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Journalism or justice? For Ramos-Mata, they'll each get him toward his goals

August 25, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

The meticulous duels of court or the impassioned clarion call of journalism? Joey Ramos-Mata walks toward his dorm. Joey Ramos-Mata (with his family's help) moves into Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus Aug. 14. The Barrett scholar is majoring in journalism, with the intention to pursue a law degree afterward. Photo by: Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

Incoming freshman Joey Ramos-Mata isn’t sure which lies ahead of him, but he is sure of one thing: He misses home.

The journalism major who is also a student in Barrett, The Honors College was “definitely” nervous about moving so far from his native Houston to attend ASU.

“I’m one of those weird kids who enjoys spending time with my family, but it’ll be good for me to learn how to function as an adult,” he said. “I think it’ll be good.”

Ramos-Mata fell in love with journalism when he took a class in the subject his freshman year of high school. The following year he joined the student newspaper.

“I’ve been there ever since,” he said. “I love to write in general, whether it's fiction or nonfiction. I find it relaxing; it’s a lot of fun. I got to write editorials for the rest of my year as a senior.”

Ramos-Mata writes short stories in his free time, as well as playing football and soccer with friends and fanatically watching movies.

He has big plans for his time at ASU, with an eye looking toward both working at the State Press and joining student government.

“My sister did that at community college, and it was exciting,” he said.

Asked what he’d like to cover in the news business, he said he doesn’t plan to go into it.

“I’m using it as a foundation for pre-law,” he said. “I’d love to be a part of making big decisions. We learned about the Supreme Court, and I was fascinated with how much power they have.”

Ramos-Mata believes ASU has what it takes to get him to the corridors of power.

“It’s one of the biggest universities and it’s widely renowned for many things,” he said. “I‘ve heard a lot about the journalism program and I’ve heard it’s really good. ... With a good law school and a good journalism school, I thought ASU was the perfect choice for me.”

Scott Seckel

Reporter, ASU Now


California transfer student over the moon about space school at ASU

August 21, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

You could say Eric Laughlin was starstruck during his search for a university. Eric Laughlin Astrophysics transfer student Eric Laughlin poses for a portrait outside the ASU bookstore at Arizona State University's Tempe campus on Aug. 17. Download Full Image

It might be more accurate, however, to say he was space-struck.

The student from Burbank, California, was wrapping up his community college studies at Pasadena City College and wanted to find somewhere he could pursue his passion for astronomy and physics.

The public California schools he looked into didn’t have what he was searching for.

“None of them really did – I was surprised,” he said. “The UC system is so large, I thought there would be more opportunity. Especially since you have JPL (NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory) there and the space center up in northern California.”

A friend who was also ready to transfer suggested they look at Arizona State University because she knew people there. Laughlin discovered ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration, and he was sold.

“Once I found the program at ASU, I was dead-set on coming over here,” said Laughlin, who will have a concentration in astrophysics and already has a JPL internship lined up for next summer.

Astronomy was never a family interest in his home growing up. His father works in construction, his mother in the medical-malpractice field. When he graduates, he’ll be the first person in his family to finish a college degree other than his uncle.

Laughlin had looked at other fields of study such as law and biology, “but they never spoke to me as much like this does,” he said. He joined the astronomy club at Pasadena City College, toured JPL — “It was like going to Disneyland” — and went to other space events, solidifying his love for the subject.

“I want to be able to put man on Mars,” he said. “I want to be able to take man outside our solar system — which is never going to happen — but it just seems really important.”

Laughlin moved to ASU at the start of the summer and has already taken his first ASU class, an Anthropology for Science and Mathematics course online. And his frequent drives from Tempe to Las Vegas, where his boyfriend moved recently, have presented star-laden skies the LA-area native isn’t used to.

“I’ve looked up at the sky and seen way more than I’ve ever seen before,” he said.

But it’s not just the science that has Laughlin excited about being at ASU. After attending small private schools growing up and then living at home during his community-college years, this is one student excited to jump into campus life.

“Probably because it’s a very big school, and a public school too, the population is a little more diverse,” he said of ASU. “That’s really appealing.”

Also appealing is finally living on his own, at age 23, in the Vista del Sol campus apartments.

“It’s like I’m living my own life — even though my parents are still helping me out,” he said.

In between jobs at the campus bookstore and at a Sephora in Gilbert, Laughlin has connected with other incoming students thanks to Devil 2 Devil, a social-networking site for incoming ASU students. He even organized a meetup for transfer students.

Though he admits he is going to miss the beach, the self-proclaimed foodie is excited to explore Arizona and already has gone tubing on the Salt River — his verdict: “awesome.”

Oh, and that friend who suggested they look into ASU? She ended up not coming here, but Laughlin thanks his lucky stars she pointed him this way.

Penny Walker

Director, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Students full of excitement, hope as ASU's fall semester begins

August 20, 2015

The heart of the campus thumped with bass beats as the heart of the university returned for the first day of class.

More than 70,000 students returned to Arizona State University’s metropolitan campuses this week, with the first day of class Aug. 20 bringing both excitement and jitters. Celeste Anderson jokes about not being ready to open her biology book. Celeste Anderson isn't quite ready to open her biology book, though she survived the first class on the Downtown Phoenix campus Aug. 20. The transfer student, who is studying exercise and wellness, moved on campus and is reveling in her two-minute commute. Download Full Image

For Kaleen Nicklas, there was some of both.

“It’s interesting to see freshmen who are excited and scared because their excited and scared is different than mine,” the senior psychology major said as she checked her phone in the hallway of the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus, where a DJ played tunes outside. “Mine is that I don’t want to leave and I don’t know what I’m going to do.”

Still, seniors do enjoy some relief from freshman stress.

“It’s less intimidating because I know the whole campus and I know where everything is,” the Simi Valley, California native said. “My classes are smaller. I have more friends (than when I was new).”

Freshman Alexis Boschi was excited her first day on campus. Later in the afternoon, she pulled up on her bike to her fourth class of the day in Coor Hall. She had the day under control but not the weather.

“I’m pretty OK,” the Phoenix native said as she mopped her forehead. “I wish it was cooler.”

A biological science major, her priorities this year are “getting straight A's and good grades,” she said. She also wants to join some medical clubs. “I want to be a doctor,” she said.

No matter whether students knew exactly what their future plans were, each campus offers them a variety of classes and first-day activities — whether it was enjoying a West campus barbecue, looking forward to cooling off in the rooftop pool downtown, getting to class early at the Polytechnic campus or stoically dealing with lines in Tempe.

Time waits for no Sun Devil

Thousands of students scurried up and down Taylor Mall on Thursday morning as the minutes ticked away toward the start of the semester on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Brennan Pina, a public service major, spent the morning stationed in a tent with an “Ask Me” t-shirt, guiding nervous freshmen toward their first college classes.

“I expect a big rush just before class starts,” he said, noting that most professors are pretty laid-back about latecomers on the first day.

At least, they are for freshmen.

“I’m a sophomore so they might treat me differently now,” he said.

Some students are juggling so much that being late to class is inevitable.

Arlette Townsend said she warns her professors that she’s likely to walk in a few minutes late sometimes.

“I tell them that my work will be turned in on time,” said Townsend, 52, who works full time at A New Leaf community-service agency in Glendale and is also a full-time student majoring in social work.

Townsend drives to the Downtown Phoenix campus from Tolleson in the West Valley.

“I already have full road rage when I get here, and then I’m sprinting,” she said.

Once or twice, professors have gently reminded her of the class start time. But she said most are understanding.

Other students say the responsibility is with them.

“With most of the professors, it’s on you if you’re late,” said Brooke Taylor, a sophomore kinesiology major from California.

“If you miss something in class, it’s up to you to make it up.”

Taylor was sitting outside the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus a few minutes before her 9 a.m. class.

“I don’t want to be there too early,” she said.

Others are more uptight.

“If I’m five minutes late, I’m distraught,” said Frank Smith III, a senior who’s majoring in public policy.

“There’s a quote I heard and it’s how I live my life, ‘If you’re early, you’re on time. If you’re on time, you’re late. If you’re late, it’s unacceptable.’ ”

Smith is interning this term with U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego’s office in the University Center on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

“I was here early today,” he said.

Sometimes, the shoe is on the other foot.

Rigo Orta had American politics, his first class of the term, at 9 a.m. in the Cronkite building.

“I was there at least 20 minutes early,” said Orta, 20, a transfer student from Arizona Western College in Yuma. He’s majoring in emergency management and homeland security. But the professor was a few minutes late.

“Everyone was just sitting there waiting,” Orta said. “We cut him some slack.”

Poly’s anthem: We are family

Vignesh Kannam, who hails from India, is a part of the Polytechnic campus community. The 26-year-old graduate student is studying software engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and has made strong connections since his arrival in 2014.

“I really love it because I feel like we are family here,” Kannam said. “There’s a lot of international students on this campus, and we feel a certain kinship toward each other. You can focus on this campus because there’s silence. When I go to the gym, I feel like it’s my gym.”

Sophomore Halie Bartlowe wasn’t as relaxed.

The 18-year-old arrived 20 minutes early for class and stood outside of Picacho Hall in near triple-digit temperatures, waiting for her microeconomics class to start. Admittedly, she had first-day jitters.

A student in the Aeronautical Management Technology program, her career goal is to become a commercial airline pilot.

“I’ve always liked planes, and it just felt right,” Bartlowe said. “After I get my pilot’s license I’m going to be able to fly planes while in college … and that’s pretty cool.”

Get in line

Every chair, couch, corner and table was occupied in the Memorial Union on the Tempe campus. In the basement, Dhillon Truong, a communications major from Tempe, waited in line for a sub sandwich. He’d been in line for five minutes and predicted he had about a half-hour wait before walking away with lunch in hand.

“It’s a normal first day,” Truong said.

He said he’s putting off going to the bookstore. “I’ll wait three or four days because the lines are pretty long.” Truong is a junior, so this wasn’t his first rodeo. “Or I’ll just order them online and go in and pick them up.”

Upstairs, Gilbert Sosa from Mexico stood in line at the Chinese restaurant. It wasn’t his first line of the day. There had been “a couple, from advisement to Jamba Juice to other things,” he said. “About six. This one might take some time.”

He estimated eight minutes. “Jamba Juice was about 17 minutes,” the day’s longest.

The shortest? “Probably advisement,” Sosa said. “It was almost a walk-in.”

With at least three or four more on his list Thursday, his line survival strategy was simple. “Make good friends and talk my way through it,” he said.

Monarch Tshuma, a sophomore sociology major from Texas, was out of the bookstore in “five, 10 minutes.” It was his last line of the day. “I’m done,” he said.

Back at the Memorial Union, the convenience market had a sign outside its door. “90 Seconds Or Less.”

Fletcher Lawn is hopping

By all indications, Fletcher Lawn was the place to be on ASU’s West campus Thursday. With three simultaneous events taking place — West Fest, Well Devils Bike Sale and Fear the Fork BBQ — the lawn was a veritable feast for the senses.

Booths for clubs, schools and initiatives lined the walkways and shaded the grass in front of the reflecting pool. Communications sophomore Cindy Cook at the Career Services table was impressed with the crowd.

“We’ve definitely seen a lot of traffic going through,” she said.

Kaitlin Thern at the Spectrum booth agreed: “The turnout has been better than expected this year.”  

Thern, a psychology junior, is vice president of Spectrum, ASU West’s LGBTQIA club.

Over at the Teachers of the Future booth, early education sophomore Kim Zacsek was luring passersby away from the aroma of barbecue with the promise of a colorful prize-yielding spinning wheel.

Situated in a shaded alcove, Kevin Beirworth and Jim Myers of Gordy’s Bicycles passed out fliers and answered students’ questions about bikes and bike accessories. An array of candy-colored cruisers were available for students to purchase and walk away with on the spot.

Still more representatives at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex booth challenged students to jump from the ground to the top of a 3-foot plyo box, used for plyometric exercise.

All the better for burning off that barbecue.

A simple walk

Celeste Anderson has slashed her commuting time to class by 93 percent this year.

Anderson, who is a transfer student, had to drive half an hour from her home in Phoenix to her classes at Glendale Community College for the past three years.

“It was a solid 30 minutes, and there were two train crossings so there were two chances to get stuck waiting for a train,” she said.

Now, after transferring to ASU, she lives in Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus. It took her two minutes to walk to her first class, biology, at 7:30 a.m. in the Nursing and Health Innovation Building.

“It’s early, but I was glad to get it out of the way,” she said while eating a hard-boiled egg for breakfast in the dining hall.

Anderson, 20 years old and an exercise and wellness major, has been making friends during “Welcome Week” in the dorm. But she admits she’s in a different part of her journey than the freshmen she has befriended.

“They’re like, ‘Let’s go to a party.’ I’ve already done parties. I’m just trying to buckle down and get out of here.”

First day about making contact

ASU’s Polytechnic campus can no longer be accused of being the quiet stepsister of Tempe.

On the first day of class, Poly’s classrooms were packed, sidewalks filled, parking spaces sparse and student life evident almost everywhere.

About a half-hour before her Introduction to Commercial Photography Class, Penny Dolin, an 18-year teaching veteran at ASU, said the first day is more about contact than curriculum.

“I tell them about me, but I really want to know about them,” said Dolin, who is also the program chair of the Graphic Information Technology program, which teaches approximately 700 students.

“Sure, we’ll go over the course and the curriculum, but what I want to know most is what my students are interested in, what they want to do with their lives, why they want to do it. I set the stage for the semester and want them to know we’re all on a team. I think community is important.”

Hitting the books

While Fletcher Lawn outside was a whirlwind of commotion, inside Fletcher Library, students were already getting down to business.

It may have been only the first day of classes but Gustavo Lara, coordinator for the tutoring center in Fletcher Library, was posted up among the rows of desks with student tutors Frank Scarpa, a grad student studying philosophy and secondary education, and psychology major Mairi MacNeill “warming up” for the semester.

Lara said the number of students they see varies from semester to semester but that at about week two or three they usually get around 60 students in the center at once, which does not require appointments.

The most common subject students seek help with? Math, Lara said. After that comes chemistry, then business and statistics. But his team is there to help with all subjects.

Toward the front of the library, political science freshman Jordan Garcia was taking a break from the heat at Starbucks. She had six classes Thursday but so far had only been to two.

“I’m looking forward to the rest of my classes and to meeting new people and having new experiences through clubs,” Garcia said of her hopes for this semester.

Just around the corner, applied computing sophomore Charles Beckton was taking advantage of some free time between classes to listen to some music on his iPhone; in fact, most students had earbuds in and some were even nodding their heads along to a beat as they hand-scrawled notes or typed on their laptops.

Beckton’s goal for the semester is to boost his GPA. Considering the resources and amenities available at Fletcher Library, he’s in the right place to do that.

Sweatin’ the first day

Even though it’s only a brief walk to class, just venturing outdoors is a big challenge on Emily Ashworth’s first day of classes.

A freshman nursing major, Ashworth came to ASU from Anchorage, Alaska. She said she hardly wanted to leave her air-conditioned room in Taylor Place on the Downtown Phoenix campus during the searing heat wave over move-in weekend.

Even staying indoors was a novelty for her.

“We don’t have air-conditioning in Anchorage,” she said. “Normally it’s about 65 degrees in the summer.”

She ate an omelet in the Taylor Place dining hall before braving the heat and heading toward her first class at 10:30.

“I’m not really nervous for class,” she said. “I did a lot of dual-enrollment courses last year.”

She’s also looking forward to relaxing in the rooftop pool at the Sun Devil Fitness Center after classes.

“An outdoor pool is a new concept for me.”

ASU News reporters Mary Beth Faller (reporting from the Downtown Phoenix campus), Emma Greguska (West campus), Scott Seckel (Tempe campus) and Marshall Terrill (Polytechnic campus) contributed to this story.

Freshman crosses ocean for ASU entrepreneurship program

August 20, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

Jobana Westbay has the soul of an artist. Jobana Westbay, who loves jazz music and exploring the natural world, will be studying at ASU's Polytechnic campus. Download Full Image

She takes time to appreciate the beauty in the world, whether it’s in the form of cascading waves at Monterey Bay in California — which she recently visited for the first time — or the “unusual time signatures and emotional depth” of jazz music.

She has always had a penchant for mathematics and the sciences, too, though. That’s why she was attracted to the Technological Entrepreneurship and Management Program at Arizona State University.

“I have always liked science and math, as well as the creative arts. So the interdisciplinary approach of the major seemed perfect for me,” she says.

Born and raised in Yokohama, Japan, the 18-year-old Barrett Polytechnic student hadn’t even heard of the word “entrepreneurship” until her senior year of high school when she took an introductory college business class online. But, she says, “I instantly knew that I was interested in it.”

Leaving your home country to attend a university halfway across the world might seem intimidating to some, but Westbay knew at a young age that she wanted to pursue higher education outside of Japan.

She demonstrated her commitment by opting out of the Japanese public school system, which she had been in her whole life, and entering an American virtual homeschool program to make her eventual transition to college in the U.S. easier.

Though she encountered some challenges with homeschooling, such as not being able to ask questions easily, Westbay met them head on, taking it upon herself to do the extra work.

“It forced me to go online and find other resources to improve my understanding of many subjects, which enriched my studies,” she says. “And having to rely on myself to schedule my studies improved my study and organizational skills.”

Westbay was accepted into several American universities, but she chose ASU for a number of reasons.

“The different organizations and other opportunities that ASU offers really drew me to this school. … ASU offers practically anything you could think of,” she says.

And she plans to take full advantage of that, having already looked into some of ASU’s various entrepreneurial programs, like the Grand Challenge Scholars Program.

Westbay also looks forward to joining a music ensemble (she has played clarinet since the seventh grade, and also plays some piano, guitar and the Japanese bamboo flute), playing intramural sports and participating in organizations for cultural exchange.

“After homeschooling and being limited to very few extracurricular activities, the huge number of organizations is very exciting, and I am anxious to try new things.”

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Year one: Life at ASU — moving into the dorms

August 19, 2015

Follow five freshmen through their first year in this periodic photo series. The journey starts today, with move-in.

Non-traditional student's life a lesson to others

August 19, 2015

Editor's note: This story is part of our back-to-school spotlight on notable incoming students. The series will run during the first two weeks of the fall semester. Read our other profiles here.

Cindy Wong had a lot of obstacles to overcome as a youth – some that have taken decades to reconcile. Cindy Wong is taking a non-traditional approach to earning a college degree. After a career as a paralegal, and taking time off for her two daughters, Raven (second from right), 10, and Sofia, 8, she’s pursuing a degree from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, with the full support of the girls and her husband, Ramiro. Download Full Image

Domestic violence and substance abuse in the home were but a few of the issues she has had to tackle.

“I know what it’s like to live in poverty, shame and enduring major struggles at home,” Wong said. “I also know that I can help students in the same situation today and give them hope. That’s why I want to teach.”

The 36-year-old Wong, who comes to ASU this fall as a transfer student from Mesa Community College with a 4.0 GPA, will major in elementary education with a focus on bilingual education/English as a second language at ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. She is the recipient of the Emma May Patton VanBockern Scholarship, which was established by private support to provide financial assistance to students over the age of 30.

The scholarship will enable Wong to not only attend ASU, but also provide her with a full year of student teaching.

“It’s one of the reasons why I chose ASU,” Wong said. “I’ll not only get the tools to teach but gain a tremendous amount of experience.”

The graduate of North High in Phoenix said she was “lost” during her teen and early adult years as a result of a tumultuous childhood.

“My mother had a minimal education while my father had drug and alcohol issues,” Wong said of her parents, who were Mexican immigrants. “There was a lot of chaos and domestic violence in our house. Cops were often called, and I was very tormented inside. There was really no one around to help me, and I had to figure a lot of things out for myself.”

Wong’s personal turmoil caused her to develop bulimia as a teen, which carried over into her adult years after she graduated high school in 1997. She worked at a big-box retail store for several years, barely making ends meet when she had a lightbulb moment: “Education was the only way I was going to lift myself out of this rut.”

So she moved to Las Cruces, New Mexico, and enrolled in Dona Ana Branch Community College, where she eventually received her associate of arts degree. After 12 years working as a paralegal, she decided it was time to pursue her dream of becoming a teacher.

“The time had come where I felt like I wanted to do something that made a difference,” Wong said. “I realized I could make a difference in young people’s lives through teaching.”

In 2013 she attended Mesa Community College, where she completed an honors project of creating a STEM-based demonstration for a kindergarten class called “Earthquake in the Classroom,” which teaches concepts of civil engineering. She also taught “Music Masterpiece” to second- and fourth-grade students, introducing them to such classical musical artists as Johann Sebastian Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven and Frederic Chopin.

Wong’s goal, after she graduates in 2017, is to improve the quality of education for all students regardless of socioeconomic class or background.

“I want to be an example for my own kids and also for the children in the classroom whose parents may not have an education.”

Reporter , ASU Now


Sun Devil Welcome a raucous start to new year

August 18, 2015

Editor's note: As ASU gears up for the start of classes this week, our reporters are spotlighting scenes around its campuses. To read more, click here.

If anyone walking into the arena Tuesday afternoon for the Sun Devil Welcome rally didn’t have maroon and gold blood coursing through their veins, they certainly did when they left. Incoming freshman show their school spirit at the Sun Devil Welcome. Incoming freshmen of the Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering show their school spirit during the Sun Devil Welcome at Wells Fargo Arena on Aug. 18 in Tempe. Download Full Image

Plus ruptured eardrums.

With drums, horns, dancers and balloons cascading from the ceiling, the 11,000-strong class of 2019 filled two-thirds of the arena with a sea of gold from all 50 states and more than 100 countries.

“Awesome,” said Race Carter, a business management major from Scottsdale.

After a kickoff performance by Andaaz, the Bollywood dance team, vice president of athletics Ray Anderson told the crowd that when he arrived at ASU two years ago, people said ASU Athletics was a sleeping giant.

“I’m here to tell you the giant is alive and well, and stomping through the Valley and the Pac-12,” Anderson said. “And we are kicking butt in all our programs.”

“Raise your pitchforks high and give ’em hell, Sun Devils!” yelled Corina Tapscott, ‎president of downtown student government.

A video of a Godzilla-size Sparky stomping across the Valley to the thundering bass of AC/DC drew huge cheers, especially when he crushed a car with the University of Arizona logo on the roof before entering his Sun Devil Stadium and impaling the turf with a flaming pitchfork.

“That is the last time you will hear those words (U of A) spoken,” marching band director James Hudson told the crowd. “It’s ‘that place down south.’ We never speak those words.”

And, he added, “On Friday we wear gold.”

University President Michael Crow took the stage. “Yes, I’m the old serious guy,” he began. “Somebody’s got to be.”

He asked the crowd what they want their lives to mean. “When people talk about you after you’re gone, what do you want them to say?” he said. “There is not a person in this room who should not graduate from this institution and go on to do fantastic things.”

There are 400 areas of subjects to learn from at ASU, Crow said.

“We have hundreds and hundreds of majors,” he said. “Why? It’s not because we have so many students. It’s because they have so many dreams."

The university president — who was the first in his family to graduate from college — spoke about how majoring in political science helped him, despite not going into politics. It doesn’t matter what you study, he said.

“What that major did for me was help me to understand how things work,” Crow said. “It helped me to figure out how to learn new things. … I was able to adjust to anything I experienced. Every job I’ve had, every opportunity that I’ve had, everything was a function not of the specifics of what I learned, but of the process of learning how to learn.”

He gave out his email address and asked any student with an unsolved problem to contact him directly.

Carter was most impressed by Crow’s speech, “the fact that he believes in all of us, the fact that someone that high up is approachable is impressive.”

Ashley Altmann, a journalism and mass communication major from the Bay Area, thought the rally was inspiring.

“It made me want to get involved,” she said. “I feel like I’m at home here. It’s only my third day and I feel like I’m at home.”

SunDevil Welcome from Arizona State University on Vimeo.

Scott Seckel

Reporter, ASU Now


Mother and Son Devils: Student heads to ASU after mom earns online degree

August 18, 2015

When Diane Gubran decided to take a break from college in 1984, she told herself it would be temporary. She had been a journalism student at California State University-Northridge, but after one semester, she began to lose focus and ended up dropping out.

“Anything that is challenging takes discipline. When I was younger, I was more interested in having fun and living life [than doing schoolwork],” she said. Mother-son Devils Diane and Konrad Gubran Konrad Gubran, an incoming freshman and business major from Valencia, California, walks with his parents, Jake and Diane, on the way to his residence hall on Aug. 15. Diane just walked in ASU’s spring 2015 convocation ceremony in Tempe, receiving her bachelor's in interdisciplinary studies from the College of Letters and Sciences — son Konrad will be attending the W. P. Carey School of Business. Download Full Image

After a string of odd jobs, Diane land a position in the mortgage industry with the help of a friend, and as time went by, she grew comfortable. Even so, she still harbored a dream of one day returning to school and earning a college degree.

Flash-forward to the fall of 2015. Diane is watching her son, Konrad, move into the Hassayampa Academic Village on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus — something she never experienced. He will begin classes at the W. P. Carey School of Business on Aug. 20.

But even though she never had that “college experience” of living on campus, she did eventually achieve her dream of a degree, thanks to ASU Online. In fact, it was only a few short months ago that she walked at ASU’s spring 2015 convocation ceremony in Tempe, graduating summa cum laude with a bachelor’s in interdisciplinary studies from the College of Letters and Sciences.

Back to the start

In 2000, more than a decade and a half after dropping out, Diane made the decision to re-embark on her college journey. She signed up for classes at a local community college in Valencia, California, where she resides.

She cites two big motivators: the birth of Konrad in 1997, and an instance in which she was overlooked for a promotion because she didn’t have a degree.

“I knew then that if I wanted to further my career, I would be limited,” she said.

Unfortunately, the community college didn’t offer any online courses, meaning Diane had to be physically present for every class. So she painstakingly tackled one course at a time in the spare time she was able to eke out between fulfilling her roles as wife, mother and career woman, which required frequent travel.

Then, during a business trip in 2010, Diane was on a plane when she heard a radio advertisement for ASU Online. She’d heard of plenty of online college opportunities before, but this was different. ASU was “reputable,” she said.

“I’ve hired lots of people throughout my career and when you look at where they went to school, it matters,” Diane said. “If you say ‘ASU’ or ‘Arizona State University,’ people know it; it’s recognizable. Other colleges that offer online courses are more obscure and don’t usually get a positive reaction.”

So in spring 2011, she began taking courses through ASU Online, interacting with students and professors, completing assignments and taking tests from hotels, airplanes and her home in Valencia. Finally able to take more than one course at a time, Diane made swift progress toward her degree.

When asked if it would have been possible to earn her degree without the flexibility of an online program, she is emphatic.

“I don’t know how I could have. Not that I wouldn’t have wanted to, but I honestly don’t know how I could have,” Diane said. “It wouldn’t have been physically possible.”

Continuing the Sun Devil legacy

Not everyone gets to see their parent graduate, but when Diane walked across the stage and was handed her degree this past spring, her son was there to witness it.

“Seeing my mom get her degree was really cool,” Konrad said. “It gave me some inspiration to want to be in the same place in a few years.”

Now, as a freshmen at his mother’s alma mater, he is certainly poised to be.

Konrad says it was his love of classic cars that made him realize he wanted to study business.

“I wanted to open my own [auto] shop and do custom work, and I realized I would need a business degree for that,” he said.

Though he considered other schools, he ultimately chose ASU and the W. P. Carey School in particular on the advice of trusted individuals.

“I talked to some really intelligent people who I trusted a lot, and they said the [W. P. Carey] School is really good, one of the best in the country,” Konrad said. “And it helped that my mom had just gotten her degree there.”

After experiencing firsthand the obstacles that often accompany the lack of a college degree, Diane couldn’t be happier that her son is on his way toward one.

“I am very excited for him to have that college experience because both my husband and I, the way we did it, we did distance learning (her husband attended Cal State Long Beach), and I had a great experience with it and my husband did as well, but I want Konrad to be able to take all of it in and do it while he’s young,” she said.

The next chapter

Diane is still working in the mortgage industry and recently joined a new company as a servicer oversight manager. She also recently received an offer from Thunderbird School of Global Management to enroll in a master’s program there, with a 60 percent tuition credit.

Though she hasn’t yet decided whether she’ll pursue Thunderbird’s offer, she’s interested in switching things up and looking into positions in human resources. Whatever she decides, she is now able to go further in her career than she thought possible just a few short years ago.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

Fall Welcome: What's the buzz on ASU's campuses?

August 17, 2015

As Arizona State University gears up for the start of classes this week, our reporters are spotlighting scenes around its campuses. Take a look at what's been going on during ASU Fall Welcome.

Changemaker Central Day of ServiceTrash-chute drama and pizza freedom: Freshmen share new experiences Download Full Image

More than 11,000 freshmen started their ASU journey this week, and they’ve been getting a lot of advice: Connect with mentors! Try new things! Five freshmen on the Downtown Phoenix campus share experiences they never had before coming to ASU.

Changemaker Central Day of ServiceStudents make a change on Polytechnic campus, in their lives

Albert Giovanazzi could have slept in Wednesday morning, but the ASU freshman wanted to make a difference. His goal was achieved by helping the Changemakers clean up part of the Polytechnic campus.

Sun Devil Welcome eventSun Devil Welcome a raucous start to new year

New Sun Devils received an official welcome Tuesday in a raucous celebration in Wells Fargo Arena. Among the speakers: President Michael M. Crow who told students that there is nothing standing in their way from graduating from ASU.

Cronkite Village orientationCronkite Village gives journalism freshmen sense of community

Incoming journalism students play welcome games – including trivia about ASU – and get to know each other as part of their orientation to the Cronkite Village, one of 32 residential colleges across the four campuses in which students live and learn together.

New College traditional handprint collagePeer mentors help New College freshmen find their feet

At the start of each fall semester, peer mentors from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on ASU's West campus help freshmen know what to do if faced with an unfamiliar situation. Here, mentors share their tips for newcomers.

Air-traffic-control software installationNew technology provides clear landing for ASU Polytechnic students

The final installation of new air-traffic-control simulation technology was being overseen Tuesday on ASU's Polytechnic campus. The system ("so cutting-edge that it’s bleeding edge") will help prepare students for a rewarding but highly competitive field.

SDFC West campus student workersWest campus fitness complex ready for incoming students

Despite the present stillness at ASU's West campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex, Casey Monroe knows what is coming: a barrage of energetic students ready to dive headfirst into another semester.

Criminology students play ClueCriminology students get a 'Clue' on how to succeed

Freshmen entering ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice in downtown Phoenix spent their first day playing a life-size version of the popular board game "Clue," which helped them build relationships that will be key to their success.

Sparky dancingPolytechnic campus students dance through move-in

The Polytechnic campus has all sorts of fun things, including students who break into dance while helping freshmen move into the dorms. Volunteer Megan Lymer says of the campus: “We all get along, and we know where to go if we need anything. It’s fun.”

Stoney familyStart of college a rite of passage for parents, too

From stocking up at the bookstore to imparting words of advice, three families share their impressions of moving their new Sun Devil into college this week — and whether they will worry about them when they're gone.

Camp SoleraCamp Solera welcomes freshmen to West campus

Camp Solera is a three-day experience for freshmen at ASU's West campus, designed to build class unity, introduce the incoming students to campus resources and give the newest members of the Sun Devil family a sneak peek into ASU traditions.

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


West campus fitness complex ready for incoming students

August 17, 2015

Editor's note: As ASU gears up for the start of classes this week, our reporters are spotlighting scenes around its campuses. To read more, click here.

The enormous verdant quad, a point of pride on Arizona State University’s West campus, is empty, save for a few sputtering sprinklers and the sorrowful crooning of Lana Del Rey lamenting her “Summertime Sadness.” students at ASU's Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the West campus Student workers hang out near the entrance of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex on ASU's West campus (from left): Daniel Gonzales (senior, business), Casey Monroe (senior, secondary education — math) and Michael Imperial (junior, secondary education — math). Download Full Image

The crooning comes from speakers on the Sun Devil Fitness Complex, which flanks the southern border of the quad. But the song’s theme is perhaps a bit incongruous with the current atmosphere. Despite the present stillness, Casey Monroe knows what is coming: a barrage of energetic students ready to dive headfirst into another semester at ASU's West campus.

“Right now, it’s still a transitioning period,” said Monroe, a senior student worker at the fitness complex. But, she assures, come Thursday (the first day of classes for the fall 2015 semester), there will be hundreds filling the now nearly vacant facility.

Astrid Samaniego, a junior majoring in communications with a minor in Spanish, is one of about 15 students taking advantage of these early, slower-paced days of move-in week when places like the fitness complex can be had almost all to one’s self.

Samaniego doesn’t live on campus, but she wanted to come check out the facility anyway. She’s excited for the semester to begin and is looking forward to more of a “university feel” at West campus after transferring from Estrella Mountain Community College.

Though the indoor track and basketball court below are free of squeaky sneakers, the rows of high-tech workout equipment are mostly silent and the six-lane swimming pool outdoors is uncharacteristically placid, a mere three days’ time will change all of that.

Fitness-complex student worker Michael Imperial’s eyes light up as he describes the plethora of various inflatable activities scheduled for RecIgnite, which will take place from 7 to 10 p.m.Thursday, Aug. 20.

He describes an inflatable screen to be used for karaoke and a movie screening at the pool, an inflatable shooting range, stand-up paddle boarding and “tons of free stuff.”

“It’s going to be a lot of fun,” Imperial says.

Students interested in the event can check it out online, among several other Fall Welcome events, here.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657