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ASU students gather — socially distanced — on campus to discuss the election

November 6, 2020

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership holds its first in-person event of semester to give students a space to talk

Students from Arizona State University's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership donned their masks and gathered physically distanced on Thursday outside Coor Hall on ASU’s Tempe campus for a discussion about the historic 2020 presidential election.

Led by school Director Paul Carrese and faculty members Adam Seagrave, Aaron Kushner, Luke Perez and Carol McNamara, students raised questions and searched for insight on the uncertainties of the election. 

“Elections are a great democratic, republican, constitutional event — we should talk about them,” Carrese said. 

Students raised a broad range of topics, including the nature of the narrow race between candidates, the future of voting and confidence in polling.

“I was interested in the idea of party identity and the ramifications of this election and how much faith people have in the candidates,” student Ian McCutcheon said.

“Our idea was that a particularly contentious election needs an opportunity, a space for students to talk,” Carrese said. 

Students communicated the uneasiness that they felt surrounding the election as they anticipated results two days after polling stations closed.

“I just turned 18, this is my first election to be a part of, and because I don’t know any other way an election runs, it has been very interesting and a lot of fun being a part of something like this, but it’s also stressful and nerve-wracking to be on day three with no sign of who is going to win,” student Flannery Sloan said.

Students asked questions that demonstrated the underlying anxiety many Americans are feeling about this contentious election, Carrese said. Despite the general unrest, students conveyed a sense of optimism about the future of the nation. 

“I think it’s an important election for Americans to see just how polarized we are and maybe wake up and see this is not the way we should live; it’s not healthy for anyone. It’s time we start looking at resolutions,” Sloan said.

“It has been really discouraging to see everything this polarized, but I think the one encouraging sign has been high voter turnout. I hope that’s something that we see going forward,” student Jacob Salas said.

Video by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Together again

This was the first in-person event the school held for the fall 2020 semester, and it garnered an overall positive response from the students.

“It’s a lot more natural (to have the event in-person). You could see the four professors were a lot more natural in how they could interchange in the conversation and add something versus online,” student Stephen Matter said.

The staff at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership followed careful guidelines to ensure physical distancing procedures were followed and students were kept as safe as possible, such as carefully distancing chairs and sanitizing them before use, mandating face coverings for all panelists and attendees, and required attendees to register and check in to the event in order to monitor the number of people present. 

“It was the first in-person event since March,” Carrese said. “I’m glad we did it, and we will try to do some more. We have to do it within the health and safety guidelines, and I think we’ll keep trying to figure out how to do that. I hope the students will continue to respond to those invitations.”

This article was written by Alyssa Marksz.

Top photo: Students from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership gathered to discuss the election Nov. 5 at ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Future Sun Devil Family Day goes virtual

November 6, 2020

Every year, Arizona State University invites families of K–12 students from schools all over the state to participate in Future Sun Devil Family Day. These events provide workshops and informational sessions for families to help get their students college ready, no matter where they are in the journey. 

Parent feedback from these events is effusive: “Thank you for all the valuable information” writes Raquel Munoz, a parent from Tolleson High School.  “Awesome information!” writes counselor Brenda Smith from Yuma High School. “I feel more confident” writes Mafalix Esquivel Roman, a parent from ASU Prep. Screenshot of the virtual presentation of Future Sun Devil Family Day Alicia Vozza gives a presentation about the engineering school. Download Full Image

The normally in-person events have pivoted online this fall, and this semester, future Sun Devils and their families have the opportunity to experience and learn more flexibly than ever before thanks to the new virtual format. The new approach has allowed for Future Sun Devil Family Day events to be held safely and with more flexibility to give families additional opportunities to access resources such as Q&As with current students, financial aid advice and ideas for how to pick a major. 

On Sept. 19, a virtual event was hosted by Access ASU and the American Dream Academy; it gave families a taste of what to expect from the Future Sun Devil Family Week being held Nov. 16–20. The event lasted two hours and was livestreamed on Facebook in English and Spanish. Participating families had the choice of attending a number of brief breakout sessions, as well as presentations from current ASU students. 

Co-host of the Spanish language event and ASU Executive Director of Outreach Marcela Lopez said the new format makes the content more accessible for families for whom work or transportation may have previously been a barrier. 

“The virtual Future Sun Devil Family Day allowed families and community members to learn and get excited about ASU. Hosting a virtual event means access to more families in the comfort of their homes,” she said. 

To kick off the September English language event, junior Alicia Vozza, who is studying mechanical engineering, gave a presentation about the Ira. A Fulton Schools of Engineering, and discussed her own experience as a Sun Devil. The presentation encouraged students to consider a path in engineering and provided insight on how to prepare for a future in science, technology, engineering and math while still in middle or high school. 

The Surprise, Arizona, native advised the prospective college students to look at major maps ahead of time and know that they can keep their options open. She mentioned she added a business minor and that keeping your options open for majors will help you figure out what you want to do in your career. 

“It’s about growing,” said Vozza, who said she also enjoys being involved with the Fulton Ambassadors, the Society of Women Engineers and Greek life at ASU.

Vozza said she loves ASU because of how many fun things there are to do within and near the Valley of the Sun and also because of the great resources available to students for academics and also for job-seeking. 

“We have so many great things going for us. … We’ve got a huge network of people, and that’s really what drew me to ASU. You can always make connections,” she said. 

Toward the end of the event, families also got to hear from members of SPARKS, a team of ASU students working to encourage K–12 students to attend college. In addition to hearing testimonies from current Sun Devils, families had the option to attend sessions about topics such as how to pay for college, filling out the FAFSA and preparing for college. Many of these sessions were also made relevant for the families of younger students, such as those in K–8, not just those preparing for their child to enter college within the next year or so. 

The event ended with families getting to experience a virtual tour of the ASU Tempe campus. 

“This year’s FSDF Day represented a new virtual opportunity to support families during the pandemic,” said Christian Rosario, the host of the English-language Access ASU session. “Over 5,000 people (were) reached with both events as an effort to help families access information to help their children create pathways to college.”

November’s weeklong event will have similar activities for families to participate in. Instead of focusing on the Tempe campus, however, the event will be focused on the Polytechnic campus and will also feature information about the new College of Global Futures, which was just established earlier this year. Additionally, other sessions will help students design a college path and choose a career to pursue. 

With only one or two events being held per day, families will have access to more college-readiness resources and important information, including the DREAMzone workshop, which helps support families of DACA students in navigating the college process. This event will take place on Nov. 18. 

Families can still register for Future Sun Devil Family Day (registrants could win a free T-shirt) in November as well as find the schedule of events on the event registration page and below. Access the events in English and Spanish on Zoom after registration or on Facebook live on the Access ASU page

Future Sun Devil Family Week

Nov. 16, 6 p.m.:  Welcome and Resource Fair 

Nov. 17, 6 p.m.: ASU Polytechnic Campus Spotlight! 

Nov. 18, Navigating Your College Journey and DREAMzone Workshop

  • Session 1: College pathways, 3 p.m.

  • Session 2: Creando Caminos Universitarios (Spanish), 4 p.m.

  • Session 3: DREAMzone: Undocu-DACAmented College Pathways, 6 p.m.

Nov. 19, Career Exploration and ASU College of Global Futures

  • Session 1: Career Exploration, 4 p.m.

  • Session 2: ASU College of Global Futures, 6 p.m.

Nov. 20, 3 p.m.: Senior Timeline 

Written by Marisol Ortega, Sun Devil Storyteller, and Hannah Moulton Belec, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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Cultural connections key to success of ASU's first-generation students

Conference shows strengths, obstacles for first-generation students at ASU.
November 6, 2020

First-Gen Zone Conference examines path for first-time college-goers

First-generation students start college as trailblazers in their families, and while that can present challenges, it’s also a source of strength.

Nancy Gonzales, dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, found her parents’ lack of expectations to be freeing.

“In grad school, in some ways I was protected,” she said.

“Others felt pressure to live up to high expectations from their families, but I felt like I was there because I wanted to be.

“It allowed me to chart my own direction as a scholar.”

Gonzales was a keynote speaker at the 2020 First-Gen Zone virtual conference, held Nov. 5. This was the second conference for faculty and staff to learn ways to support first-generation college-goers, which represent about 35% of ASU’s undergraduate population, according to Kevin Correa, director of the First-Year Success Center.

The total number of undergraduate and graduate first-generation students at ASU is nearly 30,000, Correa said. ASU considers first-generation students to be those who are the first in their family to attend college.

Nancy Gonzales, dean of natural sciences at ASU, was a keynote speaker at the First-Gen Zone virtual conference on Thursday. She described her experiences as a first-generation undergraduate at ASU. Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Gonzales, Foundation Professor of psychology, has devoted her career to researching family resilience and has found that sustaining family and cultural connections is vital for students’ perseverance and mental and physical health.

“We need to make sure that when they come to campus, they are able to connect with others like them in culturally meaningful ways, and we need to give them space to do that and give them groups to do that,” she said.

Gonzales said that faculty must be mindful of the burdens on students who are expected to work to help support their families.

“In science, students sign up for labs and it’s often really long hours of work. That’s part of the expectation,” she said.

“We need to make it possible for them to do it on their terms and be flexible about expectations.”

The conference addressed the importance of intersectionality, or the different identities that a first-generation student holds, such as LGBTQ, Native American or DACA. Those different identities are also avenues to finding connection.

Shundene Key, a first-year doctoral student in biochemistry, spoke on a panel of first-generation graduate students and described why she chose ASU.

“I know ASU has resources for me, like American Indian Student Support Services and places to connect like the American Indian Graduate Student Association,” she said.

“I felt like with those two combined, I would have a more positive experience here at ASU.”

Kiana Maria Sears, assistant director of faith-based outreach and community partnerships, talked about the Black and African American first-generation experience. She is an ASU alumna and parent of an ASU student.

“Safe spaces is one of the things that matters most and is one of the most difficult and challenging things to tackle,” she said.

Kiana Maria Sears, assistant director of faith-based outreach at ASU, discussed the Black and African American first-generation student experience at the First-Gen Zone virtual conference on Thursday. Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU Now.

Sears said she is excited for ASU President Michael Crow’s recently released “25 actions to support Black students, faculty and staff,” particularly the plan for service time for Black faculty and staff to mentor students.

“I know what it’s like to be on campus, and, in my generation, go a whole week without seeing someone who looks like you,” she said. “It’s good to not only see that person but also to connect and feel that all these spaces are our spaces.”

In her outreach, Sears has found that financial literacy is a critical issue. Many Black families are middle class, above the poverty line, and don’t have access to the same financial aid information as low-income families.

Nationwide, about 85% of Black bachelor’s degree holders have student debt averaging more than $36,000 – the highest of any race or ethnicity, she said.

Black families are less likely to reach out for help in untangling financial aid because typically there is no one in the institution who looks like them.

“This is basically the student putting on a backpack loaded with bricks,” she said.

The conference covered several programs that target specific populations of first-generation students at ASU, including:

Game Changers: This initiative within the First-Year Success Center has a wide range of digital offerings, including peer coaching, networking on Slack, events and student videos.

TRIO Student Support Services: This is for first-generation students who are either low-income or have a disability, and offers tutoring, community service opportunities, workshops, cultural experiences such as shows at Gammage Auditorium, and a program that loans laptops and cameras.

Engineering Futures: The National Science Foundation and private donations fund this program that provides workshops and seminars to build student confidence. In 2019, students attended a weeklong boot camp to hone their skills and develop an entrepreneurship mentality.

Several of the speakers discussed “imposter syndrome” — when people feel that they don’t belong in a space.

Sears said that for Black and African American students, imposter syndrome can be a “double bind.”

“It’s not just the inside voice but what’s actually being said by people outside,” she said.

Keynote speaker Jaime Casap was until recently the “chief education evangelist for Google” and now works on projects involving equity in higher education. He was a first-generation student.

“Everyone needs to focus on human skills – critical thinking, problem solving, creativity,” he said.

“As a 52-year-old professional ex-Googler, I still feel imposter syndrome. It’s one of those things that exists.

“But these skills will give you a competitive advantage.”

The graduate students on the panel said that meeting the right people made all the difference.

“I didn’t just force myself into these places,” said Esteban Medrano, who is in the last semester of his master’s degree in health care delivery.

“It was because I knew somebody who not only wanted me to succeed but brought the opportunity to connect with others who wanted me to succeed.”

Medrano is in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, and had to overcome many obstacles, including being blocked from any federal financial aid.

“Thanks to ASU, you can connect to people who can find resources and opportunities. They all want you to continue pursuing your education.”

Top image: Jaime Casap, until recently the “chief education evangelist for Google," was a keynote speaker at the 2020 First-Gen Zone virtual conference on Nov. 5. Screen grab by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU offers unique African and African American studies BA online program

November 5, 2020

The events of this year have started a national conversation about systemic racism, social justice and the overall treatment of Black and other nonwhite bodies in the United States. As more Americans seek to educate themselves on the history of racism and injustice, the need for education in African American studies has increased. 

Arizona State University's School of Social Transformation now offers its African and African American studies BA program online. The program's faculty head and Clinical Assistant Professor Mako Ward said today’s social and political climate brought a need for more accessible education in African and African American studies.  Graduates make their way through shaking hands of faculty during the Black and African Convocation at ASU Gammage on Thursday, May 12, 2016. Graduates make their way through shaking the hands of faculty during the Black and African Convocation at ASU Gammage on Thursday, May 12, 2016. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

“For over 20 years, the African and African American Studies major has educated generations of students on the global forces that impact African and African-descended people across the diaspora. In the midst of the health pandemic, it was essential for us to invest in quality online course offerings to meet the needs of our students,” Ward said. 

The African and African American studies program was founded in the mid-1990’s after a student protest. Though most African and African American studies programs began to emerge in the late 1960s and 1970s, the program has since made significant strides and is now one of two online African and African American studies BA programs in the country. 

In September, ASU President Michael Crow introduced his list of 25 actions to support Black students, faculty and staff. School of Social Transformation deputy director and Associate Professor Lisa Anderson said this program aligns with those initiatives and helps push the university in a more inclusive direction. 

“This program can enhance student learning outcomes; it affirms race and advances multicultural solidarity; and more generally, it demonstrates ASU’s commitment to Black students and faculty, although everyone can benefit from taking a course in AAAS,” Anderson said. 

AAAS Associate professor Dr. Lisa Aubrey and Maya Tatum

African and African American studies Professor Lisa Aubrey (right) and Maya Tatum

The curriculum is designed to introduce students to intersectional and transnational perspectives on the experience of African-descended people across time. Ward said courses in this degree explore the culture, art, histories and politics of communities across the African diaspora in the Americas, Caribbean, Europe and continental Africa.

Though the program has been available in person for a while, Ward said offering it online makes it available to an even more diverse demographic of students, and reflects the ongoing commitment of the School of Social Transformation to go beyond the president’s actions and offer everyday learning opportunities to students that motivate social change. 

“We are excited to offer our dynamic major to ASU Online undergraduate students, whose demographic diversity and life experience mirror that of many in the AAAS immersion program," Ward said. "Our curriculum provides the sociohistorical, political and cultural framework for understanding legacies of structural racism and intersectional anti-Black violence, and we offer the tools for students to activate social justice in their communities.”

Ersula J. Ore, Lincoln Professor of Ethics and School of Social Transformation associate professor of African and African American studies, notes that the degree amplifies studies across fields, especially with heightened support for the Black Lives Matter movement.  

“Whether it’s STEM, education, law or humanities, global citizens can neither move in the world nor be a force of impact upon it without a fundamental understanding of how Black culture, Black life, Black death and the Black body informs civil society,” Ore said. 

African and African American studies and women and gender studies Associate Professor Marlon Bailey said prospective students should explore the course list and see how each class uniquely explores the vast complexities of Black people and cultures outside of the U.S. The program has a diverse faculty whose studies include African diaspora history, gender and sexuality in Black cultures, critical race theories, Black feminisms and African American art.

There are many different routes to take with a degree like African and African American studies, but Bailey said the core of the curriculum is inspiring students to create positive change for the Black community. Bailey said the curriculum educates students on important aspects of Black history that can help support and inspire future activism. 

“To participate in social change, one must gain the necessary knowledge to be able to effect social change. Through AAAS, we want to train the next generation of leaders and movement-makers,” Bailey said. 

Megan Barbera

Marketing and graphic design student worker, School of Social Transformation


From mayor to nonprofit CEO: Alumnus shares how ASU prepared him to be a successful leader

November 5, 2020

Throughout his career, Neil Giuliano, an alumnus of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, has worn many hats.

From working at ASU's Alumni Association and serving as the mayor of Tempe, Arizona, to serving as the president and CEO of three different nonprofit organizations, Giuliano has gained invaluable experience and a unique set of skills. Neil Giuliano, alumnus of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be honored as one of The College Leaders this fall. Download Full Image

Giuliano graduated from ASU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and in 1983 with a master’s degree in higher education. After graduation, he stayed at ASU for more than 20 years, working in several different roles including as director of federal and community relations, faculty associate, interim executive director and associate executive director of the ASU Alumni Association, and program coordinator and director of student leadership programs. 

He said it was his beginnings in The College that set him on a path to success.

“My whole ASU experience, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, was transformative for me because it gave me, a skinny little kid from New Jersey, the opportunity to be exposed to people, ideas, information and knowledge that I just don't think I would have been exposed to had I not come to a big institution,” Giuliano said. “There was such tremendous opportunity.” 

In his last 14 years at ASU, he simultaneously served as the mayor of Tempe, where the creation of Tempe Town Lake, the Tempe Performing Arts Center and the implementation of the regional light rail system were advanced under his leadership. He was the youngest person ever elected mayor of Tempe.

In 2005, he was recruited to serve as the president and CEO of GLAAD, an organization devoted to countering discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in the media and promoting understanding, acceptance and equality. After four years with GLAAD, Giuliano served as the president and CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. In 2012, he published “The Campaign Within: A Mayor's Private Journey to Public Leadership,” his memoir that delves into the ups and downs he experienced throughout his life and career.

Today, he is the president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the greater Phoenix area and the state of Arizona by bringing together talent, resources and leadership to create action on priority issues. In his role, Giuliano works with 127 leaders of the largest organizations in Arizona to push forward initiatives, public policy and projects that will strengthen the state’s future.

This fall, Giuliano will be honored as one of The College Leaders for his many achievements. He has been recognized for his outstanding leadership with a variety of other awards as well including the 2020 MLK Jr. Community Servant Leadership Award from ASU, Valley Leadership’s 69th Man of the Year, Phoenix Business Journal’s 2017 Most Admired Leader Award, the 2014 Tempe Humanitarian of the Year, the Distinguished Lecturer at the William J. Clinton School of Public Service at the Clinton Presidential Library and more. 

Giuliano shared about his Sun Devil story, what motivates him to succeed, advice for students and more.

Question: How did your program at ASU help prepare you for your career?

Answer: Both inside and outside of the classroom, ASU helped me to better understand working effectively with groups of people, how to listen and navigate different opinions and how to insert my own opinion to move things forward. The experiences I had were very valuable to me as a student and as a professional. These are skills I’ve used all throughout my career, as a city councilman, as mayor and even in my current role, where I facilitate dialogue and communication to try to help focus toward a really positive end. Those are all things I first experienced at ASU.

Q: What is your favorite part about your chosen career path?

A: Every day is different. Every day, I'll talk to different people. There's always a new little problem or hiccup or something that's unique and different that I have to learn about, pivot, and talk to people about. I have to do something and just to try to keep it all moving forward. I enjoy planting seeds along the way that will continue to push these leaders in a positive way to help the organization accomplish its mission of having a positive impact on the quality of life in Arizona.

Q: What has been your biggest motivation to succeed professionally?

A: I think my motivation to succeed is that if I succeed, the organization advances. And if I'm successful, the organization can do more. If I'm successful, the leaders that I'm working with have the ability to make a difference in society and take on additional community leadership roles. I spent 10 years as a mayor and that's obviously a very front and center, very visible, kind of role. Same thing with running GLAAD, and as CEO of one of the largest AIDS service organizations in the world. Now my role is more behind the scenes, to help people advance what's important to them, through the organization, to be a sounding board and a coach sometimes. I feel really fortunate to have this kind of an opportunity professionally.

Q: What advice do you have for students in The College?

A: You don't have to have the answers today. In fact, if you have all the answers today, I think you can probably count on them changing over time because things are changing so fast in society. The way we learn is changing. The way we acquire information is changing. The way we share and receive information is changing. The way we communicate is changing. You have to be adaptable and you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You can't be afraid of change and discomfort. If you're starting to feel really comfortable, something is probably not right. Be open to a level of discomfort that motivates you and inspires you. The people who are able to do that, and yet still have a purpose while being grounded and having a clear set of values, will be the people that are going to rise to leadership positions because other people will be attracted to those qualities. Also, remember that no one individual accomplishes anything of great significance by themselves. You have to be open to working with other people in order to succeed.

Emily Balli

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

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Outdoor music classes a high note for ASU students, faculty alike

November 3, 2020

Cooler weather means more opportunities for Sun Devils to take their learning outside

Arizona State University is entering that golden time of year when the desert at last turns its back on a relentless summer, and months of excellent weather stretch ahead.

And with the risk of coronavirus transmission lowerRisk is lowered but not eliminated. Wear face coverings in all of ASU's outdoor spaces and practice physical distancing. outdoors than inside, some professors are finding ASU's beautiful outdoor spaces a great option.

"I moved my class outside because the weather is beautiful," said Associate Professor Brian DeMaris, who has held his opera repertoire class outside the Music Building. "And all my colleagues at other institutions are going inside or going home."

Watch below how DeMaris' and other Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts performance classes took to the fresh air to reconnect. (And yes, those are trumpet masks.)

Video by Deanna Dent and Joshua Belveal/ASU

To make it easier for more of the ASU community enjoy its outdoor spaces, the university added 272 tables, 1,088 chairs and 113 benches across its four Valley campuses during the fall 2020 semester.

And in Tempe, there are four new "outdoor rooms" — shade structures with seating, power, lighting and Wi-Fi. They are located west of the Memorial Union, where Interdisciplinary A and B meet; southeast of Schwada Classroom Office Building; west of Mesquite Hall; and on Palm Walk, next to the Bateman Physical Sciences Center. Starting in the spring semester, professors will be able to reserve them.

“Whether it’s a study session on the library’s patio or a class in one of our new Wi-Fi-equipped outdoor rooms, ASU’s welcoming outdoor spaces allow professors and students to reconnect in person while reducing COVID-19 risk,” said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost. “We’re encouraging faculty to find creative ways to utilize all of ASU’s spaces in their classwork. Let’s enjoy our beautiful campuses.”

ASU faculty, are you taking your classes outdoors? Please contact the ASU Now team at asunowpitches@asu.edu and let us know about your plans.

Top photo: Second-year opera performance graduate student Michael Nanney practices "Ah! Mes Amis" by Gaetano Donizetti as more than half the 12 members of Associate Professor Brian DeMaris’ opera repertoire class meet Oct. 22 to practice outside the Music Building on the Tempe campus. The rest of the class participated through ASU Sync on Zoom. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

ASU alumna reflects on her path to becoming Phoenix mayor's chief of staff

November 2, 2020

Lisa Fernandez became interested in politics early. Her mom, Charlene Fernandez, is well known in the world of Arizona politics, having worked for Congressman Ed Pastor, former Arizona Gov. Janet Napolitano and now serving as the Democratic leader of the Arizona House of Representatives. She said it was her upbringing that initially sparked her interest in politics, but her time at Arizona State University that motivated her to pursue a lifelong career in the field.

“I wasn't sure what I wanted to do, but I thought if I ended up teaching or if I went to law school, a political science degree would still work because it's so versatile. But then I found that it was a great program and I stuck with it because of the professors,” Fernandez said. “To me it really feels like it all started at ASU.” Lisa Fernandez, chief of staff for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego and ASU alumna, will be inducted to The College Leaders this fall. Download Full Image

Upon earning a bachelor’s degree in political science in 2009 from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Fernandez went straight into the campaign world. She spent a year in Washington, D.C., working as a staff assistant for her hometown congressman, Raúl Grijalva. She then moved up to the position of finance director, and eventually went on to serve as finance director for other organizations and campaigns including the Maricopa County Democratic Party, Arizona Democratic Party, Andrei Cherny for Congress and Cheri Bustos for Congress. 

She continued in politics for three years, working as campaign manager for Kate Gallego for City Council, as a campaign consultant for Ruben Gallego for Congress and as campaign manager for Greg Stanton for Mayor. In 2016 she briefly departed from politics, serving as the chief development officer of Educare Arizona. From September 2016 to March 2019 she served as the vice president of Resolute Consulting.

She made her return to politics in 2019, becoming the chief of staff for Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego. Fernandez said her path has come full circle, serving on ASU’s Alumni Board and sitting in on the mayor’s quarterly meetings with ASU President Michael Crow.

“It's really interesting to engage with the president of the university, someone who I wouldn't have interacted with otherwise,” she said. “Getting to work with the university that helped bring me up is pretty unique and really exciting for me. ASU is all around us and involved in so many things. I've been really proud to see how the university has grown since I was there as a student.”

This fall, Fernandez will add The College Leaders to several other recognitions she’s received for her work over the years, including Arizona List’s Rising Star Award in 2015 and the American Association of Political Professionals 40 Under 40 in 2018.

She shared with ASU Now about her experiences at The College, challenges she's faced throughout her career and more.

Question: How did your program at ASU help prepare you for your career?

Answer: When I got into college, I assumed in political science you mostly just learn about campaigns. But you really get to see all aspects of the political process from doing campaigns and elections, to statistics, global politics, the origins of political systems and the history of it all. Although we're in a challenging and difficult time, there's always something that we can look back on that helps give us an idea of how we can move forward. So I do think there's a level of history and government background that helped prepare me for this. But really the experiences I had and the relationships I built at ASU gave me the outlet to get to know the candidates, volunteers and people who helped me elevate myself in the political world. 

Q: What is your favorite part about your chosen career path?

A: I think that most people who are in the role of chief of staff of a mayor of a large city like Phoenix have a very different background than I do. Some have 30 years of government experience, some have corporate backgrounds. Having campaigns as my background is very different. But understanding the politics and knowing how to engage and work with people, managing up, managing down and helping to work with the mayor, the city manager, the city council and our staff as well — it's a really unique job. I don't think there's another job like this in the city or in the state. It's so much fun and it's great, but I would say what's most exciting for me is being in this role and having a different background, being a native Arizonan and a Latina.

Q: Have you faced any challenges throughout your career? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: Being a young Mexican woman in the workplace can sometimes be challenging. I pride myself in being from rural Arizona, but sometimes being in the city of Phoenix with people who have been in Phoenix for generations can be challenging. I'm not always looked at as the same because I'm from Yuma. There have been times where I've been shut out of things, not listened to or ignored. There have been times where people have taken credit for my work or not given me proper credit for things. Throughout my career, I have absolutely been the only woman, the only minority and the youngest person in the room all at the same time. That's a challenge because you have to balance your experience, your perspective and your background that not only uniquely sets you up for that job, but gives you a perspective that you have to share with the room. But you have to be able to do it in a way where people are able to take your opinion, listen to it and use it. You just have to kind of roll with the punches, but overall, working hard and continuing to grow relationships and building people around you who are loyal to you is how you can continue to move up in whatever professional world you're in.

Q: What has been your biggest motivation to succeed professionally?

A: Knowing that everything we do here on a day-to-day basis helps improve the community is what drives me. It is the outside world that we want to change and we want to better our community. I also don't ever think about what's next in life or what's next in my career. I am really focused on what's right in front of me, and what's in front of me is trying to work with our team and the mayor to make Phoenix the best city it can be.

Q: What advice would you give to students in The College?

A: Really take the time to get to know your professors. Find the things you're passionate about and find outside work. Don't be afraid to volunteer your time. I've seen too many young people that were either in college with me or after who wouldn't take a position because it wasn't paid or wasn't exactly what they wanted or it wasn't glamorous. I did a lot of grunt work for a long, long, long time and am still not afraid to do it. If I have to jump on the phones here and talk with a constituent, I do it. And I know how to do that because I was kind of brought up on that. So the more work and time you put into doing the grunt work, the more it's going to pay off and you're going to have a better understanding of whatever it is you're doing.

Emily Balli

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

ASU families look forward to a virtual Family Weekend

October 29, 2020

Sun Devils have shown their resiliency during this unprecedented semester, and so have ASU families. Now hundreds of families will be gathering virtually Nov. 6–7 at Arizona State University's Family Weekend to stay connected and safe while getting a glimpse of campus life and celebrating Sun Devil spirit from all corners of the globe.

Kathy Czeranko of Chandler, Arizona, is looking forward to her very first ASU Family Weekend to share some time with her Sun Devil, chemical engineering major Jimmy Czeranko, whom she describes as a creative and enterprising engineer. Three students giving the forks up on "A" Mountain Download Full Image

She is particularly interested to hear from her son’s dean at the Fulton Schools of Engineering and said it’s important for families to engage in this time, even though it has been challenging.

“Thinking outside the box is always important,” she said. “We only grow through hard times, in my opinion.”

Czeranko said she loves being an ASU family because of the caring community she’s found and “the support we're given through the ASU Family organization.”

Registration is still open for the weekend of fun, which will feature more than 45 live events and more than 22 on-demand activities, including celebrations from academic colleges, virtual family activities, cultural exhibits, a concert, the traditional Sun Devil football game and more.

Check out some of the event highlights below, and visit the ASU Family Weekend site to register and find the full schedule of events, which run from Monday, Nov. 2, to Sunday, Nov. 8.

Academic college visits

Families will be able to participate in meet and greets, special class visits and town halls that showcase their Sun Devils’ rich academic college experiences. 

Virtual fitness

Take part in a family 5K or the Gold Rush Games virtually for interactive fitness challenges and some friendly competition and fun. 

Sun Devil football vs. USC

Cheer on the Sun Devils as you watch them take the field in their season opener, which will be nationally televised on Fox Saturday, Nov. 7, at 10 a.m. MST. 

Salute to Service

The ASU community is honoring active duty U.S. military service members, veterans and their families. All are invited to join a live concert from the Gin Blossoms (a Tempe hometown band!) on Sunday, Nov. 8, at 7 p.m. MST. 

Interactive art

Future Sun Devils are invited to pick up an ASU Art Museum’s Playfest packet and join a guided virtual art project.

Registration through the Family Weekend registration system is required unless otherwise indicated for a specific event.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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ASU advances sustainable dining during pandemic with reusables, compostables

October 29, 2020

Early in the pandemic, staying safe and healthy for many meant adopting a disposable lifestyle: using plastic bags at the grocery store, ordering to-go or delivery from local restaurants and drinking from plastic water bottles. 

After learning more about the virus and how it mainly spreads, businesses began to reopen and focus on limiting person-to-person contact through physical distancing and face coverings.

Due to government-mandated efforts to minimize the COVID-19 spread, ASU, via Sun Devil Dining, has temporarily moved to takeout service only, in addition to deploying enhanced sanitizing procedures. To-go meals are among the many ways ASU aims to support guests’ heightened focus on safety and make them feel comfortable when dining on campus. However, to-go meals have led to a rise in the use of disposable containers. To combat this, Sun Devil Dining now offers reusable to-go containers. 

“By Sun Devil Dining providing environmentally preferable to-go containers, it reduces waste, conserves resources and materials, elevates education and awareness of disposable products use, and promotes more responsible personal, lifetime habits,” said Krista O’Brien, sustainability manager for Aramark at ASU. “Reusable containers can be used hundreds of times, meaning the upstream resources are ultimately much lower over the life cycle of the product. Moreover, reusable containers prevent the creation of more waste.” 

According to ASU’s Zero Waste department, if every student living on the Tempe campus used the reusable to-go container for all three daily meals, it would prevent 5,712 pounds from going to the landfill each day (based on current usage). Waste reduction on other campuses would include 641.6 pounds at downtown Phoenix, 528.8 pounds at Polytechnic, and 271.2 at West.

Even though reusables are more sustainable, they do not work for everyone all the time, especially with the convenience and volume of an “all-you-care-to-eat” dining hall. As such, compostable to-go containers also are available if students need an additional container. 

With to-go containers being given out in the transition to takeout service, there has been an increase in waste volume. To address this, ASU has expanded its composting service. Compostable to-go containers are being used as a secondary sustainable to-go option. Diners may compost the containers at the Memorial Union and Hassayampa dining facilities with 18 new dual compost-recycle litter bins. 

Visit Sun Devil Dining to learn more about campus dining.

Top photo: Aerospace junior Jalen Goode (right) receives a hot meal in his resuable to-go container from executive chef Les Haydenreich of ASU Catering at Tooker House Dining Hall on July 27, 2020. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Communications program coordinator , Facilities Development and Management


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Expert discusses the state of voting rights in America

Early voting sites are located on or near all four of ASU's campuses.
October 28, 2020

Author and journalist David Daley engages ASU students in a discussion of the history of voter suppression

Author and journalist David Daley began a public discussion on voting rights on Oct. 21 by asking the audience to consider a scenario in which millions of mail-in and absentee ballots from swing states are still to be counted at the eleventh hour on election night, prompting President Donald Trump to claim victory based on early tabulations from in-person voting, insisting the former votes are fraudulent and corrupt.

“It's a completely foreseeable outcome, and an entirely preventable one,” Daley said — preventable if the swing states had chosen to challenge various mechanisms of voter suppression that he said have arisen as a result of the repeal of key pieces of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which, among other things, prohibits racial discrimination in voting.

Daley's discussion, titled “The Voting Rights Crisis and the 2020 Presidential Election,” was hosted by Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies as part of its fall 2020 lecture series.

flyer for ASU voting rights event

Daley, former editor-in-chief of Salon, is a senior fellow for FairVote, a nonprofit organization that advocates electoral reform in the United States, and the author of the national bestseller “Ratf**ked: Why Your Vote Doesn't Count” and “Unrigged: How Americans Are Battling Back to Save Democracy.”

“The long lines we see in Georgia, the decisions in Texas to limit drop boxes to one per county, the decisions in Wisconsin earlier this year to force voters to the polls in the middle of a pandemic, the witness requirements in Oklahoma that have been enacted … have reaffirmed the question of who gets to vote … and how easy it is,” Daley continued.

“Americans are wondering whether they will choose the next president, or whether he will be selected by the courts in the more than 240 election-related cases that have already been filed, or (whether he will be) selected by gerrymandered state legislators.”

To understand why the latter two outcomes are reasonable scenarios, Daley said, we need only look to past legislation that allowed such “undemocratic measures” as literacy tests and other obstructions to voting to prevent some Americans from having their voice heard.

The Voting Rights Act was a bipartisan effort by members of Congress to ensure the right to vote for racial minorities throughout the country. Over the years, the legislation was expanded several times to accommodate changes in the nation’s demographics in order to continue to ensure fair voting access for all, with such provisions as one that required bilingual ballots in jurisdictions containing significant language-minority populations.

Then, beginning in 2006, some of the most substantive provisions of the law began to be rescinded, culminating in the 2013 landmark Shelby County v. Holder decision, in which the Supreme Court invalidated a "coverage formula" and therefore effectively ended a provision of the Voting Rights Act that required jurisdictions with a history of voter discrimination to get federal approval for new voting laws, with legislators arguing that racial barriers to voting were no longer an issue.

“But these issues were still very, very real,” Daley said, citing such tactics as gerrymandering, annexation, precinct closures and redistricting as evidence of subtle voter suppression. He also cited Trump’s attempts to delegitimize certain types of voting.

“It seems unprecedented in our history ... but I think that the assault on voting rights has been a far more quiet and protracted and long-running effort,” Daley said.

For example, Daley called gerrymandering the cause of the outcome of the 2012 U.S. House of Representatives elections, in which Democratic candidates received more votes in all House elections, yet Republicans still managed to win a 33-seat advantage and retain its House majority.

Noting that his audience Wednesday was made up mostly of college students, Daley acknowledged that although voter suppression disproportionately affects people of color, it also affects the poor, the elderly and the young, especially college students.

“It's not easy to vote when you are a student, and a lot of that is because policymakers and politicians have placed barriers in front of you,” Daley said, adding that questions about whether you’re allowed to vote from your campus address and issues of inaccessible voting sites have plagued students for decades. (ASU students can head to one of the four early voting locations on or near each campus.)

In response to an audience question about whether the expansion of voting access had the potential to increase voter fraud, Daley referred to a lack of data to support that fear.

“We know from the numbers that voter fraud is just not really a thing,” he said. “There’s no academic studies that show a serious voter fraud problem. So making it easier to vote is not … inviting fraud. … (It is) taking down the barriers that begin to add up in front of people.”

And in places like Arizona in particular, Daley said, expanding voting access is extremely important to ensure populations like Native Americans, who may live in remote rural areas, are enfranchised.

Daley addressed other election-related issues including the relevance of the Electoral College, which he believes “there are a lot of good arguments” for abolishing, and making Election Day a national holiday, which he believes is not a bad idea but also won’t solve all of the problems of voter suppression.

The discussion ended with Daley’s thoughts on House Resolution 1, a bill introduced into the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand voting rights, limit partisan gerrymandering, strengthen ethics rules and limit the influence of private donor money in politics.

“It’s a good bill. It does a lot of good things,” some of which, Daley said, may even allow for Americans to see “how Congress might have bridges being built again, instead of pushing off into their extreme partisan silos.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay