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Students, families celebrate fall 2019 commencement

December 16, 2019

Thousands of students become alumni with the switch of a tassel

Just as the sun was cresting over Desert Financial Arena on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University on Monday morning, Eder Estrada stood as his mother adjusted his tie and stole. Having just earned a Bachelor of Science in construction management, Estrada wore a gold hard hat instead of a mortarboard.

“I feel excited,” he said. “Mission accomplished!”

Estrada was one of about 6,100 undergraduate students who received their degrees during fall 2019 commencement at ASU. Including graduate students, the fall cohort of students totaled more than 8,400 people.

“Who’s ready to graduate?” President Michael Crow asked the undergrads assembled. “Ninety-eight percent of our graduates are on to graduate school or immediate employment.”

Estrada falls into the latter category. He already has a job building the new Terminal 3 at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport. He’ll miss ASU, where his two years “went by quick,” he said. “It was magnificent.”

His advice to those still toiling in classroom, lab and library? “Work hard. Stay dedicated. Family is important to support you.”

Zixu Zhao stood outside with his family. They flew in from China a few days ago to celebrate Zhao’s accomplishment of earning a bachelor's degree in marketing. No one could remember which side of his mortarboard the tassel was supposed to go on. (The right side before the ceremony; the left after the degree has formally been awarded. “Left as you leave.”)

His feelings? “Just normal. My parents are excited.”

Zhao plans to go to the United Kingdom to earn his master’s degree in marketing. “I liked it,” he said of his time at ASU.

His advice to students? “Focus on study. Go to class.”

Crow iterated his faith in the latest generation of grads, citing a news clip he saw recently where a 25-year-old New Zealand lawmaker responded to an older colleague's heckling during a speech about climate change by using the phrase "OK, boomer."

“I heard that and I was unbelievably inspired,” Crow said, adding that the new generation is taking on a world much different than it was 30 years ago. “What I want to hear from all of you is a lot more ‘OK, boomer.’”

Karrin Taylor Robson, secretary of the Arizona Board of Regents, greeted the grads by recalling her own commencement from ASU 32 years ago.

“Earning a college degree is a considerable achievement,” she said. “It is a significant milestone. … We hope that you will continue to call Arizona home.”

Each dean turned to the university president and presented their candidates for bachelor’s degrees based on the recommendation of the faculty. Teachers, journalists, nurses, businesspeople, landscape architects, artists and engineers all stood.

Crow conferred degrees upon the class, instructing them to move their mortarboard tassels from right to left, a ritual signifying that their degrees were official.

And then they were alumni.

Top photo: Suzanne Collett, who earned her bachelor's degree in liberal arts studies, stands with others being recognized for working while attending courses at the fall 2019 undergraduate commencement on Monday, Dec. 16, at Desert Financial Arena. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU first-gen grad sees the impact she can make as a nurse

December 16, 2019

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

Ayanna Bernard, a first-generation college student who is graduating from ASU this December, credits ASU TRIO Programs and a semester spent researching alternative medicine with helping her gain the motivation to graduate with her nursing degree from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation ASU grad Ayanna Bernard gives the Forks Up symbol ASU grad Ayanna Bernard. Download Full Image

Growing up as a military kid, Bernard lived all over the country, but most recently she called Colorado Springs home. When it was time to make her college decision, she jumped at the chance to pursue her degree at ASU. 

Bernard was a part of the Residence Hall Association at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus during her first and second years. It provided her a chance to meet new people at ASU as an out-of-state student and made ASU feel like a second home. 

Bernard took a hiatus from the nursing program after her sophomore year to do research with one of her professors. Analyzing the effects of aromatherapy on nurses and exploring alternative medicine, the semester of research gave Bernard the chance to see which direction she really wanted to take in her career and life. 

Bernard then joined TRIO, a resource center for first-generation students, low-income students, veterans and students with disabilities. TRIO helped give Bernard all the resources she needed to be successful at school, such as textbooks, computers and even introduced her to her mentor, Rafael Guzman. Now she works at TRIO, giving back to the community that helped her so much as a student tutor for nursing subjects. 

Ayanna Bernard spoke with ASU Now before graduation to reflect on her journey to success at ASU. 

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

Answer: My mom is in the medical field. She’s actually a nurse herself. So I feel like seeing how my mom was very successful helped me. And it was great seeing my mom, who was a nurse because of her passion and she was implementing things that were helping children. It was something I was very inspired by, so inspired by that I was like, "I really want to be like my mom when I grow up," and there’s very few kids who can really say that. Just seeing how she was, and knowing that both of my parents worked, they could teach their kids to take the initiative and to always be there and to be there with passion.

As a nurse I feel like you do so much for the community and make such a positive impact; that’s something I want to be a part of, that I want to get involved in. So far I haven’t really changed my mind about being a nurse. I thought that when I got to school I would actually want to change my mind because being in college you’re exposed to different things, but being involved in all the programs that I was, I think that wanting to help people and that wanting to give back to the community always took me back to seeing it as a way I could be successful. 

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

A: The time I did my first clinical. In fall 2017, I was at the Honor Health Rehab Center. We were caring for a patient who was at the end of life. She had no family left and she just started crying in my arms. She told me how much we meant to her when her life was coming to the end and how happy she was to be surrounded by such compassionate nurses. When she had no one else, we were just there for her, supporting her, holding her hand and just listening. And she was like, “All I really wanted was to have someone’s hand to hold.” And I really just felt emotional and I was telling myself this is the kind of stuff that you’ll get to do. This is the kind of impact that you know that you have on them. Because a lot of the time, people think, “Oh, I could never do nursing. It’s so hard.” And we ask ourselves, “Why do you want to do it?” And that moment made me realize that this is why I want to go down this career path. 

So from that point on, I felt like I could really express my emotions in the clinical setting because at first I was scared. We nursing students go from nursing student to clinical to helping other nurses in the field and they might not like you. They might not think that I’m educated enough, or that I don’t have enough knowledge. And to just have someone sit there and break down crying showed me that we mean so much to her, even though she may not know us. But we just know that this is something she will remember — having compassionate nurses. It’s something you’ve gotta remember before anything else. 

I think that was really a life-changing moment for me. It showed me that it’s OK to get emotional, to cry. There are just some situations that you cannot change. You cannot change the fact that she’s at the end of life. But we’ve still given her the best care that we can. We took care of her. We provided her empathy. But at the same time we don’t want to give her false hope. So I think that that’s one of those moments I’ll always remember. It’s something that I take with me each and every day that I go to the hospital. I want the patients to know that I am there for them. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Growing up being a part of a military family it was a lot of moving, going to new places, meeting new people. After I came back from living overseas I started looking at schools and my mom was like, “Oh, well now you can stop and maybe stay in-state. So now you don’t have to move.” 

I told my mom, "I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always wanted to go to Arizona." It was one of the few places we never actually lived. My mom’s brother lives down here, but we never visited them. I just thought it was a place that I wanted to see and add to the places that I’ve been. And when I was looking up about the school and learned about the nursing program and saw how successful it was and how the graduation rate was very high and how they put such successful students out there, it just seemed like a very excellent program. And now that I am a part of the program I can say it has met my expectations. 

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

A: My human event professor Dr. Matthew Sandoval. He really taught me a lot about myself. He focused a lot on culture — the Latin American culture, the African American culture. And you don’t learn about that — even in high school. Sandoval had us read books, and I still have some of them to this day, that were not focused on slavery but on how African Americans have excelled throughout the years. 

Going into my freshman year as a downtown student, I wasn’t really surrounded by a lot of students who looked like me — African Americans. I became friends with a lot of people who were outside of my culture. But his class let me learn about my culture and that it’s OK to be the odd man out. It’s OK to be the only African American in class, because I was the only African American in class and in Barrett in general. But he let me see that we can be in Barrett and we can excel. He helped me see that. 

On the last day of class I cried. I broke down and cried in front of everyone. It’s hard when you think you’re the only person. It’s hard when everything is so different. He helped me to see that my culture makes me who I am and that I should be proud of it. He helped me to be comfortable in my own skin and that it’s OK to be different and to see that as a positive thing. You’re inspiring others. 

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

A: I didn’t really get much advice going into college because I was the first person to go to college in my family. I learned a lot of it on my own. I had to be very independent.  

So I think my advice would be to always ask for help. Always ask for help because I feel like there’s always help out there. I really didn’t ask for help my first couple of years and I think that really made me struggle during my first years in the nursing program. But once I asked for help, I felt like I was excelling and I wasn’t questioning if this is the career I wanted to go into. I felt like I was developing as a nurse and a person. So when I took that semester off and asked for advice and talked to my professors, I was able to kind of figure out who I am and have someone tell me, “You are going to be successful” and “You are a student who can succeed.” 

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

A: Where I spent a lot of time was in our little RHA office. When I was living on campus and working there for them I spent a lot of time there. It was a place where we could all gather, where we could all talk, do homework, watch movies or Netflix. Away from school, away from outside friends. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I really love it here in Arizona. I plan to stay here after graduation and start working here at one of the hospitals around the Valley. And I think that ASU has really prepared me for that. I think the clinicals were a great experience — working at different hospitals so that all the specific stuff you learned is in your back pocket. 

I think it helps you to get you in the door when you start applying for jobs and the clinicals really help prepare you for that. I know I’ll be very successful and will have no problem finding a job. I think ASU has really lived up to that standard of making sure that their students graduate and that their students succeed. I would recommend it as a school. 

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

A: I would tackle our health insurance. I think being in the nursing program has shined so much light on medical needs and the services that people still need after the hospital that their insurance doesn’t cover. I would donate my money to a fund that would give money to the people who need that extra care so they can have that quality care, because we have the responsibility to provide for them. It shouldn’t be so expensive and as far as health care goes, everything is getting expensive. And so people are getting health care that isn’t the best because they can’t afford it. And as a nurse it’s really hard to see that. It breaks my heart to see that, to see people getting denied stuff because they can’t afford it.

Written by Lindsay Lohr, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU grad dedicates herself to sexual violence prevention in Arizona

December 16, 2019

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

Mia Reza, who is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in social work in December from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, has spent her time at ASU working to improve the overall heath of her communities.  ASU grad Mia Reza ASU grad Mia Reza. Download Full Image

Reza has been involved with the Public Service Academy through the Next Generation Service Corps, where she supported individuals experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders in Maricopa County. She was also a student adviser for the Sun Devil Movement for Violence Prevention at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where she educated and trained students interested in sexual and relationship violence prevention. Reza also worked as a peer educator for the organization. She helped expand and shape the program by facilitating trainings, supporting survivors and more. 

“I do know that students who have experienced sexual or relationship violence have a more difficult time succeeding in their classes, and upon learning the rates in which sexual and relationship violence happens I decided to commit myself to helping these students succeed,” she said. 

“I wanted to ensure that students know the resources available to them, teach people about consent and what healthy relationships should look like and create the community of care that I know ASU is all about.”

In the future, Reza plans to continue working within the realm of sexual and relationship violence prevention.

Reza spoke with ASU Now about her ASU experience, what advice she’d give to those still in school and what the future looks like for her. 

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

Answer: I have had experience with the social work field my entire life. Something that my mom always emphasized to me was to be grateful for what we had, even when it seemed like what we had wasn’t very much. From a young age, I volunteered at soup kitchens and made it a point to give back to my community. I didn’t realize that this was within the realm of social work until years later. 

I originally came to ASU as a speech and hearing science major. The summer going into my second year at ASU I received an internship at a U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. There, I worked in the Education and Developmental Intervention Services program, helping children with developmental disabilities work on their language development. I really enjoyed the work there, and speech and hearing will always have a place in my heart, but when I met the social worker on our team and began to understand her role I made the connection to my previous experience and I knew that social work was where I needed to be.

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

A: I learned a lot about the importance of empathy. Empathy is something that we talk a lot about in social work classes. Within social work, in order to truly be helpful to clients, it is important to take the time to think about how people’s experiences have shaped who they are and the decisions they make. Empathy is a practice that I carry with me in my daily life. I find that it is harder to be mad or frustrated with people when I try to understand their point of view. This practice has honestly brought a lot of peace to my life.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I always wanted to attend a big university, and I initially chose to attend ASU because of the big sense of community it provides and the programs that were offered.  Even though I ended up taking a different path with the programs I chose, I have never once doubted my choice in ASU. 

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

A: During my time in the social work program at ASU I have had so many wonderful and caring professors. I can truthfully say that each one has provided me with unique insights into the field of social work. Their knowledge and expertise shaped me into the social worker I am today and has given me a vision of who I would like to be in the future. 

An example of one of these amazing teachers is Lilly Perez-Freerks. Lilly was the first Latina woman who I had as a professor and having class with her has helped me to be confident in myself and take pride in my experiences and culture.

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

A: The best piece of advice I would give to those still in school would be to really take the time to practice self-care. The college experience can be very difficult, and students can sometimes take pride in the stress they carry. 

I often hear people comparing the little amounts of sleep they get or the ways that the work/school/life balance is too much to handle. I have definitely fallen into this type of behavior before but learning how to set your own boundaries and stick to them is so incredibly important. Remembering that it’s OK to say no to going out with friends or learning to ask for help when it’s needed are great ways to keep yourself from burning out. 

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

A: My favorite spot on campus has been the student center at the post office on the Downtown Phoenix campus. There is a nice lounge area on the bottom floor with arcade games and couches. I spent a lot of time there studying and hanging out during my longer breaks on campus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduating, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in policy, administration and community practice. I will also be working with CARE 7, the city of Tempe’s crisis response team, where we respond to 911 calls in Tempe and help to support and provide resources for victims of crime and people experiencing crisis situations. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be pursuing a graduate degree and working with such an amazing organization. 

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

A: If I was given $40 million to solve one problem, I would begin to tackle the implementation of equitable education. This is a very complex issue, and addressing it would help to provide equal access to all levels of education for children in marginalized communities, including indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and children in low-income areas. 

There are many factors as to why education is inadequate in certain communities. Some of these disparities in education come from a lack of training for educators, learning materials that are not adequate, poverty among students and discrimination based on race and gender. This problem is very important to me because equitable education would provide more nurturing environments to ensure the success of students. I believe that these environments should be available to all children regardless of their background. 

Written by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


First-gen student took the path through college seriously

December 16, 2019

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

When an unexpected injury changed the course of Melinda Nicholson's career, she knew she had to dedicate herself solely to finding a new one. Melinda Nicholson Melinda Nicholson. Download Full Image

"It was just about financial survival," she said. "I've got to now rely on my brain. So I basically just immediately enrolled in community college."

Thus began her search for what was next. Since transferring to ASU, her focus has been on completing her degree and finding her career of choice. Nicholson tried several programs and disciplines before finding her niche with a Bachelor of Science in innovation in society. 

"I like solving puzzles. I just like the idea of being able to predict the future and I like finding things and putting the pieces together."

The program was the right fit, and even while working her way through school, Nicholson maintained grades to earn a summa cum laude distinction as she graduates this semester.

Nicholson is grateful for the skills and lessons she has learned — critical skills like deductive reasoning and seeking broader perspectives to not fall prey to "fake news." 

"I know where knowledge comes from, I know what science does and I just feel like I'm more anchored in reality, you know? Able to make informed decisions and (be) just an overall smarter thinker."

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

Answer: Honestly, I just really would not want anybody to quit or not to try. I get that students want to cut corners and have fun. Personally, I read every cool thing that they told me to read and I learned so much. So try not to cut corners. That would be my advice.

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

A: I was always in the tutoring center. I love the one that's in West Pavilion, the Starbucks there. I spent a lot of time there. Also, in between classes when I had to get work done, I went to the Student Services Building. It was kind of quiet. They had comfy chairs and I used to hide out there. That's another good spot.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In the innovation in society degree, I learned about data analytics and what a huge growing job field that is going to be. Then I found the applied business data analytics certificate from W. P. Carey. So I will be back and enrolled in that in the spring. 

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

A: College education for every single human being. I think it's important that everybody be knowledgeable because I think that would solve a lot of the other problems. The more you know, the more competent the workforce is, and you have better results for everything.

Senior Manager, Communications and Marketing Strategy, School for the Future of Innovation in Society


LEAP Scholar awarded School of Molecular Sciences Dean’s Medal

December 16, 2019

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

Carolyn Clark is among a distinguished group of students to receive the 2019 fall semester Dean’s Medal from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University. School of Molecular Sciences Dean's Medalist Carolyn Clark Download Full Image

On Dec. 13, 2019, the College announced the fall 2019 Dean’s Medalists. The College recognized its most outstanding students — one from each department and each school within The College. Carolyn Clark is the Dean’s Medalist recipient from the School of Molecular Sciences.

Clark is wrapping up a double major in biochemistry with a concentration in medicinal chemistry and a minor in studio art, and she feels a sense of belonging and purpose with both degrees. While her majors seem unrelated — fulfilling her love of creating art while pursuing her passion and curiosity in the STEM fields, Clark sees them as complementary outlets to be creative in different spaces. Clark likes how the STEM field is very structured, but shares it can be stressful at times, so she sees studio art as a nice outlet not related to STEM as a stress reliever that is fun while allowing her to be creative. 

“With biochemistry I like how it’s designed, because there’s a purpose for every class. Overall it’s a great department because you know everyone there,” Clark said. “In studio art, I know all the professors, and I feel like they all know me by name. It’s such a welcoming environment in both departments.”

As a transfer student, Clark shared that while coming to ASU was a big adjustment, she feels she was well prepared for the transition. Her community college experience gave her the tools to be successful. She chose ASU because it is a Research 1 school and offered many opportunities for undergraduate research.

“I transferred to ASU from Paradise Valley Community College,” she said. “And spending the first two years there it provided me with a solid foundation to continue my academics here at ASU.”

Clark is part of the LEAP scholars program (Learning about research, Engaging in research, Advising in research, and Producing research), funded by the National Science Foundation to help transfer students get involved in undergraduate research. Students receive a scholarship to participate in the program where they learn about how to maximize their research experience.

Shortly after Clark was accepted to ASU, the LEAP program helped facilitate her becoming an undergraduate researcher in Professor Giovanna Ghirlanda’s lab. Clark was attracted to working in Ghirlanda’s lab because of her background in organic chemistry and the research her lab was working on. Clark’s research project is working on synthesizing peptides and biologically active secretin agonists.

Ghirlanda, a professor of chemistry in the School of Molecular Sciences, said, “Carolyn is an exceptional student. She has spearheaded her project with drive, enthusiasm and a smile. Her project on secretin analogs identified peptides more active than the natural agent, and may result in treatment for obesity and diabetes 2. Carolyn has the lab skills and analytical thinking of a graduate student, plus empathy and warmth. She will be an excellent doctor!”

Last spring at the School of Molecular Sciences annual Spring Awards Luncheon, Ghirlanda presented Clark with the Edward Skibo Scholarship. The scholarship is awarded annually to an outstanding undergraduate student with an interest in a career in organic or medicinal chemistry.

In September 2019 Clark was invited to attend the S-STEM Symposia for the Advancement of Science symposium co-hosted by the National Science Foundation and the American Association for the Advancement of Science in Washington, D.C. While there she participated in a poster session where she presented research she did with her LEAP cohort and the Biology Education Research Lab.

That study published in PLOS ONE focused on figuring out reasons why undergraduate students choose to leave research before graduating. They surveyed over 700 undergrads from institutions around the U.S. and found that of those 700+, half of them had considered leaving undergrad research and of that half, 50% had actually left research.

“We identified ‘negative lab environment’ to be the No. 1 factor that students cited for leaving their undergraduate research experiences,” said Clark. “The goal of our work was to improve the experience of undergraduates in research by identifying where we need to improve their experiences.”

Despite her heavy academic workload, Clark has also been involved in multiple other areas of ASU life. She is president of the ASU chapter of Student Affiliates of the American Chemical Society (SAACS), in which students participate in a wide range of programs and activities doing science and chemistry outreach like Open Door and Homecoming, to get students of all ages interested in STEM, especially chemistry. Clark also is a chemistry tutor in the SMS Learning Resource Center.

After graduation, Clark will be applying to medical school in the 2020 cycle and in May she will be traveling to Honduras to volunteer with Global Brigades. She joined Global Medical Brigades because of her desire to make an impact on the lives of people living in Honduras who have limited access to health care, water and facilities. While Clark is in Honduras she will have the opportunity to take vitals and patient history in triage, shadow licensed doctors in medical consultations, and assist in a pharmacy under the direction of licensed pharmacists.

“I am motivated by my female mentors and peers whose intelligence and passion for science inspire me every day,” said Clark who will earn her bachelor’s degrees in December 2019.

Communication specialist, School of Molecular Sciences

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The College honors outstanding academic achievement with 2019 Dean’s Medals

December 13, 2019

On Dec. 17, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will celebrate academic excellence in the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities during its fall 2019 convocation ceremony.

Departments and schools from around The College select a graduating student who has exhibited consistent dedication to academic excellence throughout their time at ASU to receive the prestigious Dean’s Medal in honor of their achievements. Medals are worn with their graduation regalia as they lead their fellow graduates during the processional.

Meet the outstanding fall 2019 Dean’s Medalist awardees from around The College. 

Kiersten Begay 

Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies

Majors: American Indian studies, business law

Begay is described as a high achiever eager to take on ambitious projects and make an impact outside the classroom.

“Ms. Begay participated in the town of Gilbert’s Native American Management Internship program … with the expressed intent of serving as a leader and changemaker in her own community,” said Michelle Hale, an assistant professor in the American Indian Studies program. “In that role, Kiersten educated others about indigenous history, rights, sovereignty and contemporary issues and, along with her fellow interns, was inspired to start a nonprofit that advances the leadership opportunities for Native women.”

In addition to her internship with the town of Gilbert, Begay interned with the Arizona Department of Gaming, where she tracked and examined bills related to tribal gaming and confronted problem gaming through a series of public service announcements with partnering advertising agencies. 

Hale said Begay hoped to apply what she’d learned working directly with elected officials to one day serve the Navajo Nation. 

“I knew Kiersten to be eager to learn new things, take on new challenges and amass the building blocks she needs to reach her personal and professional goals,” Hale said. “She serves as an example of the caliber of American Indian leaders who emerge from ASU.”

 Emily (Yuhong) Su 

Emily Yuhong Su

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics

Majors: Economics, justice studies

Minor: Business

Certificates: Socio-legal studies, economic justice

Su is a New American University Scholar and student at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU who instructors say is distinguished by her ability to give back to the community despite juggling a busy schedule of two majors, two certificates and a minor. 

During her time at ASU, Su has worked as a victims services intern with the office of the Arizona attorney general, a policy intern for the office of the Tempe mayor and a mentor to high school debate teams in the Chandler Unified School District.

“When you get to know Emily, you will understand why she makes the effort to devote time to these extra activities,” said Jose Mendez, chair of the awards committee for the Department of Economics. “She cares deeply about improving the lives of others.”

In addition to her work with communities, Su has been a corporate intern for JP Morgan Chase & Co. She has also given back to fellow students at ASU, serving as a teaching assistant at Barrett, as a first-year success coach and as a reading and writing tutor. 

Carly Verbeke 

Carly Verbeke.

Dean’s Medal: Department of English

Majors: English literature, political science

Certificate: Creative writing 

Verbeke began considering the link between accessibility and everyday life early on. Transferring to ASU in the fall of 2017 was a chance to become a voice for other people with disabilities and help advocate for change.

“Having grown up as a wheelchair user, (Verbeke) is committed to advocating for the rights of people with disabilities through law, awareness and public policy — a practice she has cultivated during her time at ASU,” the Department of English’s selection committee wrote.

Verbeke has seized opportunities to make an impact both on and off campus. She participated in several accessibility-focused university service days and programs, including the Devil’s Adapt personal training program and a mentorship for youth interested in adaptive sports. 

She expanded her impact by studying abroad in Seville, Spain, and Munich, Germany, where she conducted independent studies regarding how advocacy and accessibility issues figured into German and Spanish case law. 

Back in Arizona, she completed an independent study at ASU examining how people with disabilities are portrayed in children’s literature and interned at the Arizona House of Representatives before moving to Washington, D.C., to work as an intern for the Spinal Cord Injury Law Firm.

 Mari Wuollet 

Mari Wuollet.

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration

Major: Geological sciences

Wuollet came to The College as a transfer student in 2016. She is described as a student whose passion for exploration and discovery was matched by an ability to produce exemplary work in the classroom and in the field.

During her time at ASU, Wuollet took part in a three-week field course led by School of Earth and Space Exploration professors Arjun Heimsath and Thomas Sharp mapping geological features near Durango, Colorado. Heimsath said the trip showcased Wuollet’s talent and dedication for the study.

“Mari exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit that we are proud of at the School of Earth and Space Exploration,” he said. “Her writing was as good as her field work, and Tom and I would use her reports as the templates for what we considered to be excellent work.”

Heimsath said Wuollet was a quick learner who also stood out for her willingness to help fellow students through complex geological problems in the field. 

“In addition to picking up the course material rapidly and doing truly excellent mapping, she helped immensely in the camp and was always attentive to her peers' needs as well,” he said. “Her ‘can do’ attitude is well known by all who have taught her and is a delightful testament to how well life experience can serve our students.”

Emily Dereszkiewicz

Emily Dereszkiewicz

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences

Major: Biological sciences 

Dereszkiewicz has spent her time at ASU juggling full-time work as a nurse’s assistant, building her experience in the lab and serving as a leader to other female researchers.  

She worked on several large bee research projects at the School of Life Sciences and collaborated with fellow researchers to present the findings to other students. 

In a nomination letter, Brian Smith, a Trustees of ASU Professor in the School of Life Sciences; research associate professor Hong Lei; and postdoctoral research associate Chelsea Cook commended Dereszkiewicz’s dedication to mastering difficult lab techniques, advancing research and helping high school students understand lab protocols. 

“Emily has taken steps to inspire young students from local high schools to engage science education and critical thinking,” they wrote. “She has taken a leadership role in the lab while working full time and excelling in her classes.”

After studying the honey bee brain, Dereszkiewicz moved toward further studies on the insect’s behavior, working with Cook as one of two undergraduate researchers investigating how certain bees process information. 

“Overall, Emily has contributed a new research technique that future researchers will continue to use and has inspired young female scientists to pursue research,” the letter continued. “The Smith Lab is better because Emily has been a part of it.”

Katarina Martinez 

 Katarina Martinez

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation

Major: Justice studies

Martinez came to ASU after spending a year teaching English in Tonglu County, China, and earning an associate degree in applied science from Phoenix College. A drive to identify problems facing society and help spur change led her to a justice studies major.

In addition to excelling in her coursework, Martinez has worked as the School of Social Transformation’s front desk coordinator and office specialist. The school’s director, Pardis Mahdavi, said Martinez brings an important presence to the school and is always ready to help.

“In this role, Kat is often the first person students meet when arriving at Wilson Hall for advising appointments. Not only has Kat provided much needed stability and a calm, unflappable presence … she has always been eager to step up when needed,” Mahdavi said. “Kat has demonstrated excellence in the classroom while serving as an invaluable member of the School of Social Transformation’s community.” 

Martinez is also actively involved in the Chicano/Latino Faculty and Staff Association and University Career Women. Upon graduation, she plans to work toward a master’s degree and finding new ways to impact change in the world at large.  

Vanessa Lara 

Vanessa Lara

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics 

Major: Sociology

Minor: Communication

Lara is a transfer student from Mesa Community College whose interest in sociology transformed into a passion for social research at ASU.

“While at the Sanford School, (Lara) became involved in several experiences and opportunities that have cultivated her interests in research,” said Stacie Foster, director of undergraduate programs at the school. 

Lara’s research centered on examining how intersectionality relates to undocumented immigrant communities. During her time on campus, she analyzed local social media content as a research assistant for an ASU project and completed a summer research program focused on immigrant families and academic outcomes as a fellow with ASU’s Summer Undergraduate Program for Engaging with Research. 

Foster said Lara intends to use her research about undocumented communities to one day help spur change. 

“(Lara) is passionate about this line of research and the people for whom her future work may offer a voice,” said Foster. “We are so incredibly proud of Vanessa’s accomplishments and excited for her future.”

Gillian Bryant

Gillian Bryant

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology 

Major: Psychology

Bryant is a student at Barrett, The Honors College whose dedication to helping people shaped an interest in using research to better understand how to help children and families.

In a nomination letter from the Department of Psychology's awards selection committee, faculty members familiar with Bryant’s research on therapy dogs and child development say she excelled in both roles.

“Those two areas of research built upon her experience as a year-round camp counselor at the Phoenix Zoo, where her favorite part of the job was reaching out to children with coping skills who presented a challenge to other counselors,” the letter read. 

Bryant delved deeper into the study for her honors thesis, working with student service agencies on campus to collect data on how the use of therapy dogs compared with that of massages in short-term stress relief. 

“Gillian went above and beyond what is typically expected of honors students,” the letter continued. “She obtained the approval of ASU’s Institutional Review Board, negotiating access to therapy dogs and masseurs, recruiting her own participants and conducting her own data analysis on behavioral and physiological measures.”

Bryant will present a portion of her work on child development at the Cognitive Development Society’s annual conference next year. 

Dakota King

Dakota King

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics  

Major: Physics

King is known for his ability not only to grasp difficult scientific material, but to help fellow students understand it as well.

“Dakota is one of the best learning assistants I have ever worked with,” said Cynthia Keeler, an assistant professor in the Department of Physics who hired King to help new students through complex coursework he’d already completed. “He understands the material deeply and — perhaps more importantly — understands how to answer student questions by leading them in the right direction rather than simply giving the answer.”

Keeler said King was especially distinguished by his understanding of how people learn. 

“Dakota was recommended to me as a successful student who also had the engaging personality required for this style of work,” she said. “When a student asks a question, he understands why they are asking — I’ve met many graduate students who find it difficult to understand others’ questions, so it is impressive to see that skill in an undergraduate.”

King also conducted undergraduate research of his own, completing a research and engineering internship with the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery’s Beus CXFEL Lab and a physical education research assistantship at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. 

Carolyn Clark

Carolyn Clark

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences

Major: Biochemistry 

Minor: Studio art

A recipient of the research-focused LEAP Scholarship for transfer students, Clark came to ASU from Paradise Valley Community College in the fall of 2017 and delved into research right away. 

In the lab of School of Molecular Sciences Professor Giovanna Ghirlanda, Clark worked on a Mayo Clinic-funded project involving the synthesis of peptides and another project that aimed to develop artificial amino acids. 

Ghirlanda said Clark was apt at troubleshooting project roadblocks and worked alongside a graduate researcher with ease. Then by her final semester, Clark was working entirely independently in the lab.

“I consider (Clark) at the same level of lab skills and analytical thinking as a second-year graduate student,” Ghirlanda said. “She learns very quickly, is curious about the system and thus seeks out academic papers and conversations with experts in order to understand her project.”

Ghirlanda said Clark helped design and analyze a series of peptides that mimicked secretin, a naturally occurring hormone appearing in the upper intestine. The findings will form the basis of a forthcoming publication that Clark will co-author. 

“Carolyn is an exceptional student,” Ghirlanda said. “She has the academic knowledge and the research experience to excel.”  

Briana Kumorek 

Briana Kumorek

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures

Major: German 

For Kumorek, language is a tool to better understand the world and the people within it. 

“Ms. Kumorek’s motivation stemmed from a true desire to use languages to better understand communication, literally, but especially also to encourage an understanding between cultures,” said Sara Lee, a German lecturer in the School of International Letters and Cultures.

Lee said Kumorek, who is also proficient in American Sign Language, combined her knowledge of both languages as a vehicle to make connections between distant worlds.

“Ms. Kumorek’s contributions in the language and disability class were exceptional,” Lee said. “With her combined knowledge of sign language and deaf culture, and the German language and culture, she was able to draw connections and analyses that moved the class to a different level.” 

Lee said Kumorek is apt at challenging other language students to consider linguistic connections and cultural inclusivity more deeply. Outside the classroom, she was an active participant in the school’s language exchange hub SILC Café and German Club.

“Ms. Kumorek is the ideal representative of a language major,” Lee said. “She has very high academic achievements, an understanding of interdisciplinary and global languages and cultures, and her enthusiasm for learning and engagement inside and outside the classroom.”

Rebecca Ericson 

Rebecca Ericson

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Majors: History, English linguistics

Ericson is described as a dedicated student whose passion for global connection and culture sharing extends across campus and beyond.

“A stellar student, Rebecca is also a generous citizen of the world, a young woman who has proved equally eager to support to students uncertain in their first year,” said Catherine O’Donnell, an associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. “She exemplifies the humanities’ ability to inspire critical reflection on society and to nurture compassionate connection.” 

Ericson is a co-founder of Asian American student group Epic Movement and a member of ASU international club Bridges. She conducted research for the Center for Asian Research and the Political History and Leadership program, and also explores issues of culture and society through street photography and personal writing.

During her time at ASU, she studied abroad in Singapore and spent this summer teaching English in Hong Kong during city-wide protests.

“The protests gave unexpected richness and risk to her work,” said O’Donnell. “Rebecca’s concerns were always for her students, and she at times reshaped lessons so that the young people in her care could openly discuss their concern.” 

Eyeing more opportunities abroad after graduation, Ericson applied for a Fulbright scholarship to return to Hong Kong. 

Jennifer Blech

 Jennifer Blech

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Major: Anthropology

Minor: Global studies

After losing her hearing 10 years ago, Blech remembers facing a choice.

“I realized early on that I had two options,” she wrote in a letter regarding her award nomination. “I could isolate myself and fall through the cracks of isolation and disability, or I could stand against the challenge, adapt, and seek opportunity in the midst of this new world without sound.”

Blech chose the latter, returning to school, learning sign language and immersing herself in a community of people facing similar challenges. 

“This was a pivotal moment for me as I realized that the deaf culture was not merely a group of people with shared attributes of deafness, but a rich and beautiful, yet largely unknown, culture amidst the rest of the world,” she said. 

That interest expanded to an exploration into the intersection of culture and community at large, on campus and abroad. She undertook development and public health programs in Indonesia and The Gambia, and undergraduate research projects exploring health and academic outcomes of deaf communities. As a student at Barrett, The Honors College, her thesis focused on how indigenous societies in Mexico and the American Southwest interacted before colonization. 

Upon graduation, Blech plans to pursue a master’s degree in global health.

Lindsay Lohr

Lindsay Lohr

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Major: Communication

As a student writer and musician, Lohr is described as a dedicated student who employs multiple creative avenues to tell multifaceted stories and communicate with the world. 

She is a New American Scholar and the recipient of the William and Teeny Drakos Endowed Scholarship, the House of Broadcasting Inc. Endowed Scholarship and the ASU Sun Angel Funk Fine Arts Scholarship. She also completed an International Business Certificate in Barcelona, Spain, through an Alumni Study Abroad Scholarship from The College.

She engaged with peers on campus as a founding member of the ASU Jazz Acapella group and an early architect of ASU’s first sexual violence prevention theater initiative, CounterACT.

Outside ASU, she aided environmental, social and animal welfare initiatives as a volunteer with the Sierra Club, the Arizona Trail Association, Feed My Starving Children and a sea turtle conservation initiative in Costa Rica. 

“Lindsay is an exceptional student academically, professionally and personally,” said Barbara DeDecker, an academic success coordinator at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. “We are happy to announce her as our fall 2019 Dean’s Medalist.” 

Ryan Tenty

Ryan Tenty

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies

Major: Political science

Minor: Chinese 

Certificate: International studies

When most college students at ASU were concerned with fitting in, Tenty, a student at Barrett, The Honors College, was set on standing out.

His interest in learning Chinese led him to be a virtual intern in the U.S. Department of State, and he was also nominated to be a junior fellow in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“Ryan was identified by Professor Gina Woodall for this special program, and worked with her on coding and data analysis on a project examining the use of Twitter in the classroom, which she has co-authored with Professor Tara Lennon,” said Magda Hinojosa, an associate director of undergraduate studies and associate professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Hinojosa said Tenty’s data analysis was both “meticulous” and “detail-oriented” and that he helped train other undergraduate students to conduct data entry and coding work. 

Tenty plans to pursue a master’s degree in political science and international studies, while also continuing his study of Chinese.  

Adrienne Gosnell

Adrienne Gosnell

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Major: Geography

After initially earning her associate of science degree in chemistry from Northern Virginia Community College, Gosnell decided she wanted to take her career in a different direction than the medical track she’d originally envisioned. 

Described by faculty as a big-picture thinker with diverse academic interests and a passion for learning, Gosnell was attracted to geography because of its numerous intersectionalities with other disciplines.

“She selected ASU to complete her undergraduate degree because of its geographic complexity,” said Ronald Dorn, the associate director for undergraduate programs at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Geography was her choice, after she came to an understanding of its blending of technical and social science dimensions.”

Gosnell’s passion for the field led her to become both a mapping intern for USAID, where she helped disaster zones with planning and recovery, analyzed improper land use and abuse of nature reserves and tracked the relationship between farming practices and food security in rural areas.

Now a member of the American Association of Geographers, her current research interests include agroecology and aquaculture and the future of food security, biodiversity, natural resource management and resilience. 

“She has a great passion for learning,” Dorn said, “and that is reflected in her diverse interests.” 

Emma Terry 

Emma Terry

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Major: Actuarial science

In addition to her outstanding academic record, Terry is described as being passionate about extracurriculars. 

“Emma has been actively involved in the professional society Gamma Iota Sigma (GIS) for actuarial students, and last year served as the treasurer of the ASU chapter of GIS,” said Matthias Kawski, a President’s Professor and chair of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences awards committee.

Terry is a New American University Scholar and the recipient of the Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona Actuarial Sciences Scholarship, among others. 

She worked to develop her professional opportunities while still in school, passing two actuarial exams so far and gaining experience as an actuarial intern for companies including Blue Cross Blue Shield of Arizona, Nationwide E&S/Specialty Insurance and Allstate. 

Upon graduation, Kawski said Terry has accepted a full-time position at Allstate and will continue pursuing further certifications in the field. 

Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU graduating senior wins $10K on esports reality show

December 13, 2019

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

Tasha Romero just became a legend in the world of esportsCompetitive video gaming. — or at least a winning reality show competitor with a prize that includes $10,000 and a dream job opportunity.

Photo of Tasha Romero at the Berlin Wall Tasha Romero at the Berlin Wall. Download Full Image

Romero, who is graduating this December with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture, spent one of the last weeks of her final semester at Arizona State University in Berlin, Germany, as one of seven contestants selected for the second season of “Making the Squad,” an esports reality show competition that brings together some of the best competitive players in the world and biggest personalities in gaming.

Romero has been playing video games since she was 3 years old.

“The reason why video games have always been special to me is because this is the one way I found to connect with other people easily,” she said. “I have four older brothers, and I used to have so many issues with one of my brothers that the only way we could really connect is by playing video games together. Since all of us live very far apart now, we use games to stay connected and close.”

The world of esports continues to grow across the globe. Revenues exceed $1 billion and audiences are predicted to reach 645 million by 2020, according to a recent article in Forbes.

As a contestant on the show, Romero got to meet the CEO and other employees of G2 Esports, one of the leading entertainment organizations in esports and the producer of the show. G2 selected contestants from an application process, and said it was “searching for stars with iron determination, a heart of gold, and a diamond personality.”

“I found out about the competition on Twitter,” Romero said. “I applied thinking, ‘Why not?’ and next thing I knew I was accepted.”

Romero also applied to ASU on a whim — another decision that paid off for her. She had recently moved to Arizona from Utah and wasn’t sure where to go to college.

"I remember someone telling me ASU had a good arts program, so I just applied without giving it a second thought,” said Romero, who is graduating from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering.

“When I first applied for (the) digital culture (degree program), it was based on a gut instinct,” Romero said. “The moment I felt 100% that this was a fit was when I went to the Digital Culture Showcase. Staring at all the projects and realizing there is an unlimited possibility of who or what I can be, I knew that this was the degree for me.”

She said what she learned as a digital culture student helped her in the competition.

“The biggest thing that digital culture has helped me with during the whole show was problem solving, creativity and time crunches,” she said. “We never knew what challenges they would throw at us and had to constantly be ready for the possibility of anything.”

This season featured gamers and creators who have an interest in playing the newest League of Legends “autochess” game, Teamfight Tactics. The competition included playing the game as well as other challenges, including curling, baking Teamfight Tactics-themed cakes and more.

“I found myself being able to throw the craziest things together under short amounts of time as well as adapting and solving different situations through creativity,” Romero said. “I think that is very much how digital culture works as well. We have to find ways to address different problems through artistic solutions and be ready to adapt to whatever technology throws at us.”

Following graduation, Romero hopes to launch a career in content creation in esports, and she is well on her way. One of the winning prizes includes a chance to sign as one of G2 Esports’ official content creators.

“I aspire to continue streaming games, creating videos, making costumes and somehow find a way to bring more meaning to the world of video games,” she said. “Video games for me have built communities, they have helped me with mental health issues, and they have allowed me to explore infinite possibilities.

"For me, winning just goes to show anyone who is dedicated and passionate and authentic can be in this position. … I barely started streaming at the beginning of this semester. This whole thing has happened so fast it’s still hard to believe it actually happened. At the end of the day it just shows that it could be anyone. I’m thankful for the opportunity and the family I made along the way. I’m grateful that it was me."

Watch Romero in the full season of "G2 Making the Squad 2" on YouTube.

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

Answer: I feel like I learned so many valuable things from all the professors that it is hard to pick just one. I think one that really stuck with me was during my capstone. Professor Kim Swisher and Professor Grisha Coleman implanted in my head the questions “Why?” and “What for?” A lot of projects we made were made because we could make it. In capstone we were forced out of this comfort thinking and were asked to really question why we made the things we made. This curiosity has found its way into other parts of my life, and I always find myself questioning things.

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

A: I think the biggest thing I learned at ASU was how to be completely comfortable with who I am as a person. There are so many different people that attend ASU with so many different cultures it was refreshing to come to a place with diverse ideas that ended up helping to solidify my own.

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

Keep breathing. When it gets tough and everything comes piling down on you just remember to take a second to breathe, find your grounding and get back out there. Remember that everything is going to be OK and if it isn't — well, maybe it just wasn't meant to be. As long as you do the best that you can do and don't have any regrets.

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

Stauffer B. I spent my entire time in the building whether it was for working, studying, doing projects. I made so many friends in that building.

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

A: Inflation and housing affordability. As minimum wage increases we start to see the cost of housing and living increase as well. This counteracts the purpose of minimum wage increase, making it harder to find housing that is affordable. I think this is especially difficult for younger adults who are trying to go to school and don't have the luxury to live with family or parents. This issue is important to me because as a young adult I had to work two jobs and go to school full time just to afford rent. Eighty percent of my paychecks went towards housing. This didn't account for other living expenses such as food and transportation fees.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


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ASU's year in review 2019

December 12, 2019

New degrees, groundbreaking research, expanded partnerships and continued top rankings characterized 2019 for Sun Devils

Arizona State University took great strides forward in 2019, cementing partnerships to further student access and success, facilitating groundbreaking scientific research and earning prestigious awards and grant funding. The university also earned its fifth-straight "No. 1 in Innovation" title.

And above all, Sun Devil students, faculty and staff remained committed to serving their community. Here's a look back at the top stories of 2019.


ASU scientists were hard at work this year, looking for solutions to issues such as autism treatment, cancer vaccines and cellular longevity.

Arizona Impact

Amid updates on the progress of Mirabella, the Novus Innovation Corridor and a new facility in downtown Mesa, ASU Now also shared rattlesnake safety tips and stories celebrating the Grand Canyon.

ASU News

A new name for an arena, a generous gift to promote scholarship on dementia and caregiving and a fifth consecutive No.1 in innovation title were among the year's top headlines.

Sun Devil Life 

Goodbye CLAS; hello, The College. Nice to meet you, Echo from the Buttes. And welcome, welcome to the largest and most diverse first-year student class in history.


This year in problem-solving, a first-of-its-kind laser lab gets off to a great start, mechanical trees head to market and a new tool aims to show the true cost of our food.

Global Engagement

From Fulbright scholars and online learning for refugees to new Thunderbird degrees, ASU remained committed to a global worldview in 2019.


The Roden Crater partnership made a splash early in the year, and Sun Devils continued to flex their creativity in a multitude of ways all year long.


Multiple generations of Sun Devils make their family business a success, hundreds of entrepreneurs pitch their solutions to earn funding and students dive into the business of beer: The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well at ASU. 

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New support group aims to prevent postpartum depression and stress

December 12, 2019

ASU Clinical Psychology Center to offer support group for expectant mothers

Becoming a new mother can be exciting, but it is also one of the most stressful and vulnerable times in the lives of many women. It is estimated that as many as 85% of new moms experience some form of postpartum depressive symptoms, and a large number go on to experience clinical levels of depressive symptoms.

Starting February 21, 2020, the Clinical Psychology Center in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology will launch a new support group for expectant mothers. This group will be open to members of the community, and ASU staff, students and alumni.

The goal of the support group is to prevent postpartum depression and stress following birth.

Postpartum depression is often confused with “baby blues,” which are normal mood swings that happen during the week or two after the baby is born. Baby blues can include anxiety, irritability or trouble sleeping, but postpartum depression is more severe and can last up to a year after the birth and include symptoms like withdrawing from family, excessive crying or feelings of worthlessness or shame.

“The arrival of a new baby is filled with a lot of new stressors. Even though it is an exciting time, there are a lot of changes that come with pregnancy. There are body changes, emotional changes and life transitions,” said Sarah Curci, a clinical psychology graduate student who will run the group.

The support group will provide a way for expectant mothers to think about the transitions that accompany a new baby and to learn coping strategies. The ASU Clinical Psychology Center has three goals for the group: teach better stress-management tools, increase attachment with the expected baby and leverage existing support networks in the participants’ lives. This program has been demonstrated to reduce depressive symptoms, prevent new cases of major depression and improve mood management.

“This group is designed to provide moms a space to talk about things that can be stigmatized or are otherwise not socially acknowledged, despite being quite common,” said Austin Blake, a clinical psychology graduate student who will work with Curci to run the group.

The new group will allow pregnant women to have a space where they can feel validated in their own experiences and learn from other women who are going through similar things.

“It is a really normal experience to feel stressed during this time, and another goal we have is to help participants realize that it is normal to feel unprepared or like that they aren’t doing a good job,” Blake said.

Group details

The program meets two hours a week for six weeks, and each session is $15. The groups will be led by ASU clinical psychology doctoral students and will be supervised by a licensed clinical psychologist at the Clinical Psychology Center, 1100 E. University Drive in Tempe. For more information, please call the ASU Clinical Psychology Center at 480-965-7296. 

Top photo: Camylla Battani, Unsplash.com

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager , Department of Psychology


ASU at Lake Havasu kinesiology graduate is accepted to top doctoral program

December 11, 2019

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

Jonathan O’Neill will graduate this December with a degree in kinesiology. The ASU at Lake Havasu grad and veteran is the first graduate to be accepted to a top choice Doctor of Physical Therapy program.  Jonathan O'Neill and his mentor, Rebecca Lidstrom, a lead kinesiology lecturer at ASU at Lake Havasu. Download Full Image

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

Answer: I entered college with the intention of becoming a physical therapist. Coming from an athletic background, kinesiology or the study of human movement was a very intriguing major to me and also one of the prerequisite bachelor’s degrees for physical therapy schools. I knew I was in the right major when I arrived at ASU and had the freedom to study topics I was truly interested and passionate in.

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

A: I learned a lot about myself. I figured out early on that I could be as successful as I wanted — as long as I was willing to put myself out there or put in the hours of work required to achieve my goals. This of course would not be possible without the amazing support system here at ASU Havasu. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU Havasu specifically because of its size.  When I saw the small campus size with the large professor-to-student ratio, I knew it was an optimal place for personal and academic growth. This location provides a student with an unmatched sense of accountability; you get to know your professors very well, making disappearing into the crowd impossible. There’s no auditorium seating here, you’re front and center, and your professors are putting all their efforts into your success, since you not only represent them, but the school as well. 

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

A: Through various conversations, Dr. Rebecca Lidstrom taught me a lot about mindset, study habits and academic professionalism during my time at ASU. Dr. Lidstrom sets a great example for her students and expects a lot in return. If you meet her challenges head on, she simply demands more and more from you.  This may not sound appealing to many students, but it is exactly what I needed. I can graduate feeling truly proud of the work I’ve put in to achieve this degree in high standings, and I will carry these lessons to my future endeavors.

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

A: For younger students, especially those wanting to go on to graduate programs, remember that your professional reputation begins now. Set yourself up for success in the future. This means maintaining a good GPA, staying organized, deciding when you’re going to study and for how long, sacrificing now to reap the benefits later.

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

A: The student center and the LRC were both places I frequented for studying or hanging out. I definitely took advantage of the LRC whiteboards to prepare myself and my peers for upcoming exams. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plan is to attend and graduate from physical therapy school.

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

A: I don’t believe any one problem on our planet could be solved by throwing money at it, but I would probably fund research in newer and promising avenues of the health sciences. 

Community Outreach Specialist, Lake Havasu City Programs