Global health alum helps fund health, humanitarian work in South Africa

September 29, 2015

Six years ago, Mackenzie Cotlow received the first bachelor’s degree in global health awarded by Arizona State University.

The program — which mixes a holistic understanding of today’s complex health issues with a social justice component — was a natural for Cotlow, who was looking for an education that would help her achieve her dream of bettering the world. Mackenzie Cotlow Mackenzie Cotlow, who was the first to receive a bachelor's in global health from Arizona State University, is putting her degree to work promoting Doctors Without Borders in South Africa. Download Full Image

Since graduating, she has realized that dream by moving to South Africa to work for Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders), one of the best-known humanitarian organizations in the world.

As a fundraising consultant, Cotlow educates the public about the 5.7 million-member-strong organization and works to bring new donors into the fold. Though the work is challenging and involves long hours, she said the successes make it worthwhile.

“It’s really special and exciting being a part of such a powerful NGO (non-government organization), capable of so much good and so much change,” she said. “What is so special about advocating for joining our donor family in South Africa especially is that donors have the potential to be the beneficiaries. Solidarity is something I truly believe in.”

Before coming to South Africa, Cotlow spent a year and a half in South Korea teaching English to students of all ages in a multicultural environment.

Though her passion for helping others is innate, she traces her penchant for seeing the world to her time in ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Part of the school's global health curriculum is a study abroad requirement, which she fulfilled in Fiji and New Zealand.

There, she was given real-world opportunities to learn about local health and environmental issues during a home stay with a New Zealand farming family and work with Fijian villagers. One of the highlights was helping develop sustainable health solutions for indigenous communities.

“Seeing as how it was the first time I had gone overseas, it completely and utterly changed my life and literally opened up a whole new world for me,” Cotlow said. “I think the biggest part of this experience was simply that I realized the world is big, it’s full of amazing people and places and the potential for learning is immense.”

Fondly remembering her time at ASU, Cotlow is appreciative of the many new experiences of her program and her globally minded professors, whom she calls “some of the most brilliant people” she has ever met. But what stands out the most is the host of international peers: interesting, smart people she is glad to still be friends with today.

Only two weeks ago, she checked in with one of those former fellow students — a Chilean, whom she worried about in the wake of the 8.3-magnitude earthquake off Chile’s coast.

“I suddenly felt like the world was so small. I was working to raise funds for earthquake and possibly tsunami victims, one of whom could have been my good college friend,” Cotlow said. “Thankfully, he’s all right.”

Cotlow credits her global health training with helping her learn how to connect with a diversity of people and break out of her sheltered shell to “fully embrace the wonderful and different aspects of what the world has to offer.”

This fall, Cotlow will indulge her thirst for travel once again with visits to Britain and France and eventually make her way back to the U.S., where she hopes to continue working for Medecins San Frontieres at its New York City location.

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change


Complex Systems Society names 2015 senior scientist at ASU conference

September 29, 2015

The Complex Systems Society honors Maxi San Miguel, scientific researcher and director of the Institute of Cross-disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems, with the 2015 Senior Scientist Award in recognition for his professional career and cross-disciplinary studies of the foundations of complex systems.

The Institute of Cross-disciplinary Physics and Complex Systems is a joint research center of the University of the Balearic Islands and the Spanish Research Council. Maxi San Miguel receives CSS Senior Scientist 2015 Award Maxi San Miguel honored with Complex Systems Society's prestigious Senior Scientist 2015 award for his outstanding contributions to Complex Systems science. Photo by: CCS'15 Download Full Image

The Complex Systems Society is an international cross-disciplinary organization composed of scientists worldwide who are leaders in complex systems research. The award recognizes society members who have advanced the field by achieving truly exceptional scientific results.

According to CSS, “Maxi San Miguel has been a key player in the cross-disciplinary research of complex systems and a source of inspiration in the transfer of knowledge to define new lines of research beyond traditional fields.”

San Miguel is doctor in physics, professor at the University of les Illes Balears since 1986 and director of IFISC since 2007, and he received the Medal of Spanish Society of Physics-BBVA in 2010. He has participated in more than 50 research projects and has been part of the team in 13 research projects of the European Commission. He has lectured as guest professor at 23 Spanish universities, and 45 universities and 25 research institutes worldwide. San Miguel's achievements span a variety of research subjects including statistical physics, stochastic processes, non-linear dynamics and spatio-temporal chaos, photonics, computational social sciences and complex networks.

Most recently, he has been involved in the study of human mobility, especially urban mobility, using ICT Data.

San Miguel will receive the CSS Senior Scientist Award on Tuesday at the annual Conference on Complex Systems in Phoenix, Arizona, hosted by Arizona State University and the Santa Fe Institute.