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ASU Online student creates art with a purpose

May 11, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Kate Howe’s path to becoming an ASU alumna has been somewhat unconventional, but that’s what makes the destination even more rewarding for this Colorado-based visual artist.  ASU Online student Kate Howe Kate Howe Download Full Image

Her passion for self-expression began early on. She spent her childhood in art museums marveling with her mother, also an artist, at the masterpieces displayed in their halls. A love for the arts has been a constant in Howe’s life, but personal roadblocks temporarily sidelined her plan to follow in her mother’s footsteps and translate her creativity into a career.

After she was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2017, she had to choose between letting it hold her back or using it as an opportunity to get back to her artistic roots. She ultimately decided to pursue a degree in art history so she could eventually return to the studio when she recovered from cancer treatment. 

As for why she picked ASU Online to further her education, her reasoning was twofold. Because Dustin Pedroia — my favorite Red Sox player — was a Sun Devil, and it turns out we have the best online art history program in the country,” Howe said.

Howe’s decision to improve her life is paying off this May as she graduates with her Bachelor of Arts in art history from ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Along with being an artist, full-time online student and mother to two teenage boys, Howe is also a climate and sustainability activist whose commitment to conservation is evident in everything she touches. 

A recent example is a billboard she created for Aspen’s Imagine Climate initiative earlier this year using pens filled with a new type of ink made from carbon emissions. Howe’s design was partly influenced by her sons’ feelings of fear and frustration about the current state of the global climate. But she also drew on the techniques she studied in the art history program at ASU, particularly those of Renaissance painters. The goal was simple: to make an impact in her community by creating a thought-provoking piece in a unique format. 

“We need to make sure we are using this medium in a way that helps us make whatever small changes we're capable of making,” she said, “or just stops us enough to say, ‘What am I doing? What can I do differently?’” The billboard later sold for $10,000 and is now installed at the Aspen Art Museum.

These days, COVID-19 has forced Howe to become more isolated in her practice. But she’s leveraging the long days spent at home to make even bolder artistic choices.

“Just because I’m in lockdown doesn’t mean I can’t innovate. I use this silence and time to try things in my art that will most likely fail,” she said. “This is a good time to take risks in art and to push my practice forward in solitude.”

Howe isn’t taking much of a break between graduation and embarking on her next adventure: earning her Master of Fine Arts in painting with the Royal College of Art in London later this summer. And as for the long term, Howe isn’t concerned about the common misconception of the struggling artist. 

“When people ask me how I’m going to make a living making art, I just say, ‘I’m working on it.’ I have been discouraged from being a fine artist my whole life because it’s like being an Olympic athlete — many compete but few land on the Wheaties box,” she said. 

“But the Wheaties box is not the only way to earn an income. It’s not all or nothing. There are huge opportunities all over the arts. You don’t have to pick a job off a list anymore. Be who you are — be relentless — and you will end up making money in a job you love. Obstacles are just opportunities; they are nothing but puzzles to solve.”

Keep reading below for more about Howe’s journey to becoming an ASU alumna and her empowering message to fellow Sun Devils. Also be sure to visit her website to stay updated on her latest projects. 

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

Answer: Lying in bed recovering from cancer treatment, I knew I couldn’t go back to school for studio art. There's no school near me, and I was bedridden. What could I do from bed that would be intellectually stimulating and set me up to step back into the studio, more well-armed to make the kind of impactful art I want to make? “Aha! Art history! If I have a good, deep knowledge of history, I can build on it and make informed choices in my own work. Why, it would almost be like cheating! I’ll look at and do a deep dive in art for two years and then go to grad school for studio art.”

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

A: I had no idea that the history of art, like this history of everything, is written and collected by the victors. I didn’t know what feminist art theory was, and I had no idea that it was OK to be a feminist. Because I was born in 1971, I was complicit in benevolent sexism. I learned that I had a voice, that it was OK that that voice was gendered should I choose it to be, and that it was OK to have strength and boundaries about genderism.

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

A: Betsy Fahlman taught me to look deeper at almost everything, and Mako Fitts Ward taught me what gender was. Together, they made me into a new artist. 

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

A: When you are overloaded and becoming avoidant, stand outside in the sun for a minute. Make a cup of tea or something soothing, then turn your face to the task at hand and get to work. Do what you can with the time you have, and when you think you don’t have time, cut something out and focus on school. This matters. This is hard to do when you are older. Rather than adding to your suffering by wishing you didn’t have to tackle whatever the project is, recognize you are adding greatly to your suffering by wishing. Quit your wishin’ and get to work. You can do this! If I can, anyone can. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I spent most of the last three years in bed, which I call my spaceship when it's set up for studying. Surrounded by my sketchbook (because almost everything I read gives me ideas for work I want to make in my own studio), healthy snacks (because I learned the hard way that sugar and caffeine make you feel sick if you have too much of them), textbooks, printouts, notes, reference books, my computer and my cat, with a nice candle burning (I live in the woods in a very cold cabin). I would fly my spaceship into art history land and park it there. That’s my favorite place. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I was accepted to the Royal College of Art in London for graduate studies in painting! My whole family, my two teenage sons and my partner and I will be relocating to London (conditions permitting) in August 2020!

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

A: I would tackle human equality across genders and races and nationalisms, religions and all ideologies. First, we have to work together if we are going to keep flying around on Spaceship Earth. It’s the only home we have, and we need to learn to leave space for others to be right even when we are sure they are wrong. Hopefully the COVID-19 era will be the closing chapter to everyone’s 15 minutes of influencer fame, name calling and hate speech being modeled by our leaders and the valuing of money over human life, and will usher in a new era of compassion and cooperation, with politics led by science, critical thinking and forward thinking.

Carrie Peterson

Sr. Manager, Media Relations, EdPlus at Arizona State University


Overcoming adversity to achieve Sun Devil dream

May 11, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

A Phoenix native, Justin Sanchez has always considered himself a Sun Devil. In fact, he’s been displaying his Arizona State University pride since birth. His first baby photo was taken in a Sun Devil sweater, a prized article of clothing he’s committed to keeping in the family for future generations. ASU online student Justin Sanchez (middle) with his family. Download Full Image

“I actually still have that sweater, and it gets passed around to different family members when they have a new baby,” he said.

The grandson of an ASU alumnus, Sanchez is fulfilling his destiny this May as he graduates with his Bachelor of Science in emergency management and homeland security from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

However, some unexpected news once threatened to change the course of Sanchez’s life. Not long after enrolling at ASU, he was diagnosed with cancer. Despite this, he kept going and managed to beat the disease, all while juggling his responsibilities as a student and working full time as a senior nuclear security officer.

“I went through surgery during finals in fall 2018 and underwent chemotherapy in spring 2019. As of today, I’m cancer-free,” Sanchez said. 

In addition to being a student, he is also a Marine veteran and a member of the first graduating cohort of the Veteran Scholar Program. Sanchez is passionate about using his ASU experiences to help make a difference in his community and support fellow service members in pursuing a college education after leaving the military. 

He’ll be solidifying his legacy with ASU later this fall as he begins the Master of Arts program in biosecurity and threat management with Watts College. Continue reading to learn more about Sanchez and his unique experience as an online student and finally, an ASU alumnus. 

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

Answer: My “aha” moment was sitting at work at Palo Verde Generating Station (PVGS). I’ve worked in nuclear security there for the past 11 years, and I knew I wanted more in my professional life. I needed to be pushed and stressed out a little, and I wanted more than what I was doing already. I’ve been in this line of work for a long time, starting in the Marine Corps from 2004-2008 and at PVGS, but it’s always been at the lower echelon. I wanted to be at the higher end, making the decisions — the plan — and seeing it executed.

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

A: Something I learned at ASU is that I really love being part of the community and serving it. Before going to school, I really had no interest in community service. ASU changed that in me, with the Sun Devils in Disguise and the Veteran Scholar Program. It pushed me to become a more active member in the ASU community and my own in the West Valley, where I became a tutor at the local high school in my area.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: This is an easy question. ASU is in my blood. My first baby photo says it all. My grandfather Pete Sanchez went to ASU in the 1940s and graduated before going into the Arizona Air National Guard and serving more than 40 years. For them, it's just a family affair. I remember being at the ASU vs. Nebraska game in the ‘90s when we won and the students stormed the field and walked the goal post down Mill Avenue. ASU is who I am at my core, and it was a lifelong dream to be able to officially become a Sun Devil.

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

A: Not a teacher or professor, but my leaders in the Veteran Scholar Program, Brett Hunt and Michelle Loposky, have really been instrumental in showing me that ASU, Arizona and our nation are in desperate need of true leaders. I hope to be able to take the things they have taught me to my community and make a difference.

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

A: The best advice I can give to anyone still pushing through at ASU is just keep going! Get that work done, and then slow down and look around. ASU is a beautiful campus and has this electricity inside of it. Feed off of that and make this time the best in your life! I know I have and will continue to as I move through my graduate program.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I am fortunate to be an online student but also be able to come to campus for activities. I love Memorial Union and the hustle when it's packed, but my sanctuary is Sun Devil Stadium. I had the opportunity to help out with opening ceremonies during the 2018-19 football season. The moment I stepped foot on the field it was the greatest rush.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on pursuing my master’s in the same field. I still work full time at PVGS in nuclear security, but I hope to be able to move on to bigger and better things in the future. However, right now I’m just enjoying being a Sun Devil!

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

A: I would work on something smaller here in our Arizona community and get more veterans on campus. I feel that vets are a valuable resource with all the life experience and knowledge they take away after they leave the military. It's then when they can go out into their communities all over the country and start making the U.S. and world a better place for everyone. The smallest spark can start the largest fire within someone. I hope I can do that for someone.

Carrie Peterson

Sr. Manager, Media Relations, EdPlus at Arizona State University


Club Carey: Social ‘dis-dance’ party to fill the graduation celebration gap

Class of 2020 business students can go from the virtual convocation ceremony to a live online experience to celebrate their accomplishments

May 11, 2020

A day after the W. P. Carey School of Business virtual convocation ceremony, when graduating students normally could be gathering with friends and family to celebrate earning their degrees, Double Devil Tyler Sherman — the DJ known as Munition — will have set up his turntable, mixer and webcam in his house in Phoenix.

DJ Munition has been mixing music for W. P. Carey live convocation ceremonies every semester since 2014. This year he’ll livestream a 45-minute set of dance music to virtual graduating W. P. Carey students, some possibly wearing their graduation caps with pajamas at home. Graduation balloons Download Full Image

“We wanted to do something extra special for graduating students and their families to celebrate each other, say their goodbyes and look to the future with hope and resilience,” said W. P. Carey Dean Amy Hillman. “We’re so proud of them for their achievements — and how they’ve handled the last semester during this uncertain time — we’re just using different tools and environments to let them know.”

“It has been a blast to be able to come back as an alumnus each semester to help celebrate with my fellow Sun Devils and to work with such a great team from W. P. Carey, who are really pushing the bar for what a college experience can be,” said DJ Munition. "This year will be no exception, even during such trying times.”

Though the coronavirus pushed commencement and convocation to online ceremonies, W. P. Carey staff and faculty have shown ingenuity in coping and collaborating to help make the graduation festivities inspiring.

The Class of 2020 digital celebration has continued to expand from a virtual convocation to online Carey ConGRADS and a Grad Celebration Toolkit, where students and their families can download zoom backgrounds, mobile wallpapers, mortarboard templates and social media graphics. W. P. Carey also sent out more than 3,000 Graduation Celebration Boxes to graduating students to enhance their virtual ceremony. The box includes a congratulatory letter from Hillman, confetti, balloons, a license plate cover, a pompom, a webcam cover, tech tattoos, a Sparky pennant, and a window sign stating a “W. P. Carey School of Business Class of 2020 grad lives here!”

The Club Carey livestream dance party with DJ Munition at 6 p.m. Tuesday, May 12, is the culmination of students’ years of hard work inside and outside of the classroom. Besides busting moves to the music, graduating students will hear from Hillman, faculty and more. 

“I’m working closely with the school to make sure we make the best and most unique experience for the graduates as possible while staying safe,” DJ Munition said. “I'll also be taking live requests from viewers.”

Graduating students can share their cap and gown photos, grad pics and unique mortarboard decorations via wpcsocial@asu.edu or by using the hashtag #wpcgraduation.

Celebrate the Class of 2020 with this curated Spotify playlist.

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


Barrett Honors College recognizes five Outstanding Graduates at May 2020 virtual convocation

May 11, 2020

Every student in Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University is talented and special in their own way. In every class there are many accomplished students with skills in a vast array of disciplines. 

Each spring, Barrett Honors College recognizes Outstanding Graduates in several categories who are representative of the high achievement of all honors students. Five members of the May 2020 graduating class have been named Outstanding Graduates of Barrett Honors College and will be recognized in the virtual honors convocation on May 11.* Barrett Honors College sign Download Full Image

“The outstanding graduates represent excellence in the particular values of the ASU Charter: They are leaders, they are accomplished student scholars, and they are true university and community citizens,” said Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs.

These students have excelled in academics and research, as well as contributed significantly to their communities through research, leadership, volunteerism, public service and the arts.

ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award: Justin Heywood

Heywood is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in political science and in civic and economic thought and leadership with a minor in Spanish and an overall GPA of 4.0. 

He ia a Tillman Scholar, a Lincoln Scholar and a Spirit of Service Scholar. He was a Fulbright Summer Institute awardee in Wales, and he was the University Student Government-Tempe director of civic engagement and an Army ROTC cadet. 

Heywood was an Arizona Senate page and page captain and served as a campaign intern for Sen. John McCain. He took part in the Inside-Out Arizona Department of Corrections program and in Talent Match at Barrett. He is the co-founder and president of BridgeASU and served as both a community assistant and teaching assistant at Barrett.

Outstanding Research Award: Rohini Nott

Nott is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in biology (biology and society) and business (public service and public policy) and an overall GPA of 4.0. 

She is a National Merit Scholar, a Helios Scholar at the Translational Genomics Consortium and a Flinn Scholar. She received the School of Life Sciences Outstanding Service Award and has served as patient advocate and clinic coordinator for the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) Community Initiative in downtown Phoenix. 

Her research experiences and contributions have been extraordinary. She has completed six different research experiences as a research intern between high school and her undergraduate studies, and she has published three scientific research papers, four encyclopedia entries and presented six times at national or regional research conferences. Her topic at many of those conferences is also the subject of her thesis on stapled peptide analogs and their use in cancer therapy.

Outstanding Creative Work Award: Adele Etheridge Woodson

Etheridge Woodson is graduating summa cum laude with a major in music and a certificate in arts entrepreneurship with an overall GPA of 3.93.

She is a composer at Mophonics Music and Sound in Los Angeles, engaging with full-time composers to score short-form films. 

During her time as an undergraduate honors student, she was the assistant stage manager of the Phoenix Symphony, installed an original electronic work using her own violin samples in the ASU Art Museum and had her first string quartet composition premiered at the Vienna Summer Music Festival in Austria. 

Her nominating professor said that Etheridge Woodson is “the most mature, intelligent and engaged student with whom I have worked, and has contributed greatly to the local music community as a positively empowered woman in the music business and as a film composer.”

Outstanding Service Award: Noah Appelhans

Appelhans is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in business (human resources) and business (public service and public policy). He will additionally receive two certificates, one in political economy and one in public administration and management. He is a President’s Scholar and has an overall GPA of 4.0. 

For four years, he was an operations assistant in the Morrison School of Agribusiness. He also served as the secretary of the student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and a Human Event teaching assistant. He was the head writing tutor at Barrett-Polytechnic for two years. 

In the summer of 2019, Appelhans won an HR Officer Internship at the Department of Defense National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. He was nominated by six of his professors at ASU-Polytechnic, who said Appelhans “exemplifies academic excellence, leadership, a commitment to community and a love of learning and scholarship.”

Outstanding Leadership Award: Primrose Dzenga

Dzenga is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in global studies and creative writing and a master’s degree in political science. She is a Lincoln Scholar, a Garcia Scholar, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative University, a member of the Barrett Oral History project, and the recipient of a Zimbabwe National Arts Literary Award for her poetry and nonfiction writing. 

She founded and has directed for the last four years the Machikichori Citrus Reforestation Project in Zimbabwe, a 12,000-tree community orange orchard run by rural women in Wedza, Zimbabwe. She won a Barrett Global Explorers Grant this past summer to travel to three continents to conduct research on citrus farming techniques that will help in her emergence as a true global leader in international development.

* Due to the coronavirus pandemic and public health recommendations for social distancing, Barrett Honors College is holding its 2020 spring convocation in a virtual, online ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, May 11. The format may be different, but our enthusiasm for celebration has never been more inspired and we encourage you to join us in honoring Barrett graduates. Find a link to the virtual honors convocation ceremony on the Barrett site.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


Psyche mission capstone team prepared for the real world of space exploration and research

May 11, 2020

While the ASU-led NASA Psyche mission launch is still a little more than two years away (projected for August 2022), teams of undergraduate students throughout the U.S. have been working on their senior capstone projects for the mission, applying their knowledge and skills to real-world projects.

At ASU, one such team, with the project title “Sampling System for Hypothesized Surfaces,” has two major milestones to celebrate: It is the first School of Earth and Space Exploration team to complete their Psyche mission capstone project, and each student will be graduating this May. A cross-section view of the Psyche Asteroid Sampling System. This view shows three of the microspine anchoring systems, the instrument containment unit, the linear actuator, and the electronics for powering and controlling the systems housed in the cylinder. Image by SSHS Team/ASU Download Full Image

The school’s team includes May 2020 graduates John Chambers (bachelor’s degree in astrophysics), Mason Hoey (bachelor’s degree in exploration systems design), Jacob Kramer (bachelor’s degree in astrobiology and biogeosciences), Eric Laughlin (bachelor’s degree in astrobiology and biogeosciences), Johnathan McDougal (bachelor’s degree in exploration systems design), Ciara Sypherd (bachelor’s degrees in aerospace engineering – astronautics and astrobiology and biogeosciences) and Kaitlin Webber (bachelor’s degree in astrophysics).

Their Psyche capstone project envisions a future space mission to Psyche where, instead of orbiting as the current mission plans to do, a spacecraft would land on the asteroid and explore and sample the surface of Psyche, which is likely made largely of metal.

The team project, with mentorship from the School of Earth and Space Exploration Associate Professor and astrophysicist Christopher Groppi, was to design a prototype sampling system capable of effectively extracting scientific samples from the asteroid’s surface, keeping in mind other constraints like gravity, and potentially creating a caching system for the samples.

As part of our series of features celebrating students graduating this May 2020, we reached out to this team to learn more about their capstone project and their plans for the future. 

Question: What was your team’s favorite part of this project?

A: Our favorite part was the fabrication process. Beyond designing something and doing a bunch of paperwork, we actually got to build something. We soldered, programmed, welded, machined, laser cut, molded and casted, and utilized various other power tools for constructing our project. Unfortunately, due to the pandemic our ability to fully bring our project to life was impeded. However, we laid the foundations and did a lot of the work for future capstone teams to complete this project.

Q: What was the most difficult thing you accomplished as a team?

A: Obtaining an ultrasonic drill was probably the hardest part. It's such a niche and expensive device, and we had to reach out to several companies and figure out how to get it delivered to us during the pandemic.

Q: Why did you pick the Psyche mission for your capstone?

A: We picked the Psyche capstone because we are particularly ambitious individuals who wanted to break new ground in space exploration and robotics.

Q: What was special about this project?

A: This project was special because it was completely open-ended. We could get incredibly creative. It's also a NASA-affiliated project, so that sounded pretty cool and important. We even ended up reaching out to some scientists and engineers from JPL to provide insight and collaborate with us.

Q: What is something fun or unique about this team that you could share?

A: We were a fairly academically diverse group of people, so it was nice to work with various scientists and engineers. Thankfully, our team member Ciara Sypherd was also working on another Psyche capstone project involving a rover with her aerospace engineering team, and this allowed us to think things through better and develop a comprehensive system.

Q: Does everyone on the team want to work for NASA or a space mission in the future?

A: Everyone on the team wants to be involved in some space mission, but maybe not just with NASA. A couple of us will be moving onto grad school and getting into research.

About the ASU-led NASA Psyche Mission Capstone Program

The NASA Psyche mission capstone courses are culminating, project-based courses undertaken by university students in the final (senior) year of university. A strength of capstone courses is that they involve students in applying their knowledge and skills to real-world projects. The Psyche mission is developing Psyche-focused projects for capstone courses across a range of disciplines. Learn more and get involved at psyche.asu.edu/get-involved/capstone-projects.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration


ASU graduate Asha Ramakumar plans career in law and public health policy

May 11, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Asha Ramakumar is not afraid to talk about a topic a lot of people think is taboo. As a matter of fact, she believes talking about menstruation is necessary to promote health equity and destigmatize a natural occurrence. Asha Ramakumar Asha Ramakumar will be attending the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., to pursue a joint Juris Doctorate and Master of Public Health. Download Full Image

Ramakumar felt so strongly about it that she spoke on her own very personal experience in March 2019 at Ignite, Arizona State University’s semiannual storytelling event.

“I wanted to talk about global women’s health in some capacity. My student organization, Global Women’s Health Initiative, was focused on menstrual equity that semester, so I settled on that as my topic,” said Ramakumar, who is receiving a bachelor’s degree in global politics with a minor in women and gender studies and a certificate in health care policy and delivery, with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

She opened her monologue with a story about her first period, including a pantomime of what happened when she forgot her menstrual hygiene products.

“I explained that when I was in middle school, I desperately wanted my period because it made me feel connected to something larger than myself. Almost like a secret community,” Ramakumar said.

“Speaking about this was an act of resistance, especially since my grandfather believes that women are impure during menstruation. This experience was so empowering for me that it made me realize how important it is to let people share their stories so others can listen. I think it’s the best way to foster empathy,” she added.

Ramakumar, who was a New American University Presidential Scholar, on the W. P. Carey School of Business Dean's List, a United Nations Millennium Fellow in fall 2018 and a Lincoln-Chautauqua Fellow in 2019, plans to work in the fields of law and public health policy. 

She will be attending the George Washington University Law School in Washington, D.C., to pursue a joint Juris Doctorate and Master of Public Health.

We asked her to reflect on her undergraduate experience at ASU. Here’s what she had to say.

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

Answer: I think I have had several different “aha” moments. The first was in high school when I took Law and Policy, a second-semester complement to my school’s AP Government curriculum. My teacher assigned each of us a docket of Supreme Court cases, and she gave me cases centered around women’s and LGBTQ+ rights such as Griswold v. Connecticut, Lawrence v. Texas, and of course, Roe v. Wade. After reading these cases, I began to see how the largest sources of inequity seem to happen around regulating people’s bodies, especially gender-specific inequity. I was simultaneously shadowing an OB-GYN for my senior internship, and I think these two experiences shaped my specific interest in women’s health. I realized that working on an individual-patient provider level was not where my skills were best served.

This was narrowed further throughout my coursework at ASU both through my minor in gender studies and my certificate in health care policy. After taking classes centered around gender, religion, health disparities, violence and colonialism, I began to see how all of these areas of study are interrelated. From this, I realized that to address health care access or lack thereof, I need to have an understanding of the many systems in place that impact health. In other words, people are not independent of their environment, circumstances, or identity, therefore, neither is their health. 

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

A: This semester, I was enrolled in the Inside-Out Prison Exchange Program through Barrett. The class, titled “Men and Feminism”, piqued my interest as a gender studies minor.

Looking back, I am not quite sure what I had expected from this class. I knew we were going to be reading things by bell hooks (the pen name for author, feminist and social activist Gloria Jean Watkins) and other works on masculinity and violence, but I did not know how much the other students in the class would challenge me.

Unlike other honors classes, this class took place at the Maricopa Men’s Reentry Center. Every Monday and Wednesday from 6 to 9 p.m., we met in a classroom in the facility with a group of “inside” students. This course was only Session A, but I wish it were longer, especially since saying goodbye was gut-wrenching. 

In each class, we used the texts to guide our discussion, but the topics were so deeply personal that it often changed to becoming a time to talk about our lived experiences. One moment, in particular, stands out to me.

We were reading bell hooks’ "Feminism is For Everybody," and one inside student looked particularly frustrated. He proceeded to explain that bell hooks asks that parents explain feminism to their children and teach them how to challenge patriarchy, particularly through nonviolence, however, this is not practical for him. The inside student proceeded to ask the class if he should teach his son not to fight back against bullies and explained that violence is a necessary means of survival in his community. Several other inside students also explained that challenging patriarchy is great in theory but almost impossible in their communities. 

This experience forced me to take a step back from my preconceived ideas of feminism and patriarchy and understand that it is a luxury to adopt feminist ideology and to challenge norms. It made me think critically about how the intent of a given policy or theory may be great, but the impact is what is important. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: For me, ASU was kind of a no-brainer. I have always known that I wanted to go to graduate school, so when I was looking for undergraduate programs, I wanted one that would give me the widest breadth of opportunities and the most supportive living situation. I felt like Barrett gave me the living situation and the close-knit community that I wanted while the greater ASU has unlimited opportunities. I have been able to travel, take graduate classes and attend some cool events because of that!

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

A: Professor Swapna Reddy in the College of Health Solutions has been an incredible mentor to me in so many ways. I think the most important lesson she taught me is to be courageous and to trust my abilities. There were quite a few times where people told me I was going to be unable to achieve and/or do something, but Professor Reddy always stood by me and made me feel like those barriers were invisible. My relationship with her taught me how important it is to have at least one faculty member who can advocate for you or give you the tools to advocate for yourself. 

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

A: Be curious. The best things I did in college were honestly because I was just curious and went to check it out. It’s sometimes daunting to attend an event or enroll in a class that is outside your comfort zone, but sometimes that’s how you find what clicks with you. That being said, you shouldn’t force yourself to like or do something that feels wrong. However, the more you explore, the more you’ll know when something feels right. 

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

A: I am a very antsy person, so I always needed to find a new place to work to avoid feeling bored. That being said, I love the Design Library. I lived on the north side of campus, so that location felt well-connected to a lot of other resources. I love libraries, and the Design Library reading room is the closest thing we have to that old-style library. Plus, you get to see some pretty cool work from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts students, which is a plus. 

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

A: Oh goodness ... I think addressing social determinants of health would be where that money should go. I know, that’s a pretty broad place to start, but I think investing in environmental policies that provide clean air, water and living conditions is critical. In addition to this, it would also mean addressing education and creating robust social policies that ultimately create a healthier population. I think if this moment in time has taught us anything, it is how fragile the entire system is, and I think a lot of that is predicated on the lack of strong public health infrastructure. 

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


ASU Law transfer student success story leads to dream job

May 10, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Arizona native Emily Fann, who graduated this week with a JD degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, wanted to help advance the role of women in the legal profession, so she served on the board of the Women Law Students' Association, one of the largest student organizations on campus. Fann also was a member of the Corporate and Business Law Society, completed an independent study in mergers and acquisitions and still found time to volunteer each week at Phoenix Children's Hospital. photo of Emily Fann Emily Fann, JD Candidate ’20, in the Ross-Blakley Law Library at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Download Full Image

Fann considers herself a transfer student success story. However, her path getting there was somewhat untraditional.

“Prior to attending law school, I didn't understand the concept of studying where you want to practice. I just thought law school was law school,” Fann recalled. “With that in mind I accepted a placement at a school where I received a scholarship that covered 100% of my tuition. However, I quickly learned that I wanted more out of school.”

That's when Fann transferred to ASU Law and restarted her law school education. However, she transferred after on-campus interviews – or OCIs as they are referred to among law schools – when law firms and other legal employers have an opportunity to interview students on-campus.

“I missed every opportunity for the covetable summer internships at the big law firms. Rather than accept defeat, I fought my way into the firm of my dreams, Tiffany and Bosco,” she said. “I started as a freelance researcher for an equity shareholder of the firm. With his recommendation, I moved to the spot of a law clerk for a young attorney looking for additional help and became a part-time employee of the firm. Her recommendation moved me to the commercial transaction department, and working for my now boss.”

She is honored to report that after she graduates she will begin full-time employment as an associate in commercial transactions with Tiffany & Bosco, P.A.

Question: Why did you choose ASU Law?

Answer: I went to a networking lunch with five attorneys from a law firm in town. As I sat there, I kept thinking to myself, “How do I secure my seat at this lunch table?” It dawned on me that every attorney at the table was a graduate of ASU Law. There was no question in my mind from that point on that I had to attend ASU. I am thrilled to now report that I will be working at the firm with those same attorneys after law school.

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

photo of Emily Fann

Emily Fann, JD Candidate ’20, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

A: While sitting in my last advanced water class, Professor Larson gave the greatest speech. It went something like this, "Be water my friends. Water is strong, resilient, fierce and powerful. She keeps moving and never stops. Give her time and she can build a monument."

Another great tip came from Larry Cohen, an adjunct professor at ASU Law, during his medical malpractice class. He said, "It never hurts to pretend to be the dumbest person in the room. People will tell you everything they think they know. As a lawyer that is the best place to be in. Let people speak to you first before you respond."

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

A: Be persistent with your goals and don’t be afraid of taking an unusual route to reach them. Figure out what works best for you and own it.

Q: What motivates you?

A: It is important to me that at the end of each day I am proud of myself. That motivates me to do more, to be better and to be authentic in the midst of it all. I truly believe that motivation is like a helium balloon, though. It is going to deflate and you need to check in on it to make it full again. Your law school career will ebb and flow. To finish strong, check in on your motivation and restore it when necessary.

Nicole Almond Anderson

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


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Watts graduate exemplifies public service

May 10, 2020

Graduating veteran begins emergency management career with agency managing local response to COVID-19 pandemic

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Marisa Von Holten’s Arizona State University journey took some unexpected twists, turns and setbacks, but her “can do” attitude, spirit of service and perseverance enabled her to not only finish her college degree but also transition to a new public service career.

The former Air Force medic switched majors “a couple of times” at ASU, eventually finding the degree she would march with across the graduation finish line — the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions bachelor of science in public service and public policy, with a focus on emergency management and homeland security, managed by the college’s School of Public Affairs.

As part of the degree program, Von Holten entered into an internship with the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management. That led to a job offer as an emergency management services planner, as the agency activated its emergency operations center to organize the county response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I really like it; I’ve gotten a ton of experience,” said Von Holten, who served in Afghanistan with an Army transportation unit. “We’ve been activated since March 16 in response to coronavirus … March 23 they hired me as a fulltime employee.”

Among the ASU veteran community, the Huntsville, Texas, native is known for being deeply involved with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center outreach team, helping veterans transition to campus life and helping the center execute multiple events throughout the year, including the Veterans Honor Stole ceremonies.

“The stole event has always been my absolute favorite, to see all the veterans graduate each semester,” Von Holten said. “The outreach team has been amazing.”

Von Holten’s involvement with the veterans center spans many initiatives. She served as a spokesperson for a new student orientation video for veterans and helped establish the Women Veterans Club on campus.

During her time at ASU, and before while in military uniform, Von Holten has exemplified work ethic and service. Below she provides more insight into her ASU journey.   

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

Answer: As a prior medic, I missed helping people during times of crisis. I explored a few different career fields outside of medicine including firefighting, but obtaining my degree before returning to work was still a priority. Through that, I found emergency management and realized I could help my community as a whole be prepared for all types of emergencies and disasters. 

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

A: During my time at ASU, I learned that while being a veteran might help open doors and opportunities, that alone is not enough. Meeting other vets, I think sometimes we fall into the trap of thinking we can put our military experience on a resume and be a shoo-in; but it's important and vital to recognize that you still have to be able to translate your experiences and put in the work to be successful. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I wanted to be sure that I was using my benefits at a college who cares about me as both a successful student and veteran. Using the internet, I searched for "military-friendly schools" and came across ASU several times. After doing an online tour and speaking with staff at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, I knew I found what I was looking for. 

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

A: Through his teaching style, Professor Kevin Robinson showed me it is possible to have our guards up but still approach life with an open mind. For that, and the respect he gave us as adults in his courses, I'm grateful to have been instructed by him. 

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

A: I would recommend that students look for job opportunities well before they graduate. That might mean internships, volunteering or simply networking and making job-site visits in your career field aspirations. For me, graduation came quick; and although I now have a job lined up through my last internship, I wish I had done more!

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

A: I loved being at the Tempe campus and having the traditional "college student" experience. I'm going to miss studying in the basement at Hayden Library and walking to classes by the MU or Palm Walk. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: As an expectant mother, I lined graduation up so that it would be within a few weeks of delivering our first child. I was recently employed by Maricopa County's Department of Emergency Management, and after some maternity leave, I'm hopeful to continue my employment serving the Valley!

Top photo: Air Force veteran Marisa Von Holten (second from the right) poses with members of her Army unit in 2014 during a deployment to Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. Von Holten served as a medic attached to an Army transportation company supplying U.S. troops at forward operating bases throughout eastern Afghanistan. Courtesy photo

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Sustainability grad found community through resources for undocumented students

May 10, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

A student’s discovery of a major that suits all of their interests is rare.  Karina Dominguez stands in front of a butterfly projection Karina Dominguez at a USEE fundraiser dinner. Download Full Image

Karina Dominguez, 21, was able to find all her passions in the sustainability major and urban planning minor of the School of Sustainability.   

Even so, the Michoacan, Mexico, native found it difficult at first to find people who understood her struggle. Dominguez, a transfer student from Glendale Community College, had to “navigate the education system as an undocumented student.” 

Fortunately, DREAMzone and Undocumented Students for Educational Equity at ASU helped her access the resources she needed to succeed and immersed her in a community that welcomed her. 

