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Daily health check a part of ASU's Community of Care

August 9, 2020

Checking in via app, phone or website required starting Aug. 24

Editor's note: A previous version of this story had the date of requirement as Aug. 17.

Advancing the well-being of the ASU community is a full team effort. As part of that, the university is developing a Community of Care, where we recognize that our actions impact the lives and health of others. 

As a part of ASU's proactive measures to reduce the spread of COVID-19 and promote well-being across the community, all students and employees will be asked to “check in” on their health on a daily basis. All students and employees, with the exception of ASU Online students, will be required to complete a daily health check via the app by answering a series of questions and recording a self-obtained temperature. Being mindful of our health during the pandemic will help promote a healthy working and learning environment.

Video by Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Some frequently asked questions are answered below; find more at healthcheck.asu.edu

Question: What exactly does a daily health check entail?

Answer: The daily health check involves taking one's temperature and answering questions about any COVID-19 symptoms before beginning your day.

Q: Do I have to? 

A: Yes, it is required. The daily health check is a critical strategy for keeping our community healthy and is a requirement for all students and employees, with the exception of ASU Online students. Students should fill it out every day and can note on the app if they are not coming to campus.

The health check update to the ASU mobile app is available now, and daily health checks will be required starting Aug. 24. Noncompliance may result in loss of access to ASU systems until the health check is completed, and willful noncompletion may result in disciplinary action.

Screenshot of the ASU health check app

The ASU Mobile App has been updated with the daily health check.

Q: How do I check in?

A: There are three easy options:

  • ASU Mobile App: Sun Devils will be able to complete the health check, leverage additional health resources and get reminders via the app. (If you have previously downloaded the app on your smartphone, make sure to update the app or reinstall it to get the health check update.)

  • healthcheck.asu.edu: ASU community members can also check in through our web portal.

  • ASU Experience Center: If you do not have access to the internet, call 844-448-0031 to complete your health check before you begin each day. Students and employees are asked to utilize the app or website first and only use the phone number if they have no other option.

Q: What if I don't have a thermometer?

A: A digital oral thermometer is included in the Community of Care kit, provided free of charge to every ASU employee and student. The kit also includes two face coverings, several packs of wipes and a bottle of hand sanitizer. Some people think the bag containing it all is pretty snazzy, too.

Students living in student housing will receive their kits upon move-in. Students living off campus can pick up their kits beginning Aug. 10 at Sun Devil Campus Stores located on each of ASU’s metropolitan Phoenix campuses; students must present their Sun Card to claim a kit.

Employee kits began to be distributed the week of July 27 via interoffice mail. One kit per person will be sent to their assigned mail code and addressed to the business operations managers (BOMs) in each area. BOMs and/or other administrative staff in each area can make them available for pickup or individual distribution as they deem appropriate. For mail codes that are still on hold, Mail Services will deliver when the mail code is reopened.

Q: What about when I'm on vacation?

A: You will not need to check in daily if you are on planned time off, but you will need to set your work schedule in advance through the app, website or phone system to reflect that you will not be on campus for a period of time. 

Within settings, you can set a custom schedule for days you will be working. 

Q: Will my health information be kept private?

A: Your answers to the health screening will be kept confidential — the university's primary concern is whether it is safe for you to come on campus and interact with others, and to provide support and resources should you become ill.

Q: What else is involved with the Community of Care?

A: In addition to the Community of Care video training required of all employees and students, members of the ASU community are encouraged to:

  • Share COVID-19 test results with ASU. If you test positive for COVID-19, you can share those results with ASU so we can follow up to provide support and send an alert to those you may have been in contact with.
  • Share your on-campus location for exposure management. This can help ASU determine if you have crossed paths while on campus with someone who ASU has been informed was diagnosed with COVID-19. This can be done through the ASU Mobile App.

Q: What about COVID-19 testing? Where can I get that done?

A: ASU offers a saliva-based COVID-19 test at no cost for students, employees and the public. Results are usually available within 24–48 hours. Please see the corresponding category below for how to schedule a test.

STUDENTS: Schedule a test through My Health Portal on the ASU Health Services website at https://eoss.asu.edu/health. Those who are experiencing symptoms and/or want to talk with a medical provider about their health may schedule a telemedicine appointment through the same portal or by calling 480-965-3349. Note: COVID-19 tests do not require a telehealth pre-appointment, but telehealth is available if students want to speak with a medical provider.

EMPLOYEES: Schedule a test at https://cfo.asu.edu/employee-testing. This is for employees only, not spouses or dependents.

MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC: Schedule a test at the Arizona Department of Health Services’ testing site at azhealth.gov/testing; look for ASU Biodesign Institute entries on the list of dates and locations. The saliva tests are prohibited for individuals younger than 8.

Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

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Hawaiian cousins say aloha to their first year as Sun Devils

August 7, 2020

Taylor Acosta and KJ Soong will be studying sustainability and bringing some of their island flair to the ASU community

Aloha. It’s the Hawaiian word for love, affection, peace, compassion and mercy. It’s usually used as a greeting, but to native Hawaiians it has a deeper cultural and spiritual significance. In that context it’s used to describe a force that holds together existence.

This fall, Taylor Acosta and Kenneth “KJ” Soong are bringing some aloha to the desert.

Cousins from the island state, they chose Arizona State University because they don’t have family in the desert. “We will be able to support each other,” Acosta said.

Their plans are to draw on the university’s strengths in entrepenuership and sustainability. Hawaii has issues with sustainability, as Soong pointed out.

“Being from Hawaii, an island in the middle of the ocean, sustainability is key to survival now and for future generations if one day the ships stop coming,” he said. “I chose ASU because I wanted to study sustainability and I knew that ASU was one of the leading universities in the nation. When I visited the Polytechnic campus last fall, I just knew that it was the right fit for me coming from Hawaii.”

KJ Soong

KJ Soong 

Both cousins are looking forward to sharing some island culture with the community: a little loco moco, some ukulele and Tahitian dance.

ASU Now talked to the cousins about their hopes and plans.

Question: What drew you to your major?

Acosta: My career goal is to be an entrepreneur. ASU is the leader in innovation and sustainability, and I want to gain more creative knowledge about what it takes to successfully operate my own company incorporating sustainable practices in all that I do.

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

Soong: I am most excited to meet new people (and) experience dorm life in addition to the freedoms and responsibilities of going to college and functioning on my own.

Acosta: I am looking forward to meeting new people and I am most excited for a little change in my life.

Moving from Hawaii to Arizona and learning to live on my own is a huge change for me. So I need to be able to make that adjustment and get comfortable with a new setting.

Taylor Acosta

Taylor Acosta 

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

Acosta: I like to tell my friends all about all the different activities and events that ASU has to offer incoming freshmen. ASU is so welcoming and they have so many fun activities planned for the year even amid the COVID virus.

Soong: I like to brag about how amazing people are because everyone has been so welcoming and willing to help especially since I am coming from out of state.

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

Acosta: I love to dance. I've been dancing hula and Tahitian for 13 years. I hope to share my passion for dancing with the ASU community.

Soong: Hawaiian cooking (musubi and loco moco), entertainment (ukulele) are a few of the talents that I have to offer the ASU community. Hawaii is a unique and diverse place and I hope to share some of our culture with the ASU community.

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

Acosta: Earn my bachelor’s degree in sustainability. I am a first-generation student and I honestly hope to make the most during my college years. I want to have fun along with getting to know what I am truly passionate about. I hope to make unforgettable memories in and out of the classroom.

Soong: Accomplishments … successful completion of a concurrent degree. Bachelor of Arts in sustainability and a Bachelor of Science in supply chain management. I also have the opportunity to earn a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Networking is going to be key and making time to have some fun!

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

Acosta: An interesting fact about me is I like to sew. My grandma taught me how to sew when I was younger. I've recently learned to sew face masks during this pandemic for my family and friends.

Soong: An interesting fact about me is that I can play the ukulele, guitar, and bass guitar.

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

Acosta: The homelessness problem in Hawaii is becoming more urgent every year. Living on an island, there really aren’t too many places for people to go and it has already become an issue in my neighborhood. This issue desperately needs attention.

Soong: If I had $40 million I would want to be a part of the solution to solve ocean pollution. I really enjoy surfing and ocean sea life and it’s really sad when I’m out there and I see is so much opala (trash).

Top photo: Courtesy of Bettina Nørgaard from Pixabay.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU political science student develops research skills through summer program

August 7, 2020

Jesus Emiliano Galvan chose Arizona State University because of its goal to be inclusive.

“ASU gave me an opportunity, so I ensure that I work hard in return,” he said. Jesus Emiliano Galvan. Download Full Image

Galvan is a first-generation political science student in the School of Politics and Global Studies at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences who often thinks about various research “puzzles.” Originally viewing political science as a major to get him to law school, Galvan’s passion for the discipline came after he found political theory.

“As soon as I got to work in the Early Start Program and the POS courses my freshman year, I just fell in love with the work.”

The Early Start Program is a two-week immersion program that helps prepare incoming first-year students for their transition to ASU. Galvan attributes much of what he’s achieved thus far in college to this experience since it better helped him understand his major, connect with faculty and form relationships with like-minded students.

After his freshman year, Galvan would continue to assist the Early Start Program and participate in Junior Fellows, which gives undergraduate students the opportunity to work with professors as teaching or research partners.

His latest achievement was being selected as a member of the inaugural class for The Society for Political Methodology Undergraduate Initiative to Diversify Political Methodology. This initiative is designed to “increase the number of underrepresented students who intend to pursue an academic career in political methodology.” Through the initiative, eight students get invited to attend the first summer session of the Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research (ICPSR) Summer Program in Quantitative Methods of Social Research.

“I have been very fortunate to develop relationships with faculty at the School of Politics and Global Studies,” Galvan said. “Dr. Woodall actually encouraged me to apply, as the program offered a huge opportunity to further develop my research skills.”

The ICPSR summer program, which was virtual this year, provides instruction on statistical techniques, research methodologies, and data analysis. During the program, Galvan took courses like Race Ethnicity and Quantitative Methodology, which “touched on group love and the different theories regarding how it leads to group hate."

“When I saw this program advertised, I immediately thought of Jesus since he is a curious student who works hard and is interested in conducting his own political science research in graduate school and beyond,” said Gina Woodall, senior lecturer in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Beyond the classroom, the ICPSR program connected Galvan with a network of PhD students from around the globe. He says these connections can help him gain perspective from someone who is further along in their career path.

As Galvan approaches his junior year at ASU he tries to be mindful of his time in college rather than attempt to sprint through it. He shared his appreciation for his family, friends and everyone who has been a part of his journey so far, including Woodall.

“(Dr. Woodall) sets an example of what a political scientist and professor should be,” Galvan said. “If I was ever to be a professor, I would want to be just like her.”

Matt Oxford

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


ASU grad and TV anchor joins ASU Law master’s program to help make a difference in social justice

August 6, 2020

Taking on the solo weeknight anchor role at KCCI in Des Moines, Iowa, wasn’t just another step in Rheya Spigner’s career, it was an important opportunity for her to make a difference in her community. And with her acceptance into the online Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Spigner is looking forward to a future of helping with social justice reform.

“I wanted to take on a role that would challenge me, but also help me move into my purpose and help with my community," said Spigner, a 2013 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University and an ASU Law MLS student this fall. photo of Rheya Spigner Rheya Spigner, a 2013 graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism at Arizona State University and Master of Legal Studies student at Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

ASU Law recently caught up with Spigner, a Los Angeles native who started at the CBS-affiliated television station in 2016, to learn more about her future plans.

Question: Why did you want to join the MLS program at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law?

Answer: When I graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism, I already knew that ASU provides great accessibility to their professors and interesting ways to articulate their curriculum so all of that was already a sell. Having access to this online MLS degree program was great for me since I am a full-time anchor/reporter living in Iowa.

The MLS program directors are truly helpful, even before I was admitted. They assured me through the process and helped me map out the courses I would want to take within this program. Essentially, I am able to get the basis of this program which already offers a lot of the classes I was looking for and add on classes to my course map so that I can have a mini emphasis in social justice. I think that's why I am so excited — it's everything I want to learn. Additionally, they helped point me in the right direction for financial help, which truly made a difference.

Q: What will your studies be focusing on?

A: I will be focusing on understanding our legal system, which is pretty much the basis of the program. I'll also be taking courses to understand the history of policing and dichotomy in our society. Another course will discuss: "Theoretical perspectives and research on the overrepresentation of racial minorities as victims, offenders, and defendants in the criminal justice system." When I saw that course, I got so excited. It seems like this all came together for what I feel is my purpose.

Q: What are you most excited about?

A: I'm most excited to finish. That might not sound the greatest but I'm really excited to get the tools I need to establish resources for my community and be a better resource in the newsroom.

Q: How will you use what you learn in your community?

“Overall, my goal is to make positive contributions to my community and make a difference. A lot of conversations need to happen to uplift brown and Black communities and inform white communities. This has been in my heart for a while but I think it's even more prevalent during these times.”

photo of Rheya Spigner

ASU Law MLS student Rheya Spigner at her KCCI anchor desk in Des Moines, Iowa.

A: The plan is to create workshops that will inform people in marginalized communities about their rights and how to access and ask for resources. I also think it's important to emphasize the magnitude of words and actions and how they can be unconsciously biased in workplaces and everyday life. The concept of these might change as I learn more and what impacts me through this program. Overall, my goal is to make positive contributions to my community and make a difference. A lot of conversations need to happen to uplift brown and Black communities and inform white communities. This has been in my heart for a while but I think it's even more prevalent during these times.

Q: What makes ASU special?

A: Once a Sun Devil, always a Sun Devil. But really, I've learned so much from real conversations with professors that have happened inside some of the classrooms. From the majority of my encounters, it feels like they want you to succeed and that's huge.

Julie Tenney

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

ASU grad uses Spanish, leadership skills to support community amid pandemic

August 5, 2020

Lorena Austin’s initial plan after graduating from Arizona State University was to take a year off and study for the LSAT. Instead, the recent graduate immediately put her studies to work and began volunteering to support communities impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Austin graduated in May as the dean’s medalist for the School of Transborder Studies with a bachelor’s degree in transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o Studies and a certificate in cross-sector leadership. She was in St. Louis, Missouri, during spring break, conducting interviews and research for her senior pro-seminar project when cases of the virus began to increase in the U.S. She flew back to Mesa prior to the state’s stay-at-home mandate and described the experience as a movie playing in slow motion. Lorena Austin Lorena Austin, the dean's medalist for the School of Transborder Studies, has used her language and leadership skills to support local communities since graduation. Download Full Image

Despite her fear of the unknown, Austin quickly looked for ways to give back and has continued to do so as the weeks and months have passed.

“The need for help and activism in our communities will not be stopping anytime soon as we continue to see the effects of the pandemic in varying ways,” she said. “Our world may never be the same again, but we can always find ways to help, and I think that’s what we’ve seen throughout the world. People are using creative ways and redefining how we solve complex challenges. The pandemic has forced us to think outside the realm of possibilities in order to move forward.”  

Austin shared more about graduating during a pandemic, volunteering and how her degree helped her path.

Question: What was it like to graduate in the midst of a pandemic?

Answer: I think the most unusual part of graduating during the pandemic was the lack of closure. I didn’t know that I would never see some of my friends or professors ever again in person. I didn’t think in-person graduation would be canceled, or that my family wouldn’t be able to help celebrate my accomplishments together. But, what did become immediately apparent to me was the need for volunteers. I couldn’t just stay home when I saw my community in need. Growing up, my parents and family exemplified service leadership, so I immediately started looking for ways to help — that was a no-brainer.

Q: Why is it important for you to be active in the community right now?

A: My motto during quarantine has been, “If you can help, help.” I’ve been so fortunate to not have anyone in my immediate family or vicinity experience COVID-19 symptoms, which has allowed me to volunteer and assist my community in any way possible. I was able to volunteer with the United Food Bank (UFB) and República Empanada, both located in Mesa. Before the city of Mesa took direct control of food distribution at the Mesa Convention Center, the United Food Bank was responsible for organizing the disbursement of tons of food to families through drive-through distributions. This entailed doing intake for thousands of families by walking up to each car to collect information in the unforgiving sun while wearing protective gear. The staff and volunteers for UFB are incredible and spent hours of their time ensuring their community did not go hungry.

Q: Can you share more about the volunteer work through the República Empanada restaurant?

A: My connection to República Empanada is a little more personal. I’ve known the owners, the Meraz family, since I was a kid, my oldest brother went to high school with Marco Meraz so essentially, he’s my bonus older brother, along with his sister, Lu. 


Volunteers from Républica Empanada's efforts. 

With the shutdown of indoor dining, the Merazes decided to create a collection site where people could bring food and supplies that would be transported to rural, Indigenous communities in Northern Arizona who have been experiencing some of the highest COVID-19 infection rates in the country. For the past few months, I’ve helped collect donations and sort, pack and distribute critical supplies to the Navajo Nation. Donations are collected throughout the week and we pack/load everything up before making trips that sometimes take upwards of 14 hours to complete. We’ve visited Hopi, San Paiute, Dennehotso, Chinle and other communities with the help of local families and community members.

Q: How did your education influence your response to the pandemic?

A: My coursework helped me understand and recognize the foundational inequities for marginalized communities, specifically the Latinx and Indigenous populations in the Southwest. Being Latinx myself, using the language of this region was crucial in my first few months of volunteering. Thankfully, my degree with the School of Transborder Studies required Spanish language courses. I took heritage learners Spanish which tremendously helped my work at the UFB where we assisted a large community of Spanish speakers. I noticed that the directions were easily lost in translation without people to interpret and I was able to help translate to ensure everyone received the correct amount of provisions. In addition, my time in the Next Generation Service Corps fostered my love and enthusiasm for public service. Our values are motivated by character-driven leadership and it is expected that we, as leaders, step up to any challenge and provide our skills and knowledge to help solve complex problems across sectors.

Volunteers outside home

Volunteers distribute donated items.

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

A: Our Indigenous communities are still in need of resources. República Empanada is still taking donations to help our Indigenous communities located around and within the Navajo Nation. All proceeds go directly toward purchasing supplies and equipment to help our efforts. More info can be found on their Facebook page.

Kirsten Kraklio

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


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ASU ready to welcome incoming Sun Devils with traditions held in new ways.
August 4, 2020

Incoming class to be introduced to the university's campuses and its traditions in new formats

It’s unusual times during the COVID-19 pandemic, but Arizona State University has made an extraordinary shift to welcome another class of Sun Devils for fall semester.

Thousands of first-year students will be arriving on campus in the coming weeks to begin their studies, and ASU will provide a full slate of activities for Welcome Week and beyond.

Some of the most iconic events will be held virtually, such as Sun Devil Welcome. This pep rally gathering is typically held in Desert Financial Arena, which is packed with more than 13,000 screaming students — a scenario that wouldn’t be safe in 2020. So this year, Sun Devil Welcome will be held virtually at 4 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 18.

But students also will be able to attend some in-person activities in small-group settings, with face coverings and physical distancing. These will include small-group residence hall floor meetings, plus walk-throughs of the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and “find-my-classes” tours of each campus, according to Joanne Vogel, vice president of student services at ASU.

The in-person activities will be organized by floors in an effort to encourage students to connect in-person in “bubbles” with their nearest peers, Vogel said.

“Students may choose to extend their social bubble beyond their roommates and suitemates to include others living on their floor or within their residence hall. But guests from other residence halls will not be allowed, as we’re asking all students to commit to limiting their in-person social interactions,” she said. “If you live in Hassayampa, you’re not allowed to visit Manzanita.”

Students also will participate in some small-group, “get-to-know-you” activities with their floormates, Vogel said.

“We’ll keep it safely distanced and informative, but we won’t leave out good old-fashioned fun,” she said.

Additionally, Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness is facilitating 170 intimate programs with students, focused on self-care and how to live well during fall semester. At the Tempe campus, students will learn skills in how to maintain “mindful moments” as well as how to “fill up (their) cup” during stressful times.

“We are hopeful that these skills will equip students with the skills they need to navigate the upcoming semester, and also provide them with skills in resiliency/strength,” said Julie Kipper, executive director of Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness at ASU.

Vogel said that ASU’s staff and students worked hard to build a start-of-the-year experience that would be meaningful for new and returning Sun Devils. That meant deciding whether some activities could still be held in person and which would be held virtually — and how to make those “remote” events creative and fun.

“We’ve put a lot of thought into these sessions to figure out the meaning behind every activity, what we hope to accomplish and how it can be accessed,” she said.

So the Engage involvement fairsPassport!, West Fest, Taylor Fest and Club Hub are being combined into the Engage! event. that introduce students to organizations on campus will be virtual this year, using a new software platform that lets them immediately interact with the members and advisers, Vogel said.

Other signature events including CultureFest and Sparky’s Day of Service also will be virtual.

“Changemaker wanted to make a strong statement with the residential colleges as partners to make sure we didn’t lose our service commitment,” Vogel said.

“They were able to figure out how they could do meaningful and impactful service online. Some examples include education around literacy and how COVID has exacerbated the conditions contributing to homelessness.”

The virtual Jason Derulo concert in June was such a success that Welcome Week organizers decided to hold the two-hour Infernofest performance remotely as well, she said. That will be from 7 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 21.

“I think it will play out exceedingly well. We’ll see something that continues our tradition but within an engaging virtual space,” Vogel said.

Explore the full list of ASU welcome events.

Top photo by Arizona State University

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU's First-Year Success Center is ready to support students in the new normal

Peer coaches ready to support first-year students on transition to ASU Sync.
July 31, 2020

Peer coaches, now available by text, are trained in helping students thrive with ASU Sync learning environment

The start of the fall 2020 semester at Arizona State University will look very different from previous years, thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic. But the university has shifted all of its support services, including the First-Year Success Center, to accommodate the new normal.

The center, which nurtures freshmen with peer coaching and other programs, was already providing a lot of support remotely when ASU went fully virtual last spring. Besides phone calls and online interactions, the coaches added Zoom sessions after the spring pivot.

This fall, the center has expanded its remote options, according to Kevin Correa, director of the center.

“It’s extending how we support students in general and applying that to this context,” he said.

The First-Year Success Center also includes Game Changers, a program specifically for first-generation freshmen. Besides coaching, these students get one-on-one counseling from older peer coaches, many of whom also are first-generation students, along with group events and advice on building practical skills, like time management.

“Our coaches serve three roles: connectors, cheerleaders and catalysts,” Correa said. “So it’s still those three roles but applied in this new situation.”

As connectors, the coaches provide information, resources and tips on how to successfully work in ASU Sync, the hybrid learning environment that combines live Zoom lectures with in-the-classroom instruction.

“The cheerleader piece is the emotional aspect, and that’s where encouragement comes into play,” Correa said.

“So it’s, ‘Yes, you can be successful this way.’ ‘Yes, it will be difficult, but we’re adaptable and we’re resilient.’

“We’ll be reminding the students of who they are and what they’re capable of and how they got to ASU in the first place. It’s all those successes they have already had and how they will leverage those in this new situation.”

The “catalyst” role involves goal setting.

“It’s identifying action plans to be successful. How will they manage time? ‘What are some roadblocks you anticipate, and how can you proactively plan to deal with them?’” he said.

The First-Year Success Center has added some new support services as well:

Videos: “We’ve been working to expand our YouTube library and adding more coaching videos to our channel,” Correa said. “We have a video of our coaches sharing tips and giving encouragement, so (first-year students) can hear the coaches’ personal experience with Sync during the spring.”

Digital community: “We’re also creating digital coaching communities through Slack that students can join based on areas of interest. For example, first-generation students would be one, and our first-generation coaches would lead that,” he said.

The Slack channel has the benefit for students of not only being able to get tips and encouragement from the peer coaches but also from each other.

“We see multiple communities based on identity, such as first-generation students, but also topic areas, such as how to succeed with ASU Sync.”

Texting: “For the first time, coaches will be able to engage in two-way texting with students,” Correa said. “We piloted this at the end of the spring semester and were happy with it.”

Texting, which is not done directly between phones but instead through SalesForce, is not meant to replace a coaching appointment, Correa said.

“It makes coaches more accessible to students than ever before, and a lot of students prefer texting,” he said.

“It’s for quick communication and outreach, and from there they can set up a coaching appointment.”

One-on-one coaching remains the bedrock of the center’s support. During the sudden switch to remote learning in the spring, the center’s peer coaches worked closely with their first-year students on the unprecedented issues they faced. They connected students to technology and financial resources, made sure they had enough to eat, answered questions about how to attend class from a bedroom and encouraged everyone to express their emotions about what was happening.

For the fall, the 87 peer coaches received extra training on frequently asked questions about ASU Sync.

“We were very successful in the spring semester pivoting to Zoom coaching as our primary offering,” Correa said.

“Zoom will still be our default, but we'll have the ability to coach students on Zoom, on the phone or in person.”

Limited in-person appointments will be available on every campus, with social distancing or barriers, plus face coverings, he said. The number of people in the space will be restricted.

“We want to honor student preferences, and we know every student is different,” he said. “We focus on student needs, goals and strengths, and we meet them where they’re at.”

The center is also planning some virtual events, including the annual First-Generation Fall Welcome, at 3 p.m. on Sept. 8.

“We’ll celebrate that first-gen identity and congratulate them on being a first-gen student because it’s an amazing accomplishment,” Correa said.

“There’s education about how to be a successful first-generation student, and we’ll have staff and faculty who were first-gen themselves when they attended school and they’ll share stories and advice and offer encouragement.”

Later in September, the center will hold virtual sessions on managing finances and applying for scholarships.

“We know that one of the barriers to retention is finances, and I think this year that concern will even be higher,” Correa said.

“So we have a nice sequence of events on something that a lot of students are concerned about.”

Top image: Kevin Correa, director of the First-Year Success Center, said that the 87 peer coaches have received special training on how to answer questions about ASU Sync. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


After a 20-year journey, U.S. Air Force airman finishes quest to become a college graduate

July 30, 2020

Ryan Gleason was 10 years old when he solidified his love for maps. 

As a fourth-grader in Ames, Iowa, Gleason pored over worksheets and textbooks and won his school’s geography bee, beating kids two grades his senior. For his efforts, he won a National Geographic board game.  Master Sgt. Ryan Gleason. Photo courtesy of Ryan Gleason. Download Full Image

“I think at that point it really reinforced my love for geography and maps,” Gleason remembered on a recent call from his home in Rockville, Maryland. “When I realized that I really needed to buckle down and choose a major, I found the whole world of geographic information systems. I didn’t realize I could have a career in something I really enjoyed.” 

Now 38, Gleason — a husband, a father of three and an active-duty U.S. Air Force airman — is one of nearly 100 students who earned their bachelor’s degree this past May from Arizona State University's School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning through ASU Online

But every student’s journey toward graduation is uniquely theirs. For Master Sgt. Gleason, earning his diploma was the conclusion of a two-decade-long collegiate journey, one characterized by adversity, persistence and the belief in himself that one day he would finish what he started. 

“I just wasn’t ready”

In fall 2004, Gleason ran out of options. Four and a half years into college at Iowa State University, he was on academic probation with a GPA of 1.9, had less than two-thirds of the academic credits he needed to graduate, and denied withdrawing additional student loans. 

At 22, he dropped out of school, moved into his parents’ basement and got a job delivering pizzas. The consequences of his actions weighed on him. 

“I just wasn’t ready,” Gleason recalled. “I didn't make a lot of good choices when I went to Iowa State right after high school. I was failing classes, having to repeat classes, just being generally irresponsible, that really sums up my first attempt at an undergraduate degree.” 

The next defining moment in his life came the following spring. Gleason, on a whim, enlisted into the U.S. Air Force. Thrown into a new environment marked by structure, discipline and integrity, he thrived.

“It’s really what turned my life around,” Gleason said. “The Air Force really took me in and made me feel like it was the place to be. I didn't have a whole lot of options, but I saw that they could pay for education and that to me was a way for me to try to redeem myself when and if I decided to go back to school.” 

Part of something bigger 

As the years passed, Gleason never forgot about college. While completing his duties with the Air Force full time, he continued to take classes, enrolling himself in several online institutions, chipping away at the units and requirements needed to earn his degree. But nothing stuck. 

“I took maybe nine credits here and 12 credits there but nothing really stuck and part of it was because I never really felt like I was part of something,” Gleason said. “At those online institutions, as a student, I just felt like I was just another statistic or number.” 

ASU’s online degree program opened up new opportunities for Gleason. Initially attracted to ASU for its relationship with active-duty military and veterans through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, the quality of educational support and the financial assistance he received, Gleason enrolled in the online Bachelor of Science in geographic information science (GIS) degree program at ASU in 2018. 

“I chose Arizona State because I really wanted to go to a school where I felt like I was part of a community, part of something bigger,” Gleason said. “Also, the instructors that teach the online programs are the same instructors and faculty that teach on campus and that was a big deal.” 

Gleason says it's the relationships with his professors and the quality of the education that made the difference for him and make him proud to be a Sun Devil.

“Having the same resources (online) so that you can have a similar experience as being in-person was awesome. There were really cool online lectures with guest lecturers from other parts of the department that came in. You feel more connected to the program.” 

Visualization of data

The Gleason family recently at Great Falls National Park. Photo courtesy of Ryan Gleason.

As part of his GIS coursework this past spring, Gleason completed an online capstone project in which he mapped and analyzed water quality data in the Chesapeake Bay to address complex environmental issues. As part of the course, Gleason had weekly one-on-one video chat conversations with Drew Trgovac, lecturer in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, where he was able to navigate the complexities of the project and get direct feedback from faculty.

“Having those weekly conversations with Dr. Trgovac, having the encouragement from him, his guidance and mentorship throughout the whole process really were invaluable for me,” Gleason said. “That probably is the biggest takeaway from going through this program.” 

Trgovac recognizes Gleason's commitment to his studies and his passion for the field of GIS. 

“Ryan was always going one more above what you would think of a typical student, he was always willing to go on and tinker ahead,” Trgovac said. “He is really good at problem-solving.”

“It's always easier to do something simpler, but he would challenge himself and problem-solve everything he needed and he’s better for having done that, too, because when you run into some kind of difficulty, well, do you give up or do you keep going?”

Through the challenging times, Gleason says he was inspired by his wife who, following the births and raising of their three children, went back to school to earn her master's degree and her PhD in public health. She now is a postdoctoral researcher for the National Institute of Health. 

“Having such drive and dedication in my best friend, my role model, who gave me the incredible motivation and set the example for me, and also she's there to help continue to motivate me every step of the way, having her was key to all of this, and obviously it means a ton to me,” Gleason said. 

There’s always time 

Following graduation, Gleason looks forward to continuing to dedicate the next four and a half years to his service to the Air Force before retiring from the military. After that, he aspires to take on new challenges and begin a career as a GIS analyst or pursue attaining a master’s degree.

“I'm going to retire when I'm 42 or 43, so I still have a bunch of time ahead of me. I have not completely ruled out a master's program. I really had such a positive experience at Arizona State pursuing my bachelor’s that it left me ready for more again.” 

For those on their own journeys who may be down on their luck or doubting themselves, Gleason has one piece of advice: “There is always time.”

“If you tell yourself it's too late, then you'll never achieve anything. You'll never get started. You'll never finish. You can't let yourself get into that mindset and you really just have to continue to look ahead no matter what,” he said. 

“If you’re thinking to yourself ‘Man, I’m too old’, hey, I'm closing in on 40 and here I am now with a bachelor's degree. If I can do it, you can too.” 

David Rozul

Communications Program Coordinator, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


ASU grad combines passions for activism, videography to forge a path toward filmmaking

July 30, 2020

Jude Schroder arrived at Arizona State University as a National Merit Scholar planning to pursue a career in the foreign service. After discovering a passion for filmmaking, getting involved in activism and gaining a better understanding of their identity, Schroder graduated in May with bachelor's degrees in global studies and political science from the School of Politics in Global Studies, as well as a minor in Spanish and a certificate in political entrepreneurship from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

In 2017, Schroder participated in the McCain Institute’s Washington Policy Design Studio program, a valuable experience that came with the realization of no longer wanting to pursue a career in the foreign service. Jude Schroder. Photo by Justin Billy. Download Full Image

“I wouldn't take back my experiences in D.C. and I would still do it again if I could, but it did show me a valuable lesson, which is that I didn't want to go into the foreign service,” said Schroder, who uses they/them pronouns. “When I returned from D.C. I chose to pivot and adapt to something new. I was fortunate enough to be able to explore other courses throughout my undergrad. Overcoming that uncertainty and just trying out new things through ASU was key for me. Being able to take courses outside of my major helped me figure out what I wanted to do. The interdisciplinary aspect of ASU is what makes us super unique.”

Schroder had a deep passion for the arts and took as many creative courses as possible every semester. They also had the opportunity to travel internationally, creating vlogs during their study abroad experience in Barcelona, Spain, and documenting the SolarSPELL project in Fiji.

Combining their love of global studies with videography, Schroder forged a path toward a future in filmmaking. 

During their time at ASU, Schroder not only discovered a passion for videography, but also discovered community and learned to embrace themself as someone who identifies as nonbinary and bisexual.

“When I started at ASU I hadn't come out as bisexual or nonbinary yet. There weren't resources for that in my K–12 schooling. Once I got to ASU, I had everything from consent education to women and sexuality courses to LGBT clubs,” they said. “There were a lot of things that I hadn't accepted about myself or my identity before I got to college, so it was really cool to all of the sudden have access to resources and a community and classes where I could learn about who I was.”

Schroder also received support from faculty, including Madelaine Adelman, professor of justice and social inquiry in the School of Social Transformation.

“Dr. Adelman helped me with my thesis and really supported me academically, but she's also supported me professionally whenever I needed advice. She always introduced me to other people that were doing things I was interested in and then even going above and beyond that by helping me personally too,” Schroder said. “When I started working with her on my thesis, I hadn't come out as nonbinary yet. When I came out and told her my new name and pronouns she was the best about it. She’s just been such a great advocate for me professionally, academically and with my personal identity.”

Schroder’s passion for activism and filmmaking culminated in a short documentary-style film created for their Barrett, The Honors College thesis project that examines the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) in Arizona and the fight to pass it at federal and state levels. After working with the League of Women Voters of Arizona, Schroder became passionate about the ERA and spent a year and a half working on “ERA in AZ,” interviewing leading activists, experts and representatives from the Arizona legislature.

“I worked with women who were around during the 1970s when the ERA was initially passed by Congress and they were trying to get it ratified in Arizona. They've been doing this work for decades and told me they've been trying to make a series of videos on it for a long time but hadn’t found anybody that could do it,” Schroder said. “So I decided to create a documentary that explains the ERA, both from a broader U.S. context and at the Arizona level.”

Schroder debuted the film at a screening in March at the Tempe campus and received an overwhelmingly positive response from the audience. In the future, Schroder plans to pursue a career in activist filmmaking and hopes to go to graduate school for graphic information technology, media studies or fine arts.

“Now my sights are even higher. I want to get the ERA into the constitution and guarantee equality for women. But I also want to make sure that we have an equality act for LGBT people and make sure that people in the LGBT community also have these legal protections.”

Emily Balli

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

ASU graduate engineering students to start fall term — everywhere

July 29, 2020

Demand is up for engineering graduate education at Arizona State University. Applications for fall 2020 admission to master’s and doctoral programs at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering have increased by more than 2,500 students compared to this time last year.

While uncertainty about enrollment in the context of COVID-19 has prompted some people to defer their start at ASU, most admitted graduate students are beginning this August to take advantage of flexible attendance options and added professional incentives. classroom of ASU students using ASU Sync to take a class remotely Classes conducted through ASU Sync offer live interaction with faculty and peers. The successful new learning model enables full student participation independent of their location. Photo courtesy of ASU Download Full Image

One key element is the distinction between starting classes and arriving on campus. These two events traditionally happen at the same time, but ASU’s technology and content design innovations are disrupting the conventional link between class location and participation. Fulton Schools students can now begin live courses remotely and then join their cohort in person whenever circumstances permit their arrival in Arizona.

This means students from locales as far-flung as Chennai, India; Chengdu, China; and Chicago can enroll in their programs and begin coursework in August but delay travel to ASU until September, October or even early November. If arrival on campus is further delayed, the Fulton Schools will support continued participation in the manner that best suits each enrolled student.

“We know graduate students want a full experience, so we have developed course options that are both flexible and immersive,” said Jim Collofello, vice dean of academic and student affairs for the Fulton Schools. “These are live classes that happen in a format we call ASU Sync. Instead of walking to a building across campus, students are connecting via Zoom. They are engaging with faculty on screen, asking questions and getting answers. They are also building relationships with their peers.”

ASU began applying this live-hosted digital learning platform on a wide scale during the spring, when social distancing protocols were implemented to protect students, faculty and staff amid the pandemic. The results have been so successful that even graduate students who are physically present on campus this fall will go into classrooms for only a portion of their course sessions. Through ASU Sync, they will attend half or more of their class meetings digitally, alongside peers from across the country and around the world.

“Knowing these are real-time, interactive courses and not conventional online classes has swayed a lot of people,” said Anca Castillo, associate director of engineering student recruitment at ASU. “They are ready to start their graduate education when they realize the student experience is now virtually the same, independent of geographic location.”

For example, the Fulton Schools scheduled more than 40 fall classes at times convenient for people who will be attending from India and China. Castillo says these sessions will take place either early in the morning or during the evening for those students, which is far more practical than trying to join live classes via Zoom in the middle of the night.

Another incentive for graduate students beginning this fall relates to the Six Sigma process improvement and quality assurance methodology so highly regarded in the engineering world. Castillo says up to half of all current engineering job postings identify Six Sigma certification as a desired qualification.

“So, we are encouraging students to enroll this fall and take advantage of the Six Sigma Green Belt certification course offered through our Global Outreach and Extended Education office,” Castillo said. She also notes that this training is available to incoming students for just $99 rather than the standard $1,295 cost.

“It’s a meaningful opportunity for those who are joining us in August,” she said. “In fact, we already have more than 200 students who are enrolled and registered for the course. Some have shared that Six Sigma and the pre-professional support it represents was a determining factor for their fall enrollment.”

Finding a new job in the context of COVID-19 is a significant challenge across America, so the Fulton Schools created an Optional Practical Training, or OPT, experience to employ students on a volunteer basis. While unpaid, these opportunities enable graduates to apply their engineering skills by working on industry-led projects for a range of companies and nonprofits while they seek paid positions.

“For international students who complete their studies at ASU, OPT is an aspect of the visa that enables them to work in the U.S.,” Collofello said. “Since finding a position can be difficult right now, we want to help students get both industry experience and additional time to find their desired role.”

Collofello says accepted graduate students can be confident they will be fully supported in the process of starting their program at the Fulton Schools. He says the flexible course options and added incentives represent significant reasons to begin this fall.

The Fulton Schools enrollment options webpage explains how admitted engineering students are joining their graduate programs this August in ways that best meet their needs.

Gary Werner

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering