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ASU alumna followed the signs on her path to success

ASU alumna wants society to become "people-centric."
November 2, 2015

Editor's note: Leading up to Homecoming, we'll be running several stories a week on ASU alumni. Find more alumni stories here.

With a bachelor’s degree from the School of Sustainability and a master’s in business administration from the W. P. Carey School of Business, it should come as little surprise that local entrepreneur Margaret Dunn’s business is one that does its part to help out Mother Earth.

As the president and CEO of Dunn Transportation, Dunn oversees a fleet of vehicles — most notably Ollie the Trolley, a Mill Avenue fixture — that provides a more carbon footprint-friendly transportation option to Valley residents.

Dunn hopes to see society become less “auto-centric” and more “people-centric,” crediting a society and sustainability course she took at ASU with giving her the inspiration to create a charitable division of her business — Rosemary, Connecting Center City Kids to Nature, Adventure and Culture.

Dunn Transportation received the Spirit of Enterprise Overcoming Adversity Award from the W. P. Carey School in 2011 and the Sun Devil Select Award in 2015.

Question: When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur?

Answer: While attending ASU from 1982-1985, I got a part-time job driving trolleys in Scottsdale and learned all aspects of the business from Molly Trolley owner Scott Merrill (a fellow ASU alum). He was young and successful so I thought, “I can do this in my hometown of Omaha, Nebraska!” I left ASU and started Ollie the Trolley in January of 1986. I was 21 years old, so young and naïve, but very determined.

Q: How did ASU help get you there?

A: One summer day in 2008, a huge postcard came in the mail reading, “Isn’t it time you go back to college?” That was a sign, so I went on ASU’s website and jumping off the screen was the School of Sustainability’s page, as it was the first year for the school. I went down the next day to sign up and started classes in the fall of 2008. I loved being in school, took great classes and had awesome professors.

One class in particular, society and sustainability, inspired me to create Rosemary, Connecting Center City Kids to Nature, Adventure, Culture and Fun. We provide free transportation for kids and take them places most have never been before, like the Phoenix Zoo, The Nutcracker ballet and the Arizona Science Center. Rosemary is my mom; she raised 10 kids and was a truly inspirational woman. She passed last year, but her programs keep going strong.

Q: What is the most difficult aspect of running your own business?

A: Making sure you stay ahead of the curve; being relevant and responsive to customers; managing sustainable growth; staying motivated; and always challenging yourself to be a better leader.

Q: What is the best part?

A: We have a great team and we laugh a lot. It’s super cool to love what you do every day, even after 30 years.

Q: With advances in transportation, such as self-driving cars, what do you see in the future for public transit systems and transportation in general?

A: My hope is our society becomes less “auto-centric” and more “people- centric,” offering more and improved options to our aging population and millennials; bus service, light rail, biking and walking alternatives incorporated into comprehensive street programs.

Q: What advice would you give to someone looking to start their own business?

A: Create a thorough business plan and get feedback from objective, honest people. Be determined to succeed. Be positive, passionate and enthusiastic. Never let them see you sweat. Really love what you do.

Emma Greguska

Editor , ASU News

(480) 965-9657

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Honoring loved ones lost

Day of the Dead has origins in Mexico but is now celebrated all over the world.
Practices surrounding Day of the Dead vary based on place and influence.
Day of the Dead shares similarities with Halloween but they are not the same.
November 2, 2015

ASU students celebrate Day of the Dead

Skulls of different shapes, sizes and materials litter a table in the Interdisciplinary B building on ASU’s Tempe campus where students sit contentedly decorating them. But this isn’t some sort of superficial, Ouija board session put-on — for business entrepreneurship sophomore Briana Juarez, it’s a way to feel more connected with her ancestral culture.

Growing up a first-generation American in Rancho Cucamonga, California, Juarez says her family didn’t practice a lot of the traditions and rituals she witnessed second-hand via photographs her grandparents brought back from trips to their native Mexico.

One tradition in particular sparked her interest: Dia de los Muertos — or “Day of the Dead” — a three-day festival that originated in Mexico to celebrate the lives of friends and family who had passed on.

“I just wanted to know more about it, and it was also a way to get to know my grandparents better,” said Juarez.

So this year, the community relations director for the Hispanic Business Students Association thought it would be fun to create a Day of the Dead altar at ASU to provide some insight into Chicano culture.

The Day of the Dead altar is currently on display in the first-floor hallway of the Interdisciplinary B building. Students, faculty and staff are encouraged to add photos and other ephemera to honor departed loved ones.

ASU Now spoke with experts in the School of Transborder Studies to find out more about the history of the holiday, as well as some facts and misconceptions. Read on to learn more.

Supply chain management junior Levi Haros (left)
and marketing sophomore Amy Ortiz decorate skulls.

Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Dia de los Muertos has origins in Mexico but is now celebrated all over the world

In fact, it was originally just called Dia de Muertos; globalization of the holiday prompted the adding of the “los.”

The celebration dates back to pre-Columbian times, when indigenous peoples in south and southeast Mexico spent three days honoring friends and family members who had died in order to aid them along in their spiritual journey.

As the holiday spread to more countries, specific practices having to do with the rituals associated with it began to vary greatly. But that fact is hardly a point of contention between cultures.

Rather, as School of Transborder Studies assistant professor Saskias Casanova explains, it “allows people to come together to celebrate loved ones who have passed and bring their own perspective and culture to it.”

Practices surrounding the holiday vary based on place and influence

When the Spanish came to Mexico, they brought along Catholicism, and indigenous peoples began to incorporate elements of the religion into Day of the Dead. Crosses were added to altar displays, along with the original decorations and offerings of skulls, photos, candles and food.

Though the holiday had always been a fall celebration, the influence of the Catholic Church set the official day of celebration as Nov. 2, which just happens to be the Catholic holiday All Souls Day, also a celebration of the deceased.

Indigenous cultures in Mexico would visit cemeteries where loved ones were buried and bring along food and offerings. But when the holiday began to be practiced by immigrants in the U.S., they didn’t have cemeteries to visit and so made altars to their deceased loved ones instead.

Even the type of food varies. Some indigenous peoples in Mexico make pid, a type of pie, which they then bury underground as an offering. In the United States, however, a specific type of bread in the shape of a skull is often used as a food offering on Day of the Dead altars.

Day of the Dead does share some similarities with Halloween, but it is not just a Hispanic version of the holiday

Though the celebration shares its first day with Halloween — Dia de los Muertos begins on Oct. 31 and continues through Nov. 2 — they are not one in the same.

Halloween has its roots in Christianity, and though it too began as a day to commemorate the dead, it has since become a secular, widely commercialized holiday.

“Dia de los Muertos is more than anything a family event,” said Alejandro Lugo, director of the School of Transborder Studies. “It speaks to the importance of the role of the family in Mexican culture.”