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Let’s get this bread: ASU student forms friendships through baking

November 16, 2018

Margot Plunkett is a bubbly freshman studying English in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

A participant of the Early Start program, Plunkett seized the opportunity to form friendships before classes began and campus filled with thousands of students. And her friendships and connections keep growing, thanks to her new hobby: baking loaves of bread for her peers. loaf of bread on table What better way to get to know a dorm neighbor than by breaking homemade bread? Download Full Image

It all started at the end of the summer when her best friend’s mom taught the two to bake bread.

“At our last sleepover before she went away to school, we learned how to make bread and I was like, ‘Wait, this is so easy!’ So I’ve been doing it ever since,” she said.

Utilizing the community kitchen space at Palo Verde West, Plunkett began baking loaves of bread every day, delivering them to people in her residence hall, classmates and even professors.

Encouraged by her friends, Plunkett started documenting her breadmaking and sharing on Instagram under the handle @365loavesofbread. She intended to make a new loaf every day but has since found she often makes more than one at a time. She estimates she’s made and gifted at least 50 since the start of the academic year.

The bread is a conversation starter and her peers have shared memories of baking bread with their own families.

“I just feel like it’s really nice to give everyone a taste of home,” she said.

Plunkett doesn’t sell the bread, instead enjoying the gift of sharing.

“(Breadmaking) has taught me more to share things with people. They get so excited; it’s just the little things that make people happy and I think that’s really sweet, that’s my favorite part."


Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU Police Department's newest four-legged member will comfort crime victims

November 16, 2018

After therapy training, very good boy Dutch will help communications with detectives

The newest member of the Arizona State University Police Department will focus on crime victims, not perpetrators, and will help detectives do their jobs.

But first he must be housebroken.

Dutch, a 3-month-old Labrador retriever, has just joined the department as its first trauma dog. When he’s about 6 months old, Dutch will get several months of special therapy training. Then, he'll be ready to be cuddled and petted by people in the ASU community who have had traumatic encounters with crime, according to Jason Latella, the ASU police sergeant who is the dog’s handler.

“The whole idea of a trauma dog is to facilitate communication,” he said.

“When someone has been a victim of a crime, it’s something that’s not normal, and so a lot of people, especially with violent crimes, they’ll shut down.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Petting a dog can be relaxing and bring down heart rate and blood pressure.

“So as they pet the dog, a normal activity, it can normalize their brain and help them to talk,” Latella said.

“So his whole job is to facilitate communication between our victims and our police officers.”

Dutch will live with Latella, who, as the investigations sergeant, is already available around the clock to respond when a violent crime happens.

The puppy will also be handled by Zeina Elqadah, who joined the ASU Police Department in June as a victim advocate. Her unit focuses on sexual violence, domestic violence, intimate partner dating violence, stalking, harassment and child crimes.

“This is big for university law enforcement because we’re one of only four campus police departments in the nation that has a special victims unit,” she said.

Dutch will live with his handler, Jason Latella, an investigations sergeant for the ASU Police Department. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The dog also will be available as a stress reliever for police employees.

Dutch came from a breeder in Buckeye and was chosen for his easygoing temperament. During his first visit to campus earlier this week, where several students fawned over him, he was curious and exuberant but already responding to commands. For now, Dutch will focus on being socialized, interacting with lots of people in different situations and regular dog obedience training.

Dutch is named after James “Dutch” Lister, an ASU police officer who died of a heart attack while on duty in 2010. The puppy joins Tillman and Zeke, patrol and explosive-sniffing dogs in the ASU PD.

Other dogs in the department have been incentivized through food or play reward systems, but Dutch won’t work that way.

“He doesn’t have a reward system,” Latella said.

“If he does his job right, it’s its own reward because people are petting him and he’s getting attention.”

Top image: Dutch, a 3-month-old Labrador retriever, will undergo therapy training to become a trauma dog for the ASU Police Department. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


Power and Energy Scholarship recognizes 8 ASU engineering students

November 13, 2018

Eight Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students with a passion for sustainable power and energy were selected from a pool of 548 applicants to receive the IEEE Power and Energy Society scholarship.

In the past seven years, 37 of these scholarships have been awarded to Arizona State University students — earning ASU more Power and Energy Society scholarships than any other university in the awards’ lifetime. Power lines Photo courtesy of Unsplash Download Full Image

The Power and Energy Society (PES) scholarship recognizes undergraduate electrical engineering students with strong GPAs, distinctive extracurricular activities and a commitment to exploring the power and energy field.

“These two awards are national awards that are highly competitive,” said Gerald Heydt, Regents' Professor at the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering. “The students recognized will carry this honor throughout their careers, and there is no doubt that the recognition marks a high point in their work.”

The competitive selection process, from which less than 40 percent of the applicants are selected, requires students to submit essays and letters of recommendation, and judges look for a student’s passion about advancing power research. This year, the award granted the 210 recipients a financial award to fund their studies, one year of IEEE PES student membership and the opportunity to be mentored by leading professionals in their industry.

