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ASU grad finds skills, 'home' in Sun Devil Fitness Complex

May 9, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

For Jaclyn Leake, a senior from Chicago graduating with a degree in exercise and wellness and a minor in kinesiology from the College of Health Solutions, classes and experience at a neurological rehabilitation facility helped her find her way to doctoral school after graduation. But it was her on-campus job at ASU that helped her learn other valuable skills for the workplace. ASU grad Jaclyn Leake Jaclyn Leake Download Full Image

Leake, who was a member of the Sparky’s Service Dog Club and the Physical Therapy Club, worked as a coordinator for aquatics safety and education at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where she said she spent time in and out of work.

“It was a very rewarding position where I got to lead a wonderful staff to success,” Leake said of her position. She said she learned valuable skills such as communication and networking with food vendors, organizations and suppliers to organize her events.

“I worked on my communication by leading the aquatics staff through difficult problems, conflict and inspiring the staff,” Leake said. “The biggest skill I took from the SDFC was dealing with conflict under stressful situations.”

She spoke with ASU Now about what she's learned as a Sun Devil and where she's going from here. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My aha moment to specialize in neurology was working at SWAN Rehab, a neurological rehabilitation center. I was informed about this facility by a friend who used to work at the SDFC.

While working there this semester I realized orthopedic physical therapy is not for me and that I need to be working in the neurology field. The patients at SWAN are so inspiring and a joy to be around. I cannot wait to start grad school in July and begin my career in the neurology field.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Dr. Christopher Berger taught me so much in EXW (exercise and wellness) 330. He inspired me to dig deeper into my field and really research everything that interested me.

A few times I went into his office hours just to discuss new techniques used in the physical therapy clinic to determine their true potential to improve an individual’s performance.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of its incredible resources. Being one of the biggest schools, it allowed me to have access to many different research opportunities that other schools would not have. I do admit a contributing factor was Arizona's warm weather and beautiful mountains!  

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I believe Professor Siddhartha Angadi taught me the most important lesson; he told me to look further into my field and discover everything physical therapy has to offer so you pick a job you truly love.

Also, Nicole Nolan really got me interested in kinesiology, and I spent many hours in her office discussing class material. She was also kind enough to write me a letter of recommendation to graduate school, which helped me get in.

Additionally, Mitch Tybroski and Courtney Smith, even though they aren't teachers, have been my bosses at the gym for two years now. They both have helped me grow so much as an individual and helped me through hard times. They are one of the largest factors that made the SDFC home.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don't procrastinate. If you stay on top of your workload, it makes life 10 times less stressful.  

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus was the SDFC! The Downtown SDFC was my home for four years. I met my closest friends there and spend almost every day there visiting or working out. It was my de-stress area and surprisingly a very good place to get your homework done.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am beginning the doctoral physical therapy program at one of my top choice physical therapy schools in July. I am very excited to dive into the physical therapy field and learn all the fine details of how to properly treat injuries and diseases.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle Earth’s pollution. I would try to find a greener way to get electricity and new transportation that produces very little to no pollution. I want to fix this problem so the human race can live on. We need to have the Earth clean enough for us to survive here.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Bryan Pietsch, EOSS Marketing

Kinesiology major makes the gym his classroom as SDFC personal trainer

May 9, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Working as a personal trainer is a great way to help others and gain experience in the exercise and wellness field. But for graduating senior Ryo Kataoka, the job was a way to learn outside the classroom about the science taught in his classes. Ryo Kataoka posing at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus Ryo Kataoka. Photo by Bryan Pietsch. Download Full Image

“What is often theoretically acknowledged is not necessarily practical for some clients,” Kataoka, a kinesiology major, said. “These experiences allow me to grow as a personal trainer by giving me new questions and areas to study.”

Originally from Aichi, Japan, Kataoka said working as a personal trainer at the Sun Devil Fitness Complex was a great opportunity for expanding his coaching and communication skills.

He spoke to ASU Now to reflect on his time as a Sun Devil and where he’s going from here.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Because I have been a competitive soccer player for a long time, I was always intrigued by exercise science.

Although I only had limited knowledge back then, my curiosity in applying science into practice burgeoned when I was in a high school soccer club, and with many trials and errors, my curiosity in exercise science grew even more, so I set my academic career to learn further in college in the United States.

It was not an easy transition from a different country as an international student, but I'm glad about how much I have learned and thankful to all the people who have supported me.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Coming from a different cultural background, I found that many people in the U.S. are able to give their opinions and be more assertive. I was poor at asserting myself at the beginning, but during my years at ASU, I learned to express my opinion and hold discussions with other students.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU based on a variety of opportunities at such a big school.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Both Nicole Nolan and Tannah Broman taught me the field of exercise science and how to interpret research critically, which I know will help me in graduate school.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Build a habit that helps to reach your goal. What helped me personally was to start with a small habit and make it easy so I can't say no.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The SDFC Downtown was my favorite spot. I liked the atmosphere in the facility and the interaction with staff and students was always pleasing and enjoyable.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I recently got accepted to graduate school in Florida, so my next step is to advance my understanding of the field of exercise science and become a part of enabling the developments in that field. I'm excited about the opportunities that await!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A:  I would use it to advance the research for sustainable energy sources.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Bryan Pietsch, EOSS Marketing

Dean’s Medalist uses music, education to advocate for Native Americans in Arizona

May 9, 2019

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Libraries and hip-hop might not seem the most obvious pair. But for Arizona State University alumnus Alexander Soto, both are platforms to illustrate the struggles facing Native Americans in Arizona and to forge a path forward. Alexander Soto graduated with a bachelor's degree in American Indian Studies from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this spring.  Alexander Soto graduated this spring with a bachelor's degree from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences' American Indian Studies program. Download Full Image

Soto graduated this spring with a bachelor’s degree from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program. He was recognized during convocation as a Dean’s Medalist.

As a member of southern Arizona’s Tohono O’odhamToday’s Tohono O’odham Nation, which translates to desert people, sits just west of Tucson, but the tribe’s ancestral homeland spans southern Arizona and much of the northern Mexican state of Sonora, where a few thousand tribal members still remain. Nation, the issues he’s studied within the program are intimately familiar.

Growing up in Phoenix and making frequent trips farther south, Soto saw firsthand how border security crackdowns impacted his tribal land and the people living on it. Listening to rising hip-hop stars inspired him to put his thoughts to paper.

“Groups like Public Enemy, N.W.A. and The Roots spoke to issues within the African American community,” he said. “I was a Tohono O’odham experiencing similar injustices in Phoenix, but also had this other experience with the border — I wanted to speak to all of that as a hip-hop artist.”

That was the impetus behind Shining Soul, a hip-hop trio founded by Soto and two friends that sought to shed light on indigenous and Chicano perspectives in Arizona.

The group became a powerful vehicle for social justice advocacy during Soto’s early years at ASU in 2010.

“Native American people sometimes feel as though we are an invisible population within American society,” said Michelle Hale, an assistant professor in the American Indian Studies program and a Laguna, Chippewa and Odawa citizen of the Navajo Nation. “Alex Soto’s message and music reminded people everywhere that we are here, and thriving.”

 Over the next several years, Soto kept producing music, gained an associate degree from Phoenix College, and found a new passion in what started as a job at the Phoenix public library to pay the bills.

“I started working there to support myself and my music, but then it also turned out to be one of the first places Shining Soul held rhyme-writing workshops for youth,” he said. “For us, it was a place where hip-hop could be presented in an institutional format, while also helping young people understand what they are capable of.”

Soto continued to work in public libraries across the Phoenix area and then transitioned to facilities with ASU Library.

In the fall of 2017, he returned to ASU to complete his bachelor’s degree. Courses in the American Indian Studies program helped tether the border realities Shining Soul had conveyed to the historical policies that shaped them. An internship working with tribal and elementary school libraries in the Phoenix area’s Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community allowed him to further understand the facilities as tools for tribal sovereignty and empowerment.

The experience also helped solidify Soto’s plans after graduation.  

“Libraries in Native communities can be used firstly as a library like anywhere else, but also as a cultural center offering everything from story time in our native language, to job-finding services and even hip-hop workshops,” he said. “I realized all the passions I've had in my life can be funneled into library work.”

Soto will enter a master’s degree program later this year in library sciences through the University of Arizona’s Knowledge River program, an initiative focused on training librarians concentrated on Latina/o and Native American cultural issues.  

He answered a few questions about his journey at ASU and the impact of The College’s American Indian Studies program, below.

Question: What's something you learned while at ASU in the classroom or otherwise that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Coming back to school after time away actually gave me some privilege in the academic space. I had the chance to experience a lot of what we're reading about firsthand, and I was able to articulate that during discussions. It made me realize it's a process to get to a point where you want to take action.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: As a first-generation college student, it was always going to be ASU in a lot of ways just because it was the local school. I had always planned to do the community college to ASU pipeline.

l also realized there's a long history of Native scholars in the American Indian Studies program. I think it provides a way to see how historic laws still impact tribal nations to this day. Having this degree allows you to become an expert in the field and be able to challenge these laws when needed.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while you were at ASU?

A: Wow, really they all did in their own way! But I guess it goes back to James Riding In. I took two of his classes while at ASU the first time, and our paths always crossed through activism outside of school. I think he did an amazing job of showing the importance of knowing the law, but also knowing that we have to think outside the box to find ways to agitate the system. He taught us to empower ourselves first on our own and let the laws catch up with us.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you'd give to those still in school?

A: One reason I left in 2010 was because I lost the funding of my tribal scholarship and didn't want to take out  loans. So I would tell those who do have the financial support of scholarships, definitely take advantage of it and don’t take it for granted. And if you're not ready for school, it might be best to step away until you’re focused and ready.

For minority communities, especially Native communities, I’d just say to put yourself out there. This campus is yours. You can go to the library, you can inhabit places that are not traditionally looked upon as a Native space. Forming relationships with non-Native friends also made me a more diverse person. Working in town and in libraries, I've always had a mix of people around me, and I think that really helps your development, both professionally and as a student.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you do with it?

A: As an O’odham who has roots in Mexico, I would use that money to buy our land back from the Mexican government. Tohono O’odham on the U.S. side have a reservation system, those on the Mexican side do not. There is now an entire group of people there who look like me, speak the same language and have the same customs, but are technically Mexican citizens because they're divided by the border. If we had some substantial money we could have designated land on both sides and set up infrastructure for schools and libraries.

I think that would be important because it would connect  sides. Doing it would also indirectly address a lot of bigger issues surrounding the border. For us, it’s a matter of community and being connected. Highlighting that will hopefully make people realize this is not an immigration issue, this is a matter of an entire people being divided — just like East and West Germany or North and South Korea. I'd really like to bring attention to that as an example of what we are doing to indigenous people.


Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


NPR top news executive Nancy C. Barnes urges Cronkite graduates to embrace change, not fear it

May 8, 2019

Nancy C. Barnes, senior vice president for news at National Public Radio, told new journalism graduates of Arizona State University on Tuesday they need to be prepared to celebrate change, not resist it.

Barnes was the keynote convocation speaker at the graduation ceremony for the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Comerica Theatre in downtown Phoenix, where 313 students received degrees with more than 2,400 guests in attendance. NPR news executive Nancy Barnes advised graduates to “hold fast to your principles and find your guiding compass amid all of this disruptive change.” Photo by Victor Ren Download Full Image

Barnes, who also has led newspapers in Houston, Minneapolis and Raleigh, North Carolina, said she entered journalism at a time of typewriters and dial-up landlines. Since then, both the technology that reporters use and the way audiences consume information have been transformed, she said, and the pace of change is only likely to accelerate.

“Success will depend on your ability to lean into change, to bravely and, indeed, happily, face the future, and not rage against it,” she said.

At the same time, she advised graduates to “hold fast to your principles and find your guiding compass amid all of this disruptive change.”

Journalists, she said, bear a heavy responsibility to “hold up our responsibilities to the First Amendment and (to) tell the American people not what they want to hear, but what they need to hear and to know to live in our free society.”

Barnes, who took the top news position at NPR last fall, also encouraged the graduates to live a “life of adventure.”

“Make it a spectacular one — one that when that blink of an eye comes and you are living in that future that looks like today’s science fiction, reflecting back on your lifetime, you will feel that it was a life to be proud of, a life that imbued you with hope, optimism, love and adventure,” she said.

Of the school’s 313 graduates, 292 received bachelor’s degrees, with 149 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication and 57 earning a Bachelor of Arts in Sports Journalism. Eighty-five students received a Bachelor of Arts in Mass Communication and Media Studies. One student earned a new Bachelor of Science in Digital Audiences.

The Cronkite School also graduated 19 master’s degree students. Of those, 12 earned a Master of Journalism and Mass Communication, three received a Master of Arts in Sports Journalism and four a Master of Science in Business Journalism

Two students, Jamie Bowen and Kristin Pellizzaro, received doctoral degrees.

Student speaker Bryce Newberry reflected on the deep sense of community he and other students have experienced at Cronkite.

“We’re lucky to have gone to a school where we were a team,” he said. “Like any family, we inspire each other and lift each other up at every milestone.”

He encouraged fellow graduates to keep that spirit alive as they enter the workforce. “Do as you’ve done here … and celebrate everyone’s success.”

About half of the graduating class earned high academic honors. Seventy-one students graduated summa cum laude with grade-point averages of at least 3.8; another 40 graduated magna cum laude with GPAs of 3.6 to 3.79; and 36 graduated cum laude with GPAs of 3.4 to 3.59.

In addition, 24 students were inducted into Kappa Tau Alpha, a national college honors society that recognizes academic excellence and promotes scholarship in journalism. The top 10 percent of the graduating class is inducted into the society each semester.

Seventeen students received the ASU Alumni Association’s Moeur Award, which is presented to graduates with the highest academic standing who have completed their degrees over eight consecutive fall and spring semesters at ASU.

Student award winners

Outstanding Graduate Student
Ashley Mackey

Outstanding Journalism Dual-Degree Student
Alicia Gonzales

ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate
Kelsey Mo

Outstanding Undergraduate Students
Mia Armstrong
Austen Bundy
Lillian Donahue
Samie Gebers
Ethan Millman
Keri Orcutt
Imani Stephens

Outstanding Online Student
Shelley Fry

Highest Grade-Point Average in Journalism
Kelsey Mo

Highest Grade-Point Average in Media Studies
Amber Shepard

Top Innovator Award
Kayla King-Sumner

Cronkite Spirit Award
Jordan Elder
Chancellor Johnson

Kappa Tau Alpha National Honor Society
Mia Armstrong
Allison Barton
Jamie Bowen
Charles Bramlett
Gabriela Calles Monsivais
Jordan Elder
BrieAnna Frank
Madeleine Holler
Marguerite Mackrell
Kelsey Mo
Jaime Muldrew
Bryce Newberry
Keri Orcutt
Kirstin Pellizzaro
Daniella Rudoy
Case Smith
Skyler Snider
Rebecca Spiess
Imani Stephens
Adin Tarr
Ashlee Thomason
Jakob Wastek
Robert Werner
Jade Nicole Yeban

Moeur Award
Mia Armstrong
Allison Barton
Charles Bramlett
BrieAnna Frank
Madeleine Holler
Marguerite Mackrell
Kelsey Mo
Jaime Muldrew
Bryce Newberry
Keri Orcutt
Rilee Robinson
Daniella Rudoy
Nicholas Serpa
Case Smith
Jakob Wastek
Robert Werner
Alexandra Wolfe

Student Speaker
Bryce Newberry

Award-winning ASU Law grads offer advice: Get by with a little help from your friends

May 7, 2019

ASU Law convocation update: Arizona’s first female senator and ASU Law alumna, Kyrsten Sinema, will deliver the convocation address for the 2019 graduating class of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law during the ceremony on May 8 at Comerica Theatre at 6 p.m. This event requires a ticket for admittance. Public viewing is available through LiveStream.

*** photo of Greg Fay Greg Fay, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Download Full Image

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University attracts some of the brightest minds from throughout the world. It’s a competitive environment, full of straight-A students with the highest credentials.

But it’s also a highly collaborative environment, with students, faculty and members of the surrounding community working together to bring out the best in one another. That’s one of the reasons ASU Law consistently gets outstanding results, ranking among the top schools in the nation for high-quality job placement and bar-passage results.

As the 2019 class prepares to graduate, a common theme emerges when talking to some of the top award-winners: They could not have gotten through the arduous odyssey of law school alone — nor did they have to. Faculty and fellow students are eager to lend support, and once the journey is completed, the lasting friendships and mentorships are every bit as important as the diploma.

“We want students to feel wanted, and that we’re grateful to have them here, because we are,” said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. “We want to know what our students’ dreams are, and then make sure we help them get there. So when they walk out the door, they’re getting the outcomes they were seeking when they decided to come to ASU Law.”

Three of the top students in the 2019 graduating class are about to walk out that door. Each says ASU Law was the perfect fit, a supportive environment that helped them grow and learn and put them on the path to achieving those dreams.

John S. Armstrong Award: Jessica Kemper

photo of Jessica Kemper

Jessica Kemper, John S. Armstrong Award, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Jessica Kemper is the winner of the John S. Armstrong Award, which honors academic performance and contributions to ASU Law.

A native Arizonan, she was completing her undergraduate degree at ASU, planning to pursue a PhD in biochemistry, when she had a change of heart. As much as she loved science, she did not want to be a scientist, so she began searching for an alternative career path she could pursue with her degree.

“One day, I came across an article written by a chemist-turned-patent-attorney who litigated pharmaceutical patents,” the 24-year-old said. “The thought intrigued me. I remembered that ASU Law had sent me a letter earlier on in the year about one of their programs; it was a miracle I still had it in my glove compartment! I met with Jillian from the admissions team, applied, and had the privilege of being accepted.”

She studied a variety of topics at ASU Law, ranging from intellectual property to water law, and was heavily involved in extracurricular activities, including:

  • Was a Center Scholar for the Center for Law, Science & Innovation, and was part of two of their cohorts for all three years of her law school career.
  • Served as vice president for the Christian Legal Society chapter at ASU Law.
  • Served as president of the Intellectual Property Student Association.
  • Was a staff writer and research editor for the Arizona State Law Journal.

She was stunned and humbled to find out she had won the Armstrong Award. She said it “means the world” to her, noting that it is named for John Samuel Armstrong, the legislator who, in 1885, introduced a bill in the territorial legislature to create a school that became ASU.

“ASU will be my only alma mater and has been my home away from home for the past seven years,” she said. “I’m so grateful for everything that ASU has given me as a student and for the opportunities I’ve been able to experience. I could not be more honored to receive an award celebrating the founder of the university that means so much to me.”

She will begin working in the Phoenix office of Snell & Wilmer in September, then, in the fall of 2020, she will clerk for Judge Dominic Lanza at the U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona. 

“My experience at ASU Law was fantastic, unparalleled,” she said. “I would not change anything about my experience. Even though pursuing a law degree was one of the most difficult endeavors I have ever undertaken, it has changed my life for the better.”

The Strouse Prize: A.J. Gilman

photo of A.J. Gilman

A.J. Gilman, The Strouse Prize, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

A.J. Gilman is the winner of the Strouse Prize, given to the graduate whose academic strengths, contributions to the Center for Law, Science and Innovation, and personal qualities most closely mirror those of beloved faculty member Dan Strouse.

Law school had been in his plans from a very young age, and he went on to fulfill those plans — also at a very young age. A Phoenix native, Gilman enrolled at Paradise Valley Community College when he was just 13 years old, graduating at age 15 with four associate degrees. He then transferred to ASU, graduated with three bachelor’s degrees at age 17, then began taking classes at ASU Law at age 18 — the youngest student in the school’s history.

The astounding academic accomplishments garnered media coverage, including feature articles in USA Today and The Arizona Republic. He said he is always asked whether he felt like he missed out on part of his childhood, or if it was strange to be so much younger than his fellow students. And the answer he always gives, without hesitation: not at all. He said he has had a ton of fun pursuing his college degrees.

“It’s really what you make of it,” he said, about being the youthful outlier in his classes. “If you act normal, people treat you normal.”

It may have helped that Gilman has a close relationship with the second-youngest student in the history of ASU Law — his mother, Susan Gilman.

“I beat her by one year,” he said.

Susan Gilman is now an adjunct faculty member at ASU Law, helping to carry on family traditions. His grandfather is also a lawyer, and his grandmother was a member of ASU Law’s founding class.

Gilman is graduating with a certificate in law, science and technology, with focuses in intellectual property; data, privacy and security; and life sciences. He said he was absolutely honored to find out he had been awarded the Strouse Prize.

“I was honored — it was really amazing,” he said. “I’m not sure the exact reason why they picked me, but I would guess it’s about getting involved.”

Indeed, involvement was a big part of his law school career:

  • Was the founding member and president of the ASU Practice Readiness Forum and the Tribune of Delta Theta Phi Law Fraternity.
  • Is a member of Desert Blockchain.
  • Spoke at the ARMA International Program on Information Governance.
  • Participated in the Global Legal Hackathon on a team that won the Phoenix division for their IPFS Encrypted Document Management System.
  • Served as an articles editor for the Jurimetrics Law Journal.
  • Completed an externship with the Administrative Offices of the Arizona Supreme Court.

He is now looking forward to working for Bacal & Garrison Law Group in Scottsdale, where he will be practicing in the areas of intellectual property and emerging technology law.

And looking back at his academic career, he said he has no regrets.

“If I had a choice to go anywhere, I’d come here all over again — over Harvard, over Stanford,” he said.

Nor does the 20-year-old have any second thoughts about spending his teenage years in college and law school, although there was at least one drawback to being the youngest student at ASU Law.

“You can’t drink,” he said. “And there are a lot of open-bar events.”

The Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize: Greg Fay

photo of Greg Fay

Greg Fay, The Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Greg Fay is the winner of the Mary M. Schroeder Public Interest Prize, which is presented to a student who has committed to practice in public interest law upon admission to the bar.

He has done human rights work in China, and after graduation he will be employed as a staff attorney at the Florence Project, providing free legal services to detained migrants in Florence, Arizona, where he also served as the Equality Arizona LGBT Fellow last summer.

But it was a seemingly innocuous job he had in high school, doing far less serious work, that may have set him on his current course.

“I worked in my hometown in Enfield, Connecticut, as a delivery boy for a Chinese restaurant,” the 34-year-old recalls.

Although he was simply delivering food, he bonded with the staff, and that sparked an interest in Chinese culture. After his freshman year of college at Brown University, he went overseas to teach English in China.

“It really changed my life, because I was blown away by Chinese culture,” he said. “And when I got back to Brown, I changed my major to East Asian studies.”

He interned for a group in New York called Human Rights in China. That inspired him to pursue a career in Chinese human rights work, which eventually led him to law school.

“I worked with a lot of attorneys, Chinese lawyers,” he said. “A lot of them had fled China and had political asylum here in the United States. I came to see attorneys as defenders of human rights, and I started developing this idea of how important immigration work is. That’s what motivated me to go to law school — to practice asylum law and to help people who are fleeing human rights abuses and applying for political asylum here in the United States.”

It’s a noble calling, and one that captivated ASU Law’s namesake, retired U.S. Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor.

“My favorite moment at ASU Law was during my first year of school,” Fay said. “As part of my scholarship, which is named for Justice O’Connor’s husband, John O’Connor, I was able to attend a Rotary event in his honor. I got to meet Justice O’Connor and sit with her for this event and celebrate her husband’s life, and she absolutely blew me away.”

O’Connor was highly interested in the human rights work he had done in China, engaging in a long one-on-one conversation.

“It was an amazing opportunity to have a conversation with this living historical figure, and she was just incredible,” he said.

Among his many outside activities throughout law school, Fay joined the board of a nonprofit called the Phoenix Legal Action Network, which works to provide free legal services to low-income immigrants in Arizona who are not detained. That aligns with his work with the Florence Project and his passion for helping others, which is why the recognition of the Schroeder Prize is so meaningful.

“ASU has taught me a lot about what doing public interest work looks like here in Arizona,” he said. “I know that Judge Schroeder is an amazing Ninth Circuit judge. One of my classmates is currently her clerk, so I hear incredible things about her, and I’m just very honored to receive this award.”

READ MORE: The future is bright for spring 2019 grads

At ASU Law, opportunities and support abound

Kemper, Gilman and Fay reflect fondly on their time at ASU Law, and all have the same advice for future students: Don’t go it alone.

“My advice for the next class of ASU Law students is to connect,” Kemper said. “It is so easy to become isolated in law school because of the workload involved, and I know that in my experience, connecting with my fellow classmates and others in the legal community sometimes was forced to take a lower priority than classwork. That being said, some of my greatest memories from law school are from connecting with others and forming professional relationships.”

Gilman said one of the most important things a law student can do is make friends.

“It’s all about who you know, not what you know,” he said. “Making friends with professors, going to classes with them, they can help provide amazing opportunities. It’s also important to make friends with other students. They can help you study, and those relationships are really huge.”

Those friendships are what Kemper will remember most fondly.

“Running into friends and colleagues every day in the law school building,” she said, recalling her favorite moments at ASU Law. “For such a large building accommodating so many students, it’s amazing that it can feel like a small community during the school week. Little moments in which I would pass by a friend in the hall and be able to stop and talk to them for five minutes about how their semester was going were such highlights in my days. I’m sure most of the people that I talked to for those few minutes didn’t think something so small would have such a great impact, but it was one of the aspects of law school that I have cherished.”

Fay loved his time in law school, and like Kemper and Gilman, it was the time he spent with friends that he cherishes most — most notably in student organizations, including the Law Society for Human Rights and the LGBT student group Outlaw.

“It was fun to take charge of a group that we, as students, got to come up with the mission and decide what we wanted to accomplish together,” he said. “We worked with each other, the faculty, local attorneys and other interesting figures. The law school gave us a platform to invite speakers, and members of the legal community here are so generous with their time, with their experience and with their knowledge. We were able to get some incredible speakers to come to the law school, and that really enriched our education.”

Kemper said she is thankful for all of the opportunities she’s been given and all of the incredible people she’s met.

“Nobody achieves anything alone,” she said. “My mentors have impacted my life more than they will probably ever know, and I hope for the next class of ASU Law students to be able to form those relationships. And I advise them to, once they are graduated and in their careers, give back and be a part of mentoring and investing in the next generation of law students or young attorneys.”

Gilman says opportunities for engagement outside of the classroom are plentiful.

“The hardest part about law school isn’t the work,” he said. “It’s figuring out what you can do to get involved outside and where you can get those practical experiences. And that’s exciting.”

And Fay points out that ASU Law and the surrounding community provide a generous and supportive network.

“My advice is to seek out mentorship, be it from other law students, from professors, local attorneys, judges — just don’t be afraid to learn from the legal community here. Because that’s how this profession works, and people in Phoenix are really generous with their time.”

Nicole Almond Anderson

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


ASU grad advocates for access and sustainability

May 7, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Noel von Mizener has always been passionate about sharing her love for education with others. ASU grad Noel von Mizener Noel von Mizener Download Full Image

Majoring in supply chain management and business law with a certificate in applied business data analytics, von Mizener kept busy during her time at Arizona State University doing what she could to help K–12 students and make a sustainable difference.

Von Mizener started working with Access ASU on its campus visits team before the start of her junior year and was drawn to the team’s commitment to preparing Arizona students for success after high school and opening up access to higher education.

“Campus visits specifically felt like the perfect team for me because it enabled me to interact with thousands of students and help support the mission of creating an environment where education is accessible for everyone regardless of your socio-economic background. Through campus visits I was able to work with and hopefully inspire Arizona K–12 students to pursue their passions, so they can make a difference too, which I know they will.”

Along with education, von Mizener was a leader in Undergraduate Student Government at ASU’s West campus and Well Devils West. She was involved with Honors Devils, Business Ambassadors, A New Leaf and the Supply Chain Management Association, and she was also very interested in sustainability.

Sustainability has always been something I have been passionate about, and ASU has enabled me to pursue this further.”

With the opportunities she found at ASU, von Mizener was able to do everything she could to try and create a more sustainable world.

“I was able to research through my Barrett thesis on sustainability in supply management,” she said. “I concluded that corporations have a responsibility to their consumers, the planet, society and the economy to pursue sustainable solutions through the use of the most powerful digital technologies.”

As she prepares to graduate, von Mizener talked with ASU Now about what she learned at ASU over the past four years, what advice she can give to those still in school and what the future holds for her.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My “aha” moment came much later in my college experience. I always knew I was meant to study business. My whole life my mom owned her own business out of our house, and watching her grow that business inspired me to want to be a powerful businesswoman like her.

Also, growing up, my dad always had the best legal mind I had ever seen. His love and passion for the subject amazed me. So I chose business law.

However, when I took my first supply chain course, I knew supply chain was what I was meant to do. Supply chain connects everything in this world: people, the planet, animals, everything. This field enables me to make a global impact while challenging myself to become the best version of myself. Supply chain has shown me how I can better serve my community and the environment more responsibly and effectively.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: Something I learned at ASU is how important it is to build a support system and a network. I came into college thinking I could do everything on my own, but I quickly realized surrounding myself with strong, like-minded people would help me in bettering myself and my community.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was born and raised here in Arizona, and I have always loved Arizona, so that was a big factor in why I chose Arizona to stay close to my family. Also, my older brother, Oliver, went to ASU for his undergrad three years before I started at ASU, and he has always been a big inspiration to me, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

When I first visited ASU, it was clear that community and diversity was central to the culture here, which I absolutely loved. Also, I was fortunate enough to receive the Obama Scholarship to attend ASU, which just amplified the feeling that coming here was meant to be.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: This is such a hard question for me to answer, as I have met so many professors at ASU who changed my life in small but significant ways, even though they probably don’t know that they did.

However, during my sophomore year, I took ACC 231 with Professor Donald Frost. I truly struggled in that class, because it was different from anything I had learned before, and it did not come naturally for me, making me question whether or not I should even be in business.

Professor Frost believed in me, encouraged me and listened to me. As I look back, I realize he taught me that listening and showing empathy is one of the greatest forms of kindness. He always pushed me to my greatest potential, and I will always be thankful for that.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My best piece of advice for students still in school comes from one of my favorite quotes: “Have courage and be kind.”

Life, school and every obstacle you encounter may be trying, but through passion and perseverance you will pull through.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus is Dean’s Patio at W. P. Carey. I have some of my favorite memories from Dean’s Patio. It has always been a great place to work, hang out with friends and be a part of the business community at ASU.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am fortunate to be able to say that I have accepted an offer with my dream company. I will be working at Deloitte, a consulting firm, as a solutions analyst in their Enterprise Operations Department in Gilbert in their brand-new U.S. Delivery Center.

I am also planning to go back to school to continue my education in supply-chain management and sustainability.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would invest it in sustainability research and development to tackle issues such as climate change and human rights around the world.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU’s beloved late albino rattlesnake Hector left a lasting impression

May 7, 2019

Sparky may be Arizona State University’s mascot, but the face that sticks in the minds of many students, both past and present, is that of an albino Western diamondback rattlesnake named Hector.

Hector was humanely euthanized this month after he stopped eating. School of Life Sciences Associate Professor Dale Denardo, attending veterinarian and director of the Animal Care and Use program, found a mass on Hector’s side. He was estimated to be 25 years old. ASU albino rattlesnake Hector Beloved ASU Western diamondback Hector died at the age of 25. Photo by Brooks Zapusek/ASU Download Full Image

His loss has prompted an outpouring of grief from former students who have been sending emails and even flowers to the animal care team.

“I’ll bump into people who haven’t been to ASU in years, and they’ll say, hey, do you still have that big albino rattlesnake? Certain things last,” Denardo said. “He was an ambassador. He represented ASU and had a positive impact, not just to students going through school, but also to people who visit the university.”

Hector was one of the first showcase snakes in the Life Sciences Building A displays 24 years ago, arriving as a subadult in 1995 before most current students were even born. Because of his size — nearly a foot longer than the largest Arizona Western diamondbacks — and his unique coloration, Hector has been a conversation piece for generations of ASU students.

“To most people, a rattlesnake is a rattlesnake. They always recognize Hector though because he’s an albino,” said Sandra Schenone, who served as Animal Care and Use supervisor for 10 years. “During Night of the Open Door, I would have people bringing their kids up to me, saying he was here when they graduated. There’s that connection too. Because he was here for so long and he was distinct, they knew that was him.”

Arrival of an ambassador

A citizen found Hector in the desert near Tonopah and brought him to ASU in 1995. Though they can be found in western Texas, Hector was the only albino Western diamondback in Arizona.

The first call Hector’s collector made was to the Phoenix Zoo. However, they didn’t believe he actually had an Arizona albino rattlesnake. ASU decided to at least take a look and immediately agreed to care for Hector.

Hector became a favorite of students because he adapted well to captivity, always calm in the cage.

“Even though he was larger and handling him was more difficult because of that, we were very lucky because he was an easy-to-work-with snake. He was calm,” said Sarah Hurd-Rindy, assistant director of vivarium personnel, who handled Hector for seven years. “Some snakes will snap and slide off. He was always calm and well-behaved, so it made him easy to work with.”

Because of his size, not all animal care staff were allowed to handle Hector. Once when Schenone was training new handlers, Hector got off the hook and crawled behind his cage lid. Everyone started to panic — except Hector. He didn’t rattle or strike and sat behind the lid, calmly waiting to be collected again.

Video compilation by Samantha Lloyd/ASU VisLab

“He was such a unique snake. He really stood out to everyone,” Hurd-Rindy said. “He had a such calm demeanor. When we train people to work with the snakes, they have to start with the smaller, easier snakes and work their way up, so it was also a professional goal to get approved to work with Hector and say ‘I handled that snake.’”

What’s in a name?

Hector was also unique in that he was given a name. At the time, he was the only snake on display to have one, and the only one to have a name displayed on his cage. No one knows the exact origin of Hector’s name since he arrived at ASU before any of the current animal care staff, but they think it came from the person who brought him in.

With his naming, a tradition was born that has carried on to his offspring.

About 10 years ago, Denardo realized the genes of the only Arizona albino Western diamondback should carry on. They bred him with a female, producing an offspring that had the typical black and brown coloration, but carried the genes for albinism. Staff named this snake Lucy after the Beatles hit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.”

When she was old enough, they bred her back with Hector, a match in which each offspring had a 50% chance of being albino. The first mating produced one offspring, an albino. An ASU naming contest was held and the winning name was Bianca, the Spanish word for white.

However, Bianca died unexpectedly when she was only two.

Another mating produced three offspring, all albino.

Denardo, who hesitates to give names to the animals, told his staff that if they named these offspring, it needed to be after the rock band the Ramones. Denardo is such a fan that he has a poster hanging in his office hallway. He meant it as a joke.

The next day, he arrived at work to find the snakes were named Joey, Johnny and Dee Dee. Johnny was donated to the Phoenix Zoo, but staff hopes that Joey will grow to a similar size as Hector and take over as the face of the Life Sciences display.

An ambassador lives on

According to Denardo, Hector’s legacy is not just that he is a memorable snake. Instead, it’s what he contributed to snake conservation.

Many people fear rattlesnakes, but being exposed to one with such a calm demeanor has changed minds.

“Many students tell me that when they first got here, they couldn’t even walk through the building. They’d have to walk outside to get from one side to the other,” Denardo said. “Now, they can walk through. They’ve gotten used to it. They haven’t fallen in love with rattlesnakes, but they’re not inherently afraid and assume danger. I truly believe that the thousands of people going there each semester, seeing those snakes, does impact them.”

Denardo recalls growing up, spending his days playing outside and gaining an appreciation for nature. Without that, he says, he may not have become a biologist.

However, technology is more readily accessible today, reducing the time many people spend outdoors. Forming a connection with a snake like Hector can really influence how people view rattlesnakes, an animal which typically causes fear from those who encounter it.

“When I tell people I’m a biologist at ASU, they bring up that display. And it’s not just from last year, it’s from a few years ago,” Denardo said. “I think it promotes a connection with nature, especially a connection with something people see no value in. Some people really get attached. So, he’s done a lot. He was an ambassador. And hopefully his son or daughter will do that.”

Melinda Weaver

Communications specialist, School of Life Sciences


Grad combined chemical engineering with Arabic studies

May 7, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

When you’re applying for a job after graduation, what sets you apart in a field of worthy contenders? Yusef Sabri leans against the brick side of a building looking at the camera. He is wearing a maroon graduation gown and cap with a gold stole. He is smiling. Chemical engineering student Yusef Sabri graduated this month with a minor and certificate in Arabic, as well. Photo courtesy of Yusef Sabri Download Full Image

For Yusef Sabri, it’s the minor and certificate in Arabic studies that he picked up while earning a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering. Sabri, who graduated this month, said his knowledge of Arabic has “opened up several doors.” He has already received multiple job offers.

The attractiveness of a job applicant with foreign language skills extends past just their knowledge of the language, Sabri said.

“You’re showing employers you’re good at whatever discipline you’re studying and that you speak another language,” Sabri said. “But you’re also showing them that you’re good at working with people of different backgrounds and different cultures, and that you’re more of a culturally and globally exposed individual.”

He credits the Fulton Schools of Engineering Career Center with helping him look for jobs, polish his resume and practice interviews. Where most students would go in for one or two mock interviews, Sabri said he completed at least a dozen.

“Most of my time that I spent at ASU, surprisingly, has been at the career center,” Sabri said. “I’ve been pretty successful at getting interviews and getting job offers because of the career center at ASU, I would say. … In the long run, I want to find a job that I can use both my engineering skills and also language skills.”

As part of his chemical engineering studies, Sabri worked on projects for NASA and the AZ Water Association. He was also involved with the American Institute of Chemical Engineers.

The culminating experience of his Arabic studies was an internship this semester — an opportunity his mentor, Souad Ali, recommended he pursue after he took several classes that she taught. Sabri chose to complete his internship with A Foreign Language Service, a Mesa-based company. He worked in their office a few hours every week doing technical tasks, but also went out on what was called “interpreting assignments.”

“Being an engineering student and also learning Arabic, I was able to use both,” Sabri said.

He interpreted for clients in medical and legal settings. Of the two, he said medical situations were less stressful “because you don’t have a judge and a jury and a whole courtroom looking at you.”

Ali, the head of Classics and Middle Eastern Studies for the School of International Letters and Cultures, said Sabri was a strong candidate for the internship whose knowledge of Arabic — and particularly his translation and interpretation skills — expanded with every class he took.

"He has done an outstanding job and we are very proud of his achievement as part of a long line of our students' and Arabic graduates' success stories through the years," Ali said.

Sabri said interpreting offers him a practical way to use the language skills he worked hard to master in his courses.

“I like that I’m actually able to apply what I learned in class and actually use it to help people that really need to understand what the other side is saying,” he said. “It makes me happy to be able to sit there and help both parties understand each other.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

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David Brooks to ASU graduates: 'Keep showing up'

May 6, 2019

New York Times op-ed columnist urges newest Sun Devil alumni to build relationships to help heal society

The Arizona State University undergraduate commencement ceremony made its triumphant return to Sun Devil Stadium on Monday evening, where political analyst and New York Times op-ed columnist David Brooks told the crowd of more than 30,000 graduates and guests that being there to deliver the commencement speech was “one of the greatest honors” of his life.

“This is a university of the people,” he said. “This is the university America needs most.”

Brooks, whom ASU President Michael Crow introduced as one of the leading public intellectuals in the U.S., was conferred with an honorary doctorate of humane letters for significant contributions to his field and society at large. His current work focuses on social fragmentation and what people can do to create a community of relationship and purpose.

He took students through what he called a journey of their future emotional life, saying that their spiritual and emotional health in the decades ahead would be directly proportional to how much love they pour into the people around them, and that the greatest gift they can give their country is emotional courage.

“I ask you, keep showing up all the way; fight hatred with vulnerability,” Brooks said. “Vulnerability is the only way we have in this country and world to build relationships, and relationships are the only way we have to experience joy — it is the only way we have to heal our broken society.”

Crow reminded the graduates and their families of the mission of ASU, to be an institution that measures itself by those it includes, rather than those it excludes.

“One of things going forward in our society is that we have to find ways to reach more people, engage more people to drive our democracy forward … to make the fruits of our democracy — the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness — available to everyone,” he said.

Photos from undergraduate commencement:

Matthew Bogue, who was receiving his bachelor’s in communication and media studies from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, said he was there Monday evening because the Starbucks College Achievement Plan allowed him to pursue his dream of a college degree when he otherwise might not have been able to.

“It takes everybody the amount of time it takes them,” Bogue said. “I turn 30 in a few months. It’s never too late.”

More: The best photos from spring 2019 convocations

Political science graduate Jennifer Dardas, 33, echoed that sentiment. A mother of three, she has already secured a job with the U.S. Department of State.

“You can do anything you set your mind to,” she said. 

Nearly 11,000 bachelor’s degrees were conferred at the ceremony, more than 500 of whom were Starbucks College Achievement Plan graduates, more than 2,000 of whom were online students and roughly 54% of whom are Arizona residents.

Earlier in the day, approximately 4,800 graduate students received their master’s degrees at a ceremony at Wells Fargo Arena.

Photos from Graduate Commencement:

Scenes from Graduate Commencement:

Video by Jordan Currier/ASU

This commencement season, ASU graduates represent scores of countries countries and all 50 states, completing degrees in more than 300 programs.

It also marks the graduation of the first cohort of Public Service Academy students. Approximately 130 students graduated from the academy, which was launched in 2015 to develop the leaders of tomorrow who are prepared to find solutions for society’s biggest challenges and create a culture of service by leveraging and combining military and civilian experiences.

ASU is the only public university in the nation with such an academy, and its mission reflects Brooks' message to students that our success in life should be measures by “the way our souls sing when we succeed at helping people in need.”

Crow implored graduates to take the theme of the evening’s ceremony to heart, and to go forth with the skills they have acquired through their education and make a difference in the world.

“Do not sit back and watch,” he said. “Do not sit back and complain. Do not whine. Take responsibility. Take action. Congratulations, graduates.”

Top photo: A graduate throws up a pitchfork as fireworks launch to celebrate the undergraduate student commencement on May 6 at Sun Devil Stadium. Photo by Nicole Neri/ASU

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU becomes academic home for graduating transfer student

Biological sciences major follows professor’s advice and enters PhD program

May 6, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

When Brianne Jones was a college junior, she was searching for a new academic home. In her first two years pursuing a college degree, she attended two other schools — a small liberal arts college in Texas and a community college in the Phoenix metro area. Brianne Jones Brianne Jones is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences (cell, genetics and developmental biology). She made ASU her home after starting her college experience at two other schools. Photo by Brianne Jones/Facebook Download Full Image

Tired of moving from school to school and losing course credits along the way because they didn’t transfer, she decided to apply to an in-state university.

She originally wanted to go to the University of Arizona to be with her best friend but had a job she didn’t want to leave and applied to Arizona State University instead.

“Personally, I think it was very difficult for me at some points to maintain the drive to continue my degree program. I feel that in undergraduate programs, STEM degrees especially, the courses can be timed pretty strictly so it can be difficult if there’s any deviation,” said Jones. “However, I am excited to announce I am still managing to graduate in four years. I am unsure how it worked out, but I am glad that I saw my interests through and stuck with it.”

Jones is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in biological sciences (cell, genetics and developmental biology).

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in your field?

Answer: I’m not sure exactly what class it was, but a few semesters ago I remember asking a professor a question about course content and receiving an unsatisfactory response — that it was still actively being researched. Before that moment, I never really thought about how much we don’t know about living organisms and the world we inhabit.

I wasn’t sure which research area I wanted to pursue, but I thought that I wanted to help leave one less question for the students after me. I don’t think that I have to make some famous discovery and I am not under the grand illusion that I can answer every question I ask, but it doesn’t hurt to try!

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I don’t think it was necessarily something I learned at ASU, but my experience at ASU definitely helped reinforce what an amazing opportunity it is that I’ve been given to be able to go to college and further my education. Not everyone has this opportunity, so I think it is important to take a second to just be grateful and make the most out of your education.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: In the fall of 2018, I took developmental biology. It was a co-taught class, and one of the professors was Dr. Jason Newbern. I remember thinking about pursuing graduate school and I scheduled office hours to go in and seek his guidance.

I only met with him once and with a class as large as BIO 351, I am unsure if he would even remember me, but he gave me some advice I have since told to others and that I tell myself frequently: When faced with two options, you should weigh them and make a choice. Your choice is made off of the information that you had at the time and you did the most with what you had. Once the choice is made, you keep propelling yourself forwards and don’t look back. The worst thing you can do is to regret something and become stuck. You have to trust that you did what you thought was the most beneficial to you at the position you were in at the time and focus on how that will affect you moving forward.

This advice was very beneficial in helping me decide my plans after graduation, applying for graduate school, and eventually choosing a graduate school after I received multiple acceptances.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: It’s OK not to know exactly what you want to do. I feel like this has recently become popular advice, but it’s 100% true. People think that everyone has their career path outlined the minute they step on campus, and that simply isn’t true for everyone. I think as long as you’re actively seeking guidance from peers, professors and advisers you are bound to come across a program or career that will spark your interest and propel you to success.

Q: What did ASU provide to you that you think you could not have found anywhere else?

A: Opportunity. I think that ASU came to me at such an odd time. As I mentioned, I am a transfer student, but I had originally planned on going to University of Arizona because my best friend was there. I ended up applying to ASU in a split decision moment because I had a job in Phoenix I did not want to leave. Looking back, I am so glad that I applied and attended ASU. I think that the mentorship I have received from faculty and administration was the push I needed to stay motivated and finish my degree program.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I really enjoy Armstrong Hall. It was a recent discovery for me, but I find that it has everything I’m looking for. There is a place for collaboration or solitude, and I don’t feel as cramped as I do at Noble or Hayden. It’s a really nice open space that doesn’t make me feel boxed in, which is really nice when trying to be productive.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have been accepted to Washington State University in the fall to pursue a doctoral degree in molecular biosciences. I realized in my junior year that my passion for learning and the life sciences has not waned, and I thought that I owed it to myself to pursue whatever trajectory that satisfied my curiosity.

Q: What’s something you are most proud of during your time at ASU?

A: I’m honestly proud that I figured out some next steps for after I receive my degree in a few weeks. I read so many articles about recent grads not having jobs or cannot figure out what they want to do after graduation, and I am extremely grateful to have found my passion and that I will actively be pursuing it in the near future.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would have to invest in wastewater remediation treatment. I am currently doing undergraduate research at the Polytechnic campus with Dr. Pete Lammers at the Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation (AzCATI), which serves as a national test bed for algae for the purpose of investigating its potential. While biofuel is a heavily researched topic with algae, wastewater remediation is also a viable option because the algae could help remove the harsh compounds in water (such as runoff from agricultural fertilizers) and release clean oxygen into the environment. While my scientific passion does not lie in sustainability, I think that everyone should care about our environment and taking actions to preserve it for our next generations.

Q: Are there any particular people who really supported you on your journey?

A: My SOLS adviser Serena Christianson is amazing. She was the first adviser I met when I transferred and has really been with me throughout my entire ASU experience. I feel that she has tried her best to assist in my success throughout my time on campus and has been there when I needed her!

Additionally, microbiology TA Julie Bethany Rakes was such a kind and supportive human being. She is a current graduate student and was great to talk to about graduate school as a whole and what her perspective was like. I really appreciated her honesty and later assistance. I think that being able to talk to someone in a position you hope to enter into holds a lot of weight, and I just want to thank her for always finding time to answer my frantic emails, even when she had her own studies taking place.

Furthermore, I would say one of the most supportive people on campus I have met is Dr. Pete Lammers, who is a research professor at the Polytechnic campus. I have been doing undergraduate research with him for the last year and a half, and I feel that he has really nurtured my love of science and passion for research that led me to consider graduate school in the first place. He has been a wonderful mentor, and I felt that he cared about my success on an academic as well as a personal level, which I think is rare in such a large university environment. I am very sad to leave after this semester, but I know that he will be a great contact to have long after I graduate.

Q: Looking back, is there anything you would go back and change?

A: Despite my transferring situation, I really think that I have had an overall positive experience throughout college. I was involved on campus, academically successful, I am graduating in an amount of time that I wanted, and I have been lucky enough to meet some great people that I will keep in touch with long after graduation. I think that the experiences we have are our own and they shape who we become in the future!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: ASU has been a one-of-a-kind experience, and I’m grateful I had it. It is bittersweet to graduate, but I am stoked for my next chapter! #forkem

Sandra Leander

Manager, Media Relations and Marketing, School of Life Sciences