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ASU’s spooky hotspots brought out of the shadows

ASU full of tricks and treats that will get you in the Halloween spirit.
October 29, 2015

'Tis the season to get spooky, and ASU has a few spots that could amplify the mood this Halloween. From reports of haunted buildings to labs full of spiders, the university's various campuses have all sorts of potential frights to inspire the mood this weekend. 

West campus

black widow spider hanging from stick

Chad Johnson, assistant professor of the New College Division of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, displays some of the spiders they show children and visitors at the black widow lab at the West campus. The research Johnson and his students are conducting focuses on how spiders survive urban and desert environments. Deanna Dent/ASU Now

On the West campus, students work on scientific research that focuses on the behavior and evolution of urban pests, black widows being chief among them.

“In the research lab we have thousands of black widows in individual containers,” said Chad Johnson, associate professor at the School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “If they were in the same tank they’d eat each other because they’re highly cannibalistic and we’d end up with one spider. We have tubs out in the lab filled with black widows that we invite people to come and tour.”

Johnson said that he and his students are constantly doing projects on the black widows and occasionally getting published for their work.

“Just last semester we had a lab published wherein we studied baby black widows and ‘ballooning’,” he said.

According to Johnson, ballooning is when black widows jump off high structures and disperse webbing, allowing them to float for miles.

“My students and I set up an indoor environment where the spiders can do this on a smaller scale,” he said. “We make sure to set up netting though, because I don’t think the neighboring professors would appreciate it if we allowed [the spiders] to escape.”

fake crime scene for forensic lab

Is this a crime scene? A mannequin has come to a bad end in the forensic lab of professor Kim Kobojek on the West campus, where the focus is on reconstructing an incident through discovery and forensic science. Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Also on the West campus, a special treat awaits those who enjoy shows such as “Law and Order” — a crime scene investigation lab.

Kim Kobojek, program director for the lab, teaches students all about the grisly world of violent crime, specifically its aftermath.

“One of the first things we teach students is the principles of forensic science,” Kobojek said. “I have a space downstairs in the basement that I call the crime scene lab. All our crime scenes have to be staged due to legal issues, but throughout the program [students] get the opportunity to tour real crime scenes with practicing forensic scientists.

“We’re looking at bloodstain spatter and forensic entomology (maggots) as well as biological material like blood, tissue, skulls and possibly even human bones,” Kobojek said. “I try to make the scenes as realistic as possible. We use mannequins placed in realistic poses with gunshot and stab wounds. We also purchase sheep’s blood, which after it sits for awhile has a nice little smell to it.” 

Polytechnic campus

water tower on ASU's Polytechnic campus

The ASU Polytechnic campus was built on what was once the Williams Air Force base. Alyssa Pakes/ASU

The Polytechnic campus has a fascinating history in that it was built on what was once the Williams Air Force base.

Some parts of the old base are still visible on the campus grounds, most notably the base’s infirmary that’s located where the ASU Preparatory Academy now stands. Inside the ASU Prep building is an old operating room, now just a defunct relic from the site’s military days. 

The campus is on many lists of "most haunted places," with often-mentioned reports of a male ghost wandering the old infirmary and voices heard in what used to be the officers club.

Sadly for those seeking the unusual, there have been no sightings of swamp monsters in the big tanks of green goo at the campus' Laboratory for Algae Research and Biotechnology — but one can only hope.

Downtown Phoenix campus

The Downtown Phoenix campus boasts one of the spookiest facilities by far: the cadaver lab. The bodies there have been donated to school for dissection, and ASU students have the privilege of working on the dead in pursuit of medical knowledge.

“We have dry labs and wet labs, the latter being more cadaver-based,” said Jennifer Drake, course manager at the College of Letters and Sciences. “When students are dissecting the bodies, we normally keep the face covered. We’ll ask them if they want to see the face, and the students that don’t will leave the room.

“We also have real human body parts called plastinates,” Drake said.

She explained that plastinates are body parts that have had all their water and fat replaced with plastics, which prevent them from decaying.

“We’ve done this with just about every organ in the body and displayed them all in a big glass case. We even have a human head on display,” she said. 

view of Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix

A view of the Westward Ho at the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Anyone who’s ever been on the Downtown Phoenix campus has no doubt seen the massive radio tower perched atop the Westward Ho building. Once the tallest building in Arizona and one of the oldest, Westward Ho has multiple claims to fame in the world of spooky allure.

One such claim is the network of tunnels that lie below the building. They were once used for hiding and transporting alcohol during prohibition, but today are abandoned. Nothing remains but a cold draft blowing though the darkened cement corridors.

(Film buffs will also recognize the building from the opening of the 1998 remake of "Psycho.")

Tempe campus

hallway of Community Services Building

The ASU Community Services Building on Curry Road used to be a children’s hospital. It now houses a preschool and other ASU offices. Trevor Fay/ASU Now

What many don’t know about ASU’s largest campus is that the Community Services Building on Curry Road used to be a children’s hospital — and according to ASU staff members, some of the children haven’t left.

There have been reports of hearing children playing — even though the children’s preschool that is now housed there was closed at the time — and also seeing objects out of place.

Elsewhere on the Tempe campus, it doesn’t get much better for art lovers this Halloween than the Ceramics Research Center at the Brickyard. The museum, along Mill Avenue, is home to a collection of spine-tingling ceramic dolls and sculptures.

Ceramic doll and ceramic skull

Left: “Girl with Crow” by Margaret Keelan. Right: Skull by Nicholas Klofkorn. Photos courtesy of the ASU Art Museum

Visitors can currently view a sculpture by artist Margaret Keelan, called “Girl with Crow.” Keelan’s work uses clay “to cleverly mimic the weathered surfaces of 19th-century dolls, riding a line between beauty and horror.”

There are also a number of skulls by local artist Nicholas Klofkorn for sale, for anyone interested in adding a touch of macabre to their home.

Trevor Fay

reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communicatons

Discover the backstory to ASU football’s 'perfect season'

October 28, 2015

This year is the 40th anniversary of ASU's only undefeated football season. While the Sun Devils had many memorable seasons during the 1970s, it was in 1975 that the team went 12-0, leading to a No. 2 ranking in the national polls and an upset victory over Nebraska in the Fiesta Bowl.

In this episode of The Alumni Experience podcast, host Liz Massey, managing editor of the Alumni Association, speaks to members of the 1975 Sun Devil team to hear their take on what forces came together to create the university’s only “perfect season.”

Interviewees include center and team co-captain Jim Heilig, kicker Dan Kush, and middle linebacker Mike Seivert. The story is also peppered with audio excerpts from a 1976 promotional film made by ASU to recap the victorious 1975 season.

Listen to the episode here, and discover additional episodes of The Alumni Experience, the official podcast of the ASU Alumni Association, at soundcloud.com/asualumni/. Victorious 1975 football player ASU finished the 1975 season with a 12-0 record, a No. 2 national ranking, and an upset victory in the Fiesta Bowl. Discover the backstory to this amazing season by listening to The Alumni Experience podcast: http://bit.ly/1O5zKzA. Photo courtesy of House of Sparky

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Year One: Life at ASU — Hannah plays football

ASU freshmen Hannah Kiesling gets going on the gridiron
Year One: Life at ASU — Sorority life sends Hannah on the football field
October 27, 2015

Editor's note: "Year One: Life at ASU" is a periodic photo series following five freshmen navigating their first year at ASU. This installment checks in on Hannah Kiesling, a Barrett scholar majoring in nursing.

Hannah Kiesling's freshman year at Arizona State University is going better than she expected it would. "School is going great," said the freshman from Illinois. "I am honestly surprised how prepared I was for all my classes." It's one reason why she's been able to add social activities and experiences into her schedule, like joining a sorority.

Kiesling pledged and was accepted into the Kappa Kappa Gamma sorority earlier this fall. As part of the group she participated in the recent War of the Roses flag football game that pits sororities against each other.

For fall break she surprised her family with a visit home, though the long weekend was quite a bit colder than her days at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus.

Overall, "I have been able to manage really well, I think," she said. "I just do all my work right when I get it, and then I have time to do all the other fun activities in my schedule."

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Explore your ASU campus: West

ASU’s West campus is patterned after the University of Oxford.
October 27, 2015

Located in northwest Phoenix, ASU’s West campus is home to nearly 9,000 students pursuing degrees in business, education, and interdisciplinary arts and science programs. Patterned after the University of Oxford, the campus architecture is designed to create a close-knit learning community.

Explore ASU's other campuses:

Charlie Leight

Senior photojournalist , ASU Now


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Discipline and diligence: ROTC students make their mark at ASU

ASU ROTC students train hard for a promising future.
They work out while you sleep: ASU ROTC students push toward exciting goals.
October 26, 2015

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series profiling different slices of ASU's diverse population. Find more stories here.

It’s safe to say most college students are still in bed when the men and women of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps are sprinting up A Mountain or giving a briefing in full dress uniform at dawn.

And while other undergrads prepare for work, these students prepare for war as commissioned officers in the United States Armed Forces.

As such, these cadets are expected to be able to run a mile and a half in nine minutes, 12 seconds; do 68 push-ups in a minute; and complete 57 sit-ups in 60 seconds.

“It’s not your typical college lifestyle, that’s for sure,” said Cadet Colonel Dalton Choquette, Air Force ROTC, who wakes up at 5 a.m. every Monday, Wednesday and Friday as part of the lifestyle.

In addition to the normal rigors of being an undergrad — the reading, papers, tests, cramming and extracurriculars — ASU’s roughly 500 cadets train, drill, plan and execute missions. 

“Nights and weekends are recovery,” said Cadet Operations Officer Katie Richardson, Army ROTC. “My friends make fun of me because I’m in bed by 8 or 9. … It’s a sacrifice I have to make. People ask a lot of me during the week, so I really do need to recuperate.”

However, cadets like Choquette and Richardson bloom in these circumstances.

“I thrive when I have every moment booked up,” said Richardson, who is earning dual majors in psychology and political science and is a student in Barrett, The Honors College. “I live by my planner. Everyone uses their phone nowadays. I still use a paper planner every day.”

Upperclass cadets assume leadership roles: planning, maintaining staffs of underclassmen to plan missions, and executing missions.

People running up mountain

Cadet Operations Officer Katie Richardson runs
up A Mountain during early morning physical
training with the Army ROTC Alpha Company,
First Platoon.

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Another difference between ROTC and traditional students are job restrictions. Cadets cannot work in a coffee shop or at a breakfast joint, for instance, because of their early morning responsibilities.

“You have a contract saying to the Air Force, ‘I have these requirements to meet if I want a commission as a second lieutenant after I get my degree,’ ” Choquette said. “If you can’t meet those requirements, this program has no problem saying to you this probably isn’t the best route for you.”

With a 3.8 grade-point average and being twice named to the Dean’s List, he has obviously balanced responsibilities well.

“A lot of the cadets mature faster than traditional college students because of the additional pressures,” said Choquette, a history major. “We have minimum requirements. Failing a class can mean not being in this program anymore.”

A promising future

Being a senior means the tempo has slowed a bit for Richardson, a fourth-generation Tempe native.

She now has time to go out with friends or maybe catch a football game. Another way for her to relax is to train for triathlons.

Richardson ended up in ROTC through personal tragedy. Her grandfather was a two-star general who attended West Point — both her father and brother served as Marines — and she had an appointment to follow in her grandfather’s footsteps.

Two weeks before she left for initial summer training, the appointment was rescinded because of a concussion on her medical record. In an instant her entire life’s plan was destroyed.

“I wanted nothing to do with the Army,” she said. “The colonel here at the time sought me out — he had heard my story from a mutual friend. He offered me a scholarship. I wanted nothing to do with it. …  I said, ‘All right, I have nothing to lose at this point. I’ll see what this ROTC thing is about.’

“I’m glad I took the leap and never looked back. I hit the ground running here, joined the Ranger Challenge and ran seven miles in full kit the next day.”

Being Army ROTC and being at ASU has been very fortunate for Richardson. She has worked in a defense think tank in Washington, D.C., learned Chinese in North Carolina and trained in Spain with the Spanish Special Forces.

In November, Richardson will find out where she has been assigned. Besides military intelligence, she has applied to two airborne regiments, the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Vicenza, Italy, or the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. 

“Either of those would be fun,” she said. “Italy, because it’s an international duty station. Fort Bragg is probably the most Army you can get. It’s super ‘hooah.’ Either one of those would be a great assignment out of the gate.”

ROTC student giving speech

Cadet Colonel Dalton Choquette gives his weekly announcements concerning volunteering opportunities to other cadets at the Life Sciences Building A early Sept. 24 on the Arizona State University campus in Tempe. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The flying gene

Choquette is a self-described military brat who grew up on air bases in Japan, Tucson and Virginia. His father is a decorated Air Force colonel with more than 300 hours flying combat helicopter missions.

This summer Choquette will report to his duty station and find out what flight school base he gets assigned to. A year after that, he will report to either Texas, Oklahoma or Missisippi for flight school. Coming as a surprise to no one, he wants to fly helicopters.

“Everyone says, ‘It’s because of your father!' ” he said with a laugh. “I’d be lying if I said he didn’t have anything to do with it.”

All pilots crave different aircraft — the speed of the F-16, the bristling guns of the A-10 Warthog, the hulking size of the Globemaster.

“I think the HH 60 is a pretty darn good-looking aircraft, too,” Choquette said of the Pave Hawk rescue helicopter his father sometimes flies. “For me, it’s all about the mission. Combat search and rescue is by far one of the most unique and valuable missions the Air Force has. To be the military’s 911 — they get that call and they rush out there.”

As he looks into his future, Choquette has a lot of pride for his past, having loved every minute of his ROTC experience.

“This program has been awesome for me,” he said. “When you finish this program, you are going to be prepared to be a warrior at the end of the day.”

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ASU has 3 ROTC units, over 4,000 student veterans, at least 420 vets on staff.
There are more than 30 Salute to Service events planned across 4 ASU campuses.
G.I. Jobs Magazine has named ASU a “Military Friendly School” for six years.
October 26, 2015

Yearly tribute to veterans grew from one game into university-wide celebration

A grassroots movement ignited by one person in the Arizona State University Alumni Association has grown from humble beginnings to a two-week event celebrating veterans and service members.

ASU's Salute to Service — a tradition that started during a football game in 2011 — officially kicks off this year during Thursday’s football matchup against the University of Oregon, with some activities happening before then. 

Faculty and staff have organized more than 30 military-themed events across all of ASU’s Phoenix campuses, and they invite the university community to get involved in the tribute to America’s men and women in uniform — past and present.

“It all started with one game,” said Steven Borden, director of ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center. “So our home game for that first Salute to Service was actually on the 10th anniversary of September 11.”

Borden said the impetus for Salute to Service came from an alumni association employee who had a sibling in the military and felt the university should honor military members and veterans. The initiative evolved as ASU President Michael Crow, son of a Navy chief petty officer, and former Provost Robert Page, an Army veteran himself, got involved.

“They said, ‘This is something we want to have endorsed by the university as a whole,’ ” said Borden, a retired Navy captain. “So we saw the movement from September 11 to Veterans Day, and expanding from just one game to a week, and depending on the timing of the game, sometimes to a two-week celebration.”

Borden, who established ASU's Navy ROTC battalion in 2010 while still in uniform, said Salute to Service has also grown out of a larger ASU connection to the military beyond the desire to honor veterans. The university’s military ties include three ROTC units, more than 4,000 student veterans and at least 420 veterans in the staff and faculty who have self-identified in the personnel system, according to the ASU Human Resources office. ASU’s military connection is also about the work being done across campus.

“There’s a whole lot of research that goes on here that’s related to the military, the Department of Defense or some other aspect of national security,” said Borden.

Creating a prosthetic hand that can be tied to nerve endings is one of the current research projects ASU is working on with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. The university is also researching the impact of mental processing caused by a mild traumatic brain injury — an increasing diagnosis for some veterans returning from war.

ASU's Salute to Service "Challenge Coin"

Members of the U.S. Armed Forces have a long-standing tradition of carrying “Challenge Coins” that symbolize unit identity and brotherhood. ASU has adopted this tradition and has created its own challenge coin. The design for this year, shown above, will be used in the coin toss before the Oct. 29 football game and will be presented to veterans in gratitude for their selfless service. Photo by ASU; top photo from 2014 Salute to Service football game by Peter Vander Stoep

ASU’s direct military ties through people and research are reinforced by what Borden sees as a direct link to the university mission.

“I think Salute to Service and our veterans center are manifestations of how we live out our university charter,” he said. “We’re talking about the fact that our success as an institution should be measured by whom we include and not who we exclude.”

Enabling access to veterans is important because it gives individuals an opportunity for an excellent education but also because it strengthens the institution, said Borden. Those who have served bring into the classroom experience-based perspectives to topics such as war, conflict or geopolitics.

“We realize the university is enriched by the diversity of its student body,” Borden said. “And the veteran community is one of those aspects of diversity.”

The former senior military officer also said that ASU’s initiative to embrace veterans and the military community is another aspect of the university’s innovative thinking.

Such thinking has paid off.

ASU has been named a “Military Friendly School” for six consecutive years by G.I. Jobs Magazine. The university’s online degree programs also earned high national rankings in 2015 from U.S. News and World Report, including the No. 2 spots for graduate criminal justice and business programs, and No. 4 in the nation in MBA programs.

“We see students coming here because we have the programs they’re interested in and because of the quality of our programs,” Borden said. “In the past year we’ve had an over 40 percent increase in the number of veterans enrolled online.”

Salute to Service and ASU’s affinity toward the military also extends to families. Borden said there are nearly 1,000 students from military families attending ASU and using G.I. Bill educational benefits transferred to them by their parents — a unique feature of the Post-9/11 GI Bill. The veterans center takes care of the benefits paperwork for families and also serves as a support system.

“If they have any issues they can come in and talk to somebody here,” Borden said. “Oftentimes they feel more comfortable speaking with someone who understands a little more about the military culture.”

The director looks forward to Salute to Service and encourages all students, faculty and staff to attend an event to get a better appreciation for ASU’s military ties. One of the more distinctive events this year will be the Veterans Vision Project by ASU student Devin Mitchell.

Mitchell’s project is a collage of veteran photographs showing contrasting sides of each person — their military image on one side of a mirror and aspects of their individuality on the other side.

“Here is a non-veteran student who has found out there are some stories veterans need to tell, and he has found a very powerful way for veterans to engage and tell these stories,” Borden said. “That’s an example of the area that Salute to Service is expanding into … to be able to highlight how veterans are touching the institution and how the institution is touching and embracing veterans.”

Mitchell’s photographs will be on display during Salute to Service at all four campuses:

  • Downtown Phoenix: 11 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Oct. 27 (Taylor Mall), 2-4 p.m. Oct. 28 (Student Center at the Post Office)
  • Polytechnic: Nov. 2-6 (Student Union)
  • Tempe: 3-5 p.m. Oct. 27 (Manzanita Hall north patio), 5-7 p.m. Oct. 29 (Tailgate at Old Main), Nov. 2-6 (Student Services Building)
  • West: 9 a.m.-noon Nov. 3 (University Center Building), 3-5 p.m. Nov. 4 (Changemaker Central)

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Getting to know ASU's students

October 23, 2015

We take readers inside different slices of the Sun Devil community

ASU boasts a diverse population of students from near and far. In this series, we take a peek inside the lives of a variety of Sun Devils. We'll add more stories over the next two weeks.

Woman holding babyVeterans transition to student life at ASU

Shifting to college life can be a tough transition for any student, but students who come to ASU from the military have unique concerns and situations that make the change more complicated. Thats why ASU has programs and services to help veteran students succeed in their academic pursuits.

The daily grind: ASU student-athletes work hard for their success

ASU student-athletes say their lives are a busy balance of achieving student and athletic success, but they would not have it any other way.

Man with flagsThe tough transition: International students help one another adjust to ASU

There are about 9,800 international students at Arizona State University, and they’ve taken a variety of paths to ASU. And although these students come from all over the world, they face similar issues once they get here — from language barriers to the acclimation of a new culture.

A picture of Tony Bothwell and his son, Lucas, in their California homeLife doesn't stop for ASU online students who want to better themselves

As if homework wasn't enough to worry about, Tony Bothwell has freeze rays to contend with. That's the life of this ASU online student balances a full time job in California and parenting a "Despicable Me"-loving kid with earning a degree in graphic information technology. Bothwell's drive is typical of ASU online students - people who want to add to their successes or improve their futures by earning degrees from home.

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The tough transition: International students help each other adjust to ASU

ASU's international students bond over life in a new culture
The big move: ASU's international students talk about relocating to the desert
October 23, 2015

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series profiling different slices of ASU's diverse population. Find more stories here.

Like most newcomers to college, international students can struggle with college rites of passage like making friends or finding the balance between doing classwork and having fun.

But their homesickness can be heightened because their families are thousands of miles away and the food is strange and the language is new.

There are about 9,800 international students at Arizona State University, and they’ve taken a variety of paths to ASU.

Maria Jose Quezada of Mexico City methodically considered several universities before choosing ASU, which she liked for its hands-on approach for engineering majors and because it’s a quick four-hour plane trip home.

Yifan “Leo” Liupictured above, photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now came from China and spent a year with a host family in New Jersey before deciding to attend ASU as a finance major.

And while these students come from all over the world they face similar issues once they get here — from language barriers to the acclimation of a new culture.

Transitioning, and trying to fit in

Quezada said she didn’t feel too homesick when she first arrived, but did get a little surprised.

“Spanish is my first language but I was in a bilingual school my whole life, and I grew up learning both Spanish and English,” she said.

“When I came here, people said, ‘Your accent is so cute!’ At the beginning, it was a little hard to accept the fact that my English wasn’t perfect.

“Sometimes people have the stereotype that you’re not smart enough because you don’t express what you want to say and you don’t have the sophisticated language,” Quezada said.

Liu spent a year with a host family in New Jersey before coming to Tempe, but he still joined in the weekly conversation groups that help international students become more comfortable speaking English.

“We would talk about everything — culture, school life, local restaurants,” he said.

Adjusting to American culture is another hurdle.

“Everyone here wears shorts and if you wear shorts back home every one looks at you like ‘why are you wearing shorts?’ ” said Quezada.

Liu was puzzled by football.

“I did a lot of research from friends and Wikipedia,” said Liu, who’s now a senior. He also attended the “Football 101” explainer event sponsored by the Coalition of International Students.

“After the first game I didn’t want to miss one. It’s impressive. Everyone wears the same color shirt.”

Woman standing in food court

Maria Jose Quezada chose to come to ASU from Mexico City because she liked how the university has a hands-on approach for engineering majors and because it is a quick four-hour plane trip home.

Making connections

Sometimes, making friends with Americans isn’t easy.

“You think, ‘they don’t like me,’ said Quezada. “But it’s just a different culture. Americans are a little bit colder.”

Xin Zhou is the coordinator for international student engagement at ASU, and she also advises the Coalition of International Students.

“Our priority is to integrate the students into university life,” she said.

The coalition is made up of individual student groups including the Indian Students Association and the African Students Association. During the past year or so, the individual groups have become more collaborative with planning events together, Zhou said.

Of the 9,800 international undergraduate and graduate students, more than a third are from China with about 23 percent from India.

The coalition holds social activities throughout the year, including a cricket tournament and a trip to the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort in Flagstaff, as well as cultural events like a Lunar New Year celebration and practical events such as a career conference.

“A lot of international students have challenges finding internships or jobs in the U.S.,” Zhou said. “We have recruiters and immigration attorneys who can help,” Zhou said.

And the group helps the students connect to others like them.

“Usually international students will say that it’s easier to make friends with other international students,” Zhou said. “They tend to bond with each other.”

Quezada, a junior bioengineering major, is a student at Barrett, the Honors College, where she’s found a supportive community.

For one of her Barrett classes, she created a video project in which she interviewed several international students. Her video captured the disorientation they can feel and also the confidence they’ve developed in navigating a new world.

“That helped me realize why I’m here and all of the challenges international students face,” she said.

“And that we all go through the same stuff — food, clothing, the weather.”

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Life doesn't stop for ASU online students who want to better themselves

ASU Online students earn degrees at their own pace
More than 100 degree programs available online through ASU.
Dedication to education characterizes ASU Online students
October 22, 2015

ASU online students enhancing their education on their own timetable

Editor's note: This feature is part of a series profiling different slices of ASU's diverse population. Find more stories here.

Students finishing a college career later in life have a lot to contend with. Many have full-time jobs. Others have family obligations. 

ASU Online student Tony Bothwell has to juggle both, and also watch out for the occasional freeze ray attack.

Bothwell spends part of his days keeping an eye on his 3-year-old son, Lucas, whom he describes as “a fussy toddler,” while his wife is at work. That has led to something of a non-traditional soundtrack to his educational career.

“This semester so far, statistics and (web site design) have been to the tune of ‘Hotel Transylvania’ and ‘Alvin and the Chipmunks’ …” Bothwell said, referencing the popular children’s films. “Psychology 101 and graphic communications were both Spring A session, I remember those specifically always had either ‘Frozen’ or ‘Despicable Me’ in the background.”

Hence the freeze raysA photo of Felonius Gru, from the Universal Pictures Movie Despicable MeIn the Universal Pictures movie "Despicable Me," the freeze ray is the signature weapon of a character named Felonius Gru. It causes the people it is used upon to be temporarily frozen in their tracks. , which, during imagination time, Lucas will sometimes employ upon his unsuspecting father, causing a delay in studying.

“It’s worked out though,” Bothwell said with a laugh.

It continues to work out for Bothwell.

He’s a senior solution developer for Kaiser Permanente, a health maintenance organization, in Sacramento, California. At age 39 he decided to complete his undergraduate work. Now he is the equivalent of a junior, earning his degree in graphic information technology online.

A picture of Tony Bothwell and his son, Lucas, in their California home

Tony Bothwell with his son,

Photo courtesy Tony Bothwell

Bothwell is very successful — he writes highly valued automation software for Kaiser — but the lack of a bachelor’s degree has put a ceiling on his career trajectory.

“Not having a degree is literally the stopping point,” he said. “That will be a roadblock everywhere I turn from this point.”

In a couple of semesters that roadblock will be cleared for Bothwell.

ASU Online clears many roadblocks for its students. The program now has more than 19,000 students enrolled, and offers more than 100 degreesThe top degrees in the ASU Online program are psychology, criminal justice, electrical engineering, organizational leadership and health sciences..

"As a university, we're committed to helping learners everywhere achieve a quality education, said Phil Regier, University Dean for Education Initiatives at ASU and CEO of EdPlus. "We've designed our digitally-enabled courses and degree programs with the student experience in mind, ensuring that students have the tools they need to succeed from anywhere in the world.”

Those digitally-enabled courses place reading, videos, tutorials and coursework online in an easily accessible environment for students. Assignments typically are due once per week, giving students in various places — and timezones — plenty of time to complete each task no matter their personal schedules.

The flexibility is key. For Bothwell it means being able to work on his couch with his son nearby.

For Mi Young Lee, the flexibility allows her to balance the 12-hour shifts that come with a busy nursing job on a military base. She logs into ASU Online from Seoul, Korea, 16 hours ahead of Bothwell on the clock.

Lee, who is 38, is a nurse at the Brian Allgood Amry Community Hospital on the Yongsan Garrison, an American military installationBecause of its location, the hospital in which she works is considered a combat hospital. Should shots ever be fired on the Korean peninsula, it would be the main hospital for U.S. troops..

She is Korean and earned her nursing degree in her home country. But her goal is to become a nurse practitioner. 

A photograph of Mi Young Lee, at the hopsital in which she works, in Seoul, Korea.

For Mi Young Lee, the flexibility of online classes allows her to balance the 12-hour shifts that come with a busy nursing job on a military base. Photo courtesy Mi Young Lee.

“We don’t have that program in Korea,” she said.  As a result, her degree won’t get her into American nurse practitioner programs.

“This is my stepping stone so I can get ready and prepare myself.”

Because of the varied hours of a nurse, ASU Online allows her to work when she is free to do so. And Lee is not limiting herself to nursing classes. While enrolled at ASU, she is challenging herself to take full advantage of the breadth of offerings online, including a class she took this summer on world faiths. 

“It helps me open my eyes to understand different religions,” said Lee, who is Buddhist. 

A typical ASU Online student — if there is such thing — is not as physically far away as Lee. Forty-six percent of ASU Online students are in Arizona; another 25 percent live in California.  There are more women than men enrolled (a roughly 60/40 split) and about a quarter are working on graduate degrees.

Jerome Tennille plans to become one of them — right after he finishes his undergraduate degree this fall.

For Tennille, a Navy veteran and ultra marathoner who usually starts his day with a 5 a.m. run, ASU Online allows him the flexibility to get his education while serving a community for whom he has a passion.

He’s in line for a degree in operations management from ASU Online, and he’s already using the skills from his virtual classroom in his day job: coordinating volunteer efforts for a Washington, D.C.-based organization called TAPS, which helps what they call military survivors — the loved ones and friends of service members who have died while serving in the military.

“You can be a battle buddy, you can be a sibling, a fiancé, a spouse …” Tennille, 29, said. “We provide the services beyond the standard issuance of life insurance that a family might get from the government. We provide the emotional service.”

A draining job, to be sure. 

But after his day at work, he digs into his class assignments — this semester he’s taking a quality assurance class and working on his senior project — and sustains his focus for another couple of hours.

A photograph of Jerome Tennille

Jerome Tennille is a Navy veteran and ultra marathoner who usually starts his day with a 5 a.m. run. ASU Online allows him the flexibility to get his education while serving a community for whom he has a passion. Photo courtesy Jerome Tennile.

He admits that that can be tough, but he knows something about tough. Tennille postponed his studies to join the Navy three years after 9/11, at age 19.

After eight years in the military, including two deployments to the Persian Gulf aboard the USS Iwo Jima, Tennille turned, as many veterans do, to ASU for his college education.

“I wanted to be a part of a school that valued veterans …” Tennille said. “They embrace us, and I want to be a part of a school that would understand the culture and embrace that and provide the education that I wanted.”

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Explore your ASU campus: Polytechnic

From algae research to flight simulators, get to know ASU's Polytechnic campus.
October 22, 2015

The Polytechnic campus, located in Mesa on the former Williams Air Force Base, is home to more than 11,000 students exploring ASU’s professional and technological programs. Thousands of square feet of laboratory space make room for project-based learning, from state-of-the-art algae research facilities and flight simulators to leading-edge 3-D metal printers and a consumer behavior research lab.

Explore ASU's other campuses:

Charlie Leight

Senior photojournalist , ASU Now