“Besides the generous financial support, I received recognition from the largest power engineering networking and standards group in the world,” said Tobin Meyers, a recipient of the scholarship. “This advantage helped me advance my knowledge of power systems by assisting with my internship search and an all-expenses-paid trip to Boston for the 2017 IEEE PES Student Congress.”

While at the student congress, recipients had the opportunity to network with peers and professionals, visit MIT’s nuclear reactor and tour the headquarters of Doble, a power test company. Meyers’ initial recognition paved the way for two summer internships with Arizona Public Service, which served as a career experience needed to renew the award.

From the initial group of PES scholars, industry professionals and Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories select the Schweitzer Meritorious Scholars. These awardees, three of whom this year are students in the Fulton Schools, gain additional recognition for their academic excellence and interest in the field.

"In my application, I talked about the growing importance of renewable energy and how that led me to pursue a career at the intersection of electrical engineering and sustainability,” said Brian Wu, a 2018 PES and Schweitzer Scholar. “It’s all about how you tie your extracurriculars or work experience into what makes you passionate about power and energy.”

IEEE, or the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers, is the world’s largest association of technical professionals. PES scholarships are made possible due to the generous donations of individuals and corporations to the IEEE Power & Energy Society Scholarship Fund of the IEEE Foundation.

For any electrical engineering students considering applying for the scholarship, Meyers, a three-time recipient, encourages them to apply.

“Power has been stagnant for many years, but with the increasing popularity of renewable energy, the traditional grid has evolved into a complex system,” Meyers said. “This award will help you get recognized so you can begin solving these issues as well as help fund the remainder of your education.”

Student Science/Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

ASU student veterans engineer success in life

November 9, 2018

A return to civilian life after military service can sometimes take some adjustments for veterans. At Arizona State University, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center helps veterans, active duty military members, and their spouses and dependents prepare for academic success as college students.

ASU has more than 7,000 veteran and active-duty military students currently enrolled online and on campus, making ASU one of the largest universities per capita in the U.S. for students earning their degrees with GI Bill and Department of Defense tuition assistance benefits. The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU has 1,826 student veterans enrolled this semester with 1,294 of those completing their degrees online. Student veterans account for more than 20 percent of all undergraduate students pursuing their degree online in the Fulton Schools. Download Full Image

“The Fulton Schools takes great pride in being able to provide every student veteran with access to quality engineering and technology education, whether studying in our digitally-immersed or fully-immersed environments,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “We are grateful for their service to our country and want to empower the veteran community by enabling their academic and personal success here at ASU and beyond.”

A Fulton Schools computer science doctoral student was recently recognized as an exceptional student veteran leader. Vivin Paliath was named one of 60 national Tillman Scholars by the Pat Tillman Foundation this summer. The former logistics specialist in the Arizona Army National Guard plans to continue his service as a civilian by protecting computer networks. He currently builds software for a cybersecurity and threat intelligence startup company while he pursues his degree.

Tremayne Holland

Tremayne Holland

Tremayne Holland, an aeronautical management technology major focusing on unmanned aerial systems, served in the United States Navy as an in-flight avionics technician aboard P-3C Orion aircraft. 

“We conducted anti-submarine warfare as well as intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance missions,” said Holland. “I served for six years and completed three eight-month deployments. I was also the ordnance qualified crewmember onboard.”

Holland chose to attend ASU after deciding to get out of the military.

“After doing research, I discovered that ASU was one of the top military-friendly schools,” Holland said. “I became interested in (unmanned aerial systems) while in the military but was unable to find a job dealing with unmanned aerial vehicle operations in the military. I discovered that ASU had a program that centered around UAS. My wife and I were also fed up with the cold and rainy weather in the Pacific Northwest.”

The veteran community at ASU helped Holland with his decision to attend ASU. He attended the student veteran welcome event during his first semester on campus and it helped reassure him he’d made the correct decision.

“My first semester back in school after I got out of the military was a little hard,” Holland recalled. “It had been almost 10 years since my last in-seat college class. I also felt as if I couldn’t really communicate with anyone because all that I knew at the time was military lingo.”

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center helped Holland adjust in his return to college life after his academic hiatus.

Following high school in 2004, Holland initially enrolled at Brewton Parker College in Mount Vernon, Georgia, attending the school for three years on a baseball scholarship.

Then in 2007, Holland was drafted by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the 20th round the Major League Baseball amateur draft to start off his professional baseball career. He played in the minor leagues until being sidelined by a shoulder injury.

“After my rehab stint I pretty much gave up on baseball,” Holland said. “Getting hurt kind of ruined the thrill for me and I returned home until I joined the Navy.”

After exciting careers in baseball and the Navy, Holland eventually found himself at home on ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“Fortunately, I discovered the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. Realizing that there were other veterans on campus who had been through the same exact thing helped me tremendously,” Holland shared. “I was able to utilize the resources that we have available to us and it helped set me up on my path to success. Two years later, I am making plans for graduation.”

The Claxton, Georgia, native didn’t want to lose the aviation experience that he had gained in the military, so he wanted to pursue engineering and aeronautical management technology as his major in the Fulton Schools.

“I fell in love with unmanned aerial systems during a joint operation that we conducted with a UAV squadron,” Holland said. “Seeing the capabilities that these aircraft possessed drew me in and I knew then that I wanted to be a part of the UAS community.”

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center didn’t just help Holland readjust to campus life, it gave him an opportunity to give back. Holland works as a military outreach team member in the center.

“For me, working at the center brought back a sense of camaraderie that I had with my fellow service members while I was still serving during active duty,” Holland said. “It also allows me to give back and provide a service to another fellow veteran who may be in the same boat that I was in during my first semester here at ASU.”

The legend of Pat Tillman resonates all across ASU and the legacy of his life and principles live on through ASU’s active military, veteran and dependent students, whether they are on campus or online.

“The Pat Tillman Veterans Center has your back,” Holland stated. “We are constantly reaching out and engaging student veterans no matter if they are newly transitioning or have been out of the military for a while, everyone is treated the same. The environment here at ASU is one of positivity and for me, and my experience here feels more like a community than a school.”

Holland appreciates all of the support he has received in his journey.

“The most rewarding thing for me would have to be the connections that I have made throughout the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering,” Holland said. “The knowledge gained and skills that I have acquired have helped enhance what I already knew from my experience in the military.”

Holland concluded, “I owe all of my success to my family for their support, ASU for providing the resources needed to help set students up for success and the military for instilling discipline and structure into my life.”

Sharice Lewis

portrait of Sharice Lewis

Sharice Lewis, an engineering management major pursuing her degree online while living in the Atlanta suburb of Alpharetta, Georgia, served in the United States Air Force for more than six years in diagnostic imaging, starting a year after graduating from high school.

“I had no idea what I wanted to go to school for and I really wanted to be independent of my parents,” Lewis said. “Although a lot of times I felt like I could not wait to get out of the military so I could do what I wanted, as I grew up I became very thankful for opportunities that would have been impossible for me to receive as a civilian.”

When she first joined the Air Force, Lewis admits that she was immature and didn’t know how to properly deal with conflict and adversity.

“I learned the importance of not only having a good mentor but being a great mentor,” Lewis recalled. “It really is about embodying the change you want to see and reaching back to help those after you.”

Lewis’ husband is a fellow veteran who attended college in Mississippi and had a less than stellar experience as a veteran, so she was impressed by the support that ASU offers veterans through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

“I chose ASU because it was one of a few schools to offer engineering management as an undergraduate degree and is ABET-accredited,” Lewis said. “When I initially applied, I was still in the military and stationed at Luke Air Force Base. The staff at the Tillman Center made the process very easy and painless.”

A strategic planning board meeting while serving at the clinic on Luke Air Force Base near Glendale, Arizona, helped instigate Lewis’ interest in engineering management.

“The meeting was facilitated by a civilian who I spoke with during one of the breaks, and he explained his educational and training background. I was fascinated and spent about a month researching what engineering management was, the applications of the degree and, of course, the pay. The next semester I enrolled at ASU.”

The Tillman Center didn’t just help Lewis get to ASU, it helped her obtain an experience she says has been the most rewarding part of her studies: a Focus Forward Fellowship from the Military Family Research Institute (MFRI) at Purdue University. She is one of 20 students nationally selected for the 2018 program.

The fellowship is a yearlong process that started this past summer. In July, during the residency portion of the fellowship, Lewis had the opportunity to visit Purdue University.

“The MFRI staff coordinated fantastic guest speakers to lead us in different training and exercises,” Lewis said of her time in Indiana. “We participated in a wide array of activities and one of the most amazing things they did was hand pick a corporate or academic mentor for each of us.”

During the residency, she learned about her strengths in a work setting and about her personality type in professional dynamics. Many of the activities did not only focus on teaching participants about themselves, but rather how they fit into professional settings and how to cope with different personality types and resolve conflicts to become great leaders.

With the residency portion of the fellowship now complete, Lewis has a yearlong follow up through the MFRI online community.

“It allows for us to ask for help with everything from grad school applications to business card ideas,” Lewis said. “They provide information for navigating academia as female veterans or just to connect with each other. I got to learn a great deal of practical knowledge that helped me develop as a person, and I made real connections with a great group of empowering women.”

Lewis wants to continue her education once she graduates, but she isn’t sure what path she wants to follow.

“I am currently contemplating whether to continue in the engineering sciences or pursue business organization,” Lewis said. “My long-term career goal is to have a network of nonprofits that focus on removing barriers to equity for the impoverished and oppressed on a global scale.”

Lewis isn’t just focused on her own future. She has her sights set doing meaningful work and helping communities around the world.

“I would love to be a part of a pivotal advancement that helps close the gender education gap and access to clean water,” Lewis said. “Any project that helps move us closer to solving the Millennium Development Goals set by the UN would be fulfilling.”

Studying in the Fulton Schools and participating as an MFRI scholar is moving Lewis closer to her goals.

“My dream is to live a comfortable life that allows me to focus on my philanthropic efforts to move our global community closer to a more sustainable and equitable future,” Lewis states. “At the end of the day, I want to be a role model for my daughter and teach her the value of taking actionable steps to make a change.“

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU student continues family legacy of service, juggling three different calls of duty

November 8, 2018

Grant Navakuku serves in the National Guard, ROTC and Next Generation Service Corps

Arizona State University junior Grant Navakuku joined the Arizona Army National Guard to fulfill a family legacy of service but discovered it offered wonderful benefits — a chance to enhance his education and a pathway to further his career.

The education major is looking to land a job in postsecondary administration when he graduates next year. He keeps busy between his studies, his service with the National Guard and the ROTC and as a member of ASU’s Public Service Academy as a Next Generation Service Corps member.

“My schedule is pretty hectic but you have to get it done somehow,” said Navakuku, a 22-year-old Glendale native. “I wouldn’t want my college experience any other way.”

ASU Now spoke to Navakuku about his college experience before ASU, his military service and what he hopes to accomplish in the future.

Question: Before attending ASU, where did you go to college? What are the best and the worst aspects of your college career so far?

Answer: I attended Mesa Community College for two years before transferring to Arizona State University, and my time at MCC was great. I applied to MCC while attending basic combat training and advanced individual training at Fort Leonard Wood in Missouri because I knew that school was a priority for me after my military training was done. Transitioning from Army training life to regular college life could have been difficult, but luckily MCC made it very smooth.

My first semester as a freshman I worked a full-time job and was a full-time student — this was the worst aspect of my college career because I was a little overwhelmed. I recall waking up at 5 a.m. so that I could make breakfast/lunch and get ready for my workday that started at 6:50 a.m. After work ended at 3 p.m., I took classes at MCC from 4 to 10 p.m. Monday through Thursday. I repeated this routine until the end of the semester and ended up on the President’s list. This accomplishment allowed me to see that succeeding in college was an attainable reality, no matter what the circumstances.

Q: What was your motivation for joining the Arizona Army National Guard and what have the last three years been like for you?

A: I enlisted in the Army for six years on Sept. 14, 2015. At that time, I joined the Arizona Army National Guard because I did not know what path I wanted to pursue in life. Before MCC, I attended the University of Arizona and voluntarily dropped out prior to the completion of my first semester. Because of this I really needed to find something that would occupy my time. At that moment I didn't want to go back to school, and my current part-time job wasn’t leading me anywhere, so the National Guard seemed to be the answer. Members of my family, such as my grandfather and uncle, had also been members of the military, so my enlistment also made me feel like I was carrying on a family legacy.

From my point of enlistment to present day, my time in service has been nothing short of eventful. In the Army, my leadership has always told me that to be successful you have to follow three rules: show up at the right place, at the right time and in the right uniform. I’ve adhered to this advice and so far, it has allowed me to become who I am today. I have been able to attend various training events, specialty schools and even represent the Arizona National Guard as a whole by being a member of the Arizona National Guard marathon team.

Q: What’s your duty in the National Guard?

A: The National Guard’s primary duty is to serve both community and country. The Guard responds to domestic emergencies, overseas combat missions, counterdrug efforts, reconstruction missions and more. Any state governor or the president of the United States can call on the Guard in a moment’s notice, yet Guard soldiers’ primary area of operation is their home state.

In the National Guard I previously held the job classification of 31B, which translates to a title of military police. The duty of a military police officer in the National Guard includes protecting the lives and property on Army installations by enforcing military laws and regulations. Now, as a cadet in the ASU Army Reserve Officers' Training Corps program, my primary duty is to complete school and to develop myself as a leader of character who will provide selfless service to the nation.

Q: Do you intend to come back to the Guard as an officer or will you go active duty, and in what career field?

A: With my enrollment into the ASU ROTC program, I have committed to serving as an officer in the National Guard upon graduation from ASU. My service as an officer in the National Guard will allow me to pursue a master’s degree in learning sciences.

I hope to serve in the Adjutant General’s Corps as my first choice of branch in the Army. I will serve at all organization levels of the Army where they plan, develop and operate the Army's personnel management support systems, which is a vital responsibility in both peace and war. In the future, I hope to work in the Education Offices for the National Guard so that I may help soldiers use their educational benefits in a manner that both helps them pursue their interests and that uses the benefits to its full potential.

Q: You’re also in the Public Service Academy’s Next Generation Service Corps. Why did you decide to take that route?

A: I did not find the application for NGSC in the traditional manner that most members may have found theirs. I was actually forwarded an email by my supervisor. It said, “Hi Grant, please have a look at this program. I think you would be great candidate for it.” From that email, I was intrigued so I looked into the program background, saw that their mission statement ran parallel to the path I was taking and decided to apply. After my application submission, I was interviewed then selected to be a member of the upcoming Next Generation Service Corps cohort. To answer the question directly, I chose the NGSC route along with ROTC because both of these program develop leaders through their curriculum. ROTC produces leaders for the military sector and NGSC produces leaders for the civilian sector, with that, there was no way I could let both opportunities pass me by.

Being a member of NGSC as well as a cadet in ROTC does put me in a unique situation. I have to wear three hats to school every day. I represent ASU as a student, the ROTC program and the U.S. Army as a cadet and the Next Generation Service Corps as an upcoming tri-sector leader. In regards to balancing all three obligations, being a student while participating in ROTC and NGSC, it requires forward planning, but my involvement does not hinder my potential for success in any program. The only difficulty I have is juggling my attendance to required events of the NGSC and the ROTC program, but like I said, that is easily accomplished by forward planning. What is great about both programs is that they are very understanding about my service obligations to both. The director of NGSC is a prior Army officer and a prior cadet in ROTC, so, from his prior experience, he understands the obligations that I must fulfill for ROTC.

Q: What are your future goals?

A: After completion of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College 4+1 program, receiving a bachelor's degree in educational studies and a master's degree in learning sciences by spring 2021, I hope to find a career back in postsecondary education. More specifically I hope to become a program director of a department such as ASU’s American Indian Student Support Services. This career would allow me to facilitate resources, not limited to Native Americans, that help students stay in school. Having a nonlinear educational career myself, my goal is to make every student's college experience as enjoyable and as stress-free as possible. I believe that this career would help me make this goal a reality.

Top photo: Education studies undergraduate Grant Navakuku poses for a portrait at the Tempe Fine Arts Center on Oct. 30, 2018. Navakuku is part of the Public Service Academy, ASU Army ROTC and the Arizona National Guard. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

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Public Service Academy member engineers a new life after Hurricane Maria

November 8, 2018

Jairo Ramirez serves in the Next Generation Service Corps and hopes to use his experience to offer assistance to others facing disasters

If you had to choose one word to sum up the life of Arizona State University freshman Jairo Ramirez, it would be "resilience."

A little over a year ago, Ramirez and his family sheltered in their home for 11 hours while Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on their Puerto Rican neighborhood and went on to devastate the entire island. This year, he is attending his first year at ASU and upping his academic game.  

Despite the hurdles of striking out on his own, leaving his family behind and learning a new language, Ramirez is thriving in this new environment. And he wants to give back.

He is doing just that through ASU’s Public Service Academy, where he serves in the Next Generation Service Corps. He hopes one day that he’ll be able to assist others when a disaster strikes them.

ASU Now spoke to Ramirez about surviving Hurricane Maria and the new ASU chapter of his life.

Question: You and your family were living in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria devastated the country in September and October of 2017. Tell me about that experience and how it affected you and your family.

Answer: Getting news of a hurricane or storm coming was a normal thing during hurricane season in Puerto Rico, yet no big hurricane had hit us in decades. This made everyone overlook warnings, and Maria was no exception. People were not ready for it; I was not ready for it. The eye came in sometime around 6 a.m. and came out at around 5 p.m. Those were the longest 11 hours of my life. During the time of the hurricane, the wind made noises that will forever be etched in my mind. Water came into the house through every corner, and our street flooded about three feet. Once the winds started to calm down, we had to go into the street and unclog the sewage systems to prevent the flooding from increasing anymore. Once the winds stopped, there was just dead silence. I went out of my house and could not believe the magnitude of the disaster; I could not even recognize the streets I grew up on.

For a week we had no water, and for three weeks I could not attend school. For nine weeks we had no power. The first weeks were chaotic as there was no power anywhere, no communication, the lines for gas were at least three hours long. We knew it was bad, but we had no idea of the gravity, as there was access to absolutely nothing. My dad’s work as an insurance broker was probably one of the worst jobs you could have had after the hurricane because hundreds of clients were trying to make claims — and with extremely poor communication. It was next-to-impossible to work. Insurance companies were refusing to pay claims after the hurricane or were paying at a very slow rate and amounts smaller than what was needed, and now companies are raising policy prices or even denying lifelong clients. It has been a slow recovery, but I strongly believe that Puerto Ricans will rise stronger than before.

Q: Was it hard to leave your family to attend ASU, given that your country has not fully recovered?

A: I lived my whole life back in the island and leaving to pursue my education was something I always wanted to do. I knew leaving my country would be a very hard experience, and leaving it after the hurricane made it even harder. I finished my application to ASU about a month after the hurricane, and the opportunities of getting to work in the energy sector with the support of the Public Service Academy was something that made ASU stand out by the end of my application process. I wanted to help solve the energy crisis before the hurricane and seeing my country’s power system devastated after the hurricane made it even more significant to go into the energy field.

I had set my sights on ASU because of the great work being done in solar energy research, and then many other things, such as the PSA, made ASU the clear choice. I confirmed my enrollment sometime in March, and that was the first time I felt scared of crossing the ocean. During the summer, I would think about everyone I was leaving behind and how hard adapting would be. When I got here, it was relieving to see the community’s support and understanding, and I consider ASU my second home.

Q: Why did you join the Public Service Academy — given that you were living in a foreign country, speaking a second language and taking on a rigorous academic schedule?

A: I joined the Public Service Academy even though it was very far from home because I saw in it the potential to help me reach my goals and to help me serve while doing something that I love. I have always believed that the challenge I want to tackle, energy scarcity, is a challenge that needs to be attended by all sectors, not only the engineering one. Technology is there and ever-growing, but policy and education are big hurdles to the advancement of renewable energy sources such as solar power. The Public Service Academy has acknowledged this fact and seeks to create leaders that can bring all sectors together to work on a common goal.

I knew becoming part of this program while being an engineering major and being part of Barrett (The Honors College) would be a challenge, but I have always loved being challenged as it makes me grow as a person, student and leader. Back home I was part of the JROTC program in my school; once, a former battalion commander gave a speech to our battalion challenging us to go for the three diamonds, the highest rank in JROTC, and I did not make it to the three diamonds, but I became Battalion XO, the second in command of the battalion, and got two diamonds. It has been very challenging to adapt to this new culture, language and people, but I have slowly been adapting — especially to the new language. All in all, my life at ASU and the Public Service Academy has just started and I am very excited to see all the opportunities I will be presented here and I am eager to work on them.

Q: What specifically do you enjoy about being in the Public Service Academy?

A: Being part of the Public Service Academy has been one of the greatest opportunities in my life. In the Public Service Academy, I find myself surrounded by people that have the same genuine desire as I have of changing the world for the better. Being in a setting that nurtures service and focuses on creating character-driven leaders is what I like the most about the PSA. Having the support of faculty and peers is of utmost importance in staying on one’s track. Through the PSA, I have been learning that today’s challenges cannot and will not be solved by a single individual, rather by communities of service-driven leaders who come together under one single mission.

Q: Did the irony hit you that in the Public Service Academy you might be helping people like yourself in the wake of Hurricane Maria?

A: I was raised in a house and a country were serving others is highly valued, and throughout my childhood I had many opportunities to serve my community and even communities in other countries. I had my first big service experience in a mission trip I did to the Dominican Republic in which we helped two small towns close to the border with Haiti in the areas of health care and education focused on children. This experience shaped my life by opening my eyes to real poverty and how big the challenges that come with it are. After the hurricane, I felt compelled to help my country recover and I did so through the American Red Cross. I helped in a couple of supply distribution missions right after the hurricane and during this last summer I volunteered in the ARC recovery program. This program was an incredibly rewarding experience as I got to work in the logistics of installing solar panels in shelter schools, providing health care curriculums for children to small rural clinics, provide microgrants to small farmers and other great initiatives that have helped many people around the island recover. It has been interesting to see that a lot of the work done here at ASU and the PSA resonates with what I have done throughout my life and seek to do my entire life.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate ASU and the Public Service Academy?

A: Here at ASU I am studying mechanical engineering with a focus in energy and environment and I seek to continue in the accelerated program to have a solar energy engineering and commercialization (professional science master's degree). I will use the tools given to me by both ASU and the PSA to work towards the goal of making America and the world shift towards renewable energy, be it through research, education or policy. What I will do after college is uncertain in the sense of my exact path, but anything that helps achieve this goal would be something I would pursue. In any form I can, I will contribute to the public good in the U.S., in Puerto Rico and wherever I have the opportunity to.

Top photo: Engineering freshman Jairo Ramirez poses for a portrait outside the ASU Art Museum on Oct. 11, 2018. Ramirez chose to serve in the Next Generation Service Corps, a decision influenced by his family's experience with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

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Military training helps student veteran navigate disability

November 8, 2018

Future is bright for ASU West student Don Knowles, who lost his vision five years ago

Arizona State University student Don Knowles is his own beacon of light.

The 58-year-old Marine Corps veteran is hopeful and optimistic about his future.

He also lives in darkness.

He lost his sight five years ago but has used the lessons he learned in the military to start a whole new life. So far, he has succeeded. As a returning student, Knowles has made his mark in the classroom and on ASU’s West campus, where he is pursuing a communication degree and serves as a mentor to others.

“I have opportunities I’ve never had before,” Knowles said. “I have met all kinds of new people and have set goals for myself that I would have never done otherwise. I have a couple of job offers waiting for me when I graduate. I feel very comfortable with my life.”

In honor of Salute to Service Week, ASU Now spoke to Knowles about his military service, his extraordinary life and what his future holds.

Question: Why did you join the military?

Answer: I joined the military because I have roots there. My grandfather was in the Army for 20 years. My father did not join the military and I felt compelled to do so at a young age. I joined the Marine Corps when I was 17.

Q: What did you enjoy most about being in the service?

A: The organization of the system. I enjoyed the routine, which I did not have in my childhood. My childhood was very disruptive. I liked the structure and the opportunity to advance through the ranks through my hard work.

Q: What lessons did you learn in the military that you apply in your daily life?

A: I think the greatest lesson I took away from the Marines was — if you get knocked down, get yourself up as soon as you can and move forward so as to not drag everyone around you down. I’ve applied that to my life, especially my situation with me becoming blind. I’ve applied it in the sense that I know I have a responsibility to myself and others to do the best I can. Get up, move forward and do it with a smile.

Q: How did you lose your sight?

A: I was a project manager in commercial construction and had an appendix attack at work. I made it through that day and the next, but by the third day it was obvious that I was in serious trouble. So I went to the hospital and a very young surgeon performed an emergency appendectomy on me. He accidentally cut an artery and I bled out on the table. The trauma team was called and I used up 27 units of unoxygenated blood. It swelled up my nerve bundles and once the swelling went down, they just dissolved and it left me totally blind. I woke up in the ICU and on full life support.

I had been severely injured before, and I came through it OK, so when I was experiencing blindness, I thought it was going to be temporary and thought it would pass. But as the months went by and the more doctors I saw, it became obvious the blindness was permanent. I made a conscious choice to get up off the floor and move forward with my life and accept my fate. I will spend the rest of my life in the dark without seeing anyone smile at me, the trees or a sunset, all things I had taken for granted before, and it’s gone. But instead of being depressed and sad about it, I turned that energy into learning all I can, learning about myself and other people, and it has been an amazing transition. I do feel very optimistic about the future.

Q: How do you like being a college student? What has that transition been like for you?

A: I enjoy the learning aspects of college and the experiences. It has been somewhat of a difficult journey in the sense that as a totally blind student, more often than not I’m the first blind person anyone here has encountered in their life. With that comes a responsibility on my behalf to represent myself in a courteous and respectful manner so that the next blind person they encounter, they can refer back to the experience with me and say, ‘I’ve already met one of these people and they’re OK.’” I make an effort to communicate well with people, be honest with them and be myself. It’s taken me a long way.

Q: What is your goal after you receive your degree?

A: My goal when I receive my degree at Arizona State University is I will continue toward my master’s degree at Western Michigan. It’s a 14-month focused master’s program for blind rehabilitation therapy and I plan to apply as a counselor and a technology instructor for the Veterans Administration Hospital. I have a solid standing job offer with them as well as several blind schools, who also need qualified instructors.

Top photo: Communication student Don Knowles listens to his instructor in a Sept. 21 class for ASU students who have recently transferred from community college at the West campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

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Herm Edwards follows military father's footsteps

November 6, 2018

Sun Devil football coach talks about how having an Army dad influenced his view of leadership and discipline on the field

First-year Arizona State University football Head Coach Herm Edwards has earned a reputation throughout his career for being an inspirational leader, and he learned how from his dad.

Growing up in a military family with a German mother and a soldier father, Edwards credits his upbringing for who he became. His father, an Army master sergeant, joined the military at 17 and served more than 20 years. Edwards’ family instilled discipline and responsibility in him. 

“I understood that the most powerful possession I would ever inherit from my parents was my last name,” Edwards said. It is that valued possession that has driven Edwards to strive to get the job done and do everything well because “that represents who we are.” 

Edwards remains grateful for all who have served the nation.

“I am very honored and humbled to be a part of the culture of this university, of being the head coach. And the fact that there is a representation of the military here, and that’s a part of our DNA,” Edwards said. Service is important to the university, and it gets talked about and highlighted, he said.

“That’s a good thing, and I’m glad I am a part of it,” Edwards said.  

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Top photo: Head Coach Herm Edwards leads the Sun Devils against the Michigan State Spartans on Sept. 8. Photo by ASU

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran.

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Military-affiliated population at ASU hits record number

November 5, 2018

University helps veterans and their families obtain degrees and find internships, research positions and job opportunities

For most of the last decade, Arizona State University has been designated a top military-friendly schoolThe designation comes from Victor Media, a leader in helping connect the military community with education and professional opportunities through their G.I. Jobs and Military Spouse publications. They have given ASU a "gold" rating for nine consecutive years.. It's a great place for veterans to earn a degree, and the metrics prove it.

The university is breaking enrollment records and continuing to build the veteran network at ASU.

More than 8,400 military-affiliated students are currently enrolled online and on campus, making ASU one of the largest universities per capita in the U.S. for students earning their degrees with G.I. Bill and Department of Defense tuition assistance benefits. That number is also a milestone in the university’s history, according to Steven Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

“The ability to hang out that sign that says, 'We are a place for military and veteran students to succeed,' is really a reflection of what is already going on at the school. It’s wrapped up in our charter, which states our success should be measured by whom we include, not exclude and how those students succeed,” Borden said. “The military community is a valued part of the ASU student body; we want those students to succeed … and the veterans feel it.”  

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Steve Borden, director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

Borden said ASU’s military-affiliated community includes students that are still serving in the military, veterans, and their spouses and dependents. In addition to helping veterans and their families obtain college degrees, ASU also points them to internships, research positions, job opportunities and a broad range of beneficial experiences.

“One of the reasons that ASU makes sense for so many veterans is the range of programs at all levels of academic pursuit,” Borden said. “Our military and veteran students are found in every school and college and completing programs from certificates to PhDs.”

Currently, there are nearly 1,300 military-affiliated students in graduate programs, including 57 military or veteran students pursuing PhDs, according to Borden.

Over half of enrolled military students are online. The most popular degree programs for ASU veterans are in engineering and STEM, as well as those leading to continued community service: criminology, criminal justice studies, social work, health programs and teaching.

In addition to defending our country, veterans also make other valuable contributions, said Paul C. LePore, associate dean for student and academic programs for the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“With more than 2,000 veterans seeking degrees in various STEM fields, ASU is stepping up to support the career aspirations of the men and women who have proudly served in our nation’s armed forces,” LePore said. “At the same time and through the veteran graduates we produce, we are shaping (very much for the better) the landscape of Arizona’s economy.”

LePore added that veterans have become an integral part of the ASU community.

“The experiences they bring to our campuses — through their training and by sharing what they learned and what they have been able to do through their service to our country — add a richness to our classroom learning environments,” LePore said.

ASU veterans and military by the numbers

In 2018, ASU has broken previous records in all of the following areas:

• Military-affiliated students — 8,400.
• Veteran and military students — 7,201.
• Veteran and military online students — 4,819.
• Veteran and military students in STEM — 2,631.
• Female veteran and military students — 1,691.
• Veteran and military graduate students — 1,227.
• Veteran and military students pursuing PhDs — 57.
• Enrolled veterans and military students at Barrett, The Honors College — 30.

— Statistics provided by the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

ASU alum uses online degree to prevent genocide in our modern world

November 5, 2018

Pursuing a graduate degree can be daunting to many in today’s world. Between finding the funds, time and energy, the dream of continued education can seem far out of reach. That’s why people like Marcus Steiner take advantage of the degree programs available through ASU Online.

“I had a 6-month-old, a full-time job and a wife in school as well,” said Steiner, who graduated with a MA degree in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in May. “I wanted the flexibility that came along with an online program to make sure I could keep up with work, family and school.” The Center for Genocide Research and Education logo. Download Full Image

The stigma surrounding online classes and course work stems from people perceiving the classes to be less challenging and engaging compared to their in-person counterparts. A survey in 2013 found 42 percent of employers thought students learned less in online classes and 39 percent thought they were easier to pass. In the same survey, 56 percent of employers also said they prefer employees to have a degree from an average-rated traditional school over an online degree from a top-rated school.

However, institutions like ASU are changing the way we look at online schooling.

“My time with (the school) was some of the most challenging for me academically,” said Steiner. “There was never a time when I did not feel challenged by the content and by the discussions with my professors and peers. I found the experience as a whole to be a fantastic opportunity to push my academic limits and to expand what I knew about history as a discipline.

In fact, Steiner’s very first class as a master’s student changed his career trajectory. He signed up for the “Using Geographic Information Systems in Historical Contexts” class, where he learned valuable research skills and discipline.

“This subset of digital history has flourished in recent decades and its enhancement of historical geography, environmental history, public history, political history and a range of other fields has been called ‘the spatial turn’ in the humanities,” said Joshua MacFadyen, the former professor of the course. “We discuss material from multiple disciplines and regions and we work with several large geospatial datasets produced recently by Canadian and U.S. agencies.”

Marcus Steiner

Steiner now works for the Center for Genocide Research and Education as the development director. He was connected with the center during a residency program for his doctoral studies when the executive director became interested in his work with geographic information systems and wanted to discuss how it could be incorporated into genocide studies.

In his position, he is responsible for fundraising, working with the education director to develop a comprehensive curriculum for teaching genocide in public schools and conducting research into specific genocides, among other duties.

“The most rewarding part of my career with (the center) is giving a voice to the victims of genocide,” Steiner said. “Those who are victimized often come from groups that are consistently oppressed and ignored. While we are still new, we are beginning the process of bringing out the stories of genocide victims and getting them in front of the public.”

Christi Yoder, executive director of the Center for Genocide Research and Education, thinks Steiner’s schooling has helped him to actively and skillfully evaluate risk factors for genocide using geographic information systems. His knowledge reaches from the ancient world to the present and gives him unique insight into the problems the CGRE is working on.

“I believe it is important to study humanities so that we realize we are part of a global society,” Yoder said. “We need to learn to think critically about human rights and learn to have respect for those that are different from us. History shows what can happen when we start down the road to ‘othering’ those different from us. In addition, I believe studying the humanities enables us to learn to think critically about the information we hear and see every day. This ultimately makes for better citizens.”

Although the center is an education and research-focused nonprofit, the ultimate goal of the organization is to prevent genocide around the world.

“We are very focused on genocide education as a means to prevent genocide,” Steiner said. “As such, we are developing curriculums and conducting nonpartisan, independent research focused on bringing the field of genocide studies out from the relatively arcane world of academia and to the public.”

Steiner had never considered studying geographic information systems or any other type of quantitative analysis before he came to study at ASU. He encourages current students to step out of their comfort zones as well and to try their hands at something new.

“Some of my best experiences at ASU came from taking classes outside of my research specialties,” Steiner said. “I took Dr. MacFadyen's class because I knew I was going to learn something I had never learned before. Never be satisfied with what you know.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies