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Top of their class

ASU boasts strong pool of award-winning and world-changing students

students walking at Coor Hall at sunset
June 06, 2016

Arizona State University has no shortage of high-achieving Sun Devils making their mark on the world — and being recognized for it.

During the past academic year the university placed in the top 5 research universities nationwide for Fulbright scholarships to students and led the state in Flinn Scholars — in addition to boasting recipients of the prestigious Goldwater and Schwarzman awards.

Learn a little more about the great things these students are achieving.


Claire Cambron in South Korea

Claire Cambron, South Korea

Claire Cambron wanted a way to open her mind and her heart before she learns to heal.

Cambron, who is from Phoenix, won a Fulbright scholarship and just returned from spending eight months as an English teaching assistant at Jeungan Elementary School in Cheongiu, South Korea.

“I didn't get the chance to study abroad in college and I really wanted to travel before medical school,” said Cambron, who earned her undergraduate degree last year in biochemistry and genetics from the School of Life Sciences, in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I felt that by traveling, I could learn more about a different culture, which would help me be a more open-minded and receptive doctor and person. I also was looking for an opportunity that would push me out of my comfort zone and challenge me.” 

Jaxon Williams playing the guitar

Jaxon Williams, Spain

Jaxon Williams has spent years honing his skill in classical guitar.

And the best way to make the passion of his life become his career was to spend time in the hub of classical guitar, which is Seville, Spain.

Williams was awarded a Fulbright grant and is now pursuing his master’s degree in Spanish classical and flamenco guitar from the School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“I've always felt that to reach the next level as a musician, I need to live abroad and connect with the classical guitar's roots, which are in Spain,” said Williams, who is originally from Ashland, Oregon.

“Much of this music is passed on orally and in person, so it's very hard to learn these things outside of Spain.”

Other recipients are:

Andrew Ahearne, Luxembourg
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Chase Fitzgerald, South Korea
biological sciences with a minor in global health, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Ashley Hagaman, Nepal
doctorate, global health, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Bridget Harding, South Korea
sustainability, School of Sustainability

Allegra Hyde, Bulgaria
master’s of fine arts from Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Eva Jeffers, India
global health, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Michelle Kunkel, Senegal 
master’s degree, teaching English to speakers of other languages, Department of English, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Thomas Lepke, Czech Repulic
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Amalie Sielaff, Germany
German, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences 

Jenna Smith, South Korea
classics and philosophy, with a minor in symbolic systems, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sophie Sylla, South Africa
Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Cameron Tattle, Sri Lanka
global studies, School of Politics and Global Studies, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Derek Townsend, Armenia
German/business minor, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and W. P. Carey School of Business

Mitzi Vilchis, Mexico
secondary education, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College

Matt Ykema, the Netherlands
molecular biology and economics, W. P. Carey School of Business and College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Lin Wang, Taiwan
chemistry and dance, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Allison Weidemann, Turkey
undergraduate degree in sustainability, master’s degree in global health, School of Sustainability and School of Human Evolution and Social Change, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Fulbright Summer Institute

Six Barrett, the Honors College students were chosen for the Fulbright Summer Institute this year. The institute is a program of the U.S.-U.K. Fulbright Commission, the only bilateral, transatlantic scholarship program offering awards and summer programs for study or research in any field, at any accredited U.S. or U.K. university. Each year, approximately 60 U.S. and U.K. undergraduate students are selected for the program.

ASU's recipients are:

Austin Cotter, biology
Victoria Crynes, business
Advika Dani, biochemistry
Anirudh Koka, economics
Carolina Marques de Mesquita, political science
Maggie Tucker, philosophy

Flinn Scholars

portrait of ASU Flinn Scholar Maggie Zheng

Maggie Zheng performed her first surgical procedure when she was just a preschooler.

Granted, it was on one of her stuffed animals.

But in hindsight it was a relevant precursor to where she finds herself today: one of an elite group of winners of this year’s Flinn Scholarship, who will be attending Arizona State University in the fall.

Zheng, who will study biomedical sciences in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has loved the idea of being a doctor since she was child watching medical shows on public television.

“I just always found it really fascinating, so I want to become a surgeon,” said Zheng.

She is a member the 31st class of Flinn Scholars. The award, which started in 1985, is offered to outstanding Arizona high school students on the condition that they attend one of the state’s three public universities: ASU, which will have 13 Flinn scholar enrollees this fall; the University of Arizona, which will have six Flinn scholars; or Northern Arizona University, which will have one.

Other recipents are:

Aidan McGirr is going to study astrophysics in the School of Earth and Space Exploration. He attends Anthem Preparatory Academy.

Martín Blair is coming to ASU from the Phoenix Union Bioscience High School. He’ll study mechanical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Rohini Nott, at BASIS Chandler, will major in biology and society in the School of Life Sciences.

Maeve Kennedy, from Westwood High School in Mesa, plans to study chemical engineering in the Fulton Schools.

Ivette Montes Parra, also from Westwood High School, will also go to the Fulton Schools, to study mechanical engineering. 

Cameron Carver of Sabino High School in Tucson will be a mechanical engineering student in the Fulton Schools.

Anagha Deshpande, from Hamilton High School in Chandler, will study genetics, cell and developmental biology as a biological sciences major in the School of Life Sciences.

Andrew Roberts will study electrical engineering in the Fulton Schools. He studied at Westwood High School.

Yisha Ng wants to be an aerospace engineer. The Flagstaff High School student will study in the Fulton Schools.

Enrique Favaro, from the Tempe Preparatory Academy, is going into accountancy at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Vaibu Mohan, focused on the STEM subjects at BASIS Scottsdale, will immerse herself in performance and musical theater in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

Tina Peng, from Chandler Preparatory Academy, will study computer science in the Fulton Schools.


Three students from ASU were named Goldwater Scholars, a prestigious national scholarship awarded to students across the nation who are doing research in science, technology, engineering and math fields.

Barrett Anderies, Christopher Balzer and Kaleigh Johnson, all juniors at Barrett, the Honors College, were awarded this scholarship out of only four chosen from the state of Arizona.

Each university can nominate only four students per year, and fewer students overall were awarded scholarships than in many years prior.

“The academic atmosphere of living and working at Barrett, the Honors College, elevated my performance in my classes and led me to get involved in research in the first few weeks of my freshman year,” said Balzer, a chemical engineering major. “Having other researchers pouring time and experience into my life gives me insight that I wouldn’t have otherwise.”

“My involvement in this engineering academic program led me to explore sustainability from many different angles, including entrepreneurship, community service, interdisciplinary course work