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September 22, 2017

As an out-of-state, incoming first-year student to Arizona State University, Angelica Berner decided to attend an Early Start program in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“It was the best decision I could have made — not just for my career but for my overall success,” said Berner, a double major in physics and exploration systems design who participated in the Sundial Early Start program for the Department of Physics and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “I couldn’t be more grateful for the opportunity.”

In 2014, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences established Early Start: a discipline-specific, two-week immersion program to help incoming first-year students gain the necessary tools for a successful college career. Held prior to the start of fall semester, Early Start participants work with faculty members and peer mentors in their academic unit to learn how to excel both academically and socially at ASU. 

“The most important aspect of the program is it enables students to start college with a community,” said Anna Zaniewski, an associate instructional professor in the Department of Physics who came to the university to develop a program of such nature. “This shared experience develops a community of faculty, graduate students, upperclassmen and participants who want to see each other succeed.”

The college currently offers 11 different programs to help students become familiar with their major, their academic unit and the university. During this experience, students participate in a variety of workshops and activities to increase their likelihood of success at the university.

“Many incoming freshman don’t know anyone, don’t know what to expect,” said Richard Herrera, associate professor and associate director of the School of Politics and Global Studies. “The program demystifies the university. Students become familiar with their major, with each other and see that faculty and staff are real people whose goals are to help students succeed.”

Chloe Lopez, a first-generation college student majoring in political science, attended the first Early Start program in the School of Politics and Global Studies. She said she jumped at the opportunity to arrive to campus early and meet future professors and fellow students.

“Coming to a university, let alone one of America’s largest universities, was daunting,” Lopez said. “Arriving early allowed me the opportunity to acclimate to university life at my own pace. The program also forced me to discover what I was passionate about and then taught me how to cultivate this passion into a successful component of my daily life.”

Lopez said the Early Start program takes students with diverse backgrounds, some of which may be seen as an adversity, and equips these students with the tools to jump start their success in college.

“From learning how to think critically to gaining the confidence to run in a student election, I saw the immediate and long-term impacts the program made in my life, personally and professionally,” she said.

Associate Professor Jessica Early in the Department of English co-directs the Humanities Early Start program with assistant professor Christina Saidy. Early said the program has become one of her favorite parts of working at ASU.

“I love working with new first-year students in their first two weeks,” said Early, who was asked to direct the program because of her experience in English education and research with first-generation students. “We spend these two weeks deeply immersed in reading and writing in connection to the humanities.”

Early describes the program as rigorous, welcoming, interdisciplinary, diverse and a productive experience for students and faculty. She said she’s honored to be a part of it.

“The Early Start program is ASU at its very best,” Early said.

Most students live on campus during Early Start, which makes it a more comprehensive, well-rounded, integrated experience. Participants learn how to navigate the complixities of campus by touring research labs, libraries, support centers, classroom buildings and more to prepare for the upcoming semester.

“Early Start is the best transitional program ASU has for incoming freshmen,” said Maximilian Fees, a philiosophy major who participated in the Humanities Early Start program for the Class of 2021. “It’s an opportunity to claim ASU’s campus as your own. After two weeks, I could confidently call ASU my new home. I am comfortable on campus and my transition to the semester was a smooth one.”

Assistant Research Professor Elissa Adame led the Early Start program this summer for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She said she was impressed with the program design and the dedication from faculty and staff across the campus, offering resources, help and encouragement.

“When my students started the program, I heard a general buzz about how they would be ‘just a number’ at ASU,” Adame said. “At the end of the program, students replaced these narratives with talk about the helpful, inviting and inspiring people at ASU who are here to see them graduate. I am confident the Early Start students recognize ASU’s commitment to them and to their success.”

Thousands of college students nationwide have benefitted from programs like this one. Students who participate in the Early Start program are more likely to return for their second year compared to similar students.

“Retention and quality of time at ASU are two things that are really important to me,” said Gina Woodall, co-director of the School of Politics and Global Studies Early Start program. “Testing programs that may help both these variables is meaningful and useful not only to our school, but universities nationwide.”

Woodall and Herrera have been examining the effectiveness of this type of program for incoming freshmen, many of whom demonstrate risk factors for maintaining satisfactory academic progress in college. The research revealed higher levels of resilience and sense of community among the participants compared to students who didn’t participate, said Herrera. It also showed they performed academically on par for introductory-level courses with their peers who didn’t attend the program.

The Early Start programs also incorporate a great deal of student leadership and ownership. Early Start participants have the opportunity to return as facilitators and mentors after their freshman year. This dynamic gives participants a new perspective of university life from those who know it best: current students.

“Being a facilitator/mentor is an amazing experience,” said Berner, a participant turned mentor. “I was able to share the things I found most important. As a mentor, you realize you don’t want to give all the answers to questions a mentee may ask. Instead, you want to guide them to find their own answers.”

Currently, Berner is conducting research in the Emergence Lab with Sara Walker, an assistant professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. The position was a direct result from a connection with a former Early Start mentor. 

The most valuable aspect of the program is the deep and meaningful relationships students cultivate, said Lopez, who still keeps in contact with fellow participants and mentors in the program.

“Our experience in Early Start was a game changer,” she said. “Students enter uncertain of university life and leave the program empowered.”


Top photo: The 2017 Humanities Early Start participants and mentors took a tour of the Sun Devil Stadium while getting to know the Tempe campus.

Amanda Stoneman

Copywriter , College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Spirit, pride and tradition — register now for Family Weekend

September 19, 2017

Steeped in Sun Devil spirit and filled with activities for students, families and the entire ASU community, the annual fall tradition of Family Weekend will take place Friday through Sunday, Oct. 13–15.

With three days of activities wrapped around ASU’s home football game against the Washington Huskies, Family Weekend 2017 will feature something for everyone, including Sun Devils and their families, younger siblings, non-traditional and graduate students, faculty, staff and alumni. family taking a selfie during family weekend at ASU Download Full Image

Registration is available on the Family Weekend website for all events, including the game-day Signature Barbecue and Devils on Mill block party, Sparky’s Spirit Hike up “A” Mountain, academic college activities and much more. New events are being added each week, such as behind-the-scenes campus tours and the annual Mill Madness event to showcase Sun Devil Basketball.

Most of the events are free, but many require an RSVP to attend. Check out the Family Weekend website for schedule details and to register. If you have additional questions, email them to familyweekend@asu.edu

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Latino 101: 'Stereotypes are boring'

September 14, 2017

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, ASU students and faculty from a variety of backgrounds share what makes them unique

Being Latino doesn't automatically mean you speak Spanish or that your skin is brown. As National Hispanic Heritage MonthNational Hispanic Heritage Month runs Sept. 15-Oct. 15. begins, members of the Arizona State University community from a variety of backgrounds and cultures share the stereotypes they wish didn't persist, what makes them unique and why the American dream comes in all shapes and shades.

“Stereotypes are boring,” said Monica De La Torre, an assistant professor in the School of Transborder Studies. “I really hope that students that are interested in creating these narratives really do feel inspired in this current moment to pick up a camera, pick up their phones and write a script or do a short … There are so many ways that our technology today can shift those narratives."

It's not just the narrative that's shifting, but even the vocabulary used. "Hispanic," created by the Nixon administration as a way to count a group of people whose race and ethnicity varied greatly but shared origins from Spanish-speaking countries, later gave way in popularity to Chicano as young Mexican-Americans in the 1960s and '70s became more political and wanted to distinguish their heritage and their political leanings — and even that term today has evolved to include Latino and Latinx as a way to be more inclusive. 

ASU Now asked several ASU students from El ConcilioEl Concilio seeks to unite Latin@/Chican@/Hispanic student organizations at ASU to represent their interests and needs and promote awareness of culture within the ASU community. and faculty from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and the School of Transborder Studies to share their thoughts and experiences about being Latino in the United States and to share some of what makes their personal narratives unique.

This video is part of a series that began with Native 101. The project has asked African-Americanswomenveterans and Asians to share their own stories and help dispel stereotypes.  


A selection of campus events celebrating National Hispanic Heritage Month:

¡Aventura Cultural!

6-9 p.m. Oct. 13 at the Student Pavilion, Senita Ballroom (Tempe campus)

A vibrant and interactive cultural experience that incorporates educational displays, activities, music, performances, artifacts, food, and more. Hosted by El Concilio. For more information, contact asuaventuraexpo@gmail.com.

Café, Pan y Poesía

10:30 a.m.-noon Sept. 26 at the Devils Den (Polytechnic campus)

What role do borders play in our world? What happens when two or more opposing ideas come together? How do we negotiate borders and how is border culture created? How do we cross borders and what is the result of crossing? Come join this event for poetry based on Borderlands/La Frontera by Gloria Anzaldúa and enjoy conversation with coffee and pastries. Hosted by Student Engagement and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. For more information, contact Jennifer Stults at Jennifer.Stults@asu.edu.

Merengue Dance Workshop

7-8:30 p.m. Sept. 22 on Fletcher Lawn (West campus)

Learn how to dance Merengue in this fun-filled cultural dance workshop. Hosted by West Programming Activities Board. For more information, contact Annaliese Pickett at Annaliese.pickett@gmail.com.

Covering the Latino Community: From the Barrio to the Border               

7-8 p.m. Sept. 18 at the Cronkite School's First Amendment Forum (Downtown Phoenix campus)

Cronkite School’s “Must See Mondays” lecture series features former 12 News anchor Vanessa Ruiz, director of the Cronkite News Borderlands desk, and former New York Times Southwest correspondent Fernanda Santos, Southwest Borderlands Initiative professor, as they share their experiences reporting from the border with Rick Rodriguez, Southwest Borderlands Initiative professor. Hosted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. For more information, visit https://cronkite.asu.edu/news-and-events/events.

Find more events at asuevents.asu.edu.

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now


ASU students create organization to support health majors

A new Arizona State University student group seeks to help health majors identify ways to put their degrees to work.

September 14, 2017

Service, professionalism and mentorship. Those are the three principles of the CONHI Health Initiatives, or CHI, a new student-led organization at Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus.

“This is the first student organization that is focused on students who are non-nursing,” said Rachel Tomlinson, co-founder and vice president of the group. CHI Logo Logo courtesy: Maria San Andres Download Full Image

CHI is the brainchild of Tomlinson and her fellow co-founder and organization President Maria San Andres, both are pursuing non-clinical health degrees. 

After recognizing a need for support dedicated specifically to ASU's College of Nursing and Health Innovation (CONHI) students pursuing health majors outside of nursing, the pair created CHI as an innovative solution. 

“We are really trying to focus on providing a holistic view of what is available to students, as far as, opportunities in their career and the workforce,” San Andres said.

The organization’s focus came into view after both San Andres and Tomlinson worked as first year success coaches. They said through that experience they discovered the nursing college's students had a hard time figuring out what type of job their health degree could lead to. (Degrees include: community healthhealth care compliance and regulationshealth care coordinationhealth innovation and integrative health.) 

“We saw this kind of behind-the-scenes administrative and one-on-one advocacy component of the health majors which is something really interesting, so we don’t expect freshmen to know it, it's something we just want to help explore with them,” Tomlinson said.

With meetings held every other Friday during the academic year, the plan is to bring in guest speakers, connect students with mentors, volunteer opportunities, and delve deeper into the innovation side of the healthcare profession.

“The health care industry is growing and we’re all kind of learning where that’s going, so I think that’s the fun part but also the really challenging part to kind of explain to students,” San Andres said.

Given that they are a new organization, both Tomlinson and San Andres are all ears when it comes to feedback and what students would like to get out of the experience.

CHI is open to anyone pursuing a health-related degree. They are actively recruiting members, mentors and guest speakers.

“Slowly and steadily the population of health majors in CONHI is growing so we just want the organization to kind of grow to meet the demands,” said Tomlinson.

For more information on CHI including meeting dates and times check out their Facebook Page or website.

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See what these ASU students carry in their backpacks to help them with their day
September 7, 2017

From biology to photography, 4 ASU students share what they carry around campus to get through their day and their classwork done

Polluted beach samples from Japan, whale poop stickers and bamboo cutlery. No, this isn’t something out of a marine biology trip; these are just some of the items biology doctoral student Charles Rolsky carries around campus to help him with his day.

We peeked into the backpacks of four Arizona State University students to uncover the tools of their trades. From camera lenses to rubber molds, the contents of each bag are as unique as their owner and provide a glimpse into what it's like to study their particular major.

Charles Rolsky, doctoral student, biology

Top row, left to right: Reusable straw, reusable cutlery, red reusable shopping bag, Plastic Pollution Coalition pamphlet, wallet, earbuds, beach sand sample, tweezers, keys. Middle row, left to right: Whale poop stickers, binoculars, notebooks, pens, beach sand sample, business cards, plastic samples, bottle and vial for lab testing, water bottle. Bottom row, left to right: Sun Card, Tums. 

A doctoral student and teaching assistant in biology in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Charles Rolsky works with the help of the public to collect beach sand saturated with microplastics from around the world (the samples pictured here are from Japan and San Francisco).

“I enlist the help of the public to collect beach sand saturated with microplastics around the world,” Rolsky said. “I then analyze these better to understand the impact plastic pollution has on humans and the environment.”

Because he researches plastics, he makes a point to be as sustainable as possible, using a reusable water bootle, cutlery and shopping bags. His mini binoculars have been with him since age 6, a gift from his grandmother.

Anya Manguson, sophomore, journalism

First column, top to bottom: Camera, wallet, carrying bag for flash drives, charger, memory cards and sticks. Second column, top to bottom: Extra shirt, notebooks, laptop, pens and scissors. Third column, top to bottom: Media badge, two camera lenses. Fourth column, top to bottom: Makeup bag, sunglasses, flashcard reader, UPass, Sun Card and keys.

Anya Magnuson, a journalism sophomore in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, also works at ASU as a photographer. In her backpack she carries an athletics press badge, Canon 5D Mark iii, Canon 24-70 f2.8, Canon 70-200 f2.8, SD cards, compact flash cards, a compact flash card reader, a bag of flash drives and of course her U-pass and a "life bag" that includes a toothbrush, makeup and deodorant. Forgetting her Upass, camera or the card reader would make the day pretty bad, Manguson said. 

Makayla Menges, senior, digital culture

Top row: Pencils, colored pencils, pens, Sharpies and a Pokemon bag. Middle row: Chargers, lotions, keys, notebooks. Bottom row: charger, earbuds, keys, water bottle, textbook, wallet.

Makayla Menges, a digital culture media processing senior in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, keeps it simple in her bag. She carries a variety of colored pencils and pens for drawing.

“I actually don’t know why I enjoy drawing. It’s actually really frustrating to me,” Menges said. “It’s almost like a challenge, I like challenges and it's something for my brain to do.” 

She also carries lotion, a spare phone charger, water bottle, her LSAT book as she prepares for the test on Dec. 2 and finally her blue notebook, in which she draws, takes notes in class and writes down her thoughts on the different video games she plays. 

Alvin Huff, graduate student, art 

First column, top to bottom: Rasps and utility knives for sculpting, wrist cuff, laptop. Second column, top to bottom: VGA adaptor, X-Acto knife blades, sunglasses holder. Third column: Flash drives, pens, tokens from a brewery conference. Fourth column, top to bottom: Charger, receipts. 

Graduate metal sculptor Alvin Huff, from the Herbeger Institute for Design and the Arts, keeps small tools to file plaster mold edges and razors to separate the rubber molds he’ll use for lost wax casting.  

“I’ll turn that around and put that in another ceramic shell and then melt out the wax and then fill the void with aluminum," Huff said.

He also has receipts from Home Depot and machine shops, and tokens from a brewery conference in Las Vegas, as he is a part-time beer brewer. Huff also works in IT at ASU, so he carries around items such as a VGA adapter and flash drives. 

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now


ASU Capital Scholar forms lasting relationships in Washington, DC

September 7, 2017

This June, Arizona State University political science major Suzette Warren traded in the 100-degree desert heat for the fast-paced 65 of Washington, D.C., as part of the Capital Scholars Program internship program.

Students in the program intern over the summer while earning six upper-division credits. The field and location of the internship can vary greatly, from government agencies to nonprofit organizations. Warren was interning at the Madison Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm. The U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. Suzette Warren, political science major and Capital Scholar, spent the summer working as an intern for the Madison Group, a Washington, D.C.-based lobbying firm. Download Full Image

Like many interns in the nation’s capital, Warren was thrown right into the mix, having to adapt quickly. She described the experience as organized chaos in the blog that students are asked to contribute to during their internship.

“While America runs on Dunkin’, Washington, D.C., runs on interns,” Warren said.

A typical day at the firm for Warren was going to meetings and taking notes on issues pertaining to clients. The group also went on tours of the area and learned fun facts such as the highest court in the land is actually the basketball court on the floor above the Supreme Court.

Mainly the students experienced life working and living in Washington, from the frustrations of the Metro breaking down during the day to tagging along with your boss as he lobbies at Charlie Palmer’s Steak restaurant at night.

Although she was 2,000 miles away from home, Warren said she saw Sun Devils everywhere she went. Her employer is a Sun Devil, people she met at events were Sun Devils and even random people on the Metro yelling, “Go ASU!” as they raised up their pitchforks were Sun Devils.

Another ASU alumnus, Matt Caruso, who completed the Capital Scholar program 20 years ago, even had the group over for dinner. Warren found relationships like this were special. There were people all over who were eager to offer assistance and advice during her stay in Washington.

ASU student Suzette WarrenSuzette Warren

“Without that support it would have been a lot harder for us," Warren said. "Everybody needs a home-cooked meal once in a while.”

One of the more memorable pieces of advice Warren received was from a lobbyist. He explained that networking, specifically fostering relationships, was key. 

“It goes far beyond handing someone your business card and sending a few emails back and forth,” Warren said. “You need to care about the person, genuinely.”

Now back in Tempe, Warren said experiences she had in Washington are being taught in the classroom. Reading about environmental issues is one thing, but seeing it firsthand in Congress is the best experience you can have, according to Warren.

Warren feels so strongly about her experience in the Capital Scholars Program that she is making classroom visits to spread the word. She tells fellow Sun Devils that this program is great even if you aren’t a political science major. 

An example she gives is when she met a policy adviser at Google. Warren said she had never imagined working at a tech company, but through programs like this and through the power of networking she realized that there were opportunities everywhere she looked.

Based on advice she received in Washington, Warren vows to keep working, even if she feels like she is already at the top.

“I will continuously strive to be better than my best.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


Drawing students from all walks of life, ASU Law welcomes its biggest and brightest class yet

September 5, 2017

Growing in size and also in stature, the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University welcomes its largest and most accomplished incoming class this fall.

Featuring more than 450 new students, the 2017 Juris Doctor class enters with an average LSAT score of 162, and a composite grade-point average of 3.75, the highest combined medians in the 50-year history of ASU Law. ASU Law incoming class Download Full Image

“You’re going to learn that you’re an incredibly impressive bunch,” said Dean Douglas Sylvester, addressing the group at student orientation. “Now the first thing you’ve learned just by looking around is you’re a big group. We have over 260 students in first-year JD classes. That is a tremendously talented and highly credentialed class. We’ve moved up our GPA a tremendous amount, we’ve moved up our LSAT score. This is going to be the highest-ranked and -credentialed class in the history of the law school.”

And the new class at the nation’s 25th-ranked law school is as diverse as it is talented, bringing a wide range of backgrounds and experiences together under one roof at the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix.

The students come from all over. In addition to several international students, the JD class represents 96 undergraduate schools from more than 30 states.

They come from various stages in life. Many are fresh from their undergraduate schools, but there are 50 mid-level Juris Doctor students from 30 schools. Others are making midlife changes, coming from careers such as air traffic controller, engineer, rancher, art gallery curator, and nutritionist.

They come from all disciplines, cultures and backgrounds. They have degrees in science, technology, divinity, counseling and education. They speak Farsi, Hebrew, Hindi, French, Portuguese and Russian. They have climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, performed in ballets, won gold medals, and worked in the Screen Actors Guild.

“What you get a sense of here is not just the credentials, but the diversity of the student body,” Sylvester said. “People from all sorts of different backgrounds. People who have practiced, people who have run businesses, people who have been involved in all sorts of different undergraduate enterprises. Learning from one another is an incredibly important aspect of this law school.”

'Miner' intrigue for a linguistics major

Ben Yeager

One of those students is Ben Yeager. Born and raised in Tucson, the 33-year-old got a linguistics degree from the University of Arizona a decade ago, then decided to take some time off and learn some other skills before going to grad school.

“I thought it would be valuable and interesting to learn a practical life skill. I figured I would always have a car and knew little more than how to change my oil, so in 2007 I decided to get a job working as an entry-level mechanic at a mine near Tucson,” Yeager said. “During lunch on the second day of the mandatory MSHA training, they asked me to go speak with the head of the engineering department. He told me that he was informed that a linguistics graduate had been hired to work in the truck shop and he was intrigued and asked them for my resume. He set up an interview for later that same day, during which he asked me to work for him as a surveyor instead. I told him I knew nothing about mining or survey and he replied that, based on my resume, he was confident I would quickly learn the role and that they would train me. I reiterated that I knew nothing about the role, he assured me I would be fine, and I loved the job.”

Yeager worked as a surveyor for two years, took a break to travel and work abroad, then returned to the mining industry in 2012, where he continued working until heading to ASU Law this year. Having taken a nontraditional path to law school, he is appreciative of the school’s welcoming environment.

“I learned about the value ASU puts on diversity as I began researching ASU Law,” he said. “I was a little skeptical about how genuine that value might be to ASU as an institution, but through interacting with staff and second- and third-year students, I have had the opportunity to see that they — at least those I have had the pleasure of meeting — are genuinely interested in the different backgrounds, experiences, and perspectives of the students.”

He added, “My degree is in linguistics with minors in anthropology and Spanish, chosen because I’m fascinated by language and people and love learning about how their experiences shape the way they see the world. I love that I’m surrounded by such diverse and impressive students and I’m proud to have the opportunity to, in my own small way, further ASU's commitment to celebrating its diversity.”

From the basketball court to the courtroom

Hilary Weaver

Hilary Weaver has faced some sizable obstacles on her road to law school. Having grown up in a small town in Ohio, nobody in her family had ever been to college. Her skills as a basketball player led her to Lehigh University in Pennsylvania, where she studied education while playing point guard for the Mountain Hawks. After college, she landed in Phoenix through the Teach for America program. A challenging but rewarding experience, it inspired her to do even more.

“Working in education exposed me to inequities that I hadn’t previously realized,” said the 25-year-old, who taught middle-school math for two years, then worked as an instructional coach for a year with the Arizona Charter Schools Association. “This realization coupled with my students’ personal stories made it clear to me that social justice is something I deeply value. When thinking about what career path would best equip me to make lasting change in my community, I knew law was the best path.”

Having fallen in love with the Phoenix community at that point, ASU Law was at the top of her list.

“ASU is a prestigious law school, and through ASU Law's student organizations, I would have the opportunity to continue to serve the Phoenix community,” she said. “Further, ASU offers an incredible network of alumni. After having the opportunity to meet with students, faculty and Dean Sylvester, I knew that ASU Law was my top choice.”

Weaver knows something about learning from the best. One of her first games as a freshman at Lehigh was against the two-time defending national champion UConn Huskies, who had won 82 consecutive games. Although Weaver and the Hawks weren’t able to stop the Huskies, who eventually stretched their win streak to 90 games, Weaver relished the opportunity to do battle with one of the sport’s all-time greatest teams.

“From the time I was a sophomore in high school I had been watching Maya Moore play, so competing on the same court as her was particularly memorable,” Weaver said. “I wish I could say that we also ended UConn’s win streak, but we have our place in history as being UConn’s 83rd straight win.”

A basketball journey comes full circle

Courtney Ekmark

What’s it like to be on the other side of such a streak? Weaver can ask fellow first-year law student Courtney Ekmark, who played for University of Connecticut a few years later. In her two seasons there, Ekmark helped the Huskies win two national titles and post a 76-1 record, en route to a record-shattering 111-game win streak.

But when that historic streak finally ended this March in a stunning Final Four upset, Ekmark was no longer a Husky. The former Phoenix St. Mary’s standout was a Sun Devil, having transferred back home.

After sitting out the 2016–17 basketball season, per NCAA transfer rules, Ekmark has two years of eligibility left. The 22-year-old will now be pulling double duty, learning about courts at ASU Law while taking the court for the Sun Devils.

“I was obviously concerned when the dean on the first day reminded us that first-year law students aren’t supposed to have a job, because playing basketball at the Division I level is definitely a full-time job,” Ekmark said. “But the good news is he also suggested that we get plenty of exercise, so I have that going for me.”

After deciding to transfer, Ekmark had whittled her list of schools down to two: ASU and Stanford.

“Once I got admitted to Stanford, it was hard to turn down, because my brother actually goes there, and we’re close, so it would’ve been super fun to go to school with him,” she said.

But she was drawn to the ASU basketball team, and the chance to play in front of family and friends again. “I love Coach Charli Turner Thorne and the ASU program, and it’s so awesome to be back in Arizona. I love it here.”

Turner Thorne has known Ekmark since she was a young basketball prodigy leading local teams to national Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) success and dominating older players at Turner Thorne’s basketball camps. So what was the coach’s reaction when Ekmark decided to transfer to ASU?

“Oh my gosh, the utmost joy,” Turner Thorne said. “Courtney is not only an unbelievable basketball player, she’s just an unbelievable person. To have her be part of our family now is incredibly exciting and rewarding.”

And she’s not just here for the basketball.

“ASU Law school, being a top-25 school, that definitely got my attention,” Ekmark said. “However, that’s not as important to me as the people. I met Dean Sylvester, and he’s an awesome guy, and everyone I met at the school has been amazing and very helpful in planning this journey of mine.”

Ekmark’s journey will not be an easy one. In fact, Turner Thorne, whose coaching career began as a graduate assistant at Washington in 1988, says she’s never had a law student on her team before.

“This is a first,” she said. “We were fifth in the nation with our team GPA last year, so we are all about being incredible students and taking advantage of an incredible university like ASU. This is what we recruit. But this is an absolute first.”

Added Turner Thorne, “I’m just so proud of her, I’m so happy for her, I’m so appreciative that our law school saw her potential. It’s going to be very challenging for her, no doubt. But she’s about as hard a working and competitive young lady as I’ve ever met in my entire life.”

It may be an unprecedented challenge, but having earned her undergraduate degree in just three years while also winning a pair of national championships, Ekmark feels prepared for the daunting “double major” of law school and basketball.

“I’m used to budgeting my time,” she said. “When we were making runs through the NCAA Tournament at UConn, we’d be gone for almost a month, so I got used to studying on planes and in the locker room. It will be a huge challenge, for sure, but the opportunity to play for a top-25 team while simultaneously attending a top-25 law school is the type of challenge that I look forward to.”

Frisbee champion follows arc to ASU Law

 tossing the frisbee
Leah Tsinajinnie

Leah Tsinajinnie is from Atlanta, having graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology in 2013 with a degree in business administration. Her father grew up on the Navajo Reservation in Klagetoh, Arizona, and that’s what steered her to ASU Law.

“When applying to law schools, I wanted to apply to one in the Southwest region, with the hopes of reconnecting with my Native American roots,” said Tsinajinnie, 27. “ASU Law was by far the most appealing, especially after learning about the Indian Legal Program.”

She said the program is a truly unique opportunity. “I plan to complete the requirements to get an Indian Law Certificate, as well as participate in some of its other initiatives such as Pipeline to Law and Native Vote Election Protection Project.”

She was also looking for a school that put an emphasis on diversity, and ASU Law’s commitment was evident.

“I made a large, detailed spreadsheet comparing all the schools I was interested in,” she said. “I initially noticed ASU Law's priority on diversity when browsing its website. During my visit, through talking with faculty, staff and students, it became crystal-clear that its commitment to diversity was genuine, not just a buzzword.”

Like so many members of the incoming class, Tsinajinnie’s talents extend beyond the classroom. She was an Ultimate Frisbee standout in college, won back-to-back national championships with her club team in 2013 and 2014, and has played in tournaments all over the world.

She has even used the Frisbee as a tool to promote peace in the Middle East, where she spent most of the past year working with a nonprofit called Ultimate Peace.

“I lived in Israel, and my job was to use Ultimate Frisbee as a tool to teach middle and high school-aged youth values such as mutual respect and integrity, as well as lifelong skills like nonviolent conflict resolution,” she said. “We coached Israeli Jewish, Israeli Arab, Palestinian, Bedouin, and Circassian youth and brought them together at various events during the school year. It's powerful to see young, future leaders break down barriers and become close friends with people from a culture different than their own.”

That desire to make a difference is what ultimately led Tsinajinnie to law school.

“I decided I wanted to go to law school because it will give me the necessary skills and abilities to help people that are disadvantaged by our economic and societal structures,” she said. “However cheesy it may sound, I do want to change the world for the better and make peace.”

Senior director of communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


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September 1, 2017

Two ASU engineering students spend summer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory working on technology of tomorrow

Two Arizona State University engineering students with stars in their eyes spent the summer living the ultimate space lover’s dream: an internship at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

They built parts that will fly to Mars, glimpsed the goals and tech of tomorrow’s missions, celebrated the 40th anniversary of the Voyager mission, and viewed the solar eclipse from the Pasadena, California, campus with thousands of others working to take humanity into the solar system.

“It’s an amazing place,” said Nathan Barba, a senior majoring in mechanical engineering and a guest blogger for the Planetary Society. “It’s unlike anywhere I’ve worked.”

Barba and Robert “RJ” Amzler, a senior majoring in aerospace engineering, spent months at the birthplace of NASA. JPL is the leading U.S. center for robotic exploration of the solar system, with 19 spacecraft and 10 major instruments carrying out planetary, Earth science and space-based astronomy missions.

Amzler worked on engineering the bit carousel subsystem for the Mars 2020 Rover, which moves samples in and out of the rover. Interns normally don’t work on flight design.

“I spent two weeks designing a half-inch hole,” he said. “It’s crazy the amount of thought that goes into everything.”

Even though Amzler hasn’t finished earning his bachelor’s degree, he has now worked on four missions that will fly: two in low-Earth orbit, one to the moon and one to Mars.

The Mars 2020 Rover is heavily based on the Curiosity Rover. In space engineering terms, it has heritage. NASA likes systems that have been into space — “flown” — and proved themselves.

“I attended a two-hour-long lecture on ‘don’t change anything,’ ” Amzler said.

One thing that surprised Amzler was how much everything costs. A small ball bearing that might cost $10 can cost a few thousand dollars because it has to survive the vacuum of space, Martian dust and hundreds of other hazards. It also absolutely cannot fail.

“I knew what I was doing was going to Mars,” Amzler said.

JPL’s campus is extremely casual. The interns were the most formally dressed people there.

“It’s a lot more like a campus than I thought it would be,” Amzler said. “It had an almost Silicon Valley feel.”

A lot of people were working on the Europa mission. The mission is being planned for launch in the 2020s, arriving in the Jupiter system after a journey of several years to investigate the habitability of Jupiter’s icy moon Europa.

“Whether you’re developing a mission depends on how stressed you are,” Amzler said. The engineers were driven. Software coders worked longer hours but were more casual about it.

The atmosphere was inspiring, both students said. History is around every corner.

“It was cool being in the same place as all this historic stuff,” Amzler said.

Barba has always wanted to work at JPL. He didn’t know anyone there, but he drove over and attended its open house every summer and networked. He met his mentor, who sponsored his 14-week internship this year.

Barba got to sample a lot. “I got the wide breadth,” he said.

Much of what he worked on could not be disclosed. He worked in mission formulation, JPL’s wish list for future missions.

“I was kind of a fly on the wall,” he said.

He spent two days at a rapid version of the same thing. He worked on concepts that have no heritage, like a lander for an ocean planet. He helped engineer a sample collecting subsystem called an adaptive caching assembly. He worked on the science for a future mission. He also engineered parts on the Mars helicopter, which, again, he couldn’t discuss in detail, other than to say it’s exactly what it sounds like.

He jumped from project to project throughout the day. His mentor mapped out his workflow and meetings to maximize success.

The best part for Barba? He may become a permanent fixture on the JPL campus.

“I think so,” he said. “I had nine interviews.” They threw oddball engineering questions at him like how many Ping-Pong balls can fit in a 747.

His dream job? “Being on a team that discovers life on another planet.”

Barba’s advice to anyone working is to get a good mentor and to find out what the metrics are for success, then hit those marks.

It’s easy to get star-struck at a place like JPL, so stay focused on execution, “but don’t forget to take it all in and live in the moment,” Barba said.

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Tillman statue an authentic likeness, down to the era-accurate football helmet.
ASU football team to start tradition of touching statue as they charge field.
August 30, 2017

Bronze statue of Pat Tillman, created by an ASU alumna, looms large both in ASU hearts and now at Sun Devil Stadium

Arizona State University has unveiled a new statue of American hero Pat Tillman, who played football at ASU before sacrificing his life as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004.

On Wednesday evening, a maroon-and-gold wrap dropped to reveal the life-size bronze figure of Tillman, shown in his ASU uniform, ready to sprint onto the field. Including a pedestal, the statue stands 7½ feet tall in front of the new Tillman Tunnel that leads players onto the north end of Frank Kush Field at Sun Devil Stadium.

Kevin Tillman spoke at the unveiling ceremony, telling the crowd that his brother’s likeness is everywhere at ASU but that the university had a big impact on Pat as well.

“Pat spent his whole life trying to be the best person he could be. He didn’t focus on money or things or a pretty statue,” he said. “It was, ‘How do I make myself better in all of these different facets in my life?’ And ASU gave him the opportunity to do that.”

ASU Coach Todd Graham said the football team will start a new tradition of touching the statue as they charge onto the football field.

“I want to challenge our players with this,” he said. “If you come out and touch that statue, you need to pour everything you have onto the field and play with passion because that’s what his life was about — having a passion for what you’re doing.”

Artist Jeff Carol Davenport, an ASU alumna, created the statue, which portrays a younger Pat Tillman with a fringe of hair peeking out from under his helmet.

“I’m an ASU graduate and I had followed Pat’s journey, and I always thought it would be wonderful to do a sculpture of Pat,” said Davenport, an art teacher at Sandra Day O’Connor High School in Phoenix who spent nine months on the project.

“It’s a great honor to do this.”

Tillman was a student-athlete at ASU from 1994 to 1998, earning a degree in marketing, and then played football professionally with the Arizona Cardinals. Reacting to the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Tillman brothers enlisted in the Army together in May 2002. Pat Tillman died in Afghanistan in 2004.

Tillman’s influence still touches the ASU football team, whose members wear number 42 on their uniforms every year. Graham said the team watches highlights of Tillman almost every day because his passion for playing inspired his teammates to excel.

Arthur Pearce II, a Mesa businessman and third-generation Sun Devil, donated the statue after hearing Graham’s vision for it.

“I’ve always admired Pat, as everybody has in Arizona,” said Pearce, who earned a degree in business from ASU in 1975 and watched Tillman play in the 1990s.

“Pat symbolizes courage and persevered to be the best he could be,” said Pearce, who pulled the cord that unveiled the statue at a ceremony attended by the Tillman family, ASU leaders and football players.

“This will be a lasting memory of Pat that will be here 100 years from now so students from Arizona State will know who he is.”

Pearce asked Davenport to create the Tillman statue because he was so pleased with the 2014 sculpture she did of Pearce’s grandfather, Zebulon Pearce, that sits in downtown Mesa. Zebulon Pearce played football at the Tempe Normal School — now ASU — in 1899, graduating with teaching credentialsThe Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, named for him and established in 1971, honors teaching excellence in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU.

Sculpting is only one of Davenport’s careers. She earned her master’s of elementary education in 2008 from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU and has been teaching while also making art in her studio in New River.

“I taught fourth grade my first year teaching, and for our field trip we went to the state Capitol,” she said. “I told the students that I made the police K-9 memorial that’s there, and when they saw it, they started asking for my autograph.”

Davenport was so excited when Pearce asked her to do the project in November that she started sketching out the model that night. She began by looking at every photograph of Tillman that she could find.

“In the original image I was given of Pat coming out of the tunnel, his hands are just at his side in a more relaxed pose, but I wanted to tell a little more of the story,” she said.

“So in the final form, his glove from his right hand is in his left hand because in my mind, he’s so anxious to get onto the field that he didn’t put his glove on.”

The sculpting process started with an 18-inch-tall maquette, or model, made out of clay. Originally, she designed it with Tillman not wearing a helmet. But ASU and the Tillman family asked that she create the image with a helmet. She bought a helmet from Tillman’s era so she could get the Sparky logo just right.

The final maquette was taken to Bollinger Atelier, a fine-arts foundry in Tempe, where the staff made a digital scan and then created a three-dimensional version in foam. The foam was coated with rubber and then clay to make the molds.

Bronze ingots were heated to 2,030 degrees and poured into the molds. Because the statue is so large, it was divided into several molds. After cooling, Davenport took a sledgehammer to the molds to reveal the bronze pieces underneath. The pieces were then welded together.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Davenport wanted a specialist to work on the finish, or patina, of the statue, so she had ASU alumna Aiya Jordan come from San Francisco to spend a full day completing the exterior. Bronze is somewhat flat in appearance, and applying special patinas creates a glowing finish with a hint of color.

Jordan spent several hours one day recently with a huge blowtorch in one hand and a squirt bottle of chemicals in the other, climbing up and down a ladder, coaxing out the image of Tillman in his uniform. Sulfurated potash, a dark substance, created definition in the folds of the socks and the veins on the forearms. A touch of maroon pigment brought the jersey to life.

After the patina process, a clear coat was applied, making the 400-pound bronze statue nearly impervious to damage from the Arizona sun.

Jordan, who earned a bachelor’s of fine arts from ASU in 2004, worked with Davenport at Bollinger Atelier several years ago.

“I was super excited to do this because I’m an alumnus and because it’s Pat Tillman,” she said.

Davenport found the entire process to be emotional.

“For those who know me, I'm sure they would not be surprised to hear that I have shed several tears along the way, both happy and sad,” she said.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


Peer mentors jumpstart ASU transition for former foster youth

Bridging Success Early-Start welcomes third cohort

August 25, 2017

Editor's note: Thirty new ASU freshmen and transfer students who started classes at the university last week took advantage of Bridging Success Early-Start. The six-day residential transition to college program, held Aug. 6–11, helps welcome alumni of foster care to the university and prepares them for success in their first–semester and beyond. ASU Now sat in on several afternoons of the program to get an inside look at the Early-Start experience and some of the ways that peer mentors help new students’ confidence unfold.

What was most challenging for you about starting college?  ASU Bridging Success peer mentor chats with new ASU students Bridging Success peer mentor Courtney Denton (center) a business law sophomore, talks to incoming freshmen Dawson Winslow (left) a biology major, and Kian Anderson, an exploratory student, as they explored the SunDevilSync site and researched potential ASU clubs and organizations to get involved with. Anderson said he’s looking into being a walk-on in track or cross country, and checking into intramural soccer and baseball. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

What do you know now that you wish you’d known right from the start?

As ASU junior Cynthia Alaffa and sophomores Courtney Denton and Brittany Skaggs gave honest answers to these questions, as part of an opening panel for ASU’s Bridging Success Early-Start program, their audience in the Alumni Lounge of ASU’s Memorial Union grew exceptionally attentive.

The three, who would serve as peer mentors and program assistants throughout the six-day program, had up to now largely blended in with the new-student cohort, save for their maroon Bridging Success t-shirts and their social ease going from table to table to greet each of the participants. But from this panel forward, their role as trusted advisors was solidified.

Skaggs, a psychology major, commented first. She shared that all the paperwork to declare legal independence when she joined ASU and moving into a residence hall on her own was hard, as was learning to ask for help generally.

“Reaching out and asking for help is something that took me a while to do,” she admitted. “I’d struggle and struggle on my own, and then I’d finally ask for help and the problem would be solved so quickly. I learned not to wait. 

“Don’t be afraid to open up and make friends,” Skaggs also advised. “I’ve gotten to know people in the last year who are now better friends than some I’ve known since fifth grade.”

Alaffa talked about the difficulty of not having the family she had grown up with around for support.

“When I started at ASU, my aunt, who was my guardian, had just moved to California and I had moved in with a cousin, so part of my support system was gone. I wish I would’ve known the importance of using networks,” said the social work major. “I kind of secluded myself at first and didn’t have a balance between schoolwork and social. Finding a support system through Bridging Success and the Nina Scholars Program really helped.”    

Denton encouraged the new students to keep their minds open. “When I got here I kind of had a hard heart, you know what I mean? I thought I’d experienced everyone. Keep your mind open about people,” suggested the business law major. “Even people who didn’t experience the kinds of things we have are struggling to be here.”

She shared that while she’s always been really independent, being organized was not her strong suit: “Tutoring centers really helped,” she noted. “I should’ve set up a tent, I went there so much. It’s not like in high school, where there might be stigma for using tutors. At ASU, everybody goes. Students are just a little older than you, and it’s like talking to a friend.”   

“Getting insights like these from near-peers can be reassuring to any student who has jitters about starting college,” observed social work master’s student Kalah Polsean, the ASU University College management intern who helped organize and led the week of Early-Start activities. “For students who may not have much extended family support, seeing how other students have made it through foster care and to college can be encouraging.”

At the end of the panel session, students were invited to ask the peer mentors anything that might be on their minds. They were quiet at first, but then the questions came:

“What are the most important things to bring to the dorm?” (Toilet paper and medicine cabinet stuff that you take for granted will be there at home.)

“Will we use more hangers or will we put most things in a dresser?” (It depends. Wait to buy a lot of things until you really know your space and what will work.)

“Did you have a student job?” (Peer mentors and staff recommended working on campus, but waiting at least a semester if possible, and they explained the nuts and bolts of Work Study positions.)

Real, relevant, and valid  

Early-Start accounts for a big part of the responsibilities of students who sign on for the peer mentor role with Bridging Success, explained program coordinator Justine Cheung, who is also a doctoral student in social work and a foster mom herself. But mentors also provide ongoing support to students throughout the year.

“They are a trusted resource for the students when addressing barriers because they have a wealth of information based on their lived experiences here at ASU,” Cheung said. “A lot of times students just need to talk to someone who has been through what they are facing.” 

The peer mentors also play a key role in the program’s community outreach. 

“The peer mentors can speak truth to youth in care and to adult caregivers about what it takes to get to college and assure them that it is 100 percent doable. Again, hearing it from someone who has walked the path before them makes it feel much more achievable," Cheung emphasized. “They see that aspiring to go to college is a valid goal.” 

Peer mentors receive a $1,000 scholarship for their efforts.   

ASU launched its Bridging Success year-round support program and its Early-Start component for new students in 2015, in response to Arizona legislation that waives tuition for youth who were in foster care at age 16.

The university’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions oversees the year-round program, and University College coordinates Early-Start.

“Similar programs have been growing around the country to target the needs of this student population, but not much research has been done on the validity of the content,” observed University College director of community outreach Jeanne Hanrahan, principal investigator for the Bridging Success Early-Start grant project, which received support in 2017 from The Arizona Foundation / Women in Philanthropy and the ASU Sun Devil Family Association.  

But ASU is different, and a leader in this regard, she noted.

The Bridging Success team captures and analyzes quantitative and qualitative data from each cohort and makes programmatic changes in response to the data. They share their findings nationally in social science journals; their most recent article appeared in the July 2017 issue of the Journal of Social Service Research.

“In terms of our research, fall to fall retention data from first to second year is consistently 10 percent higher for entering, former foster youth who participate in Bridging Success Early-Start compared to those who do not,” Hanrahan said.

“In evaluations, students have expressed again and again the importance of making friends and feeling connected to others as one of the most important takeaways of the program,” she said, “which is why we continue to expand the role of peer mentors and involve other ASU Bridging Success students and alumni in Early-Start, to create overlap among cohorts right away.”

What does being a student look like at ASU?

Faculty and administrators from across ASU as well as community supporters get involved in welcoming and orienting Bridging Success students.

This year Duane Roen, dean of University College, formally welcomed students. Professor Karen Leong, from the School of Social Transformation, presented a mock class session and tips for being successful in lecture-based courses. From the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, Mary Dawes, director of academic and career exploration, guided students through the fun Me3 career quiz, and English instructor Shillana Sanchez gave students a taste of First-Year Composition and helped them dissect a syllabus.

Representatives from ASU’s Counseling and Financial Aid offices spent several hours with students, conducting presentations and informal workshops, and students visited math centers, tutoring and writing centers, and libraries.

Debbie Hall and colleagues from Tempe-based Insight donated laptops to Early-Start participants and helped them get those set up before the end of their first day in the program. Later in the week Naketa Ross, founder of ResilientMe and a foster alum herself, led sessions focused on embracing responsibility and learning to be interdependent — engaging with others to achieve success.

On the third day of Early-Start, Alonzo “AJ” Jones, ASU associate athletic director for inclusion and championship life, led a wide-ranging session to get students thinking about their student selves and their social selves and the role that preparedness and enthusiasm play in success. 

“What does being a student look like? You have to put in the time, about 25 hours a week on top of class time, which still gives you about 80 hours of awake time to do what you want to do,” Jones observed. “It could be rugged at first, but eventually you’ll achieve kind of a ‘scholars’ high.’ You’ll realize, hey, I’m an intellectual. I’m in a student groove.

“You’re at a new beginning! You can bring in what you want of yourself from high school and walk in with some intentionality and pre-thinking,” he advised. “Think about how you can complement your studies with organizations that can give you a home away from home and experiences that will contribute to your preparation for life — not just at age 19 but you at 49, 79.”

After his session, each of the Bridging Success peer mentors talked about how getting involved with student organizations has added to their ASU experience, helping them to make friends and gain a greater sense of purpose and value.

As students then researched at least three groups they might want to look into joining, peer mentors went around the room to answer questions as students perused the Sun Devil OrgSync site, a one-stop site to learn about the more than 1,000 clubs and organizations at ASU.

Five days in: Confidence, connection

On the last full day of Bridging Success Early-Start programming, the focus was on resiliency: what science tells us about how to develop it as well as exercises and discussion to help students see the ways they can tap into their own stories.

Polsean asked students to work as teams to pool knowledge and brainstorm recommendations for each other about strategies that could help them make a good start to the year.

“Even through you’re worried about these new challenges, you’ve done these things before. You have so many skills already that you’ve practiced at other times in your life,” Polsean reminded participants, after they shared some super practical ideas for how to be organized, how to learn a new campus, and things to remember when taking tests and writing papers.

The exercise set the stage for the research presentation by social work professor Cynthia Lietz, principal investigator for the Bridging Success program and senior associate dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and ASU junior Breanna Carpenter, a social work major who was in the first Bridging Success Early-Start cohort.

Lietz and Carpenter engaged students in a discussion of 10 protective factors that empirical research shows support resiliency: social support, insight, creativity/flexibility, initiative, commitment, humor, communication, boundary setting, morality/spirituality, and appraisal.

Students talked insightfully about ways they’d drawn on these coping practices: “I grew up around bad influences, but I don’t practice any of them” (boundary setting); “I didn’t grow up that well but could laugh about situations” (humor); “I felt safer at school and built a sense of belonging there” (social support).  

“Our risk factors don’t determine us, and plowing through can make us stronger. I know that challenges in my life have made me who I am today. I’m glad of who I am and the part they played in my story. I wouldn’t want to take that out of my experience,” Lietz shared about her own life.

As a takeaway, she asked students to remember “We cannot and should not put an upper limit on what someone is capable of — instead, embrace what’s possible.”

Talking with students at the end of that afternoon about changes they saw in themselves over the week of Early-Start was revealing.

“That first day, honestly, I was kind of terrified,” freshman Emily Rose Vanbenschoten recalled. “I knew by the time I was about five years old that I wanted to go to college,” says the computer science major, who was legally independent and living on her own well before graduating from high school. “But the reality that college was happening for me didn’t hit me until I set foot on campus. Suddenly it was present tense; that’s a bit of a mental shift.

“Now I feel so much better! I have friends!” she exclaimed with joy and confidence, as she turned to her side and shared a laugh and fist bump with fellow Bridging Success participant Mona Artis. “I’m feeling so prepared and grateful to be part of a caring, supportive group.”

Artis, who is majoring in journalism and transferred to ASU from GateWay Community College, said she came into the program wondering about how things will work at ASU and whether it’d be more difficult academically. 

“This program was like having VIP access to all the resources ASU has to offer! I feel equipped and a bit more confident,” she explained. “Though the program is built around the needs of new freshmen, I got to review some things, and I got to know the Tempe campus, which I wasn’t as familiar with as Downtown.”

Did the peer mentors play a big part in that?

“The peer mentors were great! They are in the middle between an adult and a peer like you. The experience makes me want to be that peer mentor next year who helps somebody else out,”

Kian Anderson, an exploratory freshman interested in kinesiology, said he went into the Early-Start experience without really having expectations. 

“I was hesitant and a little shy at first but then enjoyed participating in all the discussion, and I really connected with my suite mate. Understanding that we have this supportive community and connections, it’s made me even more excited to start classes.

“I know the workload will be tough, but balancing that is what makes the best memories,” reflected Anderson, who as a student at Flagstaff’s Coconino High School juggled dual enrollment and AP classes, sports, a part-time job, and home life. “It was hard, but the challenge made it a good time.” 

Anderson was pumped that the night before he had gotten a ticket through devil2devil (a private social networking tool for incoming Sun Devils) to go with some other students to the Diamondbacks’ game — his first.

“I’m super excited for the nightlife of a big city. That was amazing,” he marveled. “I actually already feel like I belong here.”

ASU invites (and encourages) any enrolled students who self-identify as alumni of foster care — whether they’re new freshmen, transfer students, or continuing students at any level — to connect with the Bridging Success programs and community by contacting program coordinator Justine.Cheung@asu.edu in the School of Social Work.

Maureen Roen

Editorial and communication coordinator, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts