lot closer to home, tuition was a lot more. ASU was the best, cost-wise. And when I sat with an adviser, biochemistry was the best major that took care of the rest of the prerequisites that I needed for pharmacy school. At the time, I was just planning on finishing those classes that I needed, but when I had finished and saw how much progress I made on my DARS — the tiniest sliver of pie was left on the pie chart — I decided to finish and get my degree. So maybe that was my "aha" moment.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Advice I'd like to give to current students is, stay on top of school work! Do not procrastinate, homework comes first, use a planner, plan your semester, go to class, and when registering for new classes for an upcoming semester use “Rate my Professor." 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot to sit and work while waiting for my next class would definitely be the second floor of Wexler on the east side, the outdoor balcony. It's very refreshing there.  

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan on applying to both University of Arizona's and Midwestern University's pharmacy programs. The ideal school would be the University of Arizona. I would love to follow in the footsteps of my aunt Nonita Adair, who graduated class of 1992 and was the first Navajo Woman to get a Doctor of Pharmacy degree. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I was given $40 million although this would not be near enough to fix any one problem on our planet, I would use the money for COVID-19. I think at this point everyone is sick of this pandemic. This has become a big problem we are all facing. I miss my family, I miss our gatherings. My oldest son was robbed of his senior prom, and his high school graduation. Our Navajo Nation was hit hard, and now we have declared we are in our second wave, and it's not right to take a family member to a hospital, and they get taken, and you can't be with them, no updates.  Then you just get a call that they have passed. You don't get to say your goodbyes. It's heartbreaking. This is why I signed up to be a participant in one of the COVID-19 vaccine trials. My hope is to get things back to normal soon.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


A 'Moneyball' moment for business analytics grad

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

When most people think about analytics in sports, they consider stats like free throw percentages, fourth down conversions, or home run exit velocity. But W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Jeff Luczak (MS, business analytics) saw a whole other side to analytics in sports. Jeff Luczak, who is the Fall 2020 W. P. Carey Outstanding Graduate Student Jeff Luczak. Download Full Image

“I was working in sales for the Phoenix Suns when I started having conversations with individuals in analytics at both the Phoenix Suns and Indiana Pacers," he said. "The ability to tackle complex problems and drive decisions that impact the bottom line was very exciting to me.”

Luczak knew he wanted the next step in his career to focus on using analytics to drive business decisions, so he decided to return to school for his master’s degree in business analytics. While maintaining a 4.0 GPA throughout his program, he additionally completed analytics internships at Nexant and Women in Technology International. While his curiosity and aptitude pushed him through his studies, Luczak's true passion lies in building community with his ASU peers. He has been extremely focused on improving the relationships with his colleagues, and planned events spanning across graduate programs prior to the pandemic. Luczak truly understands success comes not just from crunching numbers, but also creating relationships and sustaining connections.

We caught up with the soon-to-be grad to learn more about his experience.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I wouldn’t attribute one thing to changing my perspective, but countless. The reason I enjoyed the MSBA program was due to being able to work in cohorts on countless projects. This opened my eyes to different viewpoints from my classmates and continued to challenge how I tackle problems.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU after hearing about the reputation of W. P. Carey and seeing their rankings. I knew a W. P. Carey degree would help me take the next step.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Expose yourself to as many people and opportunities as possible. By building up your skills and network you set yourself up for success in the short and long term.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: Most of the time I was in school, I was working at ASU for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. With this, I had access to some of our conference rooms and would utilize these rooms at night to study.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be working in data analytics for a health care or technology company. I currently have a few offers I am considering and am excited to apply my skills to real-world problems.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I don’t believe $40 million dollars would be enough, but I would like to tackle climate change. If we don’t take care of our planet, there will not be much left for those that come after us.

