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Tempe native returned home to ASU Law, built successful legal career in Valley

August 23, 2019

Jessica Jarvi, a Tempe native who grew up about a mile from Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, comes from a family with deep ASU roots.

“We have lots of Sun Devils in our family,” she said. “My grandparents met at ASU and got married at Danforth Chapel on ASU’s campus, and my parents did too. I grew up going to ASU football games, and the Jerry Olson Stat Booth in Sun Devil Stadium is named after my grandpa.” photo of Jessica Jarvi and family Jessica Jarvi, JD 2002, a Tempe native who grew up about a mile from Arizona State University’s Tempe campus, comes from a family with deep ASU roots. Download Full Image

Her family encouraged her to consider other colleges, but were in utter shock when she chose the University of Arizona.

“My parents did not understand — they were horrified,” she recalled with a laugh, pointing out that her father even has a Sparky tattoo.

After graduating cum laude from UA with an English degree, Jarvi discovered that, contrary to Thomas Wolfe’s novel, you can go home again. She moved back to Tempe and began weighing her options.

“I was insistent that I wasn’t going to law school for a long time because both my parents were lawyers,” she said. “Then, I graduated from college and realized it was the only graduate school that interested me, so I capitulated.”

Planning a future in the Phoenix area, her hometown law school held the most appeal.

“The in-state tuition was great, and I’d always heard that you should go to law school where you want to practice,” she said. “Everything pointed back to ASU.”

She enrolled in what is now the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University and, in 2002, graduated cum laude with a Juris Doctor degree. It allowed her to build the successful career in the Valley that she had envisioned — and get back in her family’s good graces.

“I came back to ASU for law school, so they forgave the ‘Wildcat’ phase,” she said.

She is now the senior vice president, deputy general counsel for Western Alliance Bancorporation, a position she has held since 2013. She was nominated for the Arizona Public Company Counsel of the Year award in 2017, and was recently named to the 2019 list of the Most Influential Women in Arizona by Az Business and AZRE magazines.

She credits ASU Law for exposing her to a wide array of legal interests and putting her on the path to a successful career.

“I remember thinking, ‘Well, if my parents did it, so can I,’ but law school was definitely more challenging than I thought it would be going in,” she said. “But ASU Law was great. The quality of the faculty and the program made for an excellent education.”

One memory that stood out to her was the orderly fashion in which Professor Jonathan Rose conducted his class.

“He had this reputation of being a really tough professor, but I thought he taught the fundamentals of contracts really well,” she said. “I appreciated that he called on students in the order we sat, so you knew when your time was coming. He said he never found it to be of value when he called on students who weren't fully prepared, and I really appreciated that point of view. You know, in an environment where you sit in a lot of classes just feeling nervous about being called on, I thought his approach was more true to real life.”

Through an on-campus interview, she landed a summer associate’s position at Snell & Wilmer, and upon graduation, she began working there as a first-year associate. She followed one of the firm’s partners to an in-house position in banking, then joined Western Alliance in 2007.

At the time, the legal department at Western Alliance consisted of just the general counsel and herself. She now oversees a legal department that consists of 12 lawyers and five additional staff members.

“Now we’re kind of a small law firm within a business,” she said, explaining the company’s rapid growth over the past decade. “We’ve been able to build a legal department that is customized to a bank that has grown dramatically over the last decade. We were about $5 billion in assets when I started, and we just passed the $25 billion mark.”

Keeping up with the needs of an active, entrepreneurial company can be challenging.

“We have to be able to respond to a wide variety of legal needs in a fast-paced environment where there isn’t time to write lengthy research memos or anything like that,” she said. “But when you get to work with great people the challenges can be enjoyable. We’ve got a terrific team in the legal department, and the bank is just full of good internal clients.”

As for being named to the Most Influential Women in Arizona list, she was honored but said she wasn’t sure she belonged.

“My immediate reaction was pretty lawyerly, which is, ‘What’s the definition of influence?’” she said. “I wasn’t sure I understood it. But it feels really good to be recognized, especially with so many other accomplished women in the state.”

And as a mother of three young children, she knows the challenge so many other parents face trying to manage a demanding career with a busy home life.

“It's not easy to be a working parent, so I give a lot of credit to everybody out there who's trying to work on a successful career while they're raising kids,” she said. “You need to manage the priorities of what needs to get done at work and the priorities of what needs to get done at home, and somehow feel like you’re doing the best you can in both worlds.”

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


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The College Picks: Standout courses to bookmark this fall

August 22, 2019

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is the largest and most diverse academic unit at Arizona State University. With 23 field-spanning departments and schools, its courses delve into everything from how civilizations deal with disasters and construct legends to the chemistry of human emotions and the cultural significance American Indian film. But what does that actually look like? 

We asked academic leaders from the natural science, social science and humanities divisions around The College to recommend standout courses offered through their units, both in-person and online. All are offered this fall, and many are available to nonmajors. Registration information is provided through the link.

Take a look at The College’s top course picks. 

Natural sciences

Student researcher working outside.

BIO 432: Why people steal, cheat and lie (ASU Online)
They may not seem like quantifiable questions, but School of Life Sciences Director Kenro Kusumi said this ASU Online course examines the biological drivers behind human behavior.

“The course explores the ecological and evolutionary causes of selfishness and cooperation in human societies,” he said. “Students apply biological models to predict patterns of behavior in human populations and evaluate these models with empirical data.” 

Kusumi said this interdisciplinary course pulls from biology, psychology, anthropology, criminology, sociology and philosophy to develop new perspectives on the larger human experience.   

PHY 498: Sustainable Energy 
From controlling indoor environments and powering vehicles to the production of materials, energy touches nearly every facet of our lives. 

Department of Physics Chair Peter Bennett said students in this course use physics to understand how energy interacts with everyday life and the feasibility of ideas like the Green New Deal and zero-carbon alternatives. 

“Putting in the numbers is essential to deciding whether something is practical, so we do a lot of order-of-magnitude calculations,” Bennett said. “This class will appeal to students who are curious about society’s energy needs and who are capable of some quantitative reasoning.”

CHM 107: Chemistry and Society (ASU Online)
“You never use chemistry outside the lab.” 

That’s a statement Kirstin Hendrickson, a professor in The College’s School of Molecular Sciences, hears time and again. 

But where some see a science isolated to the lab, Hendrickson sees a multifaceted field found in every aspect of our world, from climate change and water potability, to medicine, alternative energy and even human emotions.

“The reality is that chemistry is all around us and inside us, all the time, every day,” she said. “This class was written to help students see and become conversant in the chemistry taking place in the real world, and strives to answer the critical question: When am I ever going to use this again?”

STP 226: Elements of Statistics
In today's information age, data is everywhere. Donald Jones, associate director of undergraduate studies at the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, said being able to extract useful knowledge and gain a sound understanding of complex data sets has never been more important. 

“Statistical analysis is pervasive in many fields, including political, social, medical and economic sciences, advertising and sports, artificial intelligence, speech and image recognition, gaming, health care and fraud detection,” he said. “This could be the most useful class you will take at ASU because you’re developing a solid understanding of the way data works in the modern world.”

SES 106: Habitable Worlds
What makes the planet habitable? Are there others like ours? In this online course from the School of Earth and Space Exploration, students explore those questions using interactive activities that go beyond the classroom. Meenakshi Wadhwa, the school’s director, said the course delves into ideas once relegated to science fiction, all without textbooks, lectures and traditional exams.  

“Astronomers are discovering planets around other stars, planetary scientists are exploring the worlds in our solar system, biologists are unlocking the secrets of metabolism and evolution and geoscientists are determining how the Earth supports life,” she said. “As we struggle to build a sustainable future for ourselves, all of us are finding out how technologically advanced civilizations rise, and how they might fall — this course surveys all of these topics.”

Social sciences

Patricia Solis, executive director of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience, explains the data on a map of Maricopa County denoting the total number of residential homes with the number of households receiving utility payment assistance.

POS 394: Fake News: How to Identify and Refute It 
In this online course from the School of Politics and Global Studies, Gina Woodall, a senior lecturer in the school, delves into one of the most pressing media issues impacting society today.  

Her syllabus asks: “Given the breadth of information pummeling us online, TV, radio, and in blogs, newspapers and social media, how do we know what is real (fact-based) and what is fake (false)?” 

School of Politics and Global Studies Director Cameron Thies said the topic is especially important on the brink of the presidential election next year.

GIS 294: Drones to Satellites: Observing Earth from Above
Humans have spent centuries imagining a birds-eye view of the world. Thanks to modern technology, we now have the potential to see more detail than ever before.

“Seeing the Earth from above can have a profound effect on how we view our planet,” said Trisalyn Nelson, director of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Modern technology has given us everything from huge satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth, to small drones the size of a shoebox that can be launched just about anywhere to capture imagery of our rapidly changing planet — this course is an introduction to Earth observation and devices it uses."

AIS 394: American Indian and Indigenous Film 
Plenty of damaging stereotypes have been born out of Hollywood, but what are the movements that form in their wake? This course, taught by assistant professor Cheryl Bennett, delves into how Native Americans have historically been portrayed on screen and examines the Native-owned production companies that are challenging the narrative. 

Stephanie Fitzgerald, who took the helm as director of the American Indian Studies program this summer, recommends the course for its unique perspective and broad appeal. 

“American Indian, Native American and indigneous film is a burgeoning industry and field of academic study,” she said. “But the broader community may not be aware of that — taking this course would open up a whole new world.”

TCL 314/SOC 314: Transborder Latin American Migration to the U.S.
Migration is an intrinsic part of human history — not just here in Arizona, but around the world. The course, taught by Professor Eileen Díaz McConnell, examines the history and present state of immigration in the U.S. and elsewhere in the world.

“The U.S. has the highest number of international immigrants in the world,”  said Irasema Coronado, director of The College’s School of Transborder Studies. “Whether it’s students understanding more about the clients they serve in future careers, the diversity of the people they interact with in their community, or their own family’s history, issues of immigration touch everyone in some way.”

ASB 327: Disaster! 
From Pompeii to Hurricane Maria, disasters have always been a part of the human experience. What causes them? And how do our responses help or hinder our survival?

Kaye Reed, director of the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, said those are the questions students can expect to tackle in this course, taught by President’s Professor Amber Wutich.

“This course uses hands-on activities to help students learn how to use tools like disaster vulnerability assessments and evaluations of best practices for disaster responses, equipping them to better understand and respond to future crises facing humanity,” Reed said. 

FAS 294: The Compassion course
What is compassion, and how can it be cultivated? Richard Fabes, director of the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, said this course helps students better understand what’s behind the act. 

“This course is taught by Dr. Amy Reesing and uses updated behavioral science to help students understand the need for compassion in our lives and the role of self-compassion for health and well-being,” he said. “I think it’s a really meaningful class to students.”


ASU Vietnamese language lecturer Thuy-Kim Le writes names in Vietnamese ink calligraphy for visiting students.

ENG 321: Shakespeare
Shakespeare is a household name around the world. But how many of us can say we truly know the Bard? Taught by Department of English Professor Jonathan Hope, this course takes a deep dive into six plays to help students gain a real understanding of Shakespeare’s work and how it figures into aspects of the modern world. 

“This is not the course that everyone expects,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities at The College. “Everyone thinks they know Shakespeare, but in the class students will come to realize that most of what they think they know is wrong.”

MCO/POS/REL 394: Exploring Religion, Politics and the Media
Politics and religion are at the crux of many aspects of our daily lives. Taught jointly by School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies Professor Tracy Fessenden and Professor of Practice Fernanda Santos from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, this course examines how both topics are covered in the media.

“In a ‘post-truth’ era, covering politics and religion has been proven difficult,” said Richard Amesbury, director of The College’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. “This course will examine the ways journalists approach the coverage of complex issues and immerse students into the world of journalism with hands-on workshops.” 

SLC 123: Gods and Monsters: Comparative Mythology
Human civilizations have used mythology to explain the world for millennia. Yet, from ancient Greece and China to Africa and Native America, legends from radically different cultures often share common themes. Why?

That’s one question students explore in this course taught by Sarah Bolmarcich, a lecturer in The College’s School of International Letters and Cultures. 

“Students will encounter oral traditions and folklore such as the Brothers Grimm, trickster stories in African American folklore, Native American oral traditions, and the origins of various vampire legends,” said Nina Berman, the school’s director. “We all know the creatures; now discover the stories and myths that inspired them.”

Top photo: Located on the Tempe campus, Armstrong Hall is the academic home of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. 

Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU Library opens new spaces, services for fall semester

August 22, 2019

There are many ways to reinvent a library. This academic year, the Arizona State University Library will introduce you to a few of them.   

Just in time for the start of the fall semester, and amidst a major renovation, Hayden Library has opened the Concourse level, the first newly designed space of the Hayden2020 reinvention project.

The Concourse connects the lower levels of ASU’s largest library to its four-story, above-ground tower, set to open its doors this January.

“The ASU community will be glad to know that the Hayden Library has grown bigger this semester, not smaller,” said Tomalee Doan, associate university librarian for Engagement and Learning Services. “With the opening of the Concourse level, and as we get closer to 2020, students can expect to see greater options for studying, learning and research support.”

Eight new classrooms have been added to Hayden Library's Concourse, along with a new library entrance on the north side of the library near the School of Life Sciences. 

In addition to the new classrooms, Hayden Library now features more meeting and study space with enhanced casual seating options to make students feel more comfortable and supported during their study sessions and group work. 

Students looking to take a break and relax now have the option to browse a variety of themed book collections scattered throughout the new space or get a bite to eat at the P.O.D market.

The Hayden Library Concourse also houses an interfaith reflection room, for prayer and meditation, a wellness room and gender-inclusive restrooms. 

“We are nearing the finish line of the transformation of Hayden Library, and the new spaces that have opened this semester are a reflection of that,” Doan said. “It’s just the beginning of what’s to come.”

No more paywall 

If you are a current student, faculty or staff member enjoying your free digital access to the New York Times, then you will be happy to know that you also have free digital access to the Wall Street Journal (WSJ).

All you need to do is activate the account

The WSJ service can be accessed via tablet, smartphone app or the web, and the service includes resources for faculty to seamlessly integrate content into course pages in facilitating classroom discussion of relevant and timely news stories. 

Student accounts will stay active until their graduation date, while faculty and staff will need to validate their memberships once a year.  

For ASU students, faculty and staff seeking thoughtful entertainment — everything from Chaplin to foreign and independent films — high quality video content is available to stream free of charge via the Kanopy platform.

An on-demand streaming service for public libraries and universities, Kanopy features a large, curated collection of diverse, unique and award-winning films and documentaries.

To start streaming, all you need to do is sign up.

Boost your research

Several new support offerings for researchers are available through the ASU Library this semester.

Among them is Researcher Support, offering ASU researchers guidance across the research lifecycle, from planning to data storage, in an effort to maximize the quality, productivity and accessibility of ASU research.

For ASU students looking to gain the research skills that will help them succeed in graduate school, the Graduate Scholars Toolkit is a series of one-hour workshops offered at various times throughout the semester on a variety of topics, including copyright, citation management, collaboration and data sharing tools, data visualization and text analysis.

The workshops are offered on all campuses with more online offerings to come.

For students, faculty and staff looking for research opportunities in data science, the Unit for Data Science and Analytics is launching its Open Lab for the 2019–20 academic year. 

A weekly event in Hayden Library, the Open Lab brings together researchers interested in collaborating and learning new skills with ongoing and available projects that engage machine learning, data visualization, text and data mining, network analysis and more.

In addition to Open Lab, the Unit for Data Science and Analytics is also open for collaborations with faculty and staff. 

“Our model is to do great work in interdisciplinary data science, and we want to make sure we include as many people as possible, whether faculty, student or staff,” said Michael Simeone, director of data science for the ASU Library.

The lab also directly mentors students and teams, meeting by appointment for developing their experiments and studies. All skill levels are welcome. 

Interested in data science and/or Open Lab? Reach out to the team for more information. 

Get your books delivered 

Need to pick up some books but can’t make it to the library?

Get them delivered!  

Secure, self-service book delivery lockers are now available in Armstrong Hall on the Tempe campus to allow for the quick and convenient picking up and returning of library materials. 

All you need is your Sun Card. 

Top photo: Student worker Max Stokes, a junior in global studies, shelves book collections related to the content to be taught in nearby classrooms. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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National Merit Scholar excited to learn to thrive at ASU

August 22, 2019

First-year 'green freak' from Hoover, Alabama, looking to combine her passions of engineering and sustainability

Emily Hagood knew she had found her college home as soon as she visited Arizona State University last fall.

"I don’t think I stopped smiling from the moment I set foot on campus," said the National Merit Scholar from Hoover, Alabama. "I was lucky enough to have a personal schedule set up for me through Barrett (The Honors College), so I got to attend a class within my major and meet personally with faculty from both the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability."

The materials science and engineering major and self-proclaimed "green freak" had already been impressed with ASU's programs, having started her college search her sophomore year in high school, and was struck by the university's mission of inclusion. That campus visit sealed the deal.

"My mom kept commenting on how much my dimples were showing," she said. "I decided on the day of my visit that I was a Sun Devil at heart." 

We spoke with Hagood about what brought her here and where she plans to go with her studies.

ASU honors student Emily Hagood strikes a happy pose next to an Arizona state line sign on the highway

Emily Hagood says she is looking forward to exploring the opportunities offered at ASU.

Question: So you're from Alabama. What made you consider ASU?

Answer: All of the amazing opportunities. I started my college research in sophomore year, and the combination of Barrett, The Honors College, the Fulton Schools of Engineering and the School of Sustainability was completely unrivaled. Here, I get all the perks of a big school and the personal attention I would get at a small school.  

Q: What drew you to your major?

A: I attended a materials science and engineering camp at the University of Alabama at Birmingham the summer before my sophomore year and absolutely fell in love with the field. MSE can be applied to anything, and I want to pair it with sustainability — particularly with carbon sequestration or renewable energy. 

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

A: Making new friends through clubs, classes and other opportunities on campus. I am excited to learn from and alongside captivating, passionate, driven people with widely varying backgrounds and interests.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

A: Other than the obvious “No. 1 in innovation” remarks, I tell all of my friends how proud I am of ASU’s charter. I am thankful and honored to attend a university that values inclusion over exclusion and collaboration over competition. My favorite way to say this? Cacti > ivy! 

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

A: My sunny personality and my talent for cheering other people on are two assets that I am excited to contribute to the ASU community.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

A: The ASU motto “Learn to thrive” captures my goals perfectly! I intend to live with passion and purpose, to grow lasting friendships and to create a strong foundation for an enriching career. 

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: Thanks to lots and lots and lots of discount tickets, I’ve seen 28 different Broadway shows in New York, and I’ve seen even more touring productions. My top three are currently "Hamilton," "Waitress" and "Come From Away." 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: I’m a total green freak, so my answer has to be global warming, although it is such a complex, intricate, massive issue to try to solve. 

Q: Predictions on the final score for this year’s Territorial Cup game?

A: We are going to win BIG! Gooooo Devils!

Photos courtesy of Emily Hagood

Penny Walker

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Echo From the Buttes: Old tradition, new name

August 22, 2019

‘A’ Mountain signature event gets a makeover and a fresh coat of paint

Each August, Arizona State University's first-year students paint the gold A on “A” Mountain white to signify a fresh start to the school year. It's an activity that has been around longer than the university has been called ASU.

This year, however, the tradition has a new name.

Previously called “Whitewash the A,” the freshman welcome event will now be called “Echo From the Buttes” — wording taken from ASU's fight song.

The name change had been considered for several years, but when the student-led Alliance of Indigenous Peoples (AIP) and the ASU Student Alumni Association met last year with goals for preserving Hayden Butte — considered a sacred place for local tribesThese tribes include the Ak-Chin Indian Community, Tohono O'odham Nation, Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community and the Gila River Indian Community. — they came to a mutual agreement that a change was needed. Negative connotations of the term “whitewash” had raised some concerns.

The Tempe campus is located on American Indian ancestral homelands, including the Akimel O'odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) peoples, and the university continuously seeks to connect with tribal communities.

“Indigenous belief systems are holistic and value harmony and balance with everything around us, including animals, plants, water and mountains,” said Jacob Moore, associate vice president for tribal relations at ASU. “Hayden Butte is a place of reverence and respect for our tribal communities.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Hayden Butte — also known as “A” Mountain — is sacred to local tribal communities, including the four southern tribes as the butte is a part of their ancestral homelands, Moore said.

Over the past year, the city of Tempe has removed a 30-foot communications tower, a broadcast house, foundation and a chain link fence from “A” Mountain in an effort to return the butte to a more natural state.

This year’s Echo From the Buttes will start at 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24. It will include an opening indigenous blessing, a land acknowledgement and a kiosk of historical information and photos of the butte. Last year's event drew about 4,000 incoming freshmen.

“In collaboration with the Alliance of Indigenous Peoples, we felt that the name ‘Echo From the Buttes’ was a better representation of the evolution of this event, while maintaining this storied tradition,” said Robert Drake, president of the ASU Student Alumni Association, which has historically been in charge of maintaining and preserving the butte. “'Echo From the Buttes' is a tribute to our fight song, and what better way to celebrate joining the Sun Devil family than by putting a fresh coat of white paint on our iconic ‘A’, symbolizing a new beginning.”

The ASU tradition has lasted for more than 80 years and represents the start of the new academic year. It’s one of the first things incoming freshmen do to feel ingrained in the university and into traditions at ASU. The “A” is painted gold again before the first home football game.

The Tempe Normal School class of 1918 was responsible for installing the first letter on the butte. When the school changed its name to Tempe State Teachers College in 1925, students retained one side of the “N” to form the stem of the “T.”

The school later changed its name to Arizona State Teachers College, and in 1938, the letter “A” was installed on the butte. In 1952, a bomb blast destroyed the letter. The present “A” stands 60 feet tall and was built of reinforced steel and concrete in 1955.

echo from the buttes

Thousands of first-year students are expected to attend the Echo From the Buttes event on Saturday, Aug. 24.

When the Alumni Association and AIP met, they had a goal to make sure that Sun Devils and the community knew the history, the traditions and the importance of making sure it’s taken care of.

“We didn’t want to take away anyone’s tradition, but Native peoples have had our own traditions way before ASU was ever a campus,” said Savannah Nelson, president of the AIP and a senior nutrition major with the College of Health Solutions. “Putting this into perspective for students is important because the campus and 'A' Mountain sits on ancestral lands. Now we all get to experience a new tradition together.”

Nelson has also drafted a document acknowledging and educating people about the history of the land, which she will read before the event’s kickoff.

AIP member Nazhoona Betsuie, a junior in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, said she was pleasantly surprised when the Student Alumni Association so readily agreed to the name change.

“We weren’t really expecting much and they gave this request great consideration, which really earned our respect,” Betsuie said. “They were willing to do something significant to address our concerns even though this is a signature event for freshmen.” 

If you go

What: Echo From the Buttes.

When: 8 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 24.

Where: Corner of College Avenue and Fifth Street in Tempe.

Details: eoss.asu.edu/welcome

Top photo: An Arizona State University freshman flashing an ASU pitcthfork on Tempe's “A” Mountain in August 2018. Previously called “Whitewash the A,” the freshman welcome event will now be called “Echo From the Buttes.” Photo courtesy of the Arizona Board of Regents.

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Record class hits the books as ASU bucks national trend of declining enrollment

August 21, 2019

First-year cohort is the largest, most diverse and most academically prepared to attend university to date

When Tucson native Sadie Azersky started exploring colleges, she set her sights on attending a school that would challenge her.

She found what she was looking for at Arizona State University: the opportunities of a large research university combined with the intimate setting of Barrett, The Honors College. She starts classes Thursday.  

"I'm able to have those big-school-type of experiences ... but also have a smaller-school environment at the same time, a community that's more accessible," said the music theory and composition major and President's Scholar, who said she is also drawn to the interdisciplinary opportunities offered by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Azersky is just one of nearly 14,000 first-year students stepping foot on an Arizona State University campus this fall, the largest, most diverse and most academically prepared class to attend the university to date.

That’s a 10% increase in the size of ASU’s first-year class compared with last year. And it comes at a time when enrollment in colleges and universities around the country is actually declining, distinguishing ASU as a success story amid an otherwise unfortunate national trend.

“We have put significant effort into improving the college attendance rate in the state of Arizona, and our 2019 enrollment growth is a reflection of that commitment and of our demonstrated high-quality of educational outcomes at an affordable cost,” said Mark Searle, ASU’s executive vice president and university provost.

Arizona residents constitute about 8,600 students in the first-year class, and California students make up an additional 1,400. Those are increases of 7% and 8%, respectively.

The demand for higher education in the state of Arizona and the desire by students from out of state to come to ASU to study has driven the total university enrollment up nearly 8% this fall. There are now nearly 119,000 undergraduate and graduate students attending the university this semester. ASU is serving more nontraditional students, many seeking out ASU Online degrees for the flexibility to meet life and work demands.

The incoming first-year class is the most academically talented to ever be admitted to ASU. The average SAT score for first-year students increased five points over last year, and about 55% of the class earned one of the university's top three academic scholarships, collectively called the New American University Scholarships. Of the Arizona resident first-year students, 58% received a New American University Scholarship, and the majority of students receiving a coveted Flinn Scholarship — a merit-based scholarship for Arizona students to attend an Arizona university — chose to come to ASU.

RELATED: ASU a top producer of students who win Fulbright awards

ASU has also seen an increase in first-year enrollment from families with lower to moderate income levels. A deep and sustained commitment to accessibility and affordability for Arizona resident students, demonstrated by family and student outreach programs and access to financial aid, has led to a 10% increase in enrollment of students from families earning below $40,000 per year.

Once they’re here, the university dedicates vast efforts and resources to ensure students are successful. And it’s having an effect. The number of students returning to ASU this fall for their second year is also higher than at any time in the past. That so-called “one-year retention rate,” which measures students who stay at the university after their first year, is an important predictor of eventually earning a degree. ASU’s retention rate is nearly 86% overall, and nearly 88% for Arizona resident students.

Those resources are what drew Catherine Nunez to ASU. The National Hispanic Scholar from La Grange Park, Illinois, wanted not just a stellar engineering program but a place she felt wanted.

"The school really had the support and attention that I needed," said Nunez, who had looked into a big-name program in a neighboring state but said she hadn't felt welcome there. "I feel like I was wanted (at ASU), like I would be cared for here and have access to the resources I need."

The Barrett honors student will study biomedical engineering with the goal of working in the neuroscience field. And it wasn't just the university's academic prowess that drew her, but its mission of inclusion.

"We are defined by who we include, not who we exclude," said Nunez, echoing the words of the ASU charter, "and given all these choices of elite schools that only accept X percentage of kids, I think it's really important to include everyone. ... Everyone really does offer their own special thing, and recognizing that is something ASU does well."

Video: Where do ASU students come from? Everywhere

By Linda Nguyen

More facts about ASU:

  • The university offers students more than 350 undergraduate majors and 450 graduate degree and certificate programs, including the newly launched disability studies bachelor's degree and the stackable online master's degree in supply chain management in collaboration with MIT.
  • Of full-time first-year students, 162 are veteran or active-duty military, a 14% increase over fall 2018. For all years, there are 9,063 military-affiliated students enrolled at ASU campuses and ASU Online, 9% more than last year.
  • The number of students transferring to the university is up 2.9%
  • Students who are in the first generation in their family to attend college make up 29% of the first-year class
  • Enrollment of international first-year and transfer students is up 19%.

During their first week on campus, Sun Devils are immersed in the philanthropic culture of the university and all the opportunities available to become involved. Passport to ASU, a Welcome Week event, featured more than 500 student clubs and organizations. Sun Devils can get involved with an existing organization or create one of their own. 

New this year is a redesigned Sun Devil Sync where students can find clubs, organizations and student events, and it allows students to track their involvement.

MORE: New students get schooled in spirit at Sun Devil Welcome

Top photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

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Incoming student duo aim to research mysteries of human body, mind

August 21, 2019

Twins Anton and Sean Sachs beginning biology and psychology degrees this fall

Twins Anton and Sean Sachs are both curious about what makes people tick — Anton from a biological standpoint and Sean psychologically. This fall, they will embark on similar but separate journeys to find out at Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, where Anton will pursue a degree in biology, with a concentration in pharmacology and toxicology, and Sean will pursue a degree in psychology.

Born one minute apart 18 years ago, the pair were homeschooled their whole lives and learned the importance of good study habits and organizational skills from a young age. Since taking a few college courses at Glendale Community College near their home in Peoria, Anton and Sean are eager to dive into the abundant research opportunities available to them at New College on the West campus.

Anton got a head start with an undergraduate summer research program at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology, where he got a taste of the supportive culture of ASU.

“There are a lot of caring faculty at ASU who go out of their way to help students, not just in class but also with extracurricular activities, and not just academically but also mentally,” he said.

But even if all else fails, they know they’ve always got each other.

“I have a built-in study partner and resource who I respect and who can help broaden my horizons to learn more about not only what I’m studying but also what he’s studying,” Sean said of his brother.

Ahead of the fall semester, ASU Now asked Anton and Sean to answer some questions about what makes them tick.

Anton and Sean Sachs

Anton (left) and Sean Sachs

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Anton: I applied to multiple schools, and the main thing I was looking at was whether they had opportunities for undergraduate research. I chose ASU because it has a wide variety of academic majors, and I chose New College at the West campus because it combines two things that are important to me: It has the smaller college environment where you can have a good connection with your professors and other students, but it’s still part of ASU so you still have access to great research opportunities.

Sean: I chose ASU because when I took a close look at what was going on there, I realized there’s a lot of different research opportunities compared to NAU or UofA. I picked New College at the West campus because I was used to getting more personalized attention taking classes at Glendale Community College, so I wanted to stick with the smaller campus experience. And it’s close to home.

Q: What drew you to your major?

Anton: I’ve taken a bunch of biology classes at Glendale Community College, and I was really interested in learning more about it and the study of life. And since I want to be a physician assistant in the future, it seemed like a good idea.

Sean: A couple years ago I started thinking about my major, and initially, I thought I wanted to study the medical side of things, like my brother. But then I took Psych 101 (at community college), and I had a great professor and I wanted to learn more about why people do the things they do. So when it actually came time to apply for college, I looked back at the classes that were the most fun and the most interesting, and I chose psychology.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

Anton: Learning how to refine my study habits. I’m already a pretty good student, but I want to be even more efficient. When I took classes at GCC, I was only taking like two per semester, and now I’m taking, like, five, so I’ll have to make that adjustment. I’m also just excited to adjust to the lifestyle of attending a four-year university. It’s a lot different from a community college. The classes are similar, but there are a lot more research opportunities available to me.

Sean: I’m excited to start getting to know my professors and fellow students, and to also take a look at all the different research opportunities and clubs in my field.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

Anton: ASU has prestigious schools and faculty, and it’s a big university with lots of opportunities. The Biodesign Institute is doing lots of cutting-edge research that I’m interested in being a part of in the future. I did an undergraduate summer research program at the Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology and I loved it, but there are so many other different types of research at Biodesign that I can try out.

Sean: I try not to brag but the small class sizes at West are a big plus, and the faculty I’ve met so far are really involved with their students, and the research being done at ASU is more cutting edge and farther advanced than other universities.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

Anton: I am naturally really curious, and I love learning — not just science and biology but learning in general. And since I did summer research, I already have some experience being a research assistant.

Sean: I’m really good about studying. I was lucky to have been taught to study well, so I’m not afraid of it. And I think I make connections easily, which will be important later on in upper-division courses and when I’m thinking about PhD programs.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

Anton: Obviously I want to get good grades, but that’s not the most important thing to me. The most important thing is to make connections and have good relationships with faculty and students. I also want to do a bunch of extracurricular activities, such as joining clubs or possibly even starting a club. At GCC, I was president of the pre-med club, so I’m interested in starting one at West. I also want to get experience as a medical scribe, and do more research and more volunteering to help prepare for grad school.

Sean: I want to get myself set up and well-prepared to pursue a doctorate or master’s program. I also would like to get more experience doing research and hopefully even publish an article.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

Anton: I like to be organized. Since childhood, I was always naturally organized.

Sean: I’m one minute younger than my brother.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

Anton: Most world problems can’t be solved with $40 million, so I would probably invest it somehow. But it would probably be something medically related, like preventing a major disease, like heart disease or cancer.

Sean: I’d try to use the money to make psychological and medical research have more of an impact for the average person, more affordably. I’d also use some of that money to fund more research that looks at the areas between medical and social science research because that’s not explored very much.

Q: Predictions on the final score for this year’s Territorial Cup game?

Anton: I’d say it’ll probably be close, with ASU winning.

Sean: From what I’ve seen, those games are usually pretty close. The football teams seem to be pretty evenly matched. So I’m going to say 12-10, ASU.

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ASU: Then and now

August 21, 2019

You've come a long way, SparkySparky was not the university's original mascot. Former mascots include an owl and a bulldog — in case you're wondering where the building name "Bulldog Hall" came from. Sparky was created in 1948 by alumnus and Disney illustrator Bert Anthony, who was rumored to have based Sparky's facial features on those of his former boss, Walt Disney..

Arizona State University is quite different from the four-classroom school that began in 1886 with 33 students (and a different name — Territorial Normal School).

Today, the university's locations span the globe. Its student body has passed 100,000, hailing from more than 130 nations. Its research has gone into space, beneath the sea and deep into the human psyche.

But some things don't change. Families still unload piles of dorm supplies, first-year students still make a year-launching trek up "A" Mountain and students still take photos on the steps of Old Main on the Tempe campus.

Here we've rounded up a few photos from the archives and compared them with modern images.

Top photo: The 1919 freshman class (a total of 40 students), from The Sahuaro yearbook. Photo courtesy of ASU Library

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ASU professors share their advice for your best school year yet

August 21, 2019

ASU faculty members are pretty smart — and we don't just mean being experts on carbon capture, space exploration or Shakespeare and race.

Here, they share their advice for students on making the most of the new school year. Students, feel free to take notes — this may or may not be on the final.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

• Need to find your professor? Search ASU's iSearch directory

Top image: Clinical Associate Professor Dawn Augusta of ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation.

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New students get schooled in spirit at Sun Devil Welcome

August 20, 2019

Thousands of members of the Class of 2023 get loud at the fall 2019 kickoff event

Thousands of freshmen from Arizona State University’s Class of 2023 gathered on Tuesday to learn about serving their new community — and how to sing the fight song.

Clad in gold T-shirts for the traditional Sun Devil Welcome event, the freshmen poured in from the Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses to Wells Fargo Arena on the Tempe campus, where Sparky made a dramatic entrance dropping from the ceiling.

The pep rally combined dancers, the Sun Devil Marching Band and lots of spirit with lessons about ASU traditions, like wearing gold on Fridays, and a plea to get involved.

Yasmin Alvarado, student body president of the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus, told more than 13,000 first-year students that they should say “yes” to every opportunity — even if it’s scary.

“As a first-generation college student, I was scared of not knowing my future. As a Mexican American student, no one really looked like me and I was scared of not making any friends,” she said.

“I was scared because as a commuter student, I thought I was going to lose out on the college experience. But I knew that the only way I was going to overcome those fears was by stepping out of my comfort zone — so I did.”

As each college was called out, the new Sun Devils screamed and waved props including glow sticks, banners, light-up devil ears and giant foam hands. 

They also heard messages about giving back.

Aiden McGirr, a senior majoring in astrophysics, is a founder of REACT, the Refugee Education and Clinic Team that partners ASU with Mayo Clinic and has served more than 450 refugees. He described how ASU has supported his goals.

“I’ve had the opportunity to lead an international research team for a company in India. I worked in Japan,” he said. “I studied abroad in Scandinavia and I just got back from my thesis research project looking at aiding refugees.

“I was in your seat four years ago and ASU has allowed me to grow my idea to its maximum,” he said.

“You’ve heard the word ‘innovation’ a few times but it’s truly at the heart of what it means to be a Sun Devil. It means we can take a critical look at the world around us and create novel solutions.”

Genevieve McKenzie, a senior majoring in criminology and psychology, described how she created a community service project in which people who are incarcerated created art that was sold for charity. She helped raised more than $5,000 for a nonprofit group that provides art therapy for traumatized children.

“When I think back to why I got involved in service, it came from the realization that not everybody gets the opportunity to come to college and use these resources,” she told the freshmen.

“We have a responsibility as Sun Devils to enhance our communities. If we want to live and work in healthy, vibrant communities, we need to support those communities through service.”

Video by Dana Lewandowski/ASU

ASU President Michael Crow told the first-year students that 30,000 employees at the university stood ready to support them.

“We have one goal — for you to have the most successful year of your life,” he said.

“It’s the time in your life when you’re taking that step away from home, to find your way, to find the subjects you’re interested in, to find the people you want to hang out with.”

He told students to not hesitate to ask for help and to never think of quitting, even if their circumstances change.

“You are going to experience every possible emotion you can imagine, highs and lows,” he said.

“That’s the realm of human experience.”

Top photo: The annual Sun Devil Welcome celebration for freshmen comes to a close on Aug. 20, 2019, at Wells Fargo Arena. More than 13,000 first-year students from the 15 schools and colleges experienced high-energy Sun Devil spirit, pride and tradition during the official welcome for the incoming Class of 2023. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now