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ASU recognizes educational leaders for National Hispanic Heritage Month

October 14, 2020

This month, ASU faculty, alumni and Valley leaders are being recognized for their outstanding contributions to the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona. 

“The 2020 Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month honorees reflect decades of community advocacy and empowerment for so many students and families,” said Edmundo Hidalgo, vice president of outreach with Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU. “We are so proud to shine a light on their work this month and year-round. They truly embody the Sun Devil spirit and the power of education.”

National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15.

2020 honorees: Faculty

The faculty awardee for this year is someone whose advocacy goes back decades and who has been dedicated to both forward-thinking scientific research and student success throughout his career.

Jose E. Náñez

Jose E. Náñez Sr. is a President’s Professor of psychology in the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences and executive director for community outreach and student services in the office of the senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services at Arizona State University. Náñez is also a professor in the interdisciplinary graduate program in neuroscience and professor of cognitive neuroscience in Barrett, The Honors College. Náñez conducts research in visual perceptual learning, neural plasticity and malleability, and cognition. He also studies cognitive processes in Spanish-English bilinguals. As an executive director, he creates and implements new strategies to enhance students’ academic achievement and university life acculturation, with a strong emphasis on Hispanic students, first-generation university going and low-socioeconomic-status students. He was a founder of the Summer Experience at West program, a unique college-prep program for ninth-12th graders at ASU’s West campus. Náñez earned his associate degree in liberal arts from Butte Community College, his BS and MA in psychology from California State University, Chico and his doctorate in psychology from the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.

2020 honorees: Alumni

The alumni honorees embody what it means to lift others up in a community. The Trujillo family overcame barriers to their own education before dedicating their talent and careers to helping others access education.

Gary L. Trujillo 

Gary L. Trujillo founded Southwest Harvard Group in 1990 and has served as the firm’s president and CEO since its inception. Trujillo began his career in investment banking as a financial analyst and later specialized in corporate and public finance. He served as the youngest school board member of the Phoenix Union High School District and was appointed the first chairperson of the Schools Facilities Board. Trujillo’s most treasured success is the creation of the Roosevelt Community Technology Center (RCTC) in the neighborhood where he was born and raised. The RCTC provides state-of-the-art technology, including free internet access, and is available free of charge to any visitor. In addition, he and his wife, Melissa, started the Be A Leader Foundation, which serves as an incubator to develop college-bound, focused and prepared students. The Trujillos have mentored numerous young adults and continue their quest to help others learn how to help themselves. His educational commitment and achievements have been recognized through the Man of the Year award from the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Exemplary Leadership Award from Profiles in Success. He earned a bachelor's degree in accounting from ASU in 1983 and is also a graduate of Harvard Business School.

Melissa Trujillo

Melissa Trujillo is co-founder and executive director of the Be A Leader Foundation, which she and her husband, Gary, created in 2002. The foundation is a platform for young aspiring students and serves as an incubator to develop academic and leadership skills required of elementary and high school students to become college-bound, focused and prepared. Trujillo has been a steward of education throughout her life and started focusing on helping underprivileged youth with her husband in 1991. Born in New York City and raised there until she was a teenager, Trujillo moved to Phoenix in 1981 and began her uphill climb to achieving a college education. She knows firsthand what it’s like to pursue college with no outside help. After graduation, Trujillo held several senior finance management roles and later shifted to operating her own businesses, including a concert venue and airport concessions, in addition to building the Be A Leader Foundation. She graduated magna cum laude from ASU in 1991 with a bachelor's degree in finance.

2020 honorees: Community partners

Two leaders from College Success Arizona are being honored this year. College Success Arizona was founded in 2005. Its vision is to significantly increase the postsecondary attainment rate of Arizona students, especially for those who would otherwise be unable to attend or graduate.  

Richard Daniel

Richard Daniel is the executive vice president and COO of College Success Arizona, where he leads the organization’s strategic and operational planning and partnership development and ensures that all programmatic and administrative budgets align with organizational priorities. Daniel has more than 29 years of higher education experience and has devoted great attention in his career to providing access and opportunities for low-income, first-generation college students. Prior to his role at College Success Arizona, Daniel served for more than 20 years in senior leadership positions at public research universities and community colleges. Daniel also served in various administrative positions during his 15-year tenure at Arizona State University. He holds a PhD in educational leadership and policy studies, a master’s degree in higher education administration and a bachelor’s degree in exercise science from Arizona State University.

Rich Nickel

Rich Nickel is the president and CEO of College Success Arizona, where he leads the organization in its mission to help more students gain access to and successfully attain a postsecondary degree. He is a community leader and advocate for increasing public awareness around the tremendous economic and social benefits of creating more degree earners in Arizona, especially for high-need, first-generation and minority students. Nickel has for decades worked in government, corporate and nonprofit organizations and is a member of numerous local and national collaborations. He also helps lead the community-owned state attainment initiative known as Achieve60AZ as a founding board member and recently helped launch a community effort to increase Arizona’s FAFSA completion rates using newly developed artificial intelligence powered technology, Ask Benji. Nickel and his family came to Arizona via Kentucky, where he earned his bachelor’s degree in telecommunication from the University of Kentucky.

Videos by Macy Kimpland, EOSS Marketing

Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist , Educational Outreach and Student Services


Decades of progress for Latino scholars at ASU

Partnership between community organizations, ASU help enrollment, graduation rates for Latino, Hispanic students in Arizona

October 13, 2020

They’re future diplomats, entrepreneurs and community advocates. But they’re also effecting change in the present day. Currently 110 Sun Devils make up the cohort of Latino Partnership Scholars, a collaboration between Arizona State University and partner organizations that was founded in 1984 to support underrepresented students and make a collective impact for access to education in the Latino community.

Originally launched as the Hispanic Community Partnership Program, the initiative established an endowment thanks to an investment from Freeport-McMoRan to the Una Promesa Para el Futuro Campaign. In 2007, the program became known as the Latino Partnership Scholars, with current partners including Chicanos Por La Causa, the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association, Hispanic Business Alumni, Los Diablos Alumni and the Si Se Puede Foundation. A group of ASU Los Diablos Alumni scholars Los Diablos Alumni scholarship recipients are part of the Latino Partnership Scholars group of 110 students at ASU. Download Full Image

Together, the scholarships have supported students earning 605 degrees from 2011–19 alone, to the tune of $6.5 million total. The awards support students who are already serving their communities, and one award focuses on science, technology, engineering and math majors. The percentage of Latino Sun Devils among enrolled students at ASU has grown from 14.6% in 2009 to 23.7% in 2019.

Celina Villa, an ASU junior majoring in psychology and minoring in human and family development, said her scholarship through Chicanos Por La Causa has fundamentally changed not only her academic life but her professional track and her mental health during COVID-19. 

“I was personally in a really, really dark spot because COVID hit and I think a lot of kids went through an anxiety and depression phase,” she said. “It kind of felt like they pulled me out of that hole and were like, listen. You’re doing great things. You need to realize that. And realize how many lives you’re impacting right now by being a part of this.” 

Every Latino Partnership Scholar participates in networking, community service and mentoring activities. For Villa, her service work has put her in a leadership position in Chicanos Por La Causa's information technology office, where she coordinates the distribution of hundreds of computers to local families who need devices for at-home schooling. Experiences like this have showcased how the scholarship impacts her “beyond education.” Villa said she has met a lot of people who have influenced her life. 

“I’ve been taught so many things,” she said. “It’s really awesome, especially for someone who had no idea what IT is. I think I’ve taken on the perspective of how can I apply my degree to something that's very out of the ordinary.”

Villa, who is from Laveen, graduated with her associate degree through dual enrollment and AP credits in high school. Though her ultimate goal is to pursue her master’s degree and open her own psychology practice as a trauma specialist for children, Villa said she wants to stay in the Valley and stay involved with Chicanos Por La Causa and the community. 

For first-year Sun Devil Genesis Rivas, her Laura Rendón Scholarship through the ASU Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association was a poignant moment as a first-generation college student. She grew up acutely aware of the hardships her parents faced, and her family had been facing financial stress for months before she was about to start college.

Her mother immigrated from Culiacán, Mexico, and endured family separation, having to sleep outside in sweltering temperatures and acclimating to a new culture when she arrived in the United States. Rivas, who is majoring in marketing, said she wants to radiate pride for her family and her culture. 

(The scholarship) just gave me a moment to reflect on what I come from,” she said. “We have so many more privileges than my mom ever had. I put my energy toward making her proud, my dad proud.”

Rivas already has a lot to be proud of. As a high school student she was involved in the Make a Wish Youth Leadership Council, student government and also in March for Our Lives Arizona as a special projects director. She helped organize summits, lobby days and town halls about gun violence prevention in her junior and senior years at Westview High School in Avondale. She helped pass a resolution in Tolleson Union High School District to provide more mental health services for high schoolers; she even met some of the student advocates who had been affected by the Parkland, Florida, shooting in 2018, an event that inspired her to get involved in youth activism. 

“The 2016 election was the start of everything for me. It kind of woke me up into the state our country is in,” she said. “And then once Parkland happened, there was never really a movement for youth. And I saw that. I was so amazed. I got to meet a bunch of the creators.”

Although she’s spent her first semester at home, attending classes through ASU Sync, she’s involved in Undergraduate Student Government’s internship program and also became a member of Alpha Chi Omega. Rivas wants to pursue advertising and digital communication and eventually work for Twitter. 

She said it was emotional when she received her scholarship because she had been panicking about loans. The news came right in time, and she’s loved being a part of her cohort so far, attending heritage events and connecting with peers and mentors. 

“I screamed and showed (the scholarship letter) to my mom,” Rivas said. “She stood up, started screaming, crying, and it just made me so happy to see that my hard work finally paid off for something.” 

Rivas said she’s happy to have the chance to meet her fellow scholarship recipients and connect with them. “It’s a close-knit community,” she said. 

A sense of community also looms large with business and Chinese language and culture sophomore Armando Hernandez, whose scholarship is through Los Diablos Alumni. Hernandez is passionate about representing the intersections of his identity as both Latino and gay, and he is very inspired by his fellow scholarship recipients. 

“(The scholarship) has meant so much. … It is the connections. I have found amazing people who are some of the most compassionate and motivated people I have ever met,” Hernandez said. “It’s so inspiring to see another group of Latinx students who are not only motivated but they have goals and dreams.”

Hernandez said he’s inspired to be surrounded by friends who have such impressive goals.

“Some of these people want to be an astronaut and they want to go to Mars, and that motivates me and that makes me very happy to know that my Latin Hispanic community is out there,” he said. 

Hernandez, who is from Phoenix, said he has also gained invaluable professional development in service, mentorship and networking for his future career in the foreign service. 

“They have provided me with so many amazing opportunities to meet new people within my field,” he said. 

Growing up surrounded by his entrepreneurial family, Hernandez was drawn to the business field and has been busy working on his Chinese, working with the Arizona Human Rights Campaign and keeping students civically engaged through his job as a resident assistant at Hassayampa (he has a goal that all his residents will be registered to vote).

From his perspective, his entire university experience has been amplified by being part of the Latino Partnership Scholars program.

“A lot of us would not be here in university if it weren’t for the scholarship,” Hernandez said. “It has really truly enriched our educational experience here at ASU. Just providing us with more resources and allowing us to make connections with people who are like-minded.”

Vice President of Outreach Partnerships Edmundo Hidalgo said that the Latino Partnership Scholars program is an opportunity to multiply the impact that scholarships have on students who deserve support. The program also helps work toward ASU’s goal of parity in six-year graduation rates across racial and ethnic groups. ASU provides funding annually for the program, and fundraising is ongoing to build on that financial base. 

“The collaboration and investments from community members and our partner organizations have made an enormous impact for ASU and for hundreds of deserving students,” Hidalgo said. “Our financial foundation and the collaboration of our partner organizations amplify our efforts to support students and help them reach their full potential.”

Maria Elena Coronado-Sutter is a co-coordinator for Chicanos Por La Causa's scholarship program and can’t help but see the connection between the ASU students who formed Chicanos Por La Causa more than 50 years ago and modern day scholars, many of whom are first-generation students and low-income students. Chicanos Por La Causa's Executive Vice President of Strategy and Relationship Management Max Gonzales said that the organization is proud to have been a partner for more than 15 years, interviewing scholarship applicants and connecting them with resources for student success as well as instilling a sense of service to the community. 

“After they graduate they don’t forget that they also have a responsibility to bring others with them,” he said. “We hope that they achieve all the success they want to achieve in their lives, but let’s not forget that you have a whole community behind you that we need to lift up. And if we can instill that in the forefront of their mind when they’re out there and they’re succeeding, then we have been successful.”

You can support the Latino Partnership Scholars program by donating through the ASU Foundation to the Los Diablos scholarship, the Hispanic Business Alumni scholarship, the Chicano Faculty and Staff Association scholarship, the Chicanos Por La Causa scholarship and the Si Se Puede Foundation scholarship

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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Music therapy professor starts journey to greater inclusivity with listening

Music therapy professor takes on role to grow inclusivity in Herberger Institute
October 13, 2020

Melita Belgrave is new associate dean for culture and access in Herberger Institute

Opening the door to inclusivity starts with a lot of listening, according to Melita Belgrave, an associate professor of music therapy who has been named associate dean for culture and access for the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“The thing I tell everyone is that there were so many bullet points in the job description, and really, it’s turned into listening sessions,” Belgrave said of the new position.

“Every school and unit has different needs. It’s a lot of listening to the students.”

As part of her role, Belgrave is working with Race Forward, a national organization that provides research and training to advance racial equity.

She’ll continue teaching and providing music therapy, which she’s currently doing through the Musical Instrument Museum in Phoenix. Belgrave also wrote a chapter and co-edited the text for “Music Therapy in a Multicultural Context: A Handbook for Music Therapy Students and Professionals,” released Sept. 21.

In addition to the new associate dean’s position, the institute has named Dontá McGilvery, PhD candidate in the theater for youth program, as dean’s fellow and coordinator for culture and access. He’ll help integrate students into the work of Race Forward and advise the dean on actions to support students.

Belgrave answered some questions from ASU Now:

Question: What are you working to accomplish in this new role?

Answer:  I’m hoping to build a culture of empathy and equity.

A lot of people say, “I don’t know what it’s like to be Black.” You don’t have to know what it’s like to be Black. You just have to have empathy. If this was happening to you, how would you feel?

The other thing that happens a lot as we are moving and changing the culture and changing the systems is that sometimes, fear sticks in. You have to be vocal in a way you haven’t been vocal before. You have to stand up in a way that you haven’t before. I want to empower everyone to be a change agent while decreasing the power of fear.

In this role, I get to do so many things. I’m building a core equity team in (the Herberger Institute) across five schools and the ASU Art Museum made up of faculty and staff with myself as well as Dontá McGilvery. What’s new is that group will work on developing policies and processes around equity. We’re working with the Race Forward team on strategy sessions and training sessions.

I’ll get to work on events. When we say “culture,” we want people to belong and feel welcome. It is all of the different parts of us. While you’re here, what do you do?

Q: How do you promote inclusivity?

A: When you think about diversity, it can be, “OK, there are 10 brown people here.”

You got them here, but what do they do while they’re here? Are there systems in place that support them?

Q: How do you promote empathy and reduce fear?

A: One, by being myself. Clearly, I laugh a lot. There’s the ability to bring joy and humor.

It’s about building relationships and slowing down. That is the thing. If an issue comes up, it’s, “Oh my gosh, I have to come up with an answer.” But there’s always two sides to a story. There’s always perception. So if we slow it down, it allows everyone the chance to be vulnerable. You have to build vulnerability and trust in these experiences.

That doesn’t mean it pushes me away from ever getting it wrong. You’re always growing, always trying to do better.

Q: What are some obstacles to inclusivity?

A: Any time you’re a large institution, it’s really hard.

If you think you’re getting it right but you’re not, that’s a problem. You have to make sure you have the right people at the table that are giving you advice.

Make sure you’re using the right tools. I tell everybody, "Get a framework you’re operating out of."

It’s the idea of a checklist vs. integration. A checklist means you ask me to show up at the meeting. Integration means you share an agenda, tell me how long to talk, what you want me to do.

No one wants to get it wrong.

Q: How do you listen?

A: Knowing how to listen to people is a hard spot. The framework we started using within (Herberger) is the social change ecosystem by Deepa Iyer.

We’ve used it at our trainings and retreats and huddles that we have.

It gives roles that people play. People are weavers or storytellers or the front-line responders, the ones who respond immediately, or disrupters or healers.

When you start thinking in that lens, you listen differently. You notice who’s missing. There are nine roles. It centers on equity, liberation, justice and solidarity.

It helps us understand that we’re all trying to do the same thing. We’re not pitted against each other. We understand, “This is what you bring. This is what I bring.”

Q: What about ASU’s Charter?

A: The charter is beautiful. It is a good first step. The charter is lacking action steps.

So for example, “… measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed …” means we have all these beautiful people here.

The protest a few weeks ago and the change.org petitions are for a multicultural center, and this is not the first year that students, faculty, staff and alumni have been asking for a multicultural center. It’s not enough to include BIPOC students and faculty. You must work toward listening, hearing and providing what they need to feel safe. Asking for a multicultural center is asking for safety.

If you want people to thrive and be their best selves and be creative and strive to be No. 1 in innovation, you must listen to what they need when they get here.

Q: What else does the position entail?

A: It’s events. The way we think about commencement. The way we think about any welcome ceremony. It’s HIDA Day, which will probably get pushed into the spring. How do we make sure we are weaving all of everyone’s humanity into that?

Another part of my job is connecting people when I hear things. “This group is doing XYZ; you should connect for your research project.” The more we can find those connection points, the better it is.

Q: You have a new book chapter out. What’s it about?

A: I’ve gotten to be involved in the national office of the American Music Therapy Association as we’ve been deepening our work in multiculturalism and diversity. The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee presented at a conference a few years ago and was contacted by a publisher. We thought the book could be a project for the committee to do.

It’s a handbook meant to be used in the classroom. I used my chapter, about music therapy in aging, in class two weeks ago.

One of the things that’s neat is when we think about the different categories of diversity and culture. In my work with aging, we always have to think about that. Aging has a lot of loss, so we have to make sure everyone has access.

I used to work in a retirement center, getting information out to older adults. Not everyone could read because of the small print, so we had a call-in line and I read the newsletter aloud every week. I would blow it up and post it in the elevator. There was also an in-house TV system so I would type it in there.

So this idea of putting information into multiple places in multiple ways so people have access is a thing for me. As I continue doing music therapy virtually with the MIM we’re always thinking about that. Who’s not here? To do this over Zoom you need a certain level of technology, and not everyone has access.

How can we make this look different?

Top image: Melita Belgrave, associate professor of music therapy, leads the School of Music's Wind Ensemble during the first Herberger Institute Day at Tempe campus in 2017. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Motivated by national tragedies, first-gen sophomore dreams of future as a changemaker

October 7, 2020

Arizona State University sophomore Halle Aquino was born in 2001, on the heels of 9/11. Just 11 years later, when she was in sixth grade, 26 people tragically died in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Unbeknownst to her, these devastating events and others would shape her path forever.

“I remember the day that the Sandy Hook shooting happened in 2012, I was watching the news and I couldn’t comprehend how something so cruel could happen at an elementary school just like mine,” Aquino said. “And then the Las Vegas shooting at Mandalay Bay in 2017 struck more close to home because my family always traveled there when I was younger. That was the breaking point for me. It motivated me to set myself out on this path and actually do the work that will make change.” Arizona State University sophomore Halle Aquino, a first-generation college student studying political science and public policy. Download Full Image

For Aquino, change means pursuing dual bachelor’s degrees in political science and public policy so she can one day tackle a variety of issues on a local and national scale. As a first-generation college student from a small town near Tucson, she said the opportunity to attend a university wasn’t guaranteed; earning several scholarships including the PepsiCo Foundation Scholarship, the New American University Scholar award and the President Barack Obama Scholar award provided the financial support she needed to go to ASU.

“If it weren't for the scholarships that I received, I would not be here,” she said. “I knew from the get-go in my freshman year of high school that if I didn’t work hard enough to get any academic scholarships, I would not be going to college. So I made that a priority and I put school over everything. I'm so glad that I did and I’m grateful that I got the opportunity to come here and fulfill my dream of being a college student.”

In The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Early Start program, an immersive two-week-long university experience for incoming first-year students, she was able to create a solid foundation for future success. Upon starting college, she said she was unsure of what to expect, but the program provided her a plethora of advice and resources on how to succeed as a student and as a growing professional within the field of political science.

When she’s not in class, Aquino works as a customer support peer with ASU’s Career and Professional Development Services. She said she finds it rewarding to help people of all backgrounds navigate their way to success. Along with being a full-time student and working as a customer support peer, she also interns with Undergraduate Student Government where she assists directors, contributes ideas for improvement at ASU, and ensures the student body is able to express their needs and concerns.

Aquino said she tries to push herself to do things outside her comfort zone, like participating in weekly meetings for BridgeASU, a student organization committed to debating the issues that face the U.S. while challenging conventional approaches to argumentation. 

“It's not always fun getting yourself to do things that you don't want to do, that you're scared of or anxious about, it can definitely be very challenging. But it is the most rewarding thing you can do and it will only push you to grow and be your best, highest self,” she said.

She has found herself in other unpredictable situations during her time at ASU, including attending classes during the COVID-19 pandemic. In March, she moved back home to finish the spring semester online and said it was a surprisingly positive, transformative experience for her.

“Without this switch to online learning, I would have never known that I am equally as strong of a learner online and in-person. I ended up doing better academically in the spring than I did in my first semester,” she said. “The time I had to myself outside of school during the lockdown was the most reflective experience I've ever had in my life. There had never been a time for me to really sit back and evaluate the progress I’ve made in my 18 years of living. My life had always been so fast-paced that being able to rest and take time for myself was something I never truly learned to do and value.”

Although she is unsure where her path will lead professionally, she said wherever she ends up she hopes to be a catalyst for change.

“I hope to one day end up in a position where I'm not only happy in what I'm doing but also where I am a changemaker for a large group of people,” she said. “I don't know what that will look like exactly quite yet, but I just want to know I am doing the best that I can for the greater good of society.”

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Hack for Democracy event seeks to increase civic engagement among STEM majors at ASU

October 7, 2020

Cyrus Commissariat and Alexis Sammon have been active in educating and motivating fellow Arizona State University students to register to vote. This fall, they’re taking their focus on civic engagement to the next level by hosting Hack for Democracy at ASU, a virtual hackathon challenging students to bring together the spheres of civic engagement and software development.

As ambassadors for the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Commissariat and Sammon realized there was a trend in past data showing that science, technology, engineering and mathematics majors were less likely to vote at ASU. ASU students with Secretary of State Katie Hobbs Cyrus Commissariat and fellow Andrew Goodman Foundation ambassador Ayesha Ahsan are pictured last fall with Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs at ASU's Tempe campus. Download Full Image

“The Jonathan M. Tisch College of Civic Life at Tufts University releases a report on voting and what voting looks like at universities across the country. In the National Study of Learning and Voter Engagement report, our 2018 data was based on major and it's really glaring,” said Commissariat, a senior in The College studying political science, history and French. “So we were confronting this question of, 'How do we make voting exciting and how do we engage students?'”

Enter the virtual hackathon. Individual students or groups are challenged to develop a technical solution for an issue related to civic engagement that could include but isn't limited to fair and secure elections, misinformation and bias, civic education or voter participation. Pitch submissions are due Oct. 17 and finalists will be invited to give a live, five-minute pitch to a panel of judges via Zoom on Oct. 31. The top three winners will receive a monetary prize.

“We're hoping that this event will engage students and show that there is a future for STEM students in democracy work, in civic tech and that it will create the next generation of entrepreneurs who will do the work that voter engagement people like us really need,” he said.

Commissariat shared more about his experience with civic engagement at ASU.

Question: What motivates you to partake in activities like increasing student voter registration and civic engagement?

Answer: The reason I started any of this work is because of my passion for education and education equity, which is something that we in this state have a problem with. I think that when voters are informed and when they care about education and the environment around them, then they make good decisions — an informed voter is a really great voter. So, I realized that there's this disconnect between people hating the government, but they don't want to vote. How will the government ever change? Voting is one tool with which we can make that change happen. And there are other tools and activists that do really great work but I think this is one really concrete and easy way that every citizen can get involved in government.

Q: Can you share more about ASU’s connection with the Andrew Goodman Foundation?

A: The Andrew Goodman Foundation started after the murder of Andrew Goodman. Goodman, James Chaney and Michael Schwerner were three young men who went to register African Americans in the South and were killed by the Ku Klux Klan in Mississippi. His mother started this foundation in his memory to encourage college students to register other students to vote as her son did back in the ’60s. The Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service for politics — which is located in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions — hosts the Andrew Goodman ambassadorship for student ambassadors to try and engage college students to register other students to vote. Right now, there's eight of us; the program has grown quite a bit.

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

A: There are a lot of other organizations who are doing really good work around registering people to vote. My team of eight is certainly not enough to register all 100,000 ASU students. There's definitely others who are doing really good things: Mi Familia Vota, the Black African Coalition, the civic engagement coalition at ASU. And then nationally, the Pastor Center is a part of the Students Learn Students Vote Coalition; they're the foundation that provided the hackathon grant funding that'll make the prize possible and also helped us expand our team. It's really helpful to see that we're not doing this work in a vacuum and that this is really a priority for higher education across the country.

Register for Hack for Democracy.

Kirsten Kraklio

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


First-year student and DACA recipient fights oppression with civic action and resiliency

ASU engineering major Angel Palazuelos advocates for himself and other Dreamers

October 1, 2020

It was during Angel Palazuelos’ first year of high school that he realized his life wasn’t the same as his friends’ and peers.’ Born in Culiacán, Mexico, Palazuelos arrived in the United States with his mother and brother on a tourist visa in 2006 and has lived in the Valley ever since.

He graduated from Metro Tech High School in Phoenix, but facing the realities of college applications as an undocumented student, Palazuelos saw how many doors were closed to him, including public scholarships and in-state tuition. ASU student Angel Palazuelos ASU biomedical engineering major Angel Palazuelos. Download Full Image

“That was when I kind of began to see that I was different, that although my peers and I shared the same morals and grew up together, read the same books, we were different, and I was going to experience hardships that they wouldn't,” he said. 

Yet one of Palazuelos’ biggest goals was to go to college. He is now studying engineering in his first year at Arizona State University; he has spent the last several years building community among undocumented students and wants to make sure the students coming up after him know they should set big goals for their education and their lives — and that they’re not alone.  

As a young kid, Palazuelos’ mom talked with him about what would happen if they got in trouble, even something as commonplace as a fender bender. He said that it was a heavy burden to know they could be taken away from their home at any second and that to a lot of people, he wasn't truly American. It was isolating.  

“It felt like I was the only one going through it; it felt like I was alone, that the world chose me specifically,” he said.  

Eventually, Palazuelos realized that he wasn’t the only one going through it, that there were other people experiencing what he was experiencing. During his junior year of high school, Palazuelos got involved with Puente Human Rights, the American Civil Liberties Union and Aliento to build hope and progress. 

Palazuelos started showing seniors and other undocumented students how to apply for scholarships while he was applying with his friends. He began to organize events for Aliento and addressed Dreamers all over the country as a speaker at Aliento’s virtual commencement for undocumented graduates. Working with Puente, Palazuelos helped start a petition to get school resource officers off campuses in his school district because of concerns about how students were being treated, and he has led demonstrations at the Phoenix Police Department and the ICE detention center, among other civic actions. 

During his work with these organizations, Palazuelos learned about all the various laws that limit undocumented students, and he began to feel very passionate about advocating for DACA (Deferred Action for Early Childhood Arrivals) recipients, not only because it affected him but because it affected his peers as well. 

“The system is the one we need to dismantle. That’s why we need to fight these little battles,” he said. 

Since Palazuelos has lived in uncertainty all his life, he said he can better cope with it now. Despite this, trauma still follows him around because his immigration status means he doesn’t have any guarantees about being able to stay in the place he calls home or even his employability after graduation. He doesn’t know what will happen next. 

“There are a lot of pieces of the puzzle, and if one piece is to go missing, it could potentially leave me lost on my college journey,” he said.

Scholarships made it possible for him to pursue his undergraduate degree starting this fall. Despite the adversity Palazuelos has faced, he is hopeful and tries to stay optimistic. Palazuelos hopes that the legislature will pass a law for Dreamers. He feels hopeful for his future as a college student at ASU, and he feels grateful for all the opportunities he has had so far and plans to plug in to the student advocacy community at ASU. (In addition to Undocumented Students for Education Equity and the Aliento student organization, ASU’s DREAMzone offers peer-to-peer support for undocumented students, DACA recipients and students with families of mixed immigration status.)

Palazuelos’ goals are to work as an engineer, get his work visa and green card someday, continue with community organizing and eventually start his own scholarship and his own organization and go to law school. 

For other undocumented students, Palazuelos’ advice is that they should just remain hopeful. They may need to work 10 times as hard, he said, but if they find their passion, that will drive them to their end goal.

“Know that it’ll all eventually be worth it,” he said. 

Written by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller. Reporting by Hannah Moulton Belec, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


American Chemical Society scholar joins ASU School of Molecular Sciences

October 1, 2020

Gabriella Cerna is a first-year and first-generation student in the School of Molecular Sciences and Barrett, The Honors College, majoring in biochemistry. Upon joining Arizona State University, she was awarded a scholarship from the prestigious and competitive American Chemical Society Scholars Program.

The American Chemical Society Scholars Program focuses on providing underrepresented minority students the opportunity to earn their undergraduate degree in a chemistry-related field. Cerna is from Arizona and attended Deer Valley High School, where she completed many AP and dual-enrollment classes to prepare her for college. In her free time, she loves to read, especially about new scientific topics. Gabriella Cerna Download Full Image

The American Chemical Society scholarship made Cerna's journey to ASU possible. In her last year of high school, she applied for many scholarships. It was difficult for her and her parents to save up money for college when they barely had enough to pay for their essentials. Cerna was relying on earning scholarships to aid her in paying for school. She believed that her chances of ever winning a national scholarship like that of the American Chemical Society were very slim. To her surprise, she exceeded the requirements of the application and was selected to be a recipient of the full-ride ACS scholarship.

“This helped my family and I take some burden off of our shoulders and now I can focus on school without worrying about the cost to attend,” Gabriella said. 

In her first semester, she has been learning a lot more and connecting with the content on a deeper level than in high school. Throughout the next four years of college, Cerna would love to explore research and learn more about chemistry in every aspect. She is excited to perform research in her first-ever lab and meet more passionate scientists like herself. Her goal is to apply science and show others how the world works by solving complex problems and doing research.

My advice to students is to not underestimate their potential, you are capable of anything and qualified enough, just apply for the scholarship!” she said.

Question: How did you find out about the American Chemical Society scholarship? 

Answer: My counselor sent out an email with the information on where and how to apply. The scholarship helps students who are part of a minority, like me. I heard back a couple of months after applying but the application process itself is competitive. Do not give up, always keep your head held high and keep a positive mindset when applying for scholarships. 

Q: What is your dream job after graduation? 

A: I would love to be someone involved in research for either a company or a university. I plan to go to grad school and get a PhD in an area that I am most passionate about. 

Q: What is your biggest motivator?

A: My biggest motivator is the teachers who inspired me in high school to do and dedicate myself to anything that I set my heart to, which in this case is chemistry. Their support and push helped me apply to college and earn a great scholarship.  

Q: Why did you choose your major?

A: I love science. Being able to apply myself to the material and learn how the world works outside of the classroom is outstanding. 

Q: Why did you choose the School of Molecular Sciences and ASU?

A: I chose ASU and the School of Molecular Sciences because I was interested in the honors program here and when I took the tour at (the school), I felt like I fit in perfectly. A program with excellent innovation and research was a must for me and I found it all here. 

Written by Mariela Lozano mlozan20@asu.edu, School of Molecular Sciences communctions assistant. Jenny Green contributed to the story. 

Mariela Lozano

Communication assistant, School of Molecular Sciences

ASU business school offers accountancy master’s degree programs with data and analytics emphasis

Participants can study for, take and pass the CPA exam while still in either program

September 30, 2020

The Master of Accountancy (MACC) and Master of Taxation (MTax) programs from the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University offer a data and analytics emphasis while preparing students to pass the CPA exam before either program ends.

Students can complete the MACC or MTax program in nine months, learning how to navigate today’s highly complex and data-centric audit, tax and financial consulting environments. Also, thanks to a partnership with Surgent CPA Review, both programs provide an excellent foundation for CPA exam prep, meaning participants can study for, take and pass the exam while still in either program. The programs also have been redesigned to allow students to customize the coursework to their specific interests. students in class Download Full Image

“The data and analytics emphasis in our accountancy programs gives new accountants strong analytical skills to be competitive in the industry, which is becoming more and more data-driven,” said Andy Call, professor and director of the School of Accountancy in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. “In addition to these technology skills, our programs offer CPA exam prep and even map out a study schedule to help students and their peers practice for and then pass the exam. This approach will help graduates get their career off to a fast start.”

The STEM-designated MACC program gives graduates on student visas access to an optional practical training (OPT) extension for up to 36 months. This longer work authorization term may help international students gain additional real-world skills and experience in the U.S.

Students in MACC and MTax learn from esteemed faculty who bring decades of real-world experience into each class. And with a recent $15 million investment by the W. P. Carey Foundation to bolster career services, students have more access to resources, coaching and employers.

Applications for fall 2021 are now open for both the MACC or MTax programs.

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


$9.3 million grant will expand support for ASU’s TRIO programs

September 28, 2020

Arizona State University senior Jennifer Duenas is wrapping up her last year studying pharmacology, toxicology and neuroscience with an eye on medical school after graduation. Her time as a Sun Devil has been rich with professional development, community service and club involvement, and she credits a program geared toward first-generation, low-income students like her for helping set the stage for such a rich academic experience.

Born in Jalisco, Mexico, Duenas’ family moved to Arizona when she was young. After attending a first-year readiness camp through TRIO before starting at ASU, she made fast friends and applied for the program. She said TRIO provided her with books, free printing, tutors, lab materials, mentoring, workshops, networking opportunities within her field and much more.  A group of ASU students in Devils in Disguise shirts Jennifer Duenas (far left in maroon) leading a group of students at the Devils in Disguise day of service at CREATE at the Arizona Science Center. Download Full Image

“Resources such as TRIO have provided me the means to excel in my higher education and achieve my personal goals,” she said. “I dare to say my college experience would be nowhere near as good as it has been had I not joined TRIO.”

Duenas has been involved in the American Medical Student Association, Hispanic Honor Society, Changemaker Central and in neurodegeneration lab research, all while working full time as a phlebotomist. She plans on pursuing a career in medicine, focusing on behavioral health and addiction.

Duenas is one of more than 1,000 Sun Devils annually who have access to one-on-one tutoring, workshops, professional and graduate school mentoring, personal development, financial aid advice and mentorship thanks to grant funding of $9.3 million through 2025. The award starts this month to continue five TRIO Student Support Services programs for current students as well as adding two additional programs at ASU’s Tempe and West campuses. TRIO is a set of federally funded college opportunity programs designed to motivate and support first-generation students, low-income students, students with disabilities and veterans in pursuit of a college degree. ASU hosts robust precollege TRIO programs in addition to the services for current students. 

The new grants will support students from all majors at ASU’s West campus and ASU’s Tempe campus. The renewed grants target students in science, technology, engineering, math and health science programs at ASU's West and Downtown Phoenix campuses, students with disabilities at the Tempe campus, as well as support for all majors at the Polytechnic and Downtown Phoenix campuses 

Principal investigator Sharon Smith, ASU associate vice president and dean of students for ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, said the new grants are a direct response to students’ request for all-major support.

“Students were asking for this, and it’s very rewarding to be able to respond to their direct feedback and now offer support for all majors on all four of our campuses. What these grants will do is allow more students access to really focused services and support,” Smith said. “Some of the students we are working with tell us that they would have left school if it weren’t for TRIO because they didn't feel connected. We see where these programs are very aligned with our charter in how we are promoting a college-going culture. Once students arrive here, we work with them to completion.”

First-gen students, low-income students and students with disabilities tend to have lower graduation rates than other students, Smith said. The persistence rate and good academic standing rate for all TRIO Student Support Services programs at ASU were well above 90% in 2019, and six-year graduation rates ranged from 60% to more than 75%. 

Staff members such as Linda Torres, who is a program director at ASU’s West campus and has worked with the program for 10 years, can see the impact on the students she works with. She said the support TRIO provides — from cultural events to navigating the college experience to class selection — sets students up for success in the classroom and beyond. She is excited that the West campus program will expand to reach about 140 students with these experiences.

“The renewed and new funding allows us to continue to provide meaningful experiences and much-needed assistance to students who participate in TRIO programs,” she said. “TRIO programs provide students with a community within the ASU community where they can interact, learn and share experiences with other students of similar or different backgrounds.”

Torres got involved with TRIO because she wanted to change students’ lives, and she is gratified to be able to do that every day of her career. 

“My favorite stories are the ones where I see first-year students arrive at the university, timid, unsure and afraid and by the time they graduate, they have blossomed into more confident and knowledgeable individuals who are able to recognize opportunities for themselves that they never saw before,” she said. “Every time I see a note or an email from a graduating student that expresses their gratitude for TRIO and us as staff members, I feel that my time continues to be well spent.”

TRIO Program Director Rafael J. Guzman, who manages programs on the Downtown Phoenix and Tempe campuses, feels the same way about the students who come through TRIO. He said the support they receive is holistic and well-rounded, including wellness and financial literacy. Ultimately, all this support is in service of seeing students through to graduation and setting them up for their professional lives or graduate school.

“Our goal is to help our students to graduate. For the majority, this is the first bachelor's degree in their family,” he said. “My favorite success story is watching our students in their caps and gowns during convocation ceremonies. To me, every student who graduates from our program is a success.”

For TRIO students, any offset cost associated with college, from calculators to printing, can make a big difference. That’s why Guzman, who has worked with TRIO for six years and for ASU for 26 years, is happy to see the programs expand to reach even more Sun Devils with these services.

“I'm very excited to have these new programs. These programs will create a more significant pipeline for ASU. These programs align with our ASU charter on whom we include and how they succeed,” he said. “We are very excited to know that our program will have a lasting effect on our students and knowing they will be ASU graduates.”

Smith said these programs also get at the community responsibility that the ASU charter outlines. TRIO’s impact is on graduates but also on communities at large. 

“Students take their skills and talent back home to their neighborhoods. They build strong communities and inspire others to pursue education,” Smith said. 

The result is that resilient and well-rounded students such as Duenas are set up for academic success and a meaningful career after their undergraduate study is complete.

“TRIO has always provided me the resources I've needed to succeed. … TRIO is there for students from disadvantaged backgrounds and, in every way, helps unlock their full potential by offering the resources and support those students need,” Duenas said. “I feel confident that any student who forms part of TRIO and stays involved with TRIO, is not only more likely to succeed in their undergrad but will also receive lifelong friendships and support that will make their college experience so much more enjoyable.”

COVID-19 has meant some updates to TRIO operations, but offices are open for student services now. ASU students can apply now to access TRIO Student Support Services on a rolling basis for a limited number of spaces. Apply now to join TRIO.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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On the front lines

September 28, 2020

Meet 6 members of the Sun Devil community who are serving as ASU 'Health Heroes'

Editor's note: This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of ASU Thrive magazine. 

Serving amid the pandemic — as doctors, nurses and professionals — these Sun Devils have one thing in common: strong foundations in expertise, care and compassion, much of which they learned at ASU.

The nurse who goes above and beyond: Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza

For Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza, ’16 BS in nursing and health sciences, staying positive and tending to the emotional care of patients is as much a part of her nursing work as is physical care. “I’ve been working directly with COVID patients,” she said. “Half of the intensive care unit I work in is designated for them, although we are overflowing to our other unit.”

Erolinda Becerra Mendoza

Erolinda Becerra-Mendoza

Although Becerra-Mendoza is a relatively new nurse with four years of experience, she says she’s never seen anything like the challenges that have arisen during the pandemic.  

“I have seen a few success stories in the ICU unit I work in, but I have also seen patients not make it,” she said. “It breaks my heart knowing that they are not surrounded by family during their last hours of life. I love being a nurse, and I try to make this scary time as special as I can for my patients.”

A perfect example? Becerra-Mendoza had a patient who was about to celebrate a birthday. She took the initiative to ensure it was a happy one. 

“A few nurses and I surprised him with a video conference with his family and grandchildren,” she said. “We got him a sugar-free cake and decorated his room. We had to make it special.” And they did. 

The ER doc: Mara Windsor

As an emergency room physician and chief wellness officer, Dr. Mara Windsor, ’98 BS in psychology, faces COVID-19 on a daily basis. Throughout the pandemic, she’s focused on exceptional patient care, as well as ensuring that her colleagues emphasize their own self-care, particularly given the everyday stressors they face.

“I have seen some devastating situations, but I’ve also seen renewed spirit in humanity by people coming together to accept, understand and support each other,” Windsor said. “My nonprofit organization, L.I.F.E. (Living in Fulfilled Enlightenment), has been supporting the front-line heroes by providing personal protective equipment, food and emotional support.”

Most recently, the organization received a donation of 70 backpacks and 70 lunch sacks from the kids’ backpack company MadPax, all of which will be passed along to the children of health care workers as they make their way back to school. 

“It is through our individual diversity that we can come together collectively to meet the needs of our community and society,” Windsor said. “This is the perfect time to create a global movement that will align human compassion with understanding and acceptance of all. I believe that this will result in greater love and compassion for all.” 

The compassionate caregiver: Carmen Dominguez

Carmen Dominguez

As a certified medical assistant for Abrazo Medical Group, Carmen Dominguez, ’19 BS in health care coordination, works at a small clinic, helping to treat a variety of medical issues. While she acknowledges that COVID-19 has presented a lot of new challenges, she’s grateful that her patients can be seen quickly — and without the stress of having to go to the emergency room. 

“Day in and day out, I hear patients telling me they are glad the clinic I’m working at is still open and accepting patients,” she said. “Working mainly with elderly patients, it is not an option to head to the emergency room when they feel heart-related symptoms. We are able to welcome them into a smaller setting than a hospital, (where they are able) to be seen and assessed — and possibly triaged — in-person. We are glad to be here to help and be of service.”

She adds: “I am so proud of my fellow Sun Devils, those working in hospitals, clinics, urgent cares, etc. Everything makes a difference! For those who have yet to graduate, please keep going! We need you.”

The mobile testing innovator: Farah Al Besher

For Farah Al Besher, ’14 BS in economics, who now works as a front-line coordinator with Ambulatory Healthcare Services-SEHA in the United Arab Emirates, early action meant early containment of the virus in her country. 

“I am part of the COVID-19 National Screening Service Drive-Through project in the United Arab Emirates,” Al Besher said. “We were the first to open the drive-thru testing center in the UAE, and due to its success, we were asked to expand our presence by the Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces. We were able to build 12 new drive-thru screening centers throughout the seven emirates in 10 days, and today we have 18 fully operational centers. By ensuring early detection of positive cases we have been able to increase the safety of our people.” 

The United Arab Emirates experienced a spike in mid-May, followed by a steady decline in positive cases and a subsequent early July resurgence. Since, though, the country has seen a sustained reduction in COVID-19 cases. 

“Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze us,” Al Besher said. “We are all equipped and ready to face any crisis. And remember, you can’t help others without first taking care of yourself. Follow the health guidelines, stay safe and remain positive.”

The mentoring engineer: Aaron Dolgin 

Service and inspiration are just two of the things that motivate Aaron Dolgin, ’18 BS in electrical engineering. Now a systems engineer for Northrop Grumman in Los Angeles, much of Dolgin’s day-to-day life involves a fusion of his love of robotics and systems engineering, and providing for the community. 

Aaron Doglin

Aaron Dolgin

When the pandemic began, Dolgin co-founded a team of more than 150 people who are working to create, print and distribute face shields across Southern California. To date, SoCal Makers COVID-19 Response Team has manufactured and delivered more than 22,000 pieces of personal protective equipment. 

Based on designs and specifications available through the National Institutes of Health, the face shields are 3D-printed visor frames with transparent sheets attached. And many of them are being produced by student volunteers — an extension of Dolgin’s mentorship while he was at ASU. 

“I really enjoyed the robotics program in high school, so I wanted to make sure I gave back in some way,” Dolgin said in June. “During college at ASU, I volunteered at robotics events in Arizona, and I knew I wanted to continue that kind of support when I came back to California. Volunteers don’t need any prior technical knowledge. They may struggle a little at first, but we have a remarkable community ready to get everyone up to speed. All of us are figuring things out together.”

The emergency flight nurse: Christopher Banks

Indeed, compassion is a common theme among alumni health care workers, including Christopher Banks, ’18 BS in nursing, a flight nurse and paramedic for Air EMS Inc. Very early on during the pandemic — in late February — Banks was dispatched to assist in the transport of passengers who had been quarantined aboard the Diamond Princess cruise ship off the coast of Yokohama, Japan. 

“When I reached out my gloved hand, in full PPE, patients couldn’t believe they could touch and shake my hand,” Banks remembers. “This was heart-wrenching.”

Air EMS uses a special isolation unit to safely transport people suffering from COVID-19 that ensures that the paramedic crew and pilots aren’t exposed. It looks like a clear rectangular bubble for patients to lay in on top of the gurney. Banks helped test and train personnel on the isolation unit’s use as the pandemic worsened.

“As a base manager of our air medical transport company, I ensured that all of our care staff safely experienced the confined space of our isolation units to build better compassion for the patients.”

Looking to the future

While a vaccine for COVID-19 remains on the horizon and the world continues to adjust to life in a pandemic, there are a lot of uncertainties. But one thing does seem certain: Current students and researchers, as well as alumni, are working tirelessly — and compassionately — to ensure quality care for a global society. 

To learn more about ASU’s Health Heroes or to submit your story, see alumni.asu.edu/healthheroes

Written by Kelly Vaughn, the senior editor for Arizona Highways. Vaughn, ’04 BA in journalism, has written for many publications including Phoenix magazine and Arrive.

Top photo: (From left) Flight emergency nurse Christopher Banks, ambulatory health care services coordinator Farah Al Besher and emergency room doctor Mara Windsor. Photos by ASU