Emily Beach

Senior communication specialist, W. P. Carey School of Business


Double major is ready to continue traveling the world

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Fall 2020 graduate Monica Orillo has developed an awareness of ASU as “a truly global community” through her language classes in the School of International Letters and Cultures and her studies abroad in Germany and the Philippines.  Fall 2020 graduate Monica Orillo poses in her maroon and gold graduation regalia, including a gown, stole, and mortarboard. A tree and grassy lawn are in the background. Fall 2020 graduate Monica Orillo will be putting her degrees in political science and German to good work after graduation as she participates in an internship with Phoenix Sister Cities before spending a year in Germany as part of the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program. Download Full Image

Orillo first studied abroad in 2015–2016 after graduating high school. She participated in the U.S. State Department’s Congress-Bundestag Youth Exchange Program in Germany, which led her to add a minor in German when she came to ASU to major in political science. 

Midway through her studies, she returned to Germany to intern with the State Department’s Foreign Service at the U.S. Consulate in Frankfurt in 2018. Later that year, she traveled to the Philippines – where both her parents are from – to study abroad for a year in Manila on a Boren Scholarship, which is funded by the National Security Education Program and overseen by the U.S. Department of Defense.  

“I am grateful to have had so many study abroad experiences as a student, and I’m very passionate about the value of cultural exchange in encouraging people to be more globally minded,” she said. 

While at ASU, Orillo participated in a number of extracurricular activities on and off campus. She was the secretary for the Make Your Impact club, a student organization dedicated to promoting service through the Peace Corps and other national service organizations. She later became an official Peace Corps campus ambassador through an internship assisting the Peace Corps campus recruiter. She also worked as a change agent at Changemaker Central on the Tempe campus. 

For the last three semesters, Orillo has served as a junior research fellow at the Center on the Future of War, which is part of the School of Politics and Global Studies. In that fellowship, she conducted research with an investigative journalist in Manila who is affiliated with the New America think tank in Washington, D.C.   

Orillo also applied her language learning knowledge in several tutoring positions. Early in her academic career, she taught English to adult language learners at a Phoenix refugee resettlement center through Lutheran Social Services of the Southwest. While in the Philippines, she tutored young children in English, and for the last year, she has worked with an organization called Paper Airplanes to help adult Syrian refugees learn English. 

Every semester, departments and schools within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences honor an outstanding graduating student as their Dean’s Medalist. Orillo was recently named the recipient of the Dean’s Medal for the School of International Letters and Cultures after previously being honored by the German Department as its Outstanding Student of the Year in 2017–2018, before she’d even declared a major in German. 

“This award was truly unexpected,” Orillo said. “Looking back, I recognize my classes in (the school) as some of the most enriching, fun and intellectually stimulating courses of my ASU education. I feel honored to have my accomplishments recognized and to be representing (the school) in this way, and I am beyond grateful to have been in such an awesome learning environment.” 

Associate Professor of German Daniel Gilfillan nominated Orillo for the award after teaching her in several classes and working with her on an independent study research project this semester about German-language literature and film made by and about migrants of various backgrounds. 

“Orillo has produced outstanding work that speaks to a desire to understand complex sociopolitical issues from the fuller perspective that study of a second language and its cultural knowledge affords,” Gilfillan wrote in his nomination letter. “She is a deep thinker, intuiting complex connections that others may have trouble seeing, and is then able to articulate these ideas to a more novice audience, such that learning occurs on many levels.” 

Orillo will be graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in political science, a Bachelor of Arts in German, and a certificate in Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages, commonly known as TESOL. She was originally planning to graduate in May 2020, but chose to stay at ASU for an extra semester to complete enough classes to turn her minor in German into a second major. 

In 2021, Orillo will be completing an internship at Phoenix Sister Cities as the assistant to the vice president. In September, she will travel to Germany once again, this time as part of the prestigious Fulbright English Teaching Assistant Program.  

After that, she hopes to stay in Germany to pursue a graduate degree in peace and conflict studies, with the goal of someday working in the field of international education or public diplomacy. Her studies at ASU have prepared her well for the next chapter of her life and provided her with many opportunities to see the world and meet people from a variety of backgrounds. 

“I love how diverse the SILC community is!” Orillo said. “It seems obvious that the school with foreign languages would be diverse linguistically and culturally, but I also had the opportunity to meet so many interesting students and professors from many different walks of life.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

ASU Online student graduates while in the military

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

This December, Kristofer Gonzalez will be graduating with a BS in biochemistry from the School of Molecular Sciences at ASU. His journey to ASU has been quite unique compared to traditional students. Not only is he a proud Mexican American child of an immigrant, but he is on active duty in the military, which became tough to juggle while maintaining a full-time schedule in school. ASU graduate Kristofer Gonzalez. Download Full Image

I currently supervise operations in a military clinic and manage a team of junior personnel in carrying out the necessary duties in day-to-day clinic operations. This includes seeing patients and maintaining a basic medical laboratory,” he said. Gonzalez stumbled across the ASU biochemistry online program that was rigorous and flexible enough to fit his needs and busy schedule.

With success come challenges. Gonzalez was unfamiliar with online classes, but he did not want that to deter him from earning his degree. He struggled a bit in the beginning, and it took some time for him to become accustomed to pacing himself through a course and keeping up with deadlines without ever meeting in person. However, once he got into the groove of things, he was amazed at how much he enjoyed pursuing an online education and appreciated that he could receive a quality education and the same attention that in-person students received from his professors while still working his full-time job.

The motivation for furthering his education came from seeing his father succeed as an immigrant and the support of his wife. Gonzalez's father immigrated to the U.S. from Mexico and worked his way to earning his PhD in higher education. It inspired Gonzalez to earn his degree, make his family proud and apply the knowledge he gained from school to real-world settings.

School of Molecular Sciences clinical assistant professor and managing director of online programs, Ara Austin, had this to say: “Kristofer is a wonderful representative of our hardworking military and veteran students who make up a significant portion of our (School of Molecular Sciences) online programs. He is a student who brought so much joy and enthusiasm to my courses, and I'm excited to see what the future has in store for him. I know that his positivity will make a difference in patient care.”

Gonzalez chose the School of Molecular Sciences because they offered a degree that was as challenging yet rewarding as the in-person programs. It allowed him to learn on the go, which is something that students like Gonzalez are searching for.

“One thing about ASU and (the School of Molecular Sciences) is that I love how diverse the STEM program is; it feels nice to be represented belonging to a minority,” he said. He enjoyed that the students and faculty all seem very engaged with each other and wanted to see those around them succeed. In the summer of 2019, Gonzalez attended the special in-person lab offered to online students. The in-person labs were a great opportunity to meet people from around the country and he was able to form friendships he says will continue through his life. The care and structure of the ASU online programs allowed Gonzalez to feel connected to the university on a personal level and earn his degree while never having to leave his job. 

Question: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

Answer: I would solve community health issues. I’d like to try to invest in the city's community health outreach funds. People who live in bad areas and assisted housing do not get the medical attention they need, since it is too expensive. 

Q: Can you describe your experience in one word and tell us why? 

A: Surprising. I was hesitant to do online school. I knew that it was going to be a rigorous program and working full time would be a challenge. However, I was treated like a normal in-person student. This is a hard science that was treated seriously and less intimidating. My professors treated every student equally, which is something I really appreciated. My questions were always answered in a timely and descriptive way. 

Q: Which the School of Molecular Sciences faculty member most influenced you as teacher, adviser or mentor?

A: This would be a tie between professors Ara Austin and Ian Gould. They were my first encounter with (the school's) faculty and their passion and commitment to the program really motivated me to succeed.

Q: What goals have you set for yourself after graduation?

A: I’m currently applying for medical schools right now, so my biggest goal is to get accepted somewhere and begin the journey to become a physician.

Q: Advice for future online students?

A: It’s OK if it seems hard. If you keep at it you will get more comfortable with where you’re going and how you’re getting there. Take a minute every now and then to breathe and you’ll be just fine.

Mariela Lozano

Communication assistant, School of Molecular Sciences

From running cross-country to running code: ASU graduate is going the distance

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Joining the Sun Devil cross-country team is what first attracted Oregon-state native Adam Klein to ASU. A few short years later, he’s the Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior and graduating with dual bachelor’s degrees in computer information systems (CIS) and business data analytics (BDA). “When I had taken a programming class in high school, I was turned off by how technical it was. What I like about the CIS and BDA majors here at ASU is that they are in the W. P. Carey School of Business, so I am able to learn about how technology applies to business problems,” said Klein. Adam Klein, who is the W. P. Carey Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior Adam Klein, W. P. Carey Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior. Download Full Image

But the path wasn’t completely smooth. When he first arrived on campus, Klein struggled with homesickness. “I struggled first semester to make campus feel like home,” he shared. “As I became more involved, that faded, and I realized I wanted to help make others feel at home, too.” He made the W. P. Carey community welcoming in many ways in his years at ASU, including as an academic tutor and residential engagement leader.

“I came to ASU to be the best athlete I could, but what I got is so much more,” the graduate said. Klein shares more below about what made his time as a Sun Devil so rewarding.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Originally, I was an entrepreneurship major, but I took an entry-level computer information systems course (CIS 105) and really enjoyed it! When I noticed that I actually liked something that most other students dread, I knew that was a sign I should pursue it. I changed majors the next semester.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: By the time I graduated, I thought I would actually know a lot more than I do right now. However, I’ve realized over time that I have become much better at learning new things. While this is particularly relevant to my work with computers and the technical skills involved, I believe that it also applies to any other field of study. The biggest takeaway from my undergraduate experience is that an undergraduate degree really isn't all that much about what you know, but rather developing the skills to be an independent thinker and learner.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I first came to ASU because I was interested in the entrepreneurship program and was offered a spot on the cross-country team. However, throughout my time at the school, I was able to be involved in athletics, while also becoming a statistics tutor and working in the residence halls helping freshmen adjust to life on campus. These opportunities, along with the staff and faculty at ASU that help you succeed, were things that I enjoyed most about my time at the school.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: As cliche as it might sound, make sure that you are studying something that you find interesting. You don't have to be passionate about it – passion develops over time. But if you are learning about something that interests you, it will be much easier to go the extra mile, learn something new, or simply not get bored. Make sure that you don't miss the opportunity to take an upper division course in something that interests you, even if it is outside of your major. You never know what you might come to love.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: I have two favorite spots on campus: the first is Noble Library, where I have a lot of memories studying for exams and doing homework as well as meeting with various teams to work on group projects. The second is the track, where I have done a lot of running and more importantly, made many friendships on the cross-country team.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on starting my career at Deloitte, working as a cyber risk analyst. Within the next few years, I would also like to go back to school to earn an MBA.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: My first thought is working on some of the sustainability issues within the food industry. Food is something that every human on Earth has experience with, and in many parts of the world, the system does not function as well as it could. I believe developing technology related to water conservation, pesticide alternatives, or taking a step towards a more sustainable and humane way to raise livestock would be a worthy use of $40 million.

Emily Beach

Senior communication specialist, W. P. Carey School of Business


Accountancy major didn't let COVID-19 stop him from thriving

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

If you’re an ASU football fan, you’ve likely helped to #IgnitetheInferno as part of the student section at Sun Devil athletics events. And you’ve probably kept up with all the action behind the scenes by following the Inferno Insider. What you may not know is that the voice behind the Inferno Insider for the past few years has been Brendan Duffy, an ASU senior graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in accountancy.  Brendan Duffy portrait ASU grad Brendan Duffy. Download Full Image

Originally from Castle Rock, Colorado, Duffy feels proud about his high level of academic achievement, being able to graduate early and promoting school spirit, especially during an uncertain year. 

While Duffy has persevered, he said that COVID-19 has made college difficult to navigate, as many other students can attest. 

“As someone who likes to be engaged in class and enjoys face-to-face interaction, COVID certainly made my school life more difficult. With that said, I was not going to let it get in the way of my goals, so I have done what I have needed to in order to acclimate myself to the new way of living and learning.”

Despite this challenging year, Duffy isn’t giving up on his education and future. After graduating, he is starting the Master of Accountancy program at Auburn University as part of his journey to becoming a certified public accountant. He's also starting a job at Deloitte in January. 

“I would like to do my part in keeping people honest as a part of financial reporting,” he said.

Duffy spoke with ASU Now about his time at ASU, advice for current students and what he’s learned during his time in Tempe.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: When I was in high school, I took an introductory accounting class to fulfill a credit requirement. At the time, I had no clue what I wanted to do past high school. After a while in the class, I began to enjoy how each problem was a puzzle and there was a particular way to solve it. I enjoyed the structure of the material. With help from my teacher, Mr. Brelje, I realized that this was something I could do in my future so I decided to pursue it. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective? 

A: Early in my time at ASU, I had an assignment in one of my classes where I was told to put all of my other class assignments into a calendar. At the time this seemed like it was a waste of time. As things got busier that year, I realized how important organization was and how it would save me a lot of missed points in my classes. Now I cannot go anywhere without my Moleskine planner. My whole life is planned out in it, and I do not know what I would do without it. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: The second I set foot on ASU’s campus, I knew I wanted to be a Sun Devil. I was originally attracted to the good business school, but after visiting I saw that there was so much more. 

The campus is beautiful, the weather is wonderful but what I really loved was the support they offer for the students. Things like the tutoring centers, the writing center and the engagement events around campus. I could tell that they really cared about their students, and I wanted in on it. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: Mike Holt. He taught my ACC242 class my sophomore year. Professor Holt knew so much about the accounting industry from his long history in it. He did not just teach us from the book, but he also taught us how the principles would be applied in the industry and how they would help us. It gave me a better grasp on the material as well as making me feel more comfortable about going into the industry postgraduation. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school? 

A: The best advice would be to give it your all. You only get to have this exact experience once, so make sure that you are making the most of it. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite spot on campus for studying would be the basement of the MU. The seating is nice, and there are a lot of different areas in there that provide different feels. 

My favorite spot overall would be “A” Mountain. I love hiking up it in the morning and watching the sun rise. It is quiet and relaxing. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

A: I am not sure how, but I would attempt to tackle climate change. I would tackle this because it is not an issue that affects just some of us. It is the fight of our generation, and if we do not do something about it quickly then we may lose the ability to ever fight it.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Improving international development through higher education

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Graduate school was always on the agenda for Michele Piercey. As a senior adviser for peace, stability and transition at Chemonics International, she wanted to earn a degree that could help her with her work in international development and postconflict stabilization. Michele Piercey Michele Piercey Download Full Image

“I felt like I needed that academic or empirical framework to put around the work I've been doing, to understand it on a deeper, better-informed level,” said Piercey. “Technology was becoming a bigger part of my work and was a force in the countries and communities I was working in. For example, I worked in Tunisia after the “Facebook revolution.” It was called that because activists were connecting in different ways using new technologies. Social media turned out to be a key tool for people to come together to peacefully overthrow their government.”

Piercey wanted to learn more about globalization and development through the lens of technology. When her company was working on a collaboration with ASU, she discovered a degree program relevant to her work, the Master of Science in global technology and development at the School for the Future of Innovation in the College of Global Futures

“The program was something I wanted to be a part of. It made me think about the real-world impacts of what I was learning and how development is implemented in conflict-affected countries and regions.” 

What she’s learned in her master’s degree program is already paying off.

“I recently researched the role of social capital in a postconflict context. How do people accrue social capital? How can they use it to stabilize conflict and collaborate on shared goals and progress toward peace? I was able to offer concrete suggestions in a real-life project I am supporting because I had a better understanding of the thinking and research behind it. I'm better at thinking through all the possible sides of a development or stabilization challenge as a result of my studies.” 

Balancing graduate school online and working a full-time job that required traveling around the world wasn’t easy, but Piercey learned to adapt and get creative. Planes became classrooms. Dining room tables became libraries. She even finished up a paper while evacuated from Iraq in January 2020. Time management was a skill she had to develop quickly.

“I really hustled to fit it all in. I don't believe in multitasking; I don't think that's a real thing. You learn to settle down in short periods, a few minutes here or there, and use those short periods to get your work done.”

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: President Crow's vision for the New American University was one of the most inspirational things I've ever heard; the idea that education can be transformative not just to an individual student but to a community. A university that evaluates its success not on how exclusive it is, but how inclusive it is and how many new opportunities it gives to people. It resonated with me because I'm also a first-generation college graduate. I'd never heard anything like that before, and I knew I wanted to be part of it. 

Q: What's something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: As an online student, I didn't know what a rich experience it would be. I assumed that I would just be sitting, reading and writing, but I got a ton of interaction and a lot of feedback. It helped me engage with the material.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I had Mary Jane Parmentier for a couple of my subjects. I had met her before attending ASU, and it was meeting her that made up my mind that I was going to apply. She was influential in making me think that graduate studies were feasible and that I had experience and a perspective to offer. She was always willing to talk through things and explore different perspectives on my work.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you'd give to those still in school?

A: Persist. You will get there; don't give up. I nearly did once or twice because it seemed unmanageable with my work. It just was too much. But ultimately, I got through the hard moments. Also, back yourself. I, like most people, had times where I thought I couldn't do it. In those moments, I had to make a deal with myself to go a bit further, do a little more and just keep going. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would offer civics, citizenship and critical thinking training to youth and adults in the United States and abroad to better equip people to advocate for their rights, cooperate with their neighbors, resist disinformation and take part in civil, productive discourse with people they disagree with. I would make it scalable and adaptable to the local context. I've seen firsthand the transformative power of education on conflict-affected communities. Teaching people about how government and institutions can work for them and how their communities can function better and more harmoniously can be a powerful influence on local peace and development. You could do a lot of good with $40 million.  

Ashley Richards

Communications Specialist , School for the Future of Innovation in Society


After years as an aesthetician, ASU grad finds right fit in global health

November 30, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

Nicole Waldmann laughs now about her initial views of college, and the thought that higher education just wasn’t for her. Nicole Waldmann stands along Palm Walk Nicole Waldmann is graduating this fall with her bachelor's degree in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Download Full Image

“Straight out of high school, I point-blank said college was not for me,” said Waldmann. Instead, she pursued her dual license in cosmetology and aesthetics and worked as an aesthetician for seven years.

“It was probably around that fourth year when my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, was graduating from ASU and I just felt something was really missing. I wasn't in love with my career choice and just felt I needed a change,” she said. “Seeing him graduate really inspired me to want to go back to school and say, ‘Hey, I can do this, I want to graduate.’”

Waldmann said her journey to finding the right program to pursue was a long one that started in community college before she transferred to ASU to study global health at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

“I jumped majors, from journalism to considering nursing, and took a lot of random elective classes,” she said. “Taking POS 160 Global Politics with Dr. Ripley here at ASU really sealed the deal that global health was for me. It took a long time, but I'm happy I finally figured it out.”

Waldmann shared more about her time at ASU and what she has planned next.

Question: What about global health inspired you to choose it as a degree path?

Answer: There were a lot of different things that were going on in the world that really led me to global health. I wanted to help people and was really interested in helping refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants. A lot of my classes had focused on things that were going on in Myanmar, and stuff that I was not aware of that was going on on the other side of the world. It really just opened my eyes and made me realize I want to work in nonprofit and humanitarian sectors.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you?

A: I could not believe how many different clubs there were to join; there was literally something for everybody. I stumbled upon a Harry Potter club (Dumbledore’s Army) and wound up joining that. I got to meet a bunch of students that have similar interests to me, and it was really cool because I feel like the students really work to not only bring us together with our mutual interests, but also want us to also really connect with each other. I feel like it was also a great way for incoming freshmen, especially those that live on campus and are far from home, to just get out there and not feel lonely.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Dr. Ripley — he has just been such an amazing teacher and I feel so fortunate to have been able to take two classes from him. He is such a fun person that you literally enjoy his lectures; they're not boring, they're not just very prim and proper.

Q: What would you say to prospective students in similar situations that you were in, and are considering if pursuing a degree is the right choice for them?

A: I was dead set on going to school because I was honestly at a point in life where I was just not happy. Even though I couldn't figure out what major I wanted at the time, I knew going to school and taking electives would be helpful. If somebody is feeling like their current situation doesn’t feel right: Change it. You have the power to change it and be where you want to be.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Breathe! It’s OK. Definitely take a step back and breathe, if your head is in the books from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., take an hour break, step away and refresh.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: So right after graduation, I will be taking a well-deserved long month off because it has been five and a half years of constant studies. And especially the past two years, I have not had a summer off, so it's been semester after semester after semester. Then after that time off, hopefully I will be working at a nonprofit organization. If something here opens up, I would love to continue working at my current internship or any kind of nonprofit organization locally. Once I get my master's degree, I am definitely applying for the United Nations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences