Home Page Display: 

A second chance at engineering leads to a lifetime of impact

October 11, 2019

Engineering is a rewarding career, but reaping the benefits requires sowing discipline and good habits — and knowing when to ask for help.

When JR Frey started studying civil engineering at Arizona State University in 1993, before the engineering school was named the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, he didn’t quite get off on the right foot. Students study intently at the ECG Student Center on the Arizona State University Tempe campus. Students study intently at the ECG Student Center on the Arizona State University Tempe campus. Learning how to maintain a work-school balance was the key to success for JR Frey (not pictured) when he was studying engineering at ASU. Photographer: Hayden Taylor/ASU Download Full Image

“I worked my way through school for the most part, so there were times when I was working full time while I was trying to take a full course load, and that didn’t always work,” Frey said.

Because the engineering firm where Frey worked provided him with relevant experience for his future career, taking the necessary steps to get his degree became less of a priority for him and his grades began to suffer.

It was then Frey realized he needed to change his approach in school.

Getting on the right path

“My GPA dipped below what was acceptable for the school of engineering at the time, but it didn’t dip so far that I was ineligible to be at ASU,” Frey said. “At that point, I took that opportunity to methodically work to improve my GPA and get back into the school of engineering.”

During the time he was not in an engineering program, Frey took classes such as physical chemistry and organic chemistry, which were applicable to his major as technical electives and would help elevate his GPA.

“Throughout the process, the administration and faculty were very supportive,” Frey said. “They were always open to bringing somebody back in. If for whatever reason, you were out (of the program), there wasn’t any judgment about what you had done before, it’s what are you going to do now and what are you going to do going forward.”

After taking physical chemistry, Frey’s GPA rose high enough for him to return to the engineering school to complete studies for his degree. It was then he decided to reconsider working full time.

“Once I was readmitted, I actually resigned from the engineering job that I had because I had too much responsibility and too much on my plate,” he said. “I took a job with another engineering firm where I had very limited responsibilities and that allowed me to focus more on completing studies for my degree.”

Though he knew he was gaining invaluable experience at his job, Frey made the decision to prioritize his schoolwork, as obtaining his degree was a prerequisite for the professional career he wanted.

Hard work gains new skills

JR Frey with his daughters

Fall River city engineer JR Frey with his daughters, Charlotte and Vivienne. Photo by Jack Foley/Herald News

The process of improving his GPA enough to get back into the civil engineering program was arduous. While engineering concepts always came easily to Frey, knowing how to study did not.

“I had to learn a lot of study habits and work habits that I didn’t learn in high school, and that came back to haunt me early on,” Frey said. “So, there was that part of that whole learning experience as well.”

Much of the difficulty for Frey, who had background knowledge of civil engineering from his work experiences, was putting in the time and effort necessary to demonstrate subject mastery of his classes. While he strove to apply himself to his career, he first needed to learn how to apply himself to his classes.

First, Frey chose classes that were of interest to him. After that, it was taking a methodical approach to complete all the requirements for the course and eventually earn his degree.

Once he began the next phase of his career, Frey found parallels between his time as a student and what he was doing in the workplace. The skills Frey gained while he was learning to be an effective engineering student transferred into his career in civil engineering.

“If you’re going into civil engineering, you’re going to find the regulations that are applicable to the project that you’re working on and you’re going to check the boxes. And that’s not always the most fun part of the job, but it’s a necessary part of the job.”

Frey earned his degree from ASU in 1999. He now serves the people of Fall River, Massachusetts, as a city engineer, after working jobs in municipal utilities and in consulting.

What Frey said ultimately made him a good engineer was getting past the tendency to rely solely on his existing knowledge and instead summoning the dedication to complete tasks to the fullest extent. 

“You want people who can be dedicated to the craft, who are going to work for it and are going to put in the time and the effort,” he said. “You don’t want engineers who aren’t willing to put in the time and the effort. The work requires some dedication.”

Talent can get you far, but Frey says it’s the hard work that gets you the farthest.

“You can be the smartest person in the world, but it ends up being about the effort you put in. And I had to be willing to commit and make that effort for the degree and not just for other areas of my life even if they were related to engineering.”

Students with a full or difficult class schedule can take comfort in knowing that there are on-campus resources available to them, such as office hours, tutoring and academic advising. Actively working toward the goal of graduation and being able to ask for help along the way are both key parts to being successful in school and in your career.

Karishma Albal

Student Science/Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


image title

Upcoming study abroad programs you don’t want to miss

October 4, 2019

Kenya, Croatia, Cambodia among the countries students can choose from

What awards course credit, builds your resume, provides hands-on experience and gives you the opportunity to travel the world?

Study abroad programs.

The Arizona State University Study Abroad Office coordinates 250-plus study abroad program options for all students across all continents (yes, including Antarctica) in more than 65 different countries. Some of the most popular programs are led by faculty members with groups of students, either over the summer, during a semester session or during an academic break (winter break, spring break and before/after semesters). 

Each program focuses on a certain academic topic and incorporates excursions and field experiences to give students the opportunity to explore and learn about their host country. The Global Intensive Experience model connects students to experiences and cultures abroad that are integrated within credit-bearing ASU courses over a period of seven to 12 days.

Each year, faculty submit proposals for programs that integrate with the local culture and engage with current events and local experts. Here's a peek at a sampling of programs that are coming back (here's a hint: winter is coming) and a handful of brand new ones.

Returning study abroad programs

ASU: Cambodia and Vietnam: Countries of Historic Resilience Facing a Future of Rising Seas

This program focuses on social, cultural, economic and political resilience and survival in the face of human and natural challenges, by experiencing a region that has witnessed centuries of human development. Students will travel through history and across geographies, including the Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam, and the ruins of Angkor Wat, Cambodia, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Students will witness firsthand how rising sea levels affect not only coastal cities, but the inner regions of the Mekong Delta and Cambodia, and how adaptation strategies, both new and ancient, can help solve flooding challenges.

Global Intensive Experience: Engage Berlin: Migration, Art and Justice

How do Europe and the United States respond to immigrants and refugees? How can the arts and storytelling help us understand migrant and refugee experiences? This program will engage critically in the history and contemporary experiences of migrants and refugees in Berlin. By working directly with Berlin-based NGOs, activists, policymakers and migrants themselves, students will get a firsthand account of how Germany, and Berlin in particular, handle arriving refugees.

Additionally, examine examples from various art forms, including film and the creative arts, storytelling, media and social media to help understand migration and immigrants in Germany. Comparative attention will be made with circumstances in Arizona and Germany to provide students a local/global lens and prepare them for addressing immigration through a robust, nuanced lens. Students interested in internship credit will work alongside Phoenix-area organizations and work closely with a similar Berlin organization to understand what immigration justice looks like on the ground in Arizona and how that might differ from the Berlin experience.

ASU: Game of Thrones: Global Film and Culture in Iceland, Ireland and Croatia

This program explores the film and television industries, history, culture and geography of Iceland, Ireland and Croatia through the global phenomenon of HBO's "Game of Thrones." The program features five-day stays in five major European cities — Reykjavik, Iceland; Belfast, Northern Ireland; Dublin; and Split and Dubrovnik, Croatia — and includes visits to the filming locations for Winterfell, King's Landing, Castle Black, the Wall and lands beyond, Meereen, the Eyrie, the Iron Islands and Blackwater Bay. 

ASU: Japanese Language & Culture in Hiroshima

Video by Yuxing Lei/ASU Now

New study abroad programs 

ASU: The Haunting of England: Ghost Stories and the Seduction of Fear

On this program, students will research how a culture develops its own horror mythos from beautiful but mysterious castles, manors and other supernatural sites. Through the study of ghost stories in literature, film and oral tradition in England and Scotland, students will examine the relationship between these stories and some of the actual locations where the stories originated. They will also examine, through their own personal experiences, what attracts us to the psychology of fear, comparing the literary involvement to the physical sensations in real life. 

ASU: Kenya: The Role of Tourism and Park Management in Sustainable Community Development

This program blends together all that the country of Kenya has to offer, from the great migration through its Serengeti Plain to its white sand beaches along the Indian Ocean. Students will visit five national parks all teeming with wildlife, including the world’s last two remaining northern white rhinos, and stay at a conservation center on the banks of Lake Naivasha where they may see hippos at night roaming the grounds. 

Through the lens of sustainable tourism and park management, students will learn how they can play a part in solutions to pressing sustainability issues. They will learn from exemplary global nonprofits with bases in Kenya and receive lectures from university professors at Kenyatta University, officials from Kenyan Wildlife Services and Maasai safari guides.

Learn about these programs (and more), meet the faculty leading the programs and chat with Study Abroad Office staff at these upcoming events:

Polytechnic: Monday, Oct. 7, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Backus Mall

Downtown Phoenix: Thursday, Oct. 10, 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Taylor Mall

If you’re on the Tempe campus, catch an in-person Study Abroad 101 session Tuesdays from 1-2 p.m. in Interdisciplinary B building, room 255. If you're an online student, we’ve got you covered on Wednesday afternoons.

Top photo: Aerial view of Dubrovnik, Croatia, one of the many cities where "Game of Thrones" was filmed. Photo by Spencer Davis/Unsplash

Carrie Herrera Niesen

Manager, Marketing & Publicity , Study Abroad Office


image title

First semester with The College

October 1, 2019

What's life like in the largest academic unit at Arizona State University?

Arizona State University marked a record first-year undergraduate cohort of nearly 14,000 on-campus students this fall. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences welcomed more than 3,000 to the academic heart of the university.

The College’s 95 undergraduate degree programs prepare students for careers in fields including anthropology, biodesign, biomimicry, urban planning, policy advising and international diplomacy. And those pursuing degrees elsewhere at ASU are also engaged here — 94% of all 2018 graduates took at least one course through The College during their time at ASU. So what does that look like for the latest Sun Devils on campus?

We caught up with students from each of The College’s three divisions to hear about their time at ASU so far, why they chose their major and what they’re looking forward to this semester.

Paige Fierro-Hernandez is a first-year student at The College studying English with a focus on writing, reading and rhetoric in the Department of English.

Paige Fierro-Hernandez, a commuter student, found that joining the ASU Programming and Activities Board helped her to feel more connected to campus life.

Paige Fierro-Hernandez: Humanities

Paige Fierro-Hernandez came to ASU with a plan to expand a family legacy. Now majoring in English with a focus on writing, rhetoric and literacies in the Department of English, she’s also looking to forge a creative path of her own.

“My grandfather was also an English major at ASU, and I've always been a writer and a really big reader,” she said. “I figured, why not take two things that I love and try and make a career.”

Fierro-Hernandez commutes to campus from her family home in Mesa. She said it can be difficult to connect with students and events on campus as a commuter. Joining the ASU Programming and Activities Board (PAB) was one way to fill the gap. 

“It can be hard to feel fully immersed at ASU without actually living here,” she said. “I joined PAB’s Memorial Union After Dark program because I like organizing activities, and I think it’s a good way to get involved.”

Fierro-Hernandez is the first person in her family to attend college since her grandfather graduated from ASU in 1972. She said she wants to make space for her writing and making new memories outside the classroom. 

“My grandpa was so excited when I told him I was going to ASU, he actually cried,” she said. “It sounds really nerdy, but I think now I’m looking forward to working on papers for my classes, and attending the Territorial Cup Series games.”

Brooke Zanon found a variety of studies at ASU that will serve her in a career in the international arena.

Brooke Zanon: Social sciences

Growing up some 30 minutes from the Tempe campus, Brooke Zanon first became interested in global affairs in high school.

“We didn’t really have a program for international relations at my school, but I did a lot of research online to see what I wanted to do in the field in the future,” she said. “Before college, I attended a summer camp at Georgetown University that focused on the study.”

When it came time to think about college, she remembers looking for a balance between staying close to family and finding the academic opportunities she hoped would lead to a career in the international arena. Getting accepted to Barrett, The Honors College was the final push she needed to attend ASU. 

Now pursuing a major in global studies in the School of Politics and Global Studies, a minor in political science and a certificate in Islamic studies, Zanon is turning the interests she forged in high school into an academic path at The College. 

Zanon serves as the policy chair of ASU’s chapter of the gun control advocacy group March For Our Lives, and also meets with the Alexander Hamilton Club on campus when she has time. 

She said engaging with those organizations and living in a residence hall has helped her branch out as she starts her Sun Devil journey. 

“I think so far I’ve gotten over the worry of not making friends by forming relationships with the people on the same floor of my residence hall,” she said. “Clubs help too, because you’ve already established that common interest and it’s easier to build from there.” 

First-year student Francisco Cabrera is studying physics in The College's Department of Physics.

Francisco Abraham Cabrera says that hard times give students an opportunity to problem-solve and learn how to be independent.

Francisco Abraham Cabrera: Natural sciences

Francisco Abraham Cabrera grew up wanting to understand the physical world and our place within it.

“I’ve always been curious about the universe, how it works and the fact that we as humans are so insignificantly small, yet able to decipher so much,” he said.

Now, he’s turning his curiosity into a study as a physics major in The College’s Department of Physics

Cabrera came to ASU as a part of The College’s College Assistance Migrant Program, an initiative at the School of Transborder Studies supporting Arizona students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds. He said meeting and working with other students in the program has helped him feel more at home on campus. And between socializing and classes, living in a residence hall has provided a space to wind down.

“I like living in my residence hall because I get to enjoy the quiet, at least during the week,” he said. “I also like going for walks in the evenings, kind of as a way to just realize that I’m here, at ASU.”

As the semester progresses, he said it’s important to remember how to problem-solve, and always strive toward solutions.

“I feel like no matter what your personality is, you’re going to be taught a lesson in independence here,” he said. “There are going to be hard times, but eventually you’re going to figure it out — I think it’s important to remember you're at ASU for a reason.” 

Top photo: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences moved into a new home at Armstrong Hall last year. 

Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


Access ASU provides resources for prospective students to 'live their faith out loud'

September 30, 2019

Access ASU, whose programs and initiatives help ensure Arizona students are prepared for college and 21st-century careers, works alongside faith-based community leaders to bring workshops and resources promoting higher education to their congregations and surrounding communities.

Kiana Sears, the assistant director of faith-based outreach and community partnerships for Access ASU, took on the role of leading the new initiative last fall.  Women talk at a table at an ASU early outreach event on the Tempe campus Future Sun Devil Family Day is one of ASU's early outreach events to share resources about higher education with Arizona communities. Download Full Image

“In my work, what I try to do is help people get the tools and resources that we offer from an educational perspective but live their faith out loud,” Sears said. 

The need for this role stemmed from talking to religious leaders in the area who wanted to build a college-going culture from their pulpits. 

Sears works with a wide array of faith-based communities across the Phoenix metro area to share education resources and strengthen pathways to higher education in underserved communities. Instead of considering her work as “interfaith,” Sears said she thinks of it as “multifaith,” as she encourages the individuality and traditions of each faith to shine through. 

Through the efforts of Sears and her team, Access ASU provides workshop materials and programming that can be used in faith-based communities to help kindergarten through 12th-grade students prepare to enroll and succeed in college. The materials and workshops address a range of topics including tips for reducing test-taking anxiety, the middle school to high school transition, the high school to college transition and managing and navigating financial aid and completing the FAFSA. 

While Sears primarily provides support to communities external to ASU, she also wants to ensure that students who are interested and brought on by Access ASU connect with the Council of Religious Advisors at ASU to find a place that allows them to keep practicing their faith once on campus. CORA connects leaders within more than 50 different religious communities across each of the ASU campuses and represents thousands of Sun Devils. Giving students a chance to connect with CORA through the educational resources their faith communities now offer allows for potential students to find their way before even stepping foot on an ASU campus.  

“When students come to college, they sometimes drop their faith at the door because there’s so much going on and they’re trying to figure out where they fit in,” said Sears. “Helping a student navigate and find commonality before they even come to ASU causes less feelings of being lost because you arrive already having a place of being and belonging,” she said.

Ben Sanders, the co-director for the Campus Christian Center and one of the spiritual leaders with CORA, said it’s important to raise awareness with prospective students regarding the presence of faith-based organizations at ASU and opportunities to get involved.

“Informing middle school and high school students about faith-based organizations at ASU gives them confidence that there are supportive communities on campus who care about their intellectual, social and spiritual development,” Sanders said. “With a wide variety of religious groups here, ASU is truly multifaith-friendly. These faith communities welcome new students to the university experience and connect them with other students who can provide friendship and support during their college years and beyond.”

Many of the workshops and programming must be reserved ahead of time to ensure ample time and coaching before the event. Contact Access ASU if this is something your faith community is looking for.

Written by Lindsay Lohr, Sun Devil storyteller

It's amore: ASU Law taps former Attorney General Grant Woods to teach in its Italy program

September 30, 2019

A political career in which he served as Arizona’s attorney general and John McCain’s chief of staff has taken Grant Woods all over the world. And in all his travels, the city he connected with the most was Florence, Italy.

It was serendipity when Douglas Sylvester, dean of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, approached the ASU Law alum about teaching a program overseas, in nearby Prato. photo of grant woods teaching Grant Woods, former Arizona attorney general and John McCain’s chief of staff, speaks to ASU Law students. Download Full Image

“Dean Sylvester first talked to me about it several years ago,” Woods said. “He was very enthusiastic about this new program, but he was kind of talking in generalities and hadn’t gotten to where it was. And then he said ‘Italy.’ And I said, ‘Great — where at in Italy?’ And he said ‘Florence.’ I said, ‘Great.’ And he said, ‘I’ll give you the details so you can think about it.’ And I said, ‘No. You can give me the details, but I don’t need to think about it. You just named my favorite city in the world, so I’m in.'

“Not that I wouldn’t have done it if it was in Florence, Arizona,” Woods said with a laugh. “But when it was Florence, Italy, I said, ‘OK, that’ll work.’”

Woods recently returned from his third summer teaching in the program. He said the schedule — three-hour classes three times a week over a four-week block — is demanding, but working with students while enjoying the culture and scenic beauty of Italy makes it all worthwhile.

“It's a lot of work, so it makes me appreciate the law professors all the more,” Woods said. “But it's been a great experience. The students really give me a lot of hope for the future and hope for the profession. They help remind you of why you got involved in the legal profession in the first place.”

The program was launched through a partnership with Monash Law School of Melbourne, Australia, which has a campus in Prato. Students pay ASU tuition and earn ASU credits for the courses, which are taught in English and cover such topics as international refugee law, international criminal justice, comparative European legal systems, sovereignty and globalization and European Union external relations.

Diana Bowman, who oversees the program as ASU Law’s associate dean for international engagement, says it not only provides a rich cultural and intellectual experience for students, but allows them to build a global network of colleagues that can serve as an invaluable resource throughout their career.

Bowman says she is honored to have Woods among the rotating staff of instructors, noting that he has been a great ambassador for the program, and ASU Law more generally, and his willingness to take part is a testament to how special the program is.

Woods says it’s an amazing opportunity for students — one he wishes he had when he was attending ASU Law. His most recent class included students from Australia, Canada, France, Germany, India, Israel, Italy, Taiwan and the United States.

“Any student who has any interest in traveling abroad would be crazy not to participate in the program. I mean, if you had to choose some place to go, I don’t know why you wouldn’t go to Prato,” he said. “You also are exposed to students from all around the world. And that's different than sitting in your normal law school class here in Phoenix.”

Student experiences

Like Woods, Joshua Abbott has been all over the world. A Master of Legal Studies student at ASU Law, Abbott is an Army veteran who has worked in intelligence and special operations. He has been to over 40 countries, mostly in Europe and Africa. So when he saw the chance to take a comparative criminal law class from Woods, in Prato, there was no hesitation.

photo of Josh Abbott horseback riding

Master of Legal Studies student Josh Abbott partakes in a horseback ride up Mount Vesuvius in Campania, Italy, with friend Rylee Payton.

“I always thought you better know the laws around the places you’re going to visit, and I’ve visited quite a few,” Abbott said, recalling the high-profile case of Michael Fay, an American teenager who, in 1994, was sentenced by the Singapore government to several lashes with a cane for theft and vandalism. “So comparative criminal law is interesting to me, and Grant Woods is the former Arizona attorney general and worked with John McCain, and I’d heard him speak several times, so I knew I liked him.”

He said Woods facilitated thought-provoking discussions, detailing U.S. policies and calling upon international students to weigh in on how their countries’ laws compared.

“He made it very interactive with the fellow students,” Abbott said. “And there was more of a moral and ethical element to it than I expected, which I greatly appreciated. He would tailor questions to make for morally difficult answers.”

Kelsey Misseldine did not have a chance to take Woods’ class, but attended the summer’s first session in Prato, studying international economic law. She was looking to get away from Phoenix after a rigorous first year of law school, and the chance to study in Italy seemed like a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

“My experience in Prato was incredible,” she said. “Academically, I appreciated the perspectives that were posed in our class due to the differing national origins. And culturally, what is there to not like about Italy? Pizza, pasta, history, architecture. Each day I was in awe at the new places I was able to visit and appreciate a country with a history much longer than the U.S.”

During her time in Italy, she took the Write-On Exam that qualifies students to join the Arizona State Law Journal. Although it’s a difficult test, she has fond memories of taking it while on a balcony overlooking Prato, eating pizza and croissants.

Pizza, coincidentally, is what lured Dylan Mileusnich to Prato. Free pizza, that is.

“I was drawn to the Prato program at first by the offer of free pizza at the informational meeting,” he said. “I have always wanted to travel, and I didn't know when the next time I would have time to do so would be, so I applied, got the class I wanted, and the rest is history.”

Now a second-year student at ASU Law, Mileusnich signed up for a class in Prato examining the portrayal of the law and lawyers in fiction. He was the lone American in a class of 35 students.

“As the only American, it was interesting to see how my perspective was different from the others’, especially since pieces from American pop culture were the focus of the class.”

To make their experience even more meaningful, all students in the program are encouraged to take advantage of their off days and explore their surroundings.

“I enjoyed every minute of the trip,” Misseldine said. “Once you immerse yourself into the culture and begin to explore all the historic sites, gardens and museums, each day becomes a new adventure.”

She said a 13th-century castle sits just one block from the Prato campus, nestled among apartments and everyday buildings. It gave her new perspective, coming from Arizona, where anything built in the early 1900s is designated historic. She traveled throughout the country and beyond, visiting Belgium and the Netherlands. Rome, she said, was a particularly profound experience.

“It was incredible to walk the streets and realize that Romans get to walk past the Forum and Colosseum daily, as just a normal sight,” she said. “It made me appreciate my own history more and sparked my travel bug to want to explore so much more in the future.”

Abbott’s European travels had never taken him to Prato before. Although it’s a relatively small city, he said it has much to offer.

“It's a cool little city,” he said. “Great food, great atmosphere, great culture. It’s got wine, cheese shops, pastry shops, panini places. All the things that we pay extra for here because, you know, it’s authentic. Well, it’s authentic and it’s cheap right there.”

Mileusnich describes it as “a very small big city.”

“There are a lot of big, beautiful buildings and there is a lot to do but, at the same time, everything is in walking distance,” he said.

And there is so much to see beyond the city.

“One weekend I took a train to Pisa; on another I went to Florence, which is very close to Prato,” he said. “I also went to Cinque Terre, Rome, the Vatican, and I even popped over to Athens.”

Opportunity of a lifetime

Any student with the opportunity to take part in the program should, Misseline said. And her only regret is that she didn’t lengthen her stay.

“I would recommend attending two sessions,” she said. “I feel like I had just become comfortable in Prato after one month, and there was so much more I could have explored with additional time.”

Abbott says the benefits of studying abroad go far beyond what is learned in the classroom.

“You may learn something that you didn't know in the class, but it’s short, it’s condensed. You may not learn as much as you would in a full semester of sitting in a classroom,” he said. “But the experiences that you have abroad, meeting new people, taking in a new culture, that's really where you win in these situations. If you have the opportunity to do it, don't let it pass you by.”

Woods says he would have jumped at the opportunity, had such a program existed when he was attending ASU Law in the 1970s.

“Prato has a very dynamic atmosphere, filled with young people,” he said. “It’s the classic Italian village, but it’s very vibrant. And you hop on the train and within minutes, you’re in Florence, which is one of the greatest cities in the world. And students make a point of traveling to other parts of Italy and France and wherever they wanted to go, because everything is so close.”

Although he values the education and experiences from his time at ASU Law, Woods says the Prato program is one of the many exciting options that have developed for students in the years since, as the school has bolstered its curriculum, expanded its international reach and come to offer so much more.

“You don’t get a chance to go live in Florence, Italy, and get some law school credits and have some fun along the way too often in life,” he said. “That's not always true at law school. But it’s certainly true in ASU Law’s Prato program. I really encourage people to take advantage of it. It's an amazing opportunity, and they will never forget it.”

This is just one of the many experiences offered through the ASU Study Abroad Office, which has 250-plus programs in more than 65 different countries.

Nicole Almond Anderson

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


Why demystifying FAFSA is key to boosting Arizona’s economy

September 27, 2019

At one point, when Arizona State University junior Jacqueline White was attending Mesa Community College, she was working three jobs to pay for school out of pocket. After she transferred to ASU, she realized she could have avoided that financial stress if only she had filled out a federal form she hadn’t ever heard of: FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).

“It was only later on when I started attending ASU that I realized what FAFSA was. Come to find out, actually all my school would have been covered by a Pell Grant had I submitted [a] FAFSA.”  ASU students helping community members at Future Sun Devil Family Day Community members in Tempe received FAFSA resources at a recent Future Sun Devil Family Day event at the ASU Tempe campus. Download Full Image

White, originally from Sierra Vista, Arizona, said being a first-generation student has meant learning these kinds of lessons along the way. Her parents didn’t have personal experience with higher education, and White said her high school didn’t have the resources to provide the guidance that she and her older sister needed as they began navigating the college admissions process. 

“It’s been a learning curve, to be honest. … I never understood FAFSA or Pell Grants, and loans seemed very intimidating and scary,” White said.

Luckily, White earned scholarships that helped along the way and also learned about what FAFSA could do when she transferred to ASU. Now White is studying public policy and public service and has earned distinctions such as the Newman Civic Fellowship and the Boren Scholarship in her time as a Sun Devil. 

Removing financial barriers for students like White is the goal of the community partners working on the Arizona FAFSA Challenge, which has a goal of increasing FAFSA completion in Arizona to 53% of high school seniors during the 2019–20 cycle. 

Completing the FAFSA gives students access to grants, work-study opportunities, institution-based aid and federal student loans to pay for college — especially for students with high financial need. FAFSA applications for the 2020–21 school year open Oct. 1. 

Rich Nickel, the president and CEO of College Success Arizona, describes FAFSA as a “silver bullet” when it comes to the affordability questions so many students face when considering pursuing a degree. And taking an hour to fill out the form can really pay off financially for families but also economically for the state. 

“What we know is that there is massive upside tied to the completion of that form,” Nickel said. “The average awardee of FAFSA is provided just south of $10,000.”

The FAFSA goals that ASU and community partners are working toward accomplishing are part of the larger context of the Achieve60AZ goal: By 2030, 60% of adults in Arizona ages 25-64 will hold a degree or high-value credential. That would mean about a 15 percentage point increase over the next 11 years. 

FAFSA completion is a crucial indicator of whether a high school senior is likely to enroll in college: 90% of high school seniors who complete the form attend college directly from high school. And in Arizona, one of the only states in the country without a robust, need-based financial aid system supported by state government, students depend even more on federal aid and therefore FAFSA completion.

Arizona currently ranks 49th in the country for FAFSA completion, partially because there are misconceptions about the process and partially because of a lack of resources to deliver consistent and quality information available about the process, especially in rural areas of Arizona. 

Nickel said the low completion rate in the state is due to barriers such as an extremely low counselor-to-student ratio in Arizona of 950 students per counselor and also confusion among families about what’s required and where to find it. Parents and students might not know where to find tax information or might have fears about how their financial information will be used or kept private.

“FAFSA is a government form. Although it’s been wildly simplified over the last several years, it’s still intimidating to some people,” Nickel said. 

Getting people quick access to FAFSA guidance is the inspiration behind Project Benjamin, a chatbot that will answer FAFSA questions 24/7 and provide nudges and support via text messages. ASU, as part of a coalition of cross sector community partners including Achieve60AZ, Arizona College Access Network, Arizona Postsecondary Commission, Be A Leader Foundation, College Success Arizona, Helios Education Foundation, Maricopa Community Colleges and Mesa Public Schools, was recently awarded $1 million in grant funding to launch the first FAFSA chatbot in the country. “Benji,” as the chatbot is known, will be utilized to serve 30,000 students and families throughout greater Maricopa County. 

Technology tools help amplify the in-person work that’s already taking place via ASU’s early outreach programs and school- and district-level programming throughout Arizona. The community partnerships are also earning national attention: ASU was a partner in the Mesa Public Schools’ recent FAFSA completion award of $100,000 from the National College Access Network FAFSA Completion Challenge for a targeted effort to increase the FAFSA completion rate in Mesa schools by five percentage points in a year. Arizona State University worked with Mesa Public Schools on the development and submission of the FAFSA Challenge Grant proposal and provided training and staff to support FAFSA completion events across the district, which included data-informed community outreach and peer coaching for graduating seniors.

Michael Garcia, director of opportunity and achievement for Mesa Public Schools, said the 10% rise in FAFSA completion in Mesa has led to a steep rise in college applications and admissions.

“Students who gain access to financial aid are also more likely to have a secure financial future and will likely be stronger contributors to our local economy over a lifetime,” Garcia said. “It's a win for everyone. This is why this year we aim even higher than last year at 55% completion, compared with our goal of 45% last year.”  

Overall, there’s a lot of momentum to move the needle on FAFSA completion. Nickel said even businesses are getting involved because of the economic benefits to the state and local communities. Since the average amount awarded for people who fill out FAFSA is nearly $10,000, middle-income families who participate see a huge economic effect, as does the local economy. 

“You start adding that up, all of a sudden what you’re looking at for every percent we increase FAFSA completion literally can equate to millions of dollars of new federal money coming into our state, going to our institutions, paying salaries of people who work there, buying books, being used at local restaurants. The community is starting to see that,” Nickel said. 

ASU leaders are dedicated to building on that momentum as a way to meet the goals of Achieve60AZ and continue to open up access to higher education for all Arizonans. 

“Achieve60AZ is a launching pad for a lot of great work that is happening in Arizona, including FAFSA completion. We are proud to be partners in this work because the form is a crucial indicator for college going and also because it’s part of a blueprint for achieving educational outcomes that will advance our economy and improve people’s lives,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president for ASU Educational Outreach and Student Services.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU meteorology-climatology students take their skills to the field during summer break

September 27, 2019

Weather is active, moving and constantly changing. It's intriguing to watch as storms develop on the horizon. For students studying meteorology-climatology in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at Arizona State University, they take that intrigue to new levels as they learn more about how weather events happen through storm chasing, how the heat impacts our communities, how best we can communicate weather events to large audiences and how we can influence weather events. Four students spent their summer doing just that, including:

• Mary Wright, a PhD of geography student, headed across the country to spend 10 days chasing storms throughout Kansas and Texas. In total, she witnessed seven storms and enjoyed exploring small towns along the journey. Jordan Evans, who is double-majoring in meteorology-climatology and broadcast journalism, spent the summer as an intern with CNN Weather. Download Full Image

• Peter Crank, a PhD of geography student, spent the summer gathering important data on heat in certain Phoenix neighborhoods and developed models for how incorporating shade structures and plant life can help make the area cooler for residents. He also spent the summer working to better understand the physiological and psychological impacts associated with exposure to heat.

• Jordan Evans, a senior who is double-majoring in meteorology-climatology and broadcast journalism, traveled to Atlanta to intern with CNN Weather. His internship gave him the chance to test his broadcasting skills in a state-of-the-art studio, as well as the opportunity to create important relationships with CNN and other heavy-hitters in broadcast meteorology, like the Weather Channel.

• Samuel Meltzer, who recently earned his bachelor’s degree in meteorology-climatology and is currently enrolled in the schools’ Master of Advanced Study in Geographic Information Systems, secured a summer job as a radar meteorologist in North Dakota where he assisted with their cloud seeding project. Meltzer played an integral role in helping the organization select which clouds to target for hail damage reduction and rain enhancement for the benefit of the area’s agricultural industry.

We asked each of them about their experiences this summer.

Mary Wright

Question: What makes storm chasing so exciting?

Answer: I find storms to be stunningly beautiful to experience, not only visually, but through sounds, smells and the sensation of the wind moving around you. As a meteorologist, it's really fun to experience the whole process of starting in the morning with a forecast discussion, looking at maps and model outputs to actually standing there, on some dirt road in Kansas, staring up at this massive, gorgeous supercell thunderstorm. To go from something so dry and technical to something so beautiful just seems utterly incompatible, and I love every part of it.

Q: Did you learn anything new this summer?

A: This summer, I learned what updraft helicity is and how to pronounce Refugio, a town in Texas — unless you're from Texas, I guarantee it's not what you think!

Q: What inspired your interest in storms/storm chasing?

A: I grew up in Arizona and I've always loved monsoon season. My parents taught me to appreciate going outdoors and experiencing nature, and we would often all pile into the minivan and just drive to wherever the storms were. Most people wait for storms to come to them and then complain that storms "avoid" their neighborhood, but I've always had the desire to go to the storm instead.

Q: What would you recommend to other students who are interested in hitting the road to chase a storm?

A: Take a friend so one person can drive and the other person can keep an eye on the storms. Car accidents kill far more storm chasers than tornados ever have. Otherwise — good luck, be safe, be patient and just get out there!

Peter Crank

Q: Why is investigating urban heat important to you?

A: Heat is the leading atmospheric cause of death in the U.S. It does not have the fanfare, panic and gripping imagery that other natural hazards have, like tornadoes and hurricanes. It creeps up on us and catches us when we least expect it. I study this in the city because our human activity and society is centered there and those activities exacerbate the issue. I want to study urban heat because it is something that impacts everyone and being able to help people is something that I want to be able to do in my research and my career. 

Q: What do you wish more people knew about urban heat?

A: First, that new isn't always better. Just because the building is new, the technology is new, doesn't mean that they are safer. Previous generations were able to cope with difficult environments without the latest technology. Sometimes, using and incorporating traditional designs into our modern lives can help us mitigate the impact of heat better than making the building more insulated (this makes the building more dependent on the grid). Examples range from verandas and porches to high ceilings with fans. Here in the Southwest, indigenous peoples used the rock and soil to create their homes that would be resistant to the heat.

Second, that heat has a vast impact on our lives. It's not just that we sweat, get dehydrated and spend more on AC during the summer. The heat takes a toll on us emotionally and mentally, too. Our bodies do not respond to heat in only physiological ways, but they also respond psychologically. Irritability, tension, stress, weariness, restlessness, and anxiety are all psychological responses our bodies have to being exposed to extreme heat over the long term.

Q: Did you have any eye-opening experiences through your research this summer?

A: This summer, a lot of my research felt independent of oversight. I was given the responsibility of organizing, planning, preparing, and executing the fieldwork without a lot of input from my committee. This was new and a bit alarming as all of the weighty responsibility fell to me. This experience also meant that I was working with undergraduates who were helping me and they were dependent on me for instructions on what to do and how to conduct the research. The recognition that others (both faculty and students) were looking at me as an independent research was eye-opening to how I would be expected to function in the future working in research as an independent researcher with the government, a university or in industry.

Jordan Evans

Q: What was your most memorable moment from working at CNN? 

A: My most memorable moment working at CNN was recording national weather segments in the main studio inside the World Headquarters in Atlanta. This involved a 120-foot long LED screen, and the awesome augmented reality that you see on HLN Morning Express.

Q: What was the best piece of advice you were given this summer?

A: The best piece of advice I was given this summer was to stay ahead of the industry as much as you can, because it is quickly changing and the general public continues to want more and the attention span continues to be less.

Q: How did you spend most of your days as an intern?

A: Most of my days were spent doing something different almost every day! This is why I enjoyed my experience and why I chose this as a career, because it is always something different. Weather is never the same. At CNN, I was either writing stories for cnn.com, or I was preparing graphics for on-air use, or I was practicing my tape in the weather studio in front of the camera, receiving advice from some of the best in the business.

Q: What new skills did you learn? 

A: I learned so much, partially because I have never experienced weather done at the national level. I left this internship telling my bosses that the internship could alone be split up into four to five college classes. The best thing I took away from this internship was learning how to use augmented reality to deliver a forecast, or explain weather phenomena. It is the future of weather reporting on TV, and I knew it would give me a leg up in the industry when I start to apply for jobs in the spring. 

Q: What was the best part about being in Atlanta for the summer?

A: The best part about being in Atlanta was being able to experience a new, big city in a different area. There are so many meteorology opportunities there, not just for TV. This is huge when it comes to networking. I not only connected with the CNN meteorologists, but was able to visit the Weather Channel and some of the local stations. I could see myself working in Atlanta in the future.

Samuel Meltzer

Q: What was your knowledge of cloud seeding before this summer internship?

A: I learned about cloud seeding in the weather modification chapter of Dr. Randall Cerveny’s climate change class.  I knew it was used domestically since the 1940s, such as in the western United States for snowpack enhancement. However, I did not know about the North Dakota Cloud Modification Project before this summer internship. 

Q: What was your favorite part of the internship?

A: I have always found thunderstorms exciting, but tracking them and launching airplanes on missions to seed them was even better. It was also cool talking to the pilots while they were in the air and seeing on our radar screen where the aircraft were in relation to the storms. There were a few storms that hit our radar site head-on. Some storms were far more intense than what we usually see in the Phoenix area. 

Q: What do you wish more people knew/understood about cloud seeding?

A: I wish people not only knew that clouding seeding can be done, but that the process is fairly simple and can improve our lives. Most of the people who knew about our particular project were local farmers and long-time residents. People I talked to in North Dakota who were not involved in our project were not even aware that seeding was happening. Based on what I saw and learned in North Dakota, I believe that cloud seeding could be quite helpful not only for rain enhancement, but also for hail suppression in other parts of the country.

Q: What new skills did you learn?

A: As a radar meteorologist, I learned what to look for to find thunderstorms suitable for cloud seeding. During missions, I learned about communications with aircraft and what information pilots needed from the ground to have a successful mission. Communications went both ways. The pilots would also provide us with vital storm information that we could not access from ground level. 

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


ASU and Capital Scholars program spark career change for alumna

September 27, 2019

Jessica Salow was 27 when she started her undergraduate degree at Arizona State University, and she already had a number of years of experience as a paralegal prior to her first year in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

After taking history in a general elective course, Salow chose it as her major; she thought it would be the most beneficial to her paralegal work. It didn’t hurt that she had a passion for deep dives into historical topics. Jessica Salow ASU Capital Scholars Jessica Salow, an archives specialist at ASU Libraries in the Distinctive Collections department. Download Full Image

Adding political science as a minor was an accident, according to Salow. Her time at ASU (2007–2011) coincided with Barack Obama’s term as president of the United States. Salow said she became fascinated by him and his campaign and took courses to understand the theory behind it.

That's how Salow was introduced to the School of Politics and Global Studies and its Capital Scholars program. Still trying to figure out the next step in her career, Salow participated in the program that provides students with the chance to live and intern in Washington, D.C., in 2010.

“It changed my life on a level that is hard for me to explain,” Salow said. “Not only professionally but personally as well.”

It was Salow’s first time away from her family and husband for an extended period of time, as participants spend their entire summer in the nation’s capital. The transition wasn't easy, but luckily Salow had the support of new friends, like her roommate Mychael Clark.

“If it wasn’t for this program I would have never met Mychael and to think that she would not be in my life today if it wasn’t for this program makes it all the more special to me,” Salow said.

During her time in the program, Salow and the rest of the group got personalized tours of the State Department, the Treasury Department, the CIA and the Federal Reserve. According to Salow, these tours were special as they provided a chance to get an inside look into these historic institutions.

What she gained most from the program though was self-confidence, self-determination and everlasting friendships.

“I learned so much about myself and about the things in life that matter the most to me,” Salow said. “Every time I think about my experience and what it meant to me I begin to tear up because it was that profound.”

As a history major, Salow spent many days in the library doing research on projects. One of those projects was to study the Library of Congress collection of "Born in Slavery: Slave Narratives from the Federal Writers’ Project, 1936–1938."

“To say this collection had a profound impact on me is an understatement," she said.

After going over every possible narrative of the collection, Salow turned her research attention to collections available at ASU regarding the antebellum South and slavery in general.

“To hear the actual words from a slave who endured the plight of slavery living during the time these interviews happened fascinated me,” Salow said.

Looking back, Salow said this was the spark that got her interested in librarianship and archives in general. The idea of a career change was intimidating, but Salow had a newfound passion.

Salow is currently an archives specialist at ASU Libraries in the Distinctive Collections department where she assists with the implementation of an Andrew W. Mellon grant-funded project titled “Engaging, Educating, and Empowering: Developing Community-Driven Archival Collections”.

This three-year project was designed to build and expand community-driven collections, in an effort to preserve and improve Arizona’s archives and give voice to historically marginalized communities.

Outreach and the ability to share the stories of marginalized groups are Salow’s two favorite components to her position. She said it is important to show people in these communities that archival work and librarianship as a whole is a worthwhile profession for people of color.

Currently, Salow is in the process of relaunching the community-driven archives blog and working toward getting collections such as the Bj Bud Memorial Archives into classroom instruction here at ASU.

“This institution and particularly Tempe campus feel like home to me and will always have a huge place in my heart.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


Scholarship funds student paleontology fieldwork

September 27, 2019

Kinesiology junior Cassaundra Gomez was sitting in BIO 102 last spring at Arizona State University’s Downtown Phoenix campus when she first learned about a unique opportunity.

Her anatomy and physiology lecturer Tonya Penkrot was telling students about a fieldwork trip over the summer in Bighorn Basin, Wyoming, that would give them hands-on experience in paleontology. Gomez poses next to a field work truck in Bighorn Basin, Wyoming. Gomez poses next to a fieldwork truck in Bighorn Basin, Wyoming. Download Full Image

“She mentioned it in class, and I was like, ‘I’m down. That sounds exciting,’” Gomez said.

When she signed up, Gomez said she didn’t really know what to expect from the trip, but that she ended up learning a lot and enjoyed the adventure.

“It’s really interesting to learn from (fossil mammals) because we’re mammals. You find lots of teeth and from that you can learn what their diet needs were like.”

Gomez doesn’t plan to go into paleontology, but she said the fieldwork was still insightful to her kinesiology studies.

“It further reinforces anatomical knowledge and gave me a better idea about bone structure,” Gomez said.

Gomez received financial support to go on the fieldwork trip by using the Scholarship Honoring Anatomy and Physiology Education and Research (SHAPER), which is funded from the royalties of the BIO 201 and 202 course lab manual fees.

Penkrot and fellow anatomy and physiology faculty members Jeff Kingsbury, senior lecturer, and J. P. Hyatt, associate professor, collaborated with then-lab manager Jennifer Legere to create a lab manual to better serve student learning and to build funds for a scholarship students can use for research, application fees, conference fees or other special educational opportunities in the realm of anatomy and physiology.

Penkrot wants to create opportunities like the ones she experienced when she was in school, because she knows what a big impact they can have on students.

“When I was an undergrad, my adviser knew I was interested and helped put me in contact with a person who knew another person who did fieldwork in Wyoming,” Penkrot said. “That simple act, it changed the course of my life.”

That person ended up becoming Penkrot’s thesis adviser, Kenneth D. Rose, emeritus faculty at John Hopkins University School of Medicine, who still organizes that same fieldwork trip annually. Once participants arrive in Wyoming, his group sets up a campsite from which they go out each day to various localities to look for fossil mammals.

“I thought there would be a lot of digging, but really you just walk around and look on the ground," Gomez recounted of their daily activities. “Everyone usually thinks paleontology is dinosaurs, but we’re actually looking at mammals.”

At the end of the day, participants return to camp and compare what they found with each other, then carefully package up the fossils to be transported to Rose’s lab, or to the Denver Museum of Natural History for permanent cataloguing and housing.

Penkrot said studying fossils is important to better understand how things have evolved, and she hopes that experiences like this help students see the value in natural resources.

“I hope that students will get an appreciation and a sense for why it is so important to preserve and protect all natural resources, not just those that have a dollar value attached to them. Places like the Bighorn Basin represent irreplaceable records of a part of the history of life on Earth, and deserve to be studied, protected and managed responsibly,” Penkrot said.

Gomez is appreciative of the opportunity and highly recommends the trip to her fellow classmates. 

“It was definitely a great experience,” Gomez said. “I would do it again if I could.”

Kelley Karnes

Marketing Content Specialist, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


ASU alumna’s interdisciplinary path leads to military career

September 26, 2019

During her senior year of high school, with an appointment to West Point, Katie Richardson thought her plans were set. However, a severe concussion that year quickly changed those plans. With her family’s history in the military, Richardson knew that when she made a last minute decision to enroll at Arizona State University and its Army ROTC program, she was making a decision she would not regret.

“My grandfather was a two-star general, my dad was a Marine and undercover narcotics detective, and my brother was a Marine rescue swimmer and now is a deputy U.S. marshal. Service is in my blood,” Richardson said. ASU alumna Katie Richardson Katie Richardson. Download Full Image

Starting out with as a psychology major in Barrett, The Honors College, Richardson decided to register for Political Ideology taught by Tara Lennon, a senior lecturer in the School of Politics and Global Studies (SPGS).

“Understanding the foundations of how people think politically really interested me, especially since I was already majoring in psychology. Plus, Dr. Lennon rocks,” Richardson said.

It was in this class where Richardson decided to add another major onto her plate: political science.

“ASU is a major institution but it is filled with opportunities for students to follow their unique passion. SPGS was the cornerstone of those opportunities for me,” Richardson said.

It was through the school, which is an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where Richardson found professors, leaders and mentors who truly cared about her education and future.

“Working on my honors theses with Professor Daniel Rothenberg as my adviser really challenged me to deep dive into an area that interested me and was a cross-section of my dual major,” Richardson said.

As a junior, Richardson was selected for the Policy Design Studio and Internship Program, which is supported by the McCain Institute for International Leadership in Washington, D.C. The internship placements span a variety of interests, including the White House, Congress, courts government agencies, lobbying and consulting firms, advocacy groups, media outlets, museums, think tanks and nonprofit organizations.

“We spent one day a week at the McCain Institute learning about different entities of the government, policy research and working on a final policy recommendation presentation. The rest of the week we all completed separate internships across Washington, D.C.,” Richardson said.

Richardson interned with New America, a D.C.-based think tank with a unique partnership with the Center on the Future of War at ASU. She worked with Peter Bergen, co-director for the Center on the Future of War and senior fellow at New America, and the New America International Security Program team on research projects about national defense and international conflicts. Richardson also supported many panels and events, including the first Annual Future of War Conference, now the Future Security Forum.

“Being able to intern for the McCain Institute and New America really opened my eyes to all the opportunities available for someone studying within SPGS,” Richardson explained.

Richardson graduated summa cum laude from Barrett, The Honors College with a BA in political science and a BS in psychology, a degree combination she says aptly prepared her to thrive in her roles in the military.

“My political science studies made me more aware of the complex and ever-changing world that could require military interventions. My psychology studies prepared me to be responsible for soldiers, their well-being and their family’s well-being, which made me a more aware person and leader,” Richardson said.

After graduation, Richardson moved to Fort Bragg, North Carolina, where she has been stationed on active duty. She was deployed to Afghanistan in 2019, where she supported special operations units in combat operations.

Reflecting on her future in the military, Richardson said, “I want to continue my service to the nation, whether that is in the U.S. military full-time or in another capacity. Leading those who chose to serve as well will always be a defining career goal for me.”

She credits ASU for her preparedness for life after college.

“I feel proud to tell people I am an Arizona State alumna because ASU produces graduates who uphold the university’s reputation of excellence, innovation and success.”

Center Coordinator, School of Politics and Global Studies