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Arizona State University launches kosher meal options

July 12, 2018

Sun Devil Dining at Arizona State University has long offered quality, value, variety and convenience with an array of meal options available in dining halls, fast casual restaurants, cafes and on-campus markets.

Now, the menu will expand this fall to include kosher meal options. ASU will introduce kosher lunches and dinners at the Hassayampa Academic Village Dining Hall on the Tempe campus enabling Jewish students to easily follow kosher dietary laws. Hassayampa Academic Village Hassayampa Academic Village. Photo by Robin Kiyutelluk Download Full Image

The new dining options will launch this August as students return for the 2018-2019 academic year. Plans for expansion on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic and West campuses are being explored.

The introduction of the kosher meal plan meets an important need for students of the Jewish faith who keep kosher, said Rabbi Shmuel Tiechtel, director of Chabad at ASU.

About 3,500 Jewish students attend ASU, representing five percent of the student body. Chabad at ASU is an organization committed to serving the social, educational and spiritual needs of students while celebrating Jewish culture.

“I was contacted by Jewish students and parents eager for kosher provision at ASU,” Rabbi Tiechtel said. "Thousands of Jewish students come to Arizona State and find a welcoming, positive Jewish community experience here. But kosher meal options take our Jewish provision to another level, making ASU truly one of the best places in America to be a Jewish student.”

In recent years, the Hillel Jewish Student Center also has worked with ASU to bring kosher food to campus. Hillel welcomes students from all backgrounds to engage with the Jewish community, providing leadership development, local career mentoring, ongoing classes, social and religious events and Israel education initiatives. 

“I have found ASU to be a strong and active partner in making the university increasingly more welcoming for Jewish students who keep kosher,” said Debbie Yunker Kail, executive director of the Hillel Jewish Student Center.

With the support of ASU President Michael Crow, Rabbi Tiechtel brought together students from the Jewish community and administrators within University Housing and Dining in early 2018 to discuss plans to introduce expanded kosher meal options at ASU.

“For a long time kosher food was only accessible by car, unless I went to Chabad for food,” said Hannah Widawer, a senior majoring in tourism development and management. 

As the result of the student-led initiative, the new kosher dining options at ASU’s Tempe campus will include lunch and dinner every day, featuring a variety of dishes such as grilled Jamaican jerk chicken, fajitas, Thai curry and vegan mac 'n' cheese.

“It’s great that we’ll have another dining option while I’m at school,” Widawer said. “I think that the kosher meals on campus will allow many Jews to consider applying to Arizona State when they couldn’t before. It’s a huge step for the growth of the Jewish student community.”

The expanded kosher meal options strengthen the university’s efforts to provide the best experience possible for all students, said Jennifer Hightower, vice president of student services at ASU.

“Whether students are having a meal or taking time out for a quick bite in a Sun Devil Dining location, dining on campus plays an integral role in their college experience,” Hightower said.

In successfully bringing kosher dining options to ASU, students keeping kosher can dine on campus with other ASU students with ease.

“When Rabbi Shmuel told me about (the kosher meal options) I was excited to find out that I wouldn’t have to keep cooking at home while my friends are at dining halls,” said Neta Galili, a junior double majoring in accounting and finance. “It’s so meaningful to me to see that people help me keep my identity and my way of life even when it comes to food. I am so thankful to have Chabad at ASU and I am thankful for amazing university leaders that made this dream a reality.”

Kail said the recent enhancements in Tempe and plans to explore kosher service on the other campuses are the latest demonstration of an ongoing partnership to support Jewish students in many ways.

“I am eager to share this exciting news with our community of students as well as the Greater Phoenix Jewish community,” Kail said. “We often have prospective families ask about kosher food options; I am confident the new lunch and dinner service will make it much easier for these families to choose an ASU education.” 

Written by Joan Sherwood

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AZLoop a high-speed gateway to space for ASU mechanical engineer

July 5, 2018

ASU hyperloop team gears up to head to SpaceX competition in California this month

High-speed transportation technology for hyperloop seemed like a good first step for an Arizona State University mechanical engineering student who someday wants to help colonize the galaxy.

Leann Scott, who will graduate next spring after just three years of school and who will spend her fourth year as a master’s degree student, joined ASU’s AZLoop hyperloop team last year as a member of the propulsion team. This year, she wanted to move into manufacturing and was elected to be that team’s lead. 

A longtime Star Trek fan, Scott believes that “the final frontier” will involve putting people on other planets, and that hyperloop technologies can help get them there.

“The next phase of rocket and aircraft construction will switch from aluminum to composites like carbon fiber and fiberglass — exactly the kinds of materials we’re working with for hyperloop design,” Scott said.

Hyperloop is a conceptual high-speed transportation system that would use pressurized tubes to send passenger pods between cities at speeds up to 700 miles per hour. AZLoop will head to SpaceX in Hawthorne, California, next week to compete their design against nearly 20 other collegiate teams.

For this year’s competition entry, the manufacturing team wanted to minimize weight and add stiffness to the chassis and pod designs with more extensive use of lightweight carbon fiber, but didn’t have the needed expertise. Josh Bowen, the AZLoop president, told Scott that if she needed outside expertise, she’d have to go out and find it.

She reached out to Composites One, a leading composites distributor in the aerospace and transportation industries. Two weeks later, the company sent a technical expert from its Southern California office to work with AZLoop on design and processing strategies, a commitment that has continued for five additional trips. Two engineers from the Phoenix office are regular advisers during the team’s Friday-night work sessions. “(They're) both here getting their hands dirty and making sure we don’t mess it up,” said Scott with a laugh.

“Our entire team learned resin infusion techniques,” she said. “Composites One helped us create prototypes and build practice molds, working with us to figure out how the battery box, electrical wiring and propulsion components would fit into the design.

“These problem-solving and implementation experiences will give us a major advantage when we hit the job market.”  

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

A third-generation engineer — both her parents are electrical engineers and her grandfather was a chemical engineer — Scott said she was taught from an early age to look at a problem and figure out how to proceed: “When I was 6, our Slip 'N Slide was missing a part, so I figured out how to make it work by connecting the hose to the slide using duct tape and a funnel.”

Scott graduated from Perry High School in Gilbert, Arizona, and said being the oldest of three siblings gave her some good team-management skills, as does guidance from her father, a team manager at Intel.

But Scott also credits teammate Pamela Lombardi, a former Marine, with helping keep the team on track. A robotics senior who served as a helicopter mechanic while in the service, Lombardi also has been invaluable in troubleshooting circuit, mechanical and wiring systems.

“I think both of us can be pretty intimidating,” said Lombardi. “Together, we’ve been pretty successful at getting the team to listen.”

The team’s next goal is to test all systems in the assembled pod on the 150-foot track and in the 25-foot pressure chamber on ASUs Polytechnic Campus. One other U.S. team has a track, but it's only 50 feet long — too short to test braking systems. AZLoop is the only U.S. team that has a pressure chamber.

"The facilities at ASU give our team a tremendous advantage as we head to Hawthorne," said Scott.

Scott remains resolute that her work on hyperloop is a fast track to space.

“Humanity’s efforts in space have taught us about water purification, climate change and, by studying astronauts when they return to Earth, osteoporosis and disease immunity. Technological advances happen when we’re focused on exploring.”

SpaceX hyperloop competition

Originally introduced in 2012 by founder Elon Musk, SpaceX is hosting the third annual collegiate competition in Hawthorne, California. ASU’s team, which completed all of the safety and operation tests in last year’s competition and ranked as a top-rated team, is one of 11 U.S. teams out of 18 overall vying for a finalist spot in the tube.

Since 2012, proposed routes from Toronto to Montreal, Chicago to Columbus to Pittsburgh, and Abu Dhabi to Dubai, among others, are in development. Virgin Hyperloop One has a full-scale, 500-meter test track, known as DevLoop, in the Nevada desert.

AZLoop Pod Unveiling

What: AZLoop will display its 2018 competition pod for students, faculty and the general public.

When: 6 p.m. Monday, July 9.

Where: ASU Student Pavilion, 400 E. Orange St., Tempe.

Details: Registration requested.

Top photo:  AZLoop team members Leann Scott (left) and Pamela Lombardi tack on foam guides to the base of the carbon-fiber chassis at ASU's Polytechnic campus on June 22. With the system design plans finished and all the parts ordered, the group of ASU students, with support from Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, will take the vehicle to Southern California for the July 2018 SpaceX hyperloop competition. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


ASU helps Sun Devils live better through participation in Healthier Campus initiative

July 3, 2018

Arizona State University is committed to helping students develop and maintain healthy habits during their college years that can last a lifetime. This spring, ASU was one of the first universities in the nation to join and complete its commitment to the Partnership for a Healthier America’s Healthier Campus Initiative.

ASU was one of 21 schools across the nation to complete 23 guidelines focused on nutrition, physical activity and wellness programming, expanding ASU’s already extensive array of services and resources available to make healthy choices easier for students. Amy Morale Live Well @ ASU Graduate student Amy Morale helps students learn about health and wellness resources on campus as a LiveWell Supervisor for the Sun Devil Fitness Center. Photo courtesy of Amy Morale. Download Full Image

Healthy lifestyle guidelines were developed by Partnership for a Healthier America (PHA) in collaboration with some of the nation’s leading nutrition, physical activity and campus wellness experts. Along with 20 other colleges and universities, ASU made a multiyear commitment to the Healthier Campus Inititative to implement 23 of 41 specifications to enhance its campus environments to encourage students to increase their physical activity, develop healthier eating habits, stay hydrated and maintain their overall wellness.

A few of the ways ASU achieved this include providing adequate bike parking and offering a bike-sharing program, which encourages increased physical activity through greater use of bicycles for transportation. The university also keeps the Sun Devil Fitness Complex open for 16 or more hours per day on all four campuses to make physical activity more accessible for students.

ASU worked closely with its dining and retail food partner, Aramark, to meet guidelines related to food and beverages. The collaboration included making changes to recipes, menus, nutrition information and presentation of foods, as well as collecting the information needed to verify that ASU had met the guidelines.

Additionally, drinking fountains and bottle-filling stations are available in all buildings to encourage Sun Devils to choose water over soda or other sweetened beverages.

Amy Morale, a graduate student studying social work with a concentration in policy administration and community practice, connects students to these health and wellness resources as a Live Well Supervisor at the Sun Devil Fitness Center on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Morale believes these resources are a key part of students' experiences at ASU and that the accessibility offered through the Healthy Campus Initiative will support their ability to succeed and thrive.

“Students are more engaged and more productive when they are able to take care of their needs such as mental and emotional health, healthy eating and staying active,” Morale said. “ASU’s participation in the Healthier Campus Initiative has provided the appropriate resources for students to be successful.” 

ASU began its work on the initiative in 2015 and earlier this year was officially recognized for successfully achieving the HCI requirements. 

“We are proud to be a part of the first cohort for the PHA College Initiative that completed our commitment,” said Karen Moses, director for Wellness and Health Promotion at ASU Health Services.

Moses said student and employee wellness partners were consulted when responding to the invitation for ASU to join the group of participating colleges and universities.

“We saw this as an opportunity to examine and enhance what we do to make the healthy choice the easy choice for our students and staff,” Moses said.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Morrison Institute's Joseph Garcia honored for public service work

June 27, 2018

Valle de Sol, a Phoenix-based human services and leadership training nonprofit, awarded its 2018 Daniel R. Ortega Jr. Public Service Award to Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at Arizona State University's Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Garcia, who also is director of communication and community impact at Morrison Institute, was given the award during the 2018 graduation ceremony of the Hispanic Leadership Institute (HLI). Joe Garcia Download Full Image

Ortega, a civil rights attorney and community leader, presented the award with his namesake, citing Garcia’s public policy work at Morrison Institute, including such reports as Arizona’s Emerging Latino Vote and Who Is Arizona’s Independent Voter? as well as Garcia's continued work toward advancing the educational attainment of Latinos. A longtime journalist, Garcia has also taught as an adjunct professor at ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, His civic involvement includes serving on the boards of Arizona Children’s Action Alliance, a family advocacy nonprofit organization, and Friendly House, a nonprofit agency for workplace development, education and family services.

Garcia, who joined the Morrison Institute in 2009, said he was “honored and humbled” by the award.

“But tonight isn’t about me,” he told the audience at the Wells Fargo Conference Center in downtown Phoenix. “Tonight is about you, the Hispanic Leadership Institute grads, as you take yet another step in your life, career and pathway of leadership.”

Garcia said Arizona both welcomes and needs this new wave of leadership.

“Latinos literally represent our state’s future,” Garcia said, noting how Arizona will become a minority-majority state by 2030 and that there already are more Latino children in Arizona’s K–12 public schools than non-Latino white classmates.

“As Latinos go, so goes Arizona. Latinos in Arizona will continue to play a larger role in our state — not just in terms of demographics and mega-consumer power, but also in leadership, decision-making and culture. Our culture is strong.”

A Flagstaff native, Garcia urged HLI graduates to rise above recent discouraging acts of racism, noting that although Arizona is an exceptionally diverse state, there is but one Arizona for all people.

“It’s about ‘us,’ but not about ‘us verses them,’” Garcia said. “That’s what they do; they pit us against each other. The ‘us’ I’m talking about is big enough for all who are willing and of pure heart to build a better Arizona through education, opportunity, equity and action."

Garcia earned his master's degree in nonprofit leadership and management from the School of Community Resources and Development at ASU and his bachelor's of journalism degree from the University of Arizona.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Electrical engineering alumni credit ASU for Professional Engineer exam success

June 26, 2018

Clifford Myers and Dane Burghgrave were just two of the nearly 1,000 students working on the electrical engineering bachelor's degree offered online from the Arizona State University Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering last fall.

Now graduated, Myers and Burghgrave are both starting the next stages of their careers with an added distinction. Each passed their state's Fundamentals of Engineering, or FE,and Practice of Engineering, or PE, exams with the National Society of Professional Engineers — an accomplishment both graduates accredit to their experience in the Fulton Schools’ electrical engineering program. An asu grad's mortarboard is decorated as a breadboard. The next step for many Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering graduates is to begin the process of becoming a licensed professional engineer. Pictured: A grad's mortarboard is decorated as a breadboard, a base for prototyping electronics. Photographer: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

Educational goals for professional ambitions

Myers has worked a variety of jobs at SMA America Solar Technology, an international solar inverter manufacturer, from field service to engineering management.

He sought out the Fulton Schools’ program in 2012 when he decided he wanted to become a professional engineer. The program, an ABET-accredited electrical engineering degree offered online, was one he could pursue while he continued working — a key factor in his success on the job.

“I can avidly recall learning certain concepts at ASU and being able to apply them directly to the work I was doing at SMA,” Myers said. “This was definitely a factor in my rapid advancement.”

Burghgrave had been working in finance, but decided engineering was more his passion. He now works at a communications technology company specializing in digital interoperability called KTS.

For many engineers, getting licensed as a professional engineer is part of their career journeys. Licensure demonstrates an engineer’s mastery of his or her field, commitment to high standards and is a standard recognized by industry, government and the public. In some cases, companies and job positions require their engineers to have professional engineer licenses.

However, neither Burghgrave or Myers worked at a company that required licensure examinations. Instead, each decided to take the PE exam after graduation to fulfill a personal goal. Both graduates say earning the licensure is a way to demonstrate confidence in their knowledge and skills.

Proven knowledge

The path to licensure starts with the Fundamentals of Engineering. Students close to completing their bachelor’s degree and recent graduates from accredited programs often take the 110-question, computer-based exam for their specific discipline.

The Practice of Engineering is the next step in the process to becoming a licensed professional engineer. The exam is designed for engineers with at least four years of professional work experience in their chosen field. The Electrical and Computer PE exam, for example, is offered twice per year and consists of an eight-hour, 80-question, pencil-and-paper test to demonstrate competency.

ASU courses provided a solid foundation

While the Fulton Schools electrical engineering curriculum didn’t cover every topic on the exams, Burghgrave says the Fulton Schools courses were rigorous enough to be a good primer and to learn how to study for the exams. And when the material did overlap, the course materials were “invaluable to have as a resource,” Burghgrave said.

“EEE 120 and the notes that came with that course were instrumental in me being able to answer correctly the digital logic questions of the FE exam,” he said.

Myers agrees that his ASU course materials were excellent for exam preparation. He says he often referred back to them when preparing with PE exam study guides.

“Numerous times, my friends and colleagues warned that I might be overambitious by hoping that I could pass the exam without any additional class or structured materials,” Myers said. “Despite their cautions, I had confidence in my resolve and in the resources I gained from (faculty members) and ASU.”

Myers passed the Electrical and Computer: Power PE exam on his first attempt — which has a 57 percent pass rate for first-time takers — just a few months after he graduated from the electrical engineering program delivered online.

“When I arrived for the exam, people had hand-trucks to haul the mountains of books and I felt out of place carrying just five ASU books and the relevant code books,” Myers recalled. “My success was definitely rooted in the material that ASU offered and my level of comfort using those books.”

A future full of opportunities

As standardized exams with equally difficult questions, FE and PE exams put a grad’s knowledge into context for employers looking at candidates from engineering schools across the country. More than 820,000 engineers are licensed Professional Engineers, according to the NCEES.

“While some employers may not be familiar with the rigors of a particular engineering school, everyone has heard of the PE or FE exams,” Burghgrave said. “It’s sort of a foolproof way to demonstrate the quality of the education you’ve received.”

It also opens doors to new opportunities that aren't available to non-licensed engineers.

“The biggest advantage that I have from becoming a Professional Engineer is flexibility in my career progression,” Myers said. “I have virtually removed the limitations of working as an electrical engineer. I have the credentials to approve designs, to offer consulting and even to start my own engineering firm.”

Fulton Schools electrical engineering Senior Academic Success Specialist Gia Giamarino McLaughlin says it means the world to her and the electrical engineering program faculty to hear about their students’ success.

“We have been working so hard for the past four years on the development of this program’s online delivery, and to see our students, specifically our working-adult students, be successful is awesome,” McLaughlin said.

Thinking of taking the PE and FE exams?

“Don’t cut any corners,” Burghgrave recommends.

While courses are a good start, he says it’s helpful to take the National Society of Professional Engineers practice exams, get the recommended calculator and even watch YouTube videos about the PE and FE exams.

“There are many good prep materials out there from people who have already taken the exam that can be accessed as open source information,” he said.

But, most importantly, Burghgrave says, is to relax on test day.

“The ASU program will put you in a good position to do well on both exams,” he said. “All that is required of you is to do what you did that got you to graduation.”

The test covers a wide scope of engineering knowledge, but Burghgrave said, “the questions on an individual basis are not as difficult as some of the tests you are familiar with in upper-level engineering classes.”

Myers recommends students set goals for the FE exam and licensure early, “then work head-first toward them and don’t stop until you’re successful. Stick to your plan, don’t delay your opportunities to take the exams if you feel unsure, and intend to learn from your mistakes if you aren’t successful on your first attempt.”

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU Baja SAE: Off-roading to the future

Team achieved their second-best overall performance at Oregon competition

June 25, 2018

Arizona State University’s Baja SAE team achieved their second-best overall performance with a ninth-place finish out of 98 teams at the Baja SAE Oregon competition in Portland, Oregon. This marks the team’s best overall finish in a Baja SAE event since their eighth-place finish at Baja SAE Oregon in 2015.

Baja SAE Oregon, one of three Baja SAE competitions held nationwide in 2018 by the Society of Automotive Engineers, simulates real-world engineering design projects and their challenges. Team member Coleman Cookston drives during the suspension and traction event that tests the vehicles' suspension system and driver ability during the Baja SAE Maryland competition earlier this year. Photo courtesy of ASU Baja SAE Download Full Image

Each team is provided an Intek Model 19 engine that is donated by small-engine manufacturer Briggs & Stratton Corporation. With each team having an identical engine, the real test comes down to the design of the car itself, which includes accounting for the vehicle’s frame, suspension, steering, drivetrain/powertrain, operator comfort, brakes and other systems vital to its operation.

The ASU team placed third overall in the design category, a testament to the overall talents of the team and the best-ever result in the category for ASU.

ASU’s Baja SAE team, composed of about 15 active team members, is based in the Simulator Building on the Polytechnic campus. Lecturer James Contes and instrument maker/designer Rhett Sweeney are the team’s faculty advisers.

Building the car

At the beginning of each academic year the team sets goals of what they would like to accomplish to build their car. The process starts with the design phase.

“Once we have the design finalized, we run through a series of software simulations and compare the results to our theoretical hand calculations,” said Fernando Salgado, a mechanical engineering systems major and the team’s 2018–19 chief engineer. “When we are sure that we have completely optimized the design, we move on to building and manufacturing. Once the car is completely built, we move on to real-world testing and driver training.”

The team was divided up into various sections and modeled like a small company.

“The team manager is at the top of the tree and oversees both the business and engineering sides of the organization,” said Jun Sasaki, a mechanical engineering systems major who served as team president in 2017–18 and will transition to team manager in 2018–19. “Under the manager is a president that oversees all things business and a chief engineer that oversees design and manufacturing. Under each of those are other team leads for subsystems such as suspension, powertrain and social media.”

The team leads meet once a week to discuss goals and timelines, with the rest of the team also meeting weekly to stay updated. The organization is designed so that members can come in at almost any time of the week when their schedule allows to work on anything they are tasked with. 

“Design reviews are held early and often at the beginning of each season,” says Nick Pascente, who graduated in December 2017 with a BSE in mechanical engineering systems and served as team manager during both 2016­­–17 and 2017–18. “All subsystem engineering leads provide feedback verifying that each system design and its components are fulfilling the goals set forth at the start of the season.”

Once all team leads have agreed on each subsystem and component design, and any integration issues have been discussed and resolved, the team begins the manufacturing and testing phases of the vehicle build.

The ASU Baja SAE team in Portland, Oregon, for 2018 Baja SAE Oregon competition. Front row (from left): Cameron Foley, Mark Feliz, Fernando Salgado, Mikayla Castillo, Coleman Cookston, Jay Barnish and Garrett Bechtel. Back row (from left): Rhett Sweeney, Carlos Martinez, Nick Pascente, Rene Diaz, Jim Contes, Jun Sasaki, Matt Walsh, Jeshua Cloud, Bryan Roquemore and Louie Peralta. Photo courtesy of ASU Baja SAE

Building themselves

The car isn’t the only thing that gets built up throughout the year. Gaining knowledge and practical real-world engineering applications help team members prepare for their careers.

Baja SAE is one of SAE International's Collegiate Design Series competitions designed to prepare undergraduate and graduate engineering students in a variety of disciplines for future employment in mobility-related industries and help expose them to recruiters from leading companies.

“I am enjoying my ASU Polytechnic experience because in earning my degree there, I've had the honor of being a member of the ASU Baja SAE team. This has provided me a true, hands-on, engineering learning experience," said Mikayla Castillo, a mechanical engineering systems major and team president for 2018–19. “Most of the things I've learned in Baja, I've yet to learn in an actual class. Another very exciting Baja experience has been the opportunity to speak with several employers that hire and do on-site interviews at races, which resulted in being offered a job by Volvo. This is what every student is ultimately going to school for: an employer that recognizes our passion and talents, who is willing to make us part of their team."

Nick Pascente says that being part of the Baja SAE team has helped make him a well-rounded engineer.

“The Baja SAE club helps students develop an extremely useful set of values and soft skills within a team setting,” Pascente said. “Students who participate in design competition teams, such as Baja SAE, will be better prepared for a career in their chosen discipline and will be sought out by industry leaders.”

Sasaki appreciates that being a part of the club allows access to the labs and equipment.

“Learning skills like welding and machining have been a rewarding experience and a great way to differentiate [ourselves] from the average student at ASU,” Sasaki said. “We have awesome faculty advisers that bring real-world knowledge and skills to the team. The access to tools and resources as a Baja Team member on the Polytechnic campus is beyond anything I could have imagined.”

Salgado, who was born and raised in Phoenix, says he was always exposed to off-roading growing up.

“This is one of the main reasons why I joined the Baja SAE club,” he said. “The other reason is that all the knowledge we learn in class can be put into practice in this real-world application. The best part of being in the SAE Baja club is that I get to do all the things I enjoy — off-roading, racing and building — all of this in one club, one team.”

Building the community

ASU Baja SAE also gives back to the community by volunteering along with SAE's A World In Motion program. This is a program that delivers hands-on engineering activities to middle school students, with the goal to have science, technology, engineering and mathematics incorporated in every K-8 classroom, and have it be part of the normal curriculum.

“We teach middle school students how to build a battery-operated car with a team, which they work with throughout the semester learning all about gear ratios,” said Castillo, referring to a simple mechanical concept describing the relationship between the number of rotations of two gears. “The middle school students, in turn, are able to complete three tasks: a small acceleration in under three seconds, a hill climb and second steeper hill climb.”

Building the future

With an overall top 10 finish under their belt during the 2017–18 season, ASU’s Baja SAE team looks forward not only to another season of steep competition, but also to expose engineering students to new opportunities.

Now a mechanical engineering graduate student, Pascente will move on to a mentor role next year and is excited to observe and mentor the club's incoming members in the fall semester.

“Getting to watch new members grow from aspiring engineers to full-blown design engineers who have realized the entire engineering cycle from conceptual design, to manufacturing, to validation and testing, to optimization, is incredibly rewarding,” Pascente said. “It is truly an extraordinary transformation to go through.”

Sasaki will lead ASU’s Baja SAE club in competitions in Tennessee, New York and California next season.

“Clubs and organizations like Baja SAE are a great way for students to learn and gain new skills that you would not find in a typical classroom,” Sasaki said. “I appreciate that the university has been so supportive of our organization and clubs like ours. They are investing in a future that makes ASU look good, and I am proud to say that I attend such a great university.”

ASU Baja SAE in Oregon. Video courtesy of Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Erik Wirtanen

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


ASU alum demonstrates value of liberal arts degree

June 20, 2018

Arizona State University alumnus Ben Ellis’ Sun Devil story starts with getting rejected from the schools he applied to in his home state.

“The year I applied to college was the year Arnold Schwarzenegger was governor of California and one of the things he did was defer the lower half of what would be in-state students and said ‘Sorry, we’re going to put out-of-state students in to increase tuition.’ So I didn’t get into any of the schools I applied to in California,” Ellis said. “I applied to ASU and was accepted into Barrett, The Honors College and given an academic scholarship. I came out for a campus tour and just fell in love. It was Sun Devils from there.” Alumni Ben Ellis receives an award Third place winner Ben Ellis, a 2008 communication graduate and owner of E&G Real Estate Services, receives congratulations at the Sun Devil 100 luncheon at the Carson Ballroom, Wednesday, April 25, 2018, celebrating the fastest growing alumni-owned or -led businesses. Download Full Image

Ellis graduated from Barrett, The Honors College and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in communication in 2008. He began as a theater major, but switched to communication after he was drawn to the types of classes being offered at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.

“I just found that the classes were interesting and it felt like things I already knew, but it had placed labels, definitions, strategies and ways to navigate different situations and I found that really intriguing,” he said.

While a student at ASU, Ellis entered the world of commercial real estate. In the years after graduation, he moved to residential real estate. He says his transition from commercial to residential was like “putting a Ferrari engine into a Honda.”

“I went from doing commercial real estate deals between $2 million and $20 million per transaction. And the first real estate transaction I did when I went to residential was renting a $500-a-month, 1905-constructed, three-bed, one-bath on the west side of downtown Phoenix. It really took me from what I consider to be the ivory tower of real estate to starting from the bottom: residential leasing. But I made that decision intentionally because I didn’t necessarily feel like I had earned the position to be in commercial real estate at that high level.”

Although he enjoyed the communication classes he took while in school, Ellis said he didn’t feel the value in the degree when he graduated.

“I felt there was more value in a business degree, an accounting degree … something that provided me a specific skill set. When I entered commercial real estate I had no idea how to underwrite, I had no idea how to do an Excel spreadsheet to a high level, I had no idea how to run a pro forma. I felt that if I had a business degree that would have been very helpful in business. But those are easily attainable skills that take a short period of time.”

After working a few years postgraduation, Ellis said he realized he had a leg up on the people in his industry. Later, as he worked to build E & G Real Estate Services, which won the No. 3 spot at the Sun Devil 100 awards this spring, the skills he learned at ASU showed their true benefit.

“I think what the liberal arts and communication major really helped with was a different way to think, more of a problem-solving mentality. That’s something that I think is way more valuable. Those certain skill sets of how to put a spreadsheet together are pretty easy, but to learn how to problem solve, learn how to be resourceful, learn how to communicate, learn how to read situations — I think that is much more difficult to attain. I think that’s what really helped me to navigate through starting a business and the challenges that poses.”

Ellis considers himself fortunate for the opportunities he had in real estate early on and says that’s not the typical situation.

“Your traditional real estate agent has to really fend for themselves," he said. "Sort of eat what you kill. You’re commission only, you don’t have a salary and it’s really challenging. It burns a lot of people out and if you become more commission-focused, you aren’t client focused.”

When Ellis was creating his own business model, he wanted it to put people first.  

“For us, we identified that we wanted to create more genuine relationships with clients that were around their needs in life for housing. So we developed our business model around being able to provide that type of service around those junctures in clients’ lives.”

That focus on people and relationships doesn’t stop at work. Ellis is also a College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Council emerging leader where he serves as an ambassador for ASU and the college.

“I’m part of an entrepreneurs' organization here locally called EO; there’s about 170 business owners that employ about 9,000 employees in Arizona and the country. I’m able to educate my colleagues in terms of the talent of the students in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and try to create a connection between the business world and the students that are thinking about going into different industries.”

Ellis advises current students of the college to take full advantage of what the college and university have to offer.

“That’s my one regret from when I was at ASU. There are so many amazing speakers and faculty with incredible minds and opportunities to collaborate with like-minded individuals. Dive into the deep end and take full advantage. The more you put into the experience, the more you’ll get out of it.”

And for alumni, Ellis advises to reconnect and get involved.

“ASU and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences are changing at such a rapid pace; stay up-to-date with what’s going on and find your niche — where you want to get involved, contribute or mentor — because the students, the experience and the opportunities are just unbelievable with what is happening with the college and university right now.”

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU alumna shares career insights

June 19, 2018

Arizona State University political science PhD graduates are employed both in a range of professions and more traditionally as professors at universities all over the globe.

Lisa-Mari Centeno, who graduated with her PhD from the School of Politics and Global Studies in 2003, has made her impact at Adams State University in Colorado. She is currently the only Latina full professor for her university, which is designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution. Centeno also advises an internationally award winning model U.N. team and is the university's women’s and gender studies director. Lisa-Mari Centeno Lisa-Mari Centeno, ASU PhD alumna, teaches political science at Adams State University in Colorado. Download Full Image

Here, Centeno shares some takeaways from her career in academia thus far.

Question: Adams State University was Colorado’s first higher education institution to be designated as a Hispanic Serving Institution. What has your experience as a professor of political science there been like?

Answer: It was very important for me to serve at a Hispanic Serving Institution (HSI) because I was the only Latina in both my undergraduate and graduate poli-sci courses; so I consider myself very fortunate to have been granted a position at Adams State University, the other ASU.

There is, of course, no single Latino culture, but many that overlap one another. The Latino culture of the San Luis Valley is a new layer that I, as a Venezuelan-American, find familiar, but with its own nuances. This is to say that just being categorized as “Hispanic” does not mean one will automatically understand what it means to be at an HSI. At least for me, there was a learning curve.

Although Adams State is an HSI, in a larger sense, I would say that we are a USI: Underserved/Underrepresented Serving Institution. Many of our students, of whatever ethnicity, are first-generation, from low-income backgrounds. Adams State provides an opportunity for those who might not otherwise be able to obtain a college education. This is a source of pride for us.

I chair the LatinX Faculty and Staff Caucus, and one of our ongoing campaigns is greater recruitment of talented Latino/a faculty and administrative staff. It is important for our Latina/o students — but really for all students — to see examples of Latina/o success. On the first day of each semester, I always share with my students that I was a first-generation student from a poor, immigrant family.  My hope is that they will think, “Well if she can do it, I certainly can.”

Q: What does being an advisor for the university’s model U.N. team entail? How have you noticed an impact to students who have participated?

A: Model United Nations is the very best part of my job. With the support of the university and the enthusiasm of many hard-working students, MUN has developed from a casual club to an upper division course to an award-winning team. I am very demanding and have extremely high expectations of my team members, who spend many hours every week in order to prepare for international conferences and, of course, to fundraise. Many of our students had never been on an airplane, or traveled outside of Colorado before their first model U.N. conference, yet they have competed and won against teams from elite universities from all over the world. I think it is a testament to Adams State that our students have the same opportunities afforded to students elsewhere.

Centeno's Model UN Team in Scotland
Centeno's model U.N. team in Scotland.

Q: How do you think your time at Arizona State University helped you prepare for your current position?

A: Arizona State gave me the opportunity to teach, so it is where I recognized that I wanted to be a teaching professor first and foremost. If my students are confident in their preparation when they graduate from Adams State, it is in large part because of the preparation I received at ASU. Maybe I should not admit this, but I did not fully realize how much I had learned until I started teaching, especially classes outside of my direct area of specialization. The feminist nature of my dissertation research meant that I was able to work with women’s studies faculty, which helped prepare me to take on the role of women’s and gender studies director at Adams State. As I’m sure is true of all faculty, I try to emulate my own professors. I owe Drs. Roxanne Doty, Michael Mitchell, Amy Lind and Richard Olson a great debt of gratitude. I try to pay it forward to my own students.

Q: What advice would you give to Latina students who wish to pursue a career in academia?

A: I am frequently asked this question, and I wish I had the magic words. Though the landscape is changing in academia, as Latinas, you are likely to be members of the “only” club:  the only Latina, and perhaps even the only woman. Learn from my mistakes. I rarely spoke in graduate courses and felt intimidated when I began my career as the only woman in my department at Adams State. 

Don’t take as long as I did to realize that it’s “OK to be a chingonaSpanish slang term for a strong woman; it has generally had negative connotations, but many in the Latinx community aim to "take back" the term..” This is my email signature quote, by Sandra Cisneros. It may not be the most professional language, but I hope it sends a message about challenging societal expectations. I think all marginalized groups have some familiarity with cultural code-switching, and in academia it’s no different.

Think about how you want to handle this. If you assimilate to advance your career, you might be accused of “selling out.” If you are vocal, you might think you are fulfilling the stereotype of “sassy” Latina. Don’t worry about that; you may well have to advocate for yourself, so speak up! Ironically (or maybe not), underrepresented groups in academia are often burdened with additional service to the university, such as extra committees, all in the name of greater representation. The trick is learning to say no to inordinate service demands without jeopardizing your career, especially if you are not tenured yet. I won’t pretend to have mastered this trick, but again, I encourage you to advocate for yourself and recognize the value of your time. 

I also suggest finding a Latina ally and/or mentor. I did not do this, but wish I had, especially earlier in my career. If there is no LatinX faculty organization where you are, do you have enough colleagues to create one? If not, contact those at other schools. Feel free to reach out to me! HACU (Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities) conferences are also really great places to find support. I encourage you to also mentor students, not just Latino/a students. Doing so has helped ground me in my role as faculty. Working with students can also counter some of the prevailing negative images of Latina/os. Perhaps it should not be our responsibility to dispel myths, but for the time being it is our obligation so that future Latinas will not have to repeat history. 

Answers have been edited for length.

Matt Oxford

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


Graduate student studies how people detect cheating

June 14, 2018

Andres Munoz, a doctoral student in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology, studies cooperation from an evolutionary perspective and what happens when it breaks down.

In the past, most researchers studying cooperation from an evolutionary perspective have focused on rules like reciprocity, where individuals pay each other back for helping each other. What Munoz is looking at is different: He is examining other rules for cooperation that are based on the need of the recipient rather than based on the expectation of being repaid. Andres Munoz, ASU PhD student Andres Munoz is a doctoral student in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology. Photo by Robert Ewing/ASU Download Full Image

His focus is specifically on “cheater detection,” or how people know when individuals deviate from social rules in pursuit of a personal benefit at a cost to someone else. In particular, he is interested in the cognitive mechanisms that allow people to detect stinginess and greediness.

Munoz started at DePauw University as an economics major, but he quickly realized he wanted to study how people think and work toward beneficial societal change.

His research project is part of the Human Generosity Project, which is a cross-disciplinary initiative involving Athena Aktipis, ASU assistant professor of psychology, and Lee Cronk, professor of anthropology at Rutgers University. The Human Generosity Project is a multidisciplinary project funded in part by the National Institutes of Health and the John Templeton Foundation. The goal is to understand the nature and evolution of human cooperation, and the researchers use fieldwork, laboratory experiments and computational modeling.

“In the Human Generosity Project, we are looking at how people help each other during times of need — what we call ‘need-based transfers.’ The work that Andres is doing helps us understand how we process information in these kinds of situations where people help those in need,” Aktipis said. “Andres is trying to answer questions like: Do we pay special attention to people who ask for help if they're not in need or don't give if they are able? His research suggests that we are wired to attend to this kind of cheating in need-based helping rules.”

Munoz is working with Human Generosity Project field site supervisors to translate materials from the lab to be used in field sites, which include Mongolia, Africa, Fiji and parts of the U.S. His goal is to understand how cooperation systems work to assist those in need and to understand if they hold up from an evolutionary perspective.

Munoz appreciates the world-class evolutionary psychology faculty at ASU, especially the chance to work with Aktipis.

“One of the scientists who I admire is Professor Aktipis. She has the ability to quickly draw connections across disciplines, which results in unexpected insights,” Munoz said. “It's also inspiring to experience Steven Neuberg and Doug Kenrick in action.”

In the future, Munoz wants to pursue his doctorate and map the cognitive architecture that underlies how people detect social rule violations. In addition, he is interested in exploring the effects of different risk management strategies from an evolutionary perspective.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


Untangling the knots of a complex world

ASU alumna’s passion to address real-world refugee issues driven by her own experience coming to US from Bulgaria

June 8, 2018

Arizona State University alumna Sarah Lords’ path to choosing global studies as a degree can be traced back to her parents.

The communist regime in Sofia, Bulgaria, fell in 1989 but according to Lords, the complex transfer of political power still allowed for the persecution of religious minorities that were not sanctioned by the government. Her parents were among those caught in the plight. Sarah Lords speaking in Charles Ripley's ASU career development course Sarah Lords speaks with ASU Professor Charles Ripley’s career development class. Download Full Image

Lords’ father was approached by a small college with the opportunity to flee to the United States through a student visa. Although Lords said it was a difficult decision, he took the opportunity, moving to upstate New York with his young family.

After arriving in the U.S. with only two suitcases, the family found support in a network of faith-based organizations who suggested they relocate to California for better aid.

When they arrived in California, the Lords’ student visas had expired and the support network withdrew while the family struggled to find work. Lords explains how her father would get $20 for a day’s work which barely covered the cost of the taxi commute.

Seeking better employment opportunities, the Lords family set out to move to Arizona. On the drive there, however, they were stopped by border patrol and an order for their deportation was issued. This interaction, however, offered a small thread of hope: in the few comments exchanged during the documentation, a border patrol agent heard the family’s story and suggested that they might have grounds for asylum.

Soon, in a courthouse in downtown Phoenix, the Lords family was granted asylum and became permanent residents.

“One of the scariest moments for me and my parents ended up being really helpful because through that process we were able to get legal status,” Lords said. “It is a string of happy, hard coincidences.”

Winning a scholarship for first-generation college students, Lords was able to fund her education at ASU, where she chose to major in global studies. Drawing from her own migratory journey, she developed an interest in refugees and making an impact globally. The program seemed like a natural fit.

Lords described how the classes she took as a global studies major gave her a sense of urgency. She and her classmates would sit together at lunch and discuss large issues like terrorism and immigration.

“When you are a part of a degree program which pushes you to constantly and critically assess what is happening in the headlines — unpacking the factors behind each occurrence — you really feel the weight of what you are studying,” Lords said. “It all feels both relevant and heavy and you have to go out and do something about it.”

Upon graduation in 2014, that is exactly what Lords did. She worked full time as the volunteer and outreach coordinator doing community engagement for the International Rescue Committee (IRC) in Phoenix.

“Working at the IRC was invaluable,” Lords said. “It was amazing to have the opportunity and privilege to advocate on behalf of newly arrived refugees through education and engagement, especially at a time when the issue was shrouded in so many misconceptions.”

However, Lords wanted her impact to be broader.

“I wanted to engage with the issues involved in resettlement on a higher level,” she said.

Lords decided to circle back to ASU. This is when she came across the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict.

“I remember being initially taken by their ability to draw together all of these interdisciplinary lenses and sort of layer them over a problem in order to gain a deeper, truer understanding of what is going on,” said Lords in describing the center.

In late 2016 she began working as communication, outreach and events coordinator for the center while pursuing a master’s degree in public administration, which would focus on migrant populations.

Lords shared her enthusiasm at the mission of the center: It magnifies the necessity for interdisciplinary studies when addressing real-word issues.

“The center invites researchers to come together and think through topics in a way that is multifaceted and by that, contributes more holistic understandings. The world is so complex and I think it takes that wide scope of analysis to make sense of the urgent issues unfolding in our world today. It’s really neat to be a part of it all,” said Lords.

The initial development of this concept is something that began while she was pursuing her global studies degree. Lords recalled the impact of a class with School of Politics and Global Studies Professor Reed Wood, which focused on terrorism and the process of radicalization.

“That class was so uniquely profound for me because it was the first time that I considered the complexity of the ‘bad guys,’” Lords said. “You begin to realize that people are rational actors and they are doing what they, in that moment, think is best. That makes issues not so black-and-white. At that realization, you not only shed your preconceived notions, but are prompted to deeply consider what the contributing factors were. That, in essence, is what makes you a better thinker.”

According to Lords, that class helped shape her worldview, serving as a theme that she has carried with her so far in her life.

“I carry a sincere appreciation for education as it addresses complexity. When you are able to look at the world from a more holistic perspective and understand how different actors overlap and intersect, you see that the world is deeply intertwined — there are all of these threads tie people together. I suppose my ambition is to untangle some of the knots.”

Matt Oxford

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