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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Explore the full list of ASU welcome events.

Top photo by Arizona State University

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The “catalyst” role involves goal setting.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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

July 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

“I just wasn’t ready”

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

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

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

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

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

Part of something bigger 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Visualization of data

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

There’s always time 

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

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

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

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

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

David Rozul

Communications Program Coordinator, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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

July 30, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Emily Balli

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

ASU graduate engineering students to start fall term — everywhere

July 29, 2020

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Gary Werner

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU Alumni Association offers back-to-school packs for Sun Devil educators

July 28, 2020

The start of the school year may look different for many teachers, but whether the classroom is virtual or in person, the Arizona State University Alumni Association wants to help Sun Devil educators show off their ASU spirit, both in the classroom and online. For the third year, the association is offering complimentary ASU-themed, back-to-school packs for Sun Devil educators who teach pre–K to college. 

“The ASU Alumni Association and its university partners want to thank our teachers for all that they have done for their students and their communities,” said Christine K. Wilkinson, president and CEO of the association. “As educators begin to prepare for a new year with unknowns, we want to provide materials and resources that allow educators to show their Sun Devil pride and inspire their students.”  ASU Alumni Association - Packing Back-to-School Packs for educators Christine Wilkinson, ASU Alumni Association President and CEO (center) and others in her department fill envelopes with ASU back-to-school packs at Carson Ballroom on July 23, 2020. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

In partnership with Educational Outreach and Student Services and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, this year’s packet includes a brochure with ASU resources, a notepad for the educator, a magnetic academic year calendar, a poster for the virtual or physical classroom, stickers for the students, Flat Sparky, a webcam security cover, a coffee sleeve and an ASU bandana.

Teachers can visit alumni.asu.edu/sundevilteacherpack to download ASU Zoom backgrounds, desktop backgrounds, lesson plans and social media photos. The spirit packet is ideal for teachers, guidance counselors, social workers, librarians and English language-learning teachers. 

Last year, the initiative engaged more than 3,300 educators from across 40 states and four countries. On Thursday, July 23, the Alumni Association staff packed thousands of back-to-school packs while remaining socially distant and wearing face masks.

The ASU back-to-school pack can be requested through an online form and should be ordered by Sept. 9. After receiving the packet, educators are asked to post a selfie on social media using #sundevilteacher.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association


ASU director recognized with 2020 Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award

July 27, 2020

Al Boggess is the recipient of the 2020 Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award.

Boggess was selected by the deans in Arizona State University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences in recognition of eight highly successful years of service as director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences.

"Al is so deserving of this award. He checks each of the criteria the Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award was meant to recognize, including having a broad and strategic vision for his school, the ability to adapt to challenge and move ideas into action, and a calm and effective presence that encouraged others to take risks and made him an exceptional advocate for his students, staff and faculty," said Nancy Gonzales, dean of natural sciences. "In addition, and what made him a natural choice, is that he does all of this selflessly and without concern for personal credit." Al Boggess - Director of the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences Download Full Image

Al Boggess joined ASU in July 2012, after heading the department of mathematics at Texas A&M University from 2002 until 2011.

Andrew Bremner has been a mathematics professor in the school for many years, including back when Gary Krahenbuhl served as a dean.

“Al arrived in the School at a difficult time in its history, but with many years of administrative experience already to his record," Bremner said. "He immediately established himself at ASU as an effective leader and advocate for the school’s individual mission."

"Unassuming and modest, he appointed excellent school officers and created a leadership team that under his guidance has been responsible for the development of important institutional programs and growth of the school in general. He proves an excellent ambassador to The College administration across all levels of concern, a nontrivial achievement given the sometimes prevailing external view of the unit solely as a service department.

"He has received full support of the faculty and staff, and has been a great director. He is a most worthy recipient of the Gary Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award.”

Don Jones, associate director for undergraduate programs, finds it difficult to say no to a request from Boggess.

"Al has a remarkable ability to create an environment of cooperation and of not wanting to disappoint. I think he enjoys solving the problems of the day, and this leads to a calm, productive, positive atmosphere in which people want to contribute to a larger cause," Jones said. "He trusts people to get things done. The creation of the new data science degree is a great example of that. The undergraduate committee was given free rein to create it. He doesn't micromanage — he outsources. His ability to bring people together is an intangible. It is the result of the work environment he created and his ability to get resources."

Boggess hired John Stufken to help build and strengthen the statistics group within the school.

"Al's unwavering and selfless support for statistics were instrumental in expanding the statistics group by recruiting outstanding faculty. I had worked as department head at the University of Georgia for 11 years prior to joining ASU, but still learned a lot from Al. He is truly an exemplary and effective leader," said Stufken, who is currently director of informatics and analytics at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.

Jelena Milovanovic, actuarial science coordinator and professor of practice, believes that without Boggess' ability to recognize an opportunity and need for an actuarial science program at ASU, the school would not currently have a bachelor's and master's degree.

"His continual support, vision and understanding needed to grow the actuarial science program has ensured national recognition both academically and professionally," Milovanovic said. "Throughout the six-year journey of building a reputable actuarial program, Al has gained respect from the local insurance practitioners for his commitment to the profession and patience as we continue to work towards becoming a center of excellence."

Joe Davis, assistant director for academic services, says Boggess is always looking for ways to improve the experience for students, whether it's deep diving into curriculum, improving processes, or advocating for additional faculty.

“Dr. Boggess has been a tireless advocate for not just our own degree programs, but for all students taking mathematics classes at ASU," Davis said. "He always has an open ear and is willing to critically examine new methods of providing support for our students.”

Working closely as his assistant for the past five years, Melanie Smock knows how much Boggess values his staff.

"Dr. Boggess fully trusts, supports and empowers his staff," Smock said. "This results in staff not being afraid to suggest innovative ideas because they know he will not only listen, but encourage them to pursue their initiatives. He treats mistakes as opportunities to learn and improve."

As associate director of first-year mathematics and principal lecturer, Scott Surgent witnessed the transition when Boggess arrived from a traditional department to a full-fledged school of multiple programs, including not only mathematics and applied mathematics, but also actuarial science, statistics and mathematics education.

"Al came aboard just when we were beginning to develop our online program, and also when Knewton was first being tried, a radical new way to teach math at the lowest divisions. These were radical changes and not ones met gladly by everyone," Surgent said. "Our online went from zero to 100 mph in about two years. Enrollments went from the hundreds to the many thousands. The actuarial science program has grown tremendously, and our department has a much bigger footprint than it did in 2012.

"Al has always been a trustworthy leader. He always seems calm, cool and collected, never gets emotional and always seems to make the right choice. He never once has promoted his own agenda, and I honestly believe he makes decisions based on sound logic and what he feels is wisest for everyone involved. It's impossible to please everyone all the time, but he is successful at pleasing most people most of the time."

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences


First-gen student leverages science, humanities background in pursuit of PhD

July 24, 2020

Amalie Strange graduated this May with bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences and Spanish from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, but she’s not ready to say goodbye to the world of academia quite yet. This fall, Strange will continue her studies in pursuit of her PhD in animal behavior.

“I could be spending anywhere from nine to 11 years here. It's great to go to different places and meet new people. But I think when you really put down roots somewhere, like I will be doing, you really get to know a lot more about people and you get to make these super-deep connections,” Strange said. Amalie Strange Amalie Strange graduated in May 2020 with dual bachelor's degrees in biological sciences and Spanish from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Strange will return to ASU this fall as a PhD student. Download Full Image

Strange has been building connections at Arizona State University since before she was even a student. After completing a research essay in high school, she realized she was interested in researching honey bees. Soon after, she discovered ASU’s bee lab and reached out to learn more from one of the postdocs in Professor Gro Amdam’s lab.

“It was just such an incredible experience that when I got to ASU, I dove into the lab’s research papers and tried to understand what the heck they were talking about. As a freshman biology student those papers were kind of dense,” she said. “By the end of that year, I finally felt confident enough and settled into ASU so I reached out to the principal investigator of the lab.”

Strange and the PI discussed the lab’s papers, and by the end of the meeting Strange had been invited to join the lab’s next meeting.

“I was like, ‘Wait, that's it? I’m in?’ It was so awesome; I felt really proud of myself, especially since I'm a first-generation college student,” she said. “Never having that guidance and doing it by myself and succeeding in it was a really awesome feeling.”

Strange has a passion and drive for science. She is motivated by the process of discovery, research and sharing new information. When she tells people that she majored both in the sciences and humanities, she said she often receives weird looks and questions about how the two subjects relate.

“Through the study of literature you learn so much about other people and other cultures and you really get that connectedness,” she explained. “You learn about so many different perspectives and it has made me sensitive to the plight of other people.”

Strange found that while at different ends of the spectrum, the two degree paths have benefited each other, especially as it pertains to communicating her ideas to others.

Amalie Strange presents research

Amalie Strange presents her research at BioSci Southwest 2019.

“The tools that I've used to write an essay about literature have ended up helping me when I write about science to make it more exciting, interesting and have more personality. Then the analysis that I've learned through science writing has also helped me write about literature and really get to the central core of what a text is about,” she said. “So they've actually ended up helping each other a lot more than I ever expected.”

Strange shared more about her time at ASU.

Question: Why was ASU the right choice for you?

Answer: I'm an in-state student. I'm from Phoenix and by nature of being a low-income, first-generation student, it was always going to be an in-state university for me. I couldn't imagine going somewhere super far away and losing the support of my family or not having as easy access to it. I'm super close to my mom, a single mother, so it was just really nice to be in state and have all my support right here. And I was able to get really awesome scholarships so I ended up not having to take out super-huge student loans.

Q: What scholarships did you receive and how did they impact your time at ASU?

A: I received the president's merit award. I received the Lattie Coor scholarship through Barrett, The Honors College at ASU and that was really cool because only one incoming first-generation student in the honors college receives that every four years and it involved a mentorship with Lattie Coor. It was really awesome getting to know him, he helped me out when I was applying to fellowships for the PhD program and he's just been another awesome support system for me. I received the dean scholar, the president scholarship. I received a few for a study abroad as well, including the ASU Planning Scholarship for first-generation students and the Dorothy Govekar Endowed Scholarship for students in the School of International Letters and Cultures. I don't think I would have been able to make it to this point if I didn't have those scholarships.

Q: Can you share about your study abroad experience?

A: It was the first time I've ever traveled outside of the country and independently. I went to Spain over the summer to León and Barcelona to study Spanish literature and it was just absolutely life-changing. I came back with so much confidence and independence. I got to meet so many different people and really practice my Spanish skills. I never thought that I would be able to take a trip like that, but I was able to get that support from scholarships and build relationships — not only with the students that I was on the trip with, but the people that I met over in Spain including my host family.

Q: Was there anything that surprised you about your undergraduate research experience?

A: I was actually surprised by how easy it was. I had the misconception that the only way to get into a research position was when professors post that they're looking for someone and then you have to know people but no, it was really easy just to reach out to the professor and be like, “Hey, you know, I've read your papers. They're really interesting. I want to do something.” I worked as a community assistant in the dorms in Barrett and that's something that I was able to pass on to my residents too, was that it is just that easy to reach out to professors and take that next step and really have that agency that you need to go and do what you want.

Q: What is something about your PhD program that you’re excited for?

A: I'm excited to get out there and really collaborate with people. I think one of the things that I really want to practice as a PhD student is connecting with other people at other labs, practicing collaboration and working with others. I definitely have to say that my humanities background has helped prepare me for that with collaboration and everything. I'm really excited to start to use that in a professional way.

Kirsten Kraklio

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


STEM-focused online summer program helps underrepresented students find path to college success

July 22, 2020

This summer, high school senior Eleni Canez participated in Arizona State University’s Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program (JBMSHP), a program established to provide underrepresented students in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields the opportunity to begin college-level math before graduating high school. 

The program went online this summer due to the COVID-19 pandemic and switched gears to focus more broadly on college success, but Canez said she came out of the program feeling more prepared for college with a clear path forward. screenshot of people meeting on Zoom The Joaquin Bustoz Math-Science Honors Program online community. Download Full Image

“I wouldn’t trade the conversations that we had in JBMSHP this summer for anything,” Canez said. “I have this newfound confidence in terms of applying for college, and I figured out what I want to major in. I don't think I would've come to these realizations if I hadn't had the program.”

Through the program, Canez discovered that she aspires to pursue a career in STEM as a statistician focusing on epidemiology. She is one of 26 high school students to complete the JBMSHP this summer — 58% of which will be first-generation college students and 89% of which are from groups that are underrepresented in STEM. 

“All of the students strive to go to college to pursue their dreams. However, oftentimes they don’t have family members or mentors in their lives that have been to college to show them how to do it,” said Cindy Barragán Romero, JBMSHP program manager. “We show them that it is possible and teach them how while developing a sense of family and community they can rely on.”

This year’s seven-week program was led by Barragán Romero and JBMSHP coordinator Ciera Duran as well as several success coaches and JBMSHP alumni. In years past, students lived on ASU’s Tempe campus while completing a university level math course, but with the move online, the JBMSHP team created a virtual community where students connected with peers while gaining insight into the college experience.

Each day, the students watched presentations from a variety of speakers including mental health professionals, representatives from ASU clubs and organizations, admissions specialists and more. In addition to hearing from speakers, success coaches gave advice, shared about their personal college experiences and led hands-on activities and conversations.

“With all of the academic cancellations due to COVID-19, especially over the summer, we wanted to provide something more than an ASU online class,” said Duran. “It was important for us to offer a safe space for the students to talk to each other and get reliable answers about their college fears.” 

High school senior Jesse Lopez, who aspires to be an aerospace engineer, said he was able to not only become more prepared for college but also learn how to communicate better virtually.

“If not for the JBMSHP, I know I wouldn’t have gained these virtual communication skills. Especially under current conditions, virtual meetings and virtual everything are way more common, so it’s important to know how to communicate through a computer,” he said.

Since its inception in 1985, 2,600 students have successfully completed the program through The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, with many now working in the STEM field as engineers, researchers, medical practitioners, business owners and educators. Many who have completed the program continue to be involved and remain a part of the community. 

Ryan DiFranco, a JBMSHP alumnus and undergraduate student studying chemical engineering at ASU, works in the program as a success coach. He’s been a part of the program for six years and said his fond memories of the program motivated him to return as a mentor and give back to a program that had helped him.

“For many students, this program is what makes them realize that they can achieve whatever they put their minds to,” DiFranco said. “I've known several people, either as colleagues or students, who have decided to go to college solely because this program showed them that they're strong enough. For all alumni of this program, there is a lifelong community that is formed.”

To learn more about the JBMSHP and how you can support the program, visit jbmshp.asu.edu or contact the team at mshp@asu.edu.

Emily Balli

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

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Books by ASU authors that illuminate the African American experience

July 22, 2020

As awareness of racial injustice has broadened this spring and summer, reading lists have been shared to help increase people's understanding of our nation's past and present — including one in Arizona State President Michael Crow's statement on Juneteenth

English Professor Keith Miller was excited to see Crow's post linking to the Chicago Public Library's Black Lives Matter book list, but he noticed one thing: There were no ASU authors on the list. 

He reached out to Kenja Hassan, director of cultural relations in ASU's Office of Government and Community Engagement, to see if such a list might be created — with the goal of increasing awareness within the ASU community of what other faculty are working on.

"During my first years as a professor at ASU, few of us taught courses in African American history and culture. Even though we were scattered in different units, we knew each other and met occasionally," Miller said, pointing out that ASU later initiated its African and African American Studies program in the 1990s. "Since then, ASU has, fortunately, hired numerous additional professors who teach courses in African and African American culture, art, music, literature, rhetoric and history. Many of them have published significant scholarship in these fields. Kenja Hassan works diligently to keep people in touch.

"But, unlike before, not everyone knows everyone else, especially those who teach on different ASU campuses. So I thought it would be useful to compile a complete list of scholarly books, if possible, so that each of us could gain a more complete idea of what everyone else is doing." 

Working with Suzanne Wilson of Media Relations and Strategic Communications, Hassan put out a call to faculty for titles, confirming whether the books would help readers "understand some aspect of the current anguish African Americans are experiencing," Hassan said. The authors come from a variety of units across ASU, and the titles include both fiction and nonfiction.

Many of the books on the list also have a gender focus, and it's important not to ignore that intersectionality, Hassan said.

"Being a Black female during slavery and Jim Crow meant a particularly cruel level of abuse without recourse," she said. "Women were expected to produce more slaves from both Black and white men, raise them and often take care of the slave owners' white children, too. Today, disparities in hiring, promotion and pay highlight the relatively lower value placed on Black women in the world of work. Black girls are more harshly disciplined in schools; outspoken Black women are often viewed as threatening rather than assertive."   

In addition to the reading list below, Hassan suggests these learning resources:

Even if ongoing Black Lives Matter protests don't draw as much media coverage as earlier in the spring, Hassan said it's important for people to keep doing the work of learning about racism and having the conversations.  

"Ignoring systemic racism is like ignoring cancer once you have a diagnosis. You may not feel it at the moment, but if unaddressed it will eventually lead to your demise," Hassan said. "Our nation is the most diverse in the world of its size. We must be exemplary in all ways in order to prove to the world that people can collaborate and live peaceably in one nation despite cultural, language and religious differences. In order for us to do that successfully, we must face and uproot our systemic inequalities."

The ASU book list is a place to start — or continue — that work.

Books by ASU authors on the African American experience and race relations

 >>>SEARCH: Find these book titles in the ASU Library's special guide.


College of Integrative Sciences and the Arts

Department of English, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

School of Music, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts 

School of Social Transformation, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 

W. P. Carey School of Business / Global Sport Institute


Book chapters/foreword

Barrett, the Honors College

Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

School of Politics and Global Studies

W. P. Carey School of Business / Global Sport Institute

 Top photo from Pixabay

Penny Walker

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications