Home Page Display: 

ASU student: 'There is no limit to what you are able to achieve'

November 20, 2017

As a walk-on for the Sun Devils football team, an aspiring musician and lyricist, and a scrupulous student, political science major Kordell Caldwell aspires to make the most of his time at Arizona State University.

Caldwell’s drive to succeed, however, did not start at ASU; it started when he was a young child growing up in Dallas, and later, Houston. An entertainer with charismatic flair, Caldwell found joy in football and school. Kordell Caldwell does a free-style performance at ASU's Fall Welcome. Download Full Image

Thanks to Caldwell’s academic success as a pre-teen, he received an invitation to take part in both the Duke Talent Identification Program and later in a law clinic held at Stanford. At Duke, he discovered an interest in political science, deciding then to use the program as a vehicle to law school.

While attending high school in Houston, Caldwell began experimenting with music. At first, he rapped over existing melodies and beats. As his interest grew, he moved on to creating his own instrumentals with his closest friend. While talking about his music, Caldwell discussed his musical roots and inspirations, including rapper Lecrae.

Caldwell strives to make music that appeals to a broader audience, relying upon his SoundCloud and social media accounts to spread his homegrown rap to his listeners.

“[I rely on] word of mouth and meeting people,” Caldwell said. “It lets me show people that I’m serious about my craft.”

During his junior year of high school, both Stanford University and the University of Washington were recruiting Caldwell for their football programs.

“I pulled my hamstring at a camp [one week before my visit to Stanford], and I was devastated,” he recalled.

Caldwell still attended the two camps, while trying to get his leg as healthy as possible before playing. However, Caldwell did not make the cut, so he began to look at schools based on where he wanted to be later in life. He decided on ASU, considering a number of factors such as former alumni and networking connections, career opportunities, and the school’s Division I football program.

Once at ASU, Caldwell joined the political science program and continued his workouts on his own, working toward his lifelong dream of playing D1 football.

“I was keeping my mind focused on the goal, trying to eat right, trying to stay in shape. Once spring came, I was in lock-in mode. I was focused on nothing but … making the team.”

Despite having sustained a hamstring injury, Caldwell passed tryouts and walked on to become a member of the Sun Devil football team.

“I received an email that said ‘Congratulations’… I barely finished skimming the email before I picked up the phone to call my parents.”

After college, Cordell hopes to work as a defense attorney in criminal court. Citing "The Reversal," a novel written by Michael Connelly, Cordell discussed the rights of the people to have a voice in the criminal justice system. "The Innocence Project" has also inspired Cordell, who hopes to aid individuals who are wrongly accused of a crime they did not commit.

Caldwell emphasized the importance of seizing the windows of opportunity that open throughout college. With enough discipline and grit, he believes there is no limit to what can be achieved. For those who wish to pursue their dreams, who wish to follow a path similar to his, Caldwell has this to say: “You can’t change the past, but you can make history.”

office assistant, School of Politics and Global Studies

image title

Sun Devils triathlon team takes on DC

November 19, 2017

ASU champions invited to White House for photo with president; here, one team member shares her capital experience in Washington

Two weeks ago, the Arizona State University women’s triathlon team won its second consecutive national championship — an honor soon followed by another: an invitation to meet the president at the White House.

It’s an experience few get to have, so kinesiology senior Katie Gorczyca agreed to write about the team’s time in Washington, D.C., for ASU Now to share what it was like. What follows is her travelogue and some of the team’s photos from the trip.


We met at our usual pool location at 7:30 a.m. all matching in our gold pitchfork sweatshirts and white Ultra Boosts. Typically, we would have our bikes packed with us as well, but it was a little different since we’re traveling for another purpose this time. Everyone arrived with a smile because we couldn’t be more excited to visit our nation’s capital — and it’s a bit of relief to not have to stress about competing, but rather a vacation with my favorite people.

At Sky Harbor International Airport, people were curious as to who we were and where we were going. After learning about our win and invitation to the White House, we received congratulations and some wishes of “Good luck!” Since the invitation to the Washington event was fairly recent, we could only get middle seats. Luckily, we all managed to get some homework done on the plane so that we could enjoy our time. It is a great feeling to be a part of such an amazing team. I’ll remember this trip forever, and I will never forget these girls — even when I’m 90 years old.

Symphony ticket at Kennedy Center

After our arrival at the Melrose Georgetown Hotel, we changed and walked over to the Kennedy Center for a 7 p.m. National Symphony Orchestra concert. It was pretty cold and windy — we were definitely no longer in Tempe, Arizona. Our seats were in the balcony section, and the concert was beautiful. The only hiccup was when one of the violinists had a string break and had to hand it over to another musician to fix. The concert hall was very large and had good acoustics. After the symphony ended, we walked out and took pictures and then went back to the hotel for bed. We were in for a busy day on Friday!


This was the day of the event! We woke up early to get ready. We needed to wear business attire, closed-toe shoes and warm coats. We gathered in the lobby at 8:40 a.m. and complimented each other on how impressively nice we clean up. It was a little weird to see my teammates so fancy when I’m used to seeing them in bathing suits or athletic clothes.

At the White House, we stood outside for about 15 minutes shivering because it was so cold. There were other championship teams waiting around as well. As we finally started to move, all of my teammates (including me) struggled to look natural while walking in heels because we’d rather be wearing our adidas running shoes. However, I think we managed perfectly.

We went through a security checkpoint where we had to show our identification and walk through a metal detector. After we passed that walkway, we walked by a dog that was sniffing for banned substances and went through another security checkpoint. The military guards were a bit intimidating with machine guns strapped across their chests. We finally made it to the entryway in the middle wing of the White House. One of the guards caught my eye and we kind of squinted at each other because he looked familiar. We realized that we recognized each other from when I was training at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and he was a security guard there. I thought that was awesome!

The Sun Devils continued through the White House and were greeted by several friendly guards who told us that we were allowed to explore the middle wing until the event at 11:30 a.m. I checked my coat at the coat check, which we later found out was the presidential movie theater, and then gathered with the team to discuss a plan. We were all so excited to begin exploring that we had to go in every room! Some of us began in the bathroom, and we were impressed by how ornate it was! The napkins to dry our hands were so nice and had the White House seal on them — we kept them as souvenirs!

We continued exploring the rooms, including the library and the china room, taking lots of photos and feeling stoked to have such an opportunity. After I was done roaming the downstairs, I wandered upstairs to the level where the event would be. There were 17 other national championship teams at this event so we got to see other students our age dressed up and in awe as well. However, I think our team looked the best.

We learned about the important events that had happened in these rooms; the first one I walked into upstairs was where President Barack Obama announced the death of Osama Bin Laden. I continued throughout the house and discovered our Arizona State Triathlon nameplate where we would stand for the picture. There were several other rooms as well including one with a live jazz band. It was like a giant party! We mingled with other teams like the Texas A&M track and field team whose rings were huge! (I still like ours better, though.)

We were told to wait near our sign because the president would arrive soon. We were also informed to not hand him anything, nor make any sudden movements. The people in charge were directing us as to where exactly we would each stand so that there was an opening for the president as well as Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos. After that was all sorted, we waited around a bit longer. Everyone kept thinking that he would arrive soon, but it seemed like forever!

Suddenly, the doors to our room opened up and a swarm of press and media filed in. We watched as President Donald Trump walked over to the Virginia tennis team and greeted everyone and then posed for the picture. Next, he moved over to the team to our right and took their picture with them, the Florida baseball team. We knew that our turn was next! So, we all got into position and acted as natural as we could.

DeVos introduced herself to us first and even asked me what happened to my arm (I have a cast). Then, the president walked up to our team and shook some of our hands. He told me, “Oh, take care of that” and he congratulated our team on our win. He also did some small talk about the latest New York City marathon result as the winner was American. Next thing you know, he positioned himself between myself and our head coach and posed for our picture. It was crazy how many people surrounded him as he walked from room to room.

Regardless of everyone’s political views, I think it was so special for our team to be honored with such an opportunity after our accomplishments. After he left, we were escorted to the Oval Office. We had a photographer take our picture there as well but were scolded if we tried to take any of our own. The weather was gorgeous, and I couldn’t get over how pretty the view was.

Next on our agenda was lunch at the U.S. Capitol building and a visit to the office of U.S. Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. We were greeted by two men who introduced Rep. Sinema via recording since she was actually on her way back to Arizona. We learned that she is an ASU alumna and would be at IMAZ (Arizona Ironman) on Sunday volunteering. She seemed very sweet and we got a quick tour of her office and then another picture. I think by that point, our facial muscles were starting to get tired. I know that everyone’s feet were starting to hurt as well because I wanted to change out of my heels ASAP.

Then we got an official tour of the Capitol building and learned a lot of cool facts. We got to see where all the laws were made as well as learn about the history of each room. There were even cat paw prints on the ground near a staircase because, we were told, as the cement was setting, mice were running around and cats were invited in to get rid of them.

After the Capitol tour (some of us were walking barefoot by this point), we split into two groups, one going to the Library of Congress and the other (the group I was in) to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Later we reunited, grabbing some Starbucks to warm up while we waited for our monument tour of Washington.

We rode around to the different sites, and our tour guide was very informative and funny! We first stopped at the Jefferson Memorial and walked around for even more pictures. It was dark and cold, so we tried to make it quick so we could get back on the warm bus. We continued on and saw the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam and Korean War memorials, Washington Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial, and drove by the Capitol building again. It was so interesting to learn that the statue of the woman on the top of the Capitol building stands 19.6 feet tall and represents freedom. We were told that she is the tallest statue in Washington because nothing is greater than freedom. Lincoln’s statue is only 6 inches shorter, because he was a very important president.

After a late dinner of tapas, we made it back to the hotel and crashed. It was a great, long day and we were all exhausted.


My birthday! I woke up at 7:15 a.m. to go for a light run with some of my teammates. We ran around the city admiring the brisk air and monuments once more. I suggested that we make a stop by Arlington National Cemetery because we were so close and I wanted to see my grandfather. We got in and found his grave — I was so happy to have done that and made another memory. We arrived back at the hotel and got ready for the day.

Everyone set off on separate adventures. For example, my coach (Cliff English) and Deana Garner Smith went for a walk, Lillie Robinson and Kendal Williams checked out the Holocaust Memorial Museum, and Coach Erin (Densham), Nicole Welling, Sarah Quintero and I had brunch on the Georgetown waterfront. Brunch was amazing! We sat outside next to a fire and an ice skating rink. It was buffet style and the food was spectacular! It was an awesome start to my birthday, and I’m so glad I could enjoy it with some great company. We chatted and then walked back to our hotel and gathered our things. I said goodbye to the doorman and thanked our van driver for escorting us around. It was bittersweet to be leaving Washington, D.C., but I made memories that will last a lifetime.

ASU Law alum brings skills to Indian country

November 16, 2017

Debra Gee was born in San Jose, California along with her older brother, Randy Gee and her younger sister, Quannah Gee Dallas. Her mother, Estherlene Gee, who is a Muscogee (Creek) Nation citizen, and her late father, Bill Gee, who was a Navajo Nation citizen, met at Haskell Institute. As a young girl, seeing both her parents pursue higher education was one of the key factors that eventually led her down the path toward law school.

“They were both part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Urban Relocation Program that moved young Indian people to major metropolitan cities,” Debra Gee said. “My parents selected San Jose, California. However, we did not live in San Jose for very long because my parents felt that San Jose was getting too large. My family moved to Okemah, Oklahoma around the time that my sister and I started public school.” Debra Gee Debra Gee Download Full Image

It was in Okmulgee, Oklahoma, a rural town with a population of about 12,000 people, where Gee and her siblings attended public schools from elementary to high school.

“I had an interest in civics and government in high school, but I didn’t make the connection to Indian law until I pursued an internship with the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) during my junior year at Smith College,” Gee said.

Her further pursuit of education would only continue to grow with the experiences she would have during that time of her life.

“Growing up, I didn’t realize I was learning the concepts of property law and Indian law because my maternal grandmother had property interests in Five Tribes restricted land,” Gee recounted. “I was also learning about the individual rights of American Indians as a child growing up in rural Oklahoma.”

After graduating high school, Gee attended Smith College and began her pursuit of a law degree.

“While I was an intern at NCAI, I realized that law school was the next step for me to accomplish my dream of helping Indian tribes and their citizens,” she said.

Gee was set to attend a private law school in Oklahoma and was about to mail a check for her room deposit when she received a phone call from the former director of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University’s Indian Legal Program (ILP), informing her about the opportunities. After comparing both programs, she made the decision to make the move.

“It was not a difficult decision for me to select ASU Law,” Gee said. “Even though most of my colleagues attended law schools in Oklahoma, that has not hindered my ability to pursue an Indian law career in Oklahoma.”

Instead, her experiences while in law school have only helped her achieve the success she has today.

“Each law student selected to attend ASU Law has something unique to offer the law school community,” Gee said. “For Native students, it may be their unique perspective as tribal citizens, tribal leaders or traditional leaders. It is important to share your own perspective with the law school community, both academically and socially, so the law school community and experience are more enhanced and informed.”

Debra Gee and family
Debra Gee with her family.

Throughout its 29 years, the Indian Legal Program has fostered the diversity of its students and the ideas that they bring to the law community. Its supportive staff and academic environment sets it apart as one of the leading Indian law programs in the nation, and it is manifested in its students.

“The ILP exposed me to other law students from across the country, both Native and non-Native, who ultimately graduated and now practice Indian law as a career. Having access to this network of lawyers helps me even today when I need to research or address novel issues of law,” she said.

After graduating from law school, her first job was at DNA-People’s Legal Services in Shiprock, New Mexico. During her time there, Gee gained experience in legal aid and worked with other attorneys who shared a similar passion for public interest law.

“My experience working at DNA solidified my decision to pursue an Indian law career working as a government in-house attorney,” she recounted. “First, I worked for the Muscogee (Creek) Nation for four years. Then, I worked for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Violence Against Women Office and the Office of Tribal Justice. After returning to Oklahoma, I began working for the Chickasaw Nation and have completed 15 years of service.”

Today, those experiences have helped her reach the leadership position she holds at the Chickasaw Nation Legal Division. As the general counsel and executive officer, she provides legal consultation and advice to the various departments throughout the Chickasaw Nation’s executive branch, while ensuring the protection of the Nation’s tribal sovereignty. While doing all this, and overseeing a staff of 10 attorneys and four administrative staff, Gee continues to have a passion for the issues she advocates for.

“One of the things I love about my job is that I get to work on a variety of legal issues, including health law, criminal jurisdiction, the Indian Child Welfare Act and code drafting, just to name a few,” she said. “These issues have a significant, long-term impact on the Chickasaw Nation and its citizens.”

Her work and legacy will also continue to have an impact on the Indian Legal Program’s current students as well as its growing alumni community. In fact, she hopes that students seize the networking opportunities available to them from those professionals.

“The ILP has now graduated hundreds of law students who have a variety of careers in law, not just Indian law. It just takes initiative and one phone call, email or social media contact to connect with an ILP graduate who can provide support, encouragement and career advice,” she suggested.

Gee is only one example of the shining array of alumni that the Indian Legal Program has advanced throughout the years.

“I am thankful and give credit to the ILP program and ASU Law faculty and staff for building my legal education foundation that has prepared me for this position,” she said. “That is why I continue to financially support the ILP program and its mission, so that future Native students can realize their dream of pursuing an Indian law career.” 

Written by Paulina Verbera

Trans Awareness Week celebrates diversity, inclusion

Trans Awareness Week runs through Nov. 20 and provides an opportunity to celebrate the trans community at Arizona State University and promote awareness of transgender and gender non-binary identities and experiences.

“Through increased visibility and educational programs, the week helps all Sun Devils better understand the diverse identities of the trans community and how to support the inclusion of all those identities on campus and beyond,” said Kellyn Johnson, coordinator for ASU Student and Cultural Engagement. ASU Trans Awareness Week 2017 Download Full Image

Events are scheduled at all four ASU campuses and include discussions, movie screenings, a trivia night, a drag show and more. A Trans Day of Remembrance Vigil and Friendsgiving Dinner will also be held Nov. 20 on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Another element of Trans Awareness Week is the Gender Positivity Campaign, in which students write notes of affirmation and place them in restrooms across all campuses. The activity is meant to validate all gender identities and promote self-love and respect.

Trans Awareness Week is an entirely student-planned initiative. According to Johnson, representatives from the Rainbow Coalition and student organizations including Confetti, Spectrum, Gamma Rho Lambda, BL+C, Prism and QMunity collaborated to develop this year’s lineup of programs and initiatives.

Along with events like Trans Awareness Week, the LGBTQIA+Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Queer, Intersex and Asexual and other communities Sun Devil community can also find campus and community resources through Out@ASU. The website features information on student organizations, inclusive houses of worship, scholarships, health services, gender neutral restrooms, housing, local LGBTQIA+ organizations and more.

“The site helps students connect with their community and locate resources to aid in their academic and personal success,” Johnson said.

The Out@ASU site was also recently updated to include Ally and Trans Resources pages.

“The Ally page provides the names, departments and contact information for SafeZone trained allies and will, in future, host resources and guides for allies and advocates,” Johnson said.

The Trans Resources page offers information specific to the trans student experience including sample emails for contact faculty/staff regarding asserted names and pronouns, expanded information on health services and national and locally based trans organizations. 

A Faculty Guide for Trans Inclusion in the Classroom was also recently developed by a group of trans and allied students and will go live during Trans Awareness Week.

Find a complete listing of programing for all four campuses on the Trans Awareness Week website.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services


First-generation college student now pursuing doctorate at ASU

November 14, 2017

Angelica Amezcua was the first in her family to receive a bachelor’s degree. Then she was the first in her family to receive a master’s. Now, at Arizona State University's School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC), she is the first in her family to pursue a doctorate.

“This is my third year here in the Spanish linguistics PhD program, and I’m focused on heritage language pedagogy,” Amezcua said. Angelica Amezcua is a PhD student at the School of International Letters and Cultures and the first of her family to get a college degree. Download Full Image

Heritage language pedagogy focuses on inclusive teaching methods that work with students who bring language skills from home into the classroom. Amezcua points out this has many differences from teaching students who did not experience the language at home.  

Each level of education presented unique challenges for Amezcua, but she credits support systems with helping her find the way. By the time she completed her undergraduate and graduate studies, she felt confident enough in her field to come to SILC.

A trailblazer in her family, Amezcua has had to adjust to each new level of education without much reference, finding at SILC a challenging but welcoming program.

“”[At SILC], the most challenging thing has been, as a first generation student, not knowing what to expect from a PhD,” Amezcua said. “It had been rough, a rough start … but I feel prepared, I have developed so many skills and abilities that I feel secure.”

The confidence shows. In her time at SILC, Amezcua has received honorary mention for the Ford Fellowship, earned funding through the Graduate College Fellowship and been recognized within the HASTAC fellowship. This recognition of her research and capability will support more academic work, conferences and other professional opportunities.  

“Her creativity and resourcefulness make her classes engaging and effective," said Sara Beaudrie, director of graduate studies at SILC and associate professor. "Above all, her students appreciate how approachable and supportive she is, her enthusiasm and passion, and her kindness” Beaudrie said. “she has held several other leadership positions within her graduate program, which are evidence of her deep level of commitment to her program, department, and university and her high level of motivation, organizational skills, and excellence.”

Once finished with the doctoral program at SILC, Amezcua has no intention of slowing down, and plans to find opportunities to continue researching and teaching her passions.

“Eventually I want to be a full time professor, at a university where I can work with heritage speakers,” Amezcua said. “Especially first generation students … in every class I want to create a community.”

Gabriel Sandler

image title

Young people learn how to create change at ASU event

Obama Foundation trains young people in how to create change at ASU event.
November 12, 2017

Obama Foundation training day teaches participants to collaborate and be inclusive to solve problems

To create real change, include everyone. That was the message sent to a group of young people who attended the Obama Foundation’s training day for civic engagement on Saturday.

The daylong event, held in partnership with Arizona State University, gathered 150 people ages 18 to 24 from the Tempe area at the new Student Pavilion building on the Tempe campus.

The young people talked about identity, shared their stories with each other, mapped out their strengths and met community leaders who already are working for change. The day involved several workshops that gave them practical skills for identifying and solving problems in their communities.

Randy Perez, an ASU student who is pausing his studies while he works for the Obama Foundation in Tempe, addressed the group, telling them how he pored over the more than 450 applications to be part of the event.

“Something I picked up on was what I’ll call the inspiration gap,” said Perez, who is working on a public policy degree.

“A lot of you said, ‘I’m looking to be inspired to do this work.’ It’s not my job to inspire you. It’s all of our jobs to inspire each other.”

In one session, the young people were asked to reflect on themselves by Steve Becton, associate program director at Facing History and Ourselves, a nonprofit that engages people on the topics of race and prejudice.

“We all have blind spots,” Becton said. “What you have to be is critically conscious. You’re not so much questioning everybody else, but you’re questioning yourself. Your biggest project is yourself.”

ASU student and peer adviser Odessa Clugston works with her group on how they perceive themselves during a session at the Obama Foundation's training day on Saturday on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Odessa Clugston, a senior at ASU, was one of 24 peer advisers for the training, a group that spent weeks preparing for the day — including learning how to form a team, lead seminars and work on self-reflection.

“I think working on yourself is the hardest one, right? Knowing our own biases,” said Clugston, who is majoring in justice studies and political science and is working on addressing homelessness in Maricopa County.

“For me, being sustainable is a blind spot. I value the environment but don’t always recycle so I’ve been working on that.”

Another powerful exercise was meant to create empathy. The young people were paired and, led by facilitators from the Narrative 4 nonprofit, each told a three-minute personal story that was then retold by their partner. An African-American woman described her white partner’s experience of being disciplined in high school for sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance. Then the white woman described her African-American partner’s realization that a racially insensitive comment she received came from a lack of understanding, not malice.

In the afternoon, the participants worked on identifying assets — strengths in themselves and in their communities.

“Instead of ‘This is what my community doesn’t have,’ look at what it has,” said Ruthie Moore, a youth council director with Mikva Challenge, the nonprofit organization that led several of the workshops.

She asked the young people to consider the motto of the day: “One voice can change a room.”

“What if we put together more than our voices? What if we put together our assets? Assets help us take action,” Moore said.

The group texted their responses, creating a colorful word cloud on a giant screen, which included determined, diplomatic, resilience, library, public transportation, ASU. The word cloud was another lesson for the future changemakers — in how presenting information visually creates a bigger impact than just speaking.

All of the activities built a framework for learning to take action. The young people chose from a list of Phoenix-area problems, such as homelessness and food deserts, and created a storyboard, listing symptoms and causes, identifying decision makers, brainstorming solutions and agreeing on a first step. They gave one another feedback and envisioned what would happen when the problem is solved.

Among the key points that were emphasized: Be as inclusive as possible by taking a nonpartisan approach.

“Without a broad-based coalition, change can’t happen,” said Josh Prudowsky, chief program officer for Mikva Challenge.

Many of the young people at the training day have already identified community issues they want to address. Brandon Vaca, a psychology major at Chandler-Gilbert Community College, said his high school didn’t fully prepare students for college, so he wants to work with teenagers on college readiness.

“I want them to understand that college is an option. I never saw the bigger picture of how important college is until a few years after high school,” said Vaca, who will transfer to ASU next fall.

He said that networking with the other civically engaged young people in the room was one of the best parts of the program.

“I really liked getting to know all these other people,” he said.

Megan Tom, a senior at ASU, is Navajo and wants to help prepare tribal leaders to work together to preserve the environment. She attended the Obama Foundation training day to ensure that there was a Native voice at the event.

“I wanted to support any Native students who were here, as well as voicing the Native perspective because this is a prestigious opportunity and it’s something I believe can help ensure that indigenous voices are maintained in the civic-engagement dialogue,” said Tom, a senior majoring in English literature with a minor in public policy.

The Tempe training day was only the second one for the Obama Foundation. The first was last month in Chicago, and David Simas, the CEO of the foundation, said he was pleased with one marker of that day’s success: A survey done before the session found that one-third of the participants knew how to take steps to make changes in their community, and a survey after the training showed that 91 percent knew what to do.

“Today we give them inspiration, some skills and some connections that then begin to answer that question, ‘Do you want to get involved?’ This is the way to begin,” Simas said, adding that the foundation will refine the training-day format based on feedback from the Tempe group.

Former President Barack Obama showed up at the Chicago training last month, surprising the group. At Saturday’s ASU event, the day started with a video of Obama giving the same message he gave to the South Side young people:

“When I left the White House, I thought, ‘What’s the single thing I could do that would be the most impactful in this next phase of my life?’

“I realized that the best way for me to have an impact is to train the next generation of leaders so that I can pass the baton, and all of you can make change in your communities, in the country and in the world.”

Clugston, the peer adviser, said that when she learned about the training opportunity, she applied immediately.

“I want to be in community involvement for the rest of my life,” she said, and the Tempe training day was just a start.

“It’s about continuing to mobilize and never giving up hope that things could be better.”


Top photo: Facilitator Charles Miles (left) of the nonprofit group Narrative 4 concludes a session during the Obama Foundation's training day event at the Student Pavilion on ASU's Tempe campus Saturday. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


image title

ASU coalition brings awareness, support to on-campus international students

ASU coalition coordinates efforts for all on-campus international students.
November 9, 2017

Editor's note: This is the third in a series of profiles on ASU's diverse student coalitionsLearn more about the Asian/Asian Pacific American Student Coalition and Black African Coalition.

The Coalition of International Students (CIS) at Arizona State University aims to promote communication among all international student organizations in an effort to coordinate and consolidate activities of on-campus international students.

The CIS has nearly 40 full-time members and hosts various outreach events each year. Here, the coalition's president and vice president, Meitong Chen and Dickwyn Wong, share more information about the group. 

Question: How did the Coalition of International Students start? 

Answer: The coalition started quite a while back, and the main purpose for its inception was to represent international students as a union. We have gone through several changes over the years but our mission remains, which is to help international students feel represented at the university.

Q: What kind of activities does the coalition host?

A: CIS does quite a few things over the course of the academic year. We have Welcome Carnival, a Halloween party and our signature event, International Night each fall. In spring, we host a Career Prep Fair and Glo-Ball Night.

International Night is the coalition's biggest event of the year.

Q: What's your favorite part about the CIS? 

A: Our favorite part of the CIS is definitely the events that we host. We are always around mingling to have conversations with the participants and are sometimes surprised to hear about the unique cultural background that some students come from. 

Q: What's the biggest challenge your coalition has faced while you've been here?

A: The biggest challenge is definitely outreach. That was the biggest goal we set out to reach this year as we want to recruit and attract more international students. We have experimented with many different ways of outreach, but we are still trying to reach a group that we call "invisible" students. It's a growing problem as more and more international students come to ASU.

Q: What's your weekly schedule look like?

A: Our weekly schedule at CIS includes overlooking the internal and external operations of the organization. We work with some of our members on special projects and have conversations with other board members to keep everything on track.

Q: Do you have any events coming up?

A: International Night is just a couple weeks away. The event features a plethora of cultural food, performances and activities and will be at the Sun Devil Fitness Center's fields on Nov. 17 at 7 p.m.

Q: How can people get involved?

A: We always need an additional hand when we're hosting an event, whether it may be small or large. Our social-media sites are a great way to look for opportunities to help during our events. [Find the group on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.]

Q: Is there anything else you’d like to people to know about the CIS?

A: While we are the Coalition of International Students, we always welcome everyone to our events and even to join as a member. Our office is located at the Student Pavilion (225J), and we're always there if you have any questions that you want to ask in-person.


Top photo: Representatives from the Coalition of International Students participate in ASU's Homecoming parade. 

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer , ASU Now

image title

NASCAR's top female engineer details her rise in racing for ASU students

November 9, 2017

Alba Colon talks about youth in Puerto Rico, shares what she looks for in new hires

People used to show up at race tracks and ask Alba Colon where the engineer was.

“Hello! It’s me!” the tiny Latina told them.

The top female engineer in NASCAR racing and the NASCAR Sprint Cup program manager for 22 years, Colon spoke about her journey into engineering and racing at Arizona State University on Thursday.

She has worked with the teams behind Dale Earnhardt, Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon.

As a schoolgirl in Puerto Rico, Colon’s hero was Sally Ride. Colon wanted to be the first Puerto Rican astronaut.

“I grew up in a household where there was no other option than to go to university,” she said.

In college she was the team captain of the University of Puerto Rico-Mayaguez Formula SAE chapter. Formula SAE engineering students build and race Formula-style cars at an annual competition. Colon started the chapter with four male students. When they traveled to the mainland for competition, “I pretty much learned we had no idea how to build a car,” she said.

General Motors hired her in 1994 as a data acquisition engineer.

“After you’re in motorsports you get hooked,” she said. Twenty-three years later, “I love my job.”

One of her first tests was at Talladega, testing a brand-new engine. She met Dale Earnhardt, who promptly told her she wouldn’t be in the sport more than a year.

“He didn’t even know me, what I could be capable of,” she said. “Many years later I learned that that was one of the ways Dale would push you to make things happen, but I didn’t know that when I met him. I got pretty mad at him and told him, ‘I’m going to show you what I can do.’ ... He helped me to get where I am today. If you push me and tell me I can’t do something, I’ll do it.”

She cited a rising number of woman and Hispanics getting into motorsports today. Forty percent of the NASCAR fan base is women, she said.

“I don’t regret anything I had to go through to get where I am today,” Colon said. Times have changed, she said. “Believe me, these things don’t happen anymore.”

Racing is becoming more and more technical, she told a roomful of mostly engineering students. Races are won in tenths of seconds. Every team has four or five engineers analyzing data. Simulation is a big new trend. Some engineers work only on tires.

“It is getting more and more technologically sophisticated,” Colon said. “Now you have so much data you don’t have time to study it.”

NASCAR is hiring mathematicians. “We need more people to interpret all that data,” Colon said. “Believe me, the technology is amazing.”

She gave job-interview advice about what she looks for.

First of all, “someone who is genuine.”

The word “we” is a red flag to her. “I know it was a team project, but I want to know what you contributed to the project,” she said.

“Did all you do was take classes?” She wants to see community involvement, volunteering, church, that type of thing.

Good grades still count. “GPA is very important,” she said.

“The fact that you were an Eagle Scout says a lot about you.”

And, finally, when an offer does come through, “don’t ever think a job is beneath you,” she said. Jimmie Johnson’s second engineer began in NASCAR by mopping floors. So did a well-known TV analyst she didn’t name.

What does she consider her greatest accomplishment? “Traveling and meeting people, and exposing myself to ideas I’d never thought about — that has been amazing.”

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


image title

Hard work, dedication pay off for ASU rowing team

ASU rowing is one of the biggest club teams on campus. Take a deeper look.
What were you doing at 5 a.m. today? ASU's rowing team probably has you beat.
November 9, 2017

The 15-year-old competitive club has seen growth, recognition in recent years

Under the cover of darkness, they appear in groups of four and eight. Light from the moon and neighboring office buildings illuminate their path, providing a tranquil backdrop as the sound of water being pushed away fills the air. 

It's 5 a.m. on Tempe Town Lake, and while the majority of students may still be hours away from starting their day, practice is underway for Arizona State University's rowing teams.

"You have to experience it firsthand to fully understand it," said senior Matthew Boysen, the men's team's vice president. "Getting up that early can be miserable sometimes, but you start to develop a close relationship with everyone on the team. It's one of those things that is forged through fire."

That fire is forged through 4 a.m. alarms and six-day-a-week practices for the men's and women's sides, which have operated as a competitive club at the university since 2002. The 15-year history in Tempe is but a blip on the radar for a sport that was developed back in the 1700s, but that doesn't mean the Sun Devils aren't making big strides.

After holding a roster of just nine rowers a few years ago, more than 30 students across four rosters — men's varsity and novice, and women's varsity and novice — are now on the team. And under the guidance of second-year head coach Imran Malik, the club is starting to see the results they've been working so hard for. 

"I like what I'm seeing so far," Malik said ahead of the team's first collegiate competition of the year. "We had a great spring season and got the attention of some good clubs like Stanford and Washington. Technique-wise, the novices are picking it up really well and the varsity continues to get faster and faster." 

Collegiate club rowing typically features about nine competitions each year, split into a fall and spring season. Most of these competitions are called regattas, which are a series of races, held on either Saturday or Sunday, against multiple schools. 

To save money, ASU typically travels by bus to every regatta except the one or two that are held north of California. The preparation process includes showing up to town a day early, getting a light practice in on the water and eating a lot of healthy food prior to the race. After competing, the team usually takes two or three days off practice to recover and participate in team-building activities. 

"Rowing is unique because it's one of the biggest team sports there is," said senior Kelsey Cring. "You need that special bond with your teammates to know they have your back and are going to go as hard as they can."

That bond is something preached time and again by each member of the team. And with pre-dawn practices and a young club looking to continually earn respect, it's easy to see why. 

The Sun Devils are the only active collegiate team in the state, which "puts some pressure on us, but when we live up to that it feels great," Boysen said.

The club is hosting a regatta in Tempe this spring for the first time, against other Pac-12 schools. The date is still to be determined, but the idea for the Saguaro Sprints was first hatched in concert with Stanford's head coach. With many of their opponents having to row on cold or nearly frozen water throughout the first weeks of the year, the warm-weather race figures to be a popular one. 

Slowly but surely, the team is earning the respect it has been working so hard toward in the recent years. A dedicated group of rowers and an ambitious leadership staff can be thanked for that. 

"We're working towards building the momentum we found last season," men's president Nick Pederson said. "My goal when taking office was to advance the club both in both performance and sustainability. I'm trying to portray myself as someone who can handle any situation." 

While Pederson and Boysen handle the leadership roles on the men's side, junior Michaela Matulewic and sophomore Kelsey Liss serve as the president and vice president, respectively, for the women's team. Their jobs include attending meetings with other club sport captains, lobbying for funding and planning regattas that both Sun Devil teams can travel to together. 

It's a busy and often thankless job, but one that is definitely worth it. 

"I love them so much," said Matulewic while holding back tears. "They are all like family to me." 

Sometimes, you do get to pick your family. Even if it means being awake at five in the morning. 

Update: ASU rowing competed in its first collegiate regatta of the season on Nov. 12 in San Diego. The team fared well in the Fall Classic, placing first in the Women's Novice 4+ and second in the Men's Novice 4+ races. A full list of regatta results can be seen here, and you can also find the club on Twitter and Instagram.


Top photo: The men's varsity team rows under the Mill Avenue Bridge that crosses Tempe Town Lake. The ASU club is self-funded and is also the only collegiate team in Arizona. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Connor Pelton

Communications Writer, ASU Now

image title

Veterans Upward Bound helps vets connect with college opportunities — and with one another

VUB program helps veterans gain skills, walks them through college application.
November 8, 2017

ASU program's Department of Education grant renewed for 44th straight year

Arizona State University’s TRIO Veterans Upward Bound (VUB), a free college-preparatory program aimed at veterans who are either low-income or potential first-generation college students, has been awarded federal funding for the 44th year in a row.

VUB’s mission is to motivate, assist and support veterans in Maricopa County in their pursuit of higher education — or, in the case of 75-year-old Army veteran George “Sweet Erv” Campbell, simply their pursuit of knowledge and camaraderie.

“You get to hang out with people that you know. If you’ve ever been in the military, you’d understand,” said Campbell (pictured above, left), who was attached to the Air Force and worked with the Nike Hercules missile system before leaving the service in 1964. “They call it esprit de corps. Once you’re in the military, you understand others who’ve been in it. There’s a common bond.”

The VUB program — which is freeThe program is supported by the U.S. Department of Education. for participants and has services on four of ASU’s campuses — offers individualized online courses and academic coaching; one-on-one sessions focused on skills including goal setting and financial literacy; assistance with the admissions process (whether to ASU or other colleges); and continued support throughout their academic career, even after they’ve left the program. There are also such activities as attending a Broadway show at ASU Gammage and going to a football game.

During the new grant cycle, veterans in Pinal County will also have the opportunity to participate in VUB annually. The program will provide service to approximately 140 college-bound/interested veterans; there are 30 people in the program currently.

VUB “offers veterans an excellent opportunity to learn how to transfer their military skills into higher education,” said VUB director Verónica Hernández. “Moreover, the program provides veterans step-by-step guidance and a vital support system in their college success and accomplishments.”

The instruction is tailored to the participant’s needs. It can include specific subjects like math and English, or broader topics like computer skills. The latter is the case for Campbell.

“We didn’t have computers back in my day — back in the ’50s … I think it’s fascinating, and I personally think it’s great,” he said. “Computer skills — if you don’t know anything about that, you don’t know what you’ve lost.”

Campbell, whose plans are to eventually attend photography classes at South Mountain Community College, is putting those computer skills to work. He has a handful of Facebook pages, as well as a collection of YouTube channels and a Twitter account.

Participants in the ASU Veterans Upward Bound program talk after a workshop
TRIO Veterans Upward Bound participants George “Sweet Erv” Campbell (left) and Terry Henry chat after a VUB session at ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Aaron Gould

The length of the program varies depending on the participant. It’s based on individuals’ needs and what they need to move to the next step in their education pursuit.

VUB participant Chris Bilandzija, who served in the Coast Guard until 2004, will start at ASU this January pursuing a degree in social work. In addition to supplementing his math and English skills, he said the program gave him the “confidence of being a successful student.”

“They walk you through every step of the process of getting back into ASU,” he said, adding, “They know how to teach veterans. They understand it; they get it.”

Since 1973, VUB has yielded impressive results. Participants have demonstrated a 70 percent improvement on standardized tests, compared with a 58 percent national average; and more than 55 percent enroll in a postsecondary program within a year of completing VUB, according to its staff.

For Campbell, he has just one complaint about the program:

“You’re a little late — you should’ve had it in ’64 when I got out of the service.”

Learn more about the program here.


Top photo: Veterans Upward Bound participants George “Sweet Erv” Campbell (left) and Domonic Colonna take part in a skills training workshop. Photo by Aaron Gould