“USEE and DREAMzone gave me the community I needed to keep on fighting and to ensure that I was able to graduate,” Dominguez said. 

Dominguez was a part of USEE at GCC, but when she transferred to ASU in 2018, she became the communications director. The student organization is run by undocumented students and advocates for equitable access to education. DREAMzone is a program at ASU that provides resources for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals students, undocumented students and families with mixed immigration status through support circles, peer-to-peer support and more. 

As she prepared to graduate, Dominguez reflected on her time at ASU and what she plans for the future. 

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

Answer: I realized I wanted to study sustainability when I couldn’t find any other major that included all of my interests. I was interested in politics, the environment, social justice, among other things. Sustainability includes all of these topics and even more, which allow me to not be stuck doing one thing forever. I have the ability to explore and see what I enjoy doing best within the career. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of their sustainability program, and it was the most affordable in-state university. 

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

A: Find a community of individuals who have the same interests, struggles or goals. 

When things get hard in school or in your personal life, it is much easier to get through it when you have people by your side who are feeling the same way and are supporting one another. It is good to also have those people to just have fun with and take a break from stress. Those people will become the best college memories. 

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

A: My favorite spot on campus to meet with friends was the MECHA room because it was a safe space for us where we could be ourselves. My favorite spot to study was the new Hayden Library. It was very peaceful, and there were amazing views. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to stay involved with issues concerning environmental justice and immigrant rights. I want to continue to fight with my community for a better present and future. 

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

A: I believe it would be extremely difficult to solve one problem on the planet with $40 million, but what I would like to do is give out that money to communities who lack certain resources or have been negatively affected by environmental justice issues. By providing them with this money, hopefully they are able to receive opportunities that will improve their quality of life. 

For example, the money could be used to create community gardens where community members can constantly interact with one another and build trust. The money could be used for whatever the community decides is their greatest need. 

Written by Carmen De Alba Cardenas, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU grad’s service in student government helped hone her passion for policy

May 10, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Hanna Salem’s biggest takeaway from Arizona State University was learning to think holistically about inclusion in her path to leadership.  Hanna Salem in front of Old Main at ASU's Tempe campus ASU grad and Tempe Undergraduate Student Government President Hanna Salem. Download Full Image

One of the first things she got involved with at ASU was the Tempe Undergraduate Student Government. Salem started her college career as an intern for USG and ended up as the student body president of the Tempe campus. She's currently finishing up her term.

“I’m very proud of winning my campaign to be student body president, but within that I’m really proud that me and my team have been able to accomplish all of our campaign promises,” she said.

Salem was especially proud of her team's work on providing free menstrual hygiene products in ASU restrooms and increasing financial aid to students.

Her involvement in USG is one of the factors that led to her choosing her major, public service and public policy with a concentration in law and policy and a minor in women’s and gender studies. 

After changing her major several times, Salem realized her passion for political science and policy from the work and from the people she surrounded herself with.

“It's made me realize that I'm going into the right career path, and I’m still passionate. This really secured that public policy and public service is something I want to do in the future,” she said.

During Salem's ASU career, she earned the Spirit of Service Scholarship and Dean’s Scholarship. Overall, Salem said her experience at ASU was invaluable.

“Even though I didn’t expect to come to ASU, I had the best time here and I am so appreciative to every single person who has made my experience what it has, so thank you to ASU,” Salem said.

As she prepared to graduate, Salem reflected on her time at ASU and her advice for students.

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

Answer: I had changed my major like three or four times before becoming a public policy major. I just wasn't really happy with the prior majors I had chosen, and I knew that there was a thing in me that wanted to help people. I just didn't really know how I wanted to do that. 

I think the “aha” moment for me was when I was just surrounding myself with a lot of public service and public policy people and I realized that these were the conversations I wanted to have too.

I am incredibly happy with the decision [to change majors] and a lot more passionate about my academic work than I was at the beginning of my ASU career.

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

A: I think my biggest takeaway from ASU has been how to live my life with the charter in mind. It's changed my way of thinking and how I think about actions and avenues within my life. 

I’ve never really been in a place where diversity is so celebrated. So now that I have that foundation, I feel like my actions and the way I make decisions is totally altered thanks to the ASU charter. I just have a better way of approaching problems now that I am looking at things more holistically than I was before.

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

A: Something that I challenged myself with at the beginning of my fourth year was to say yes to everything. I really made it a point to go to events that I would never really typically go to. That’s helped me a lot in terms of making friendships and new relationships but has also made me appreciate ASU in a completely new way. My biggest advice is to just start early and take advantage of all the opportunities and events.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I really liked the location; I really liked that it felt like a mini city within a bigger city. I really don’t know what came over me, but I was like, "I think that this is where I need to be." It was a very last-minute decision, but it was a great decision nonetheless.

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

A: Definitely education. I think education is the root of all of our problems, but I also think it’s the solution to all of our problems. So if we invest more time and money into youth essentially we are going to have a better and stronger society, economy and world in general.

Written by Madeleine Williamson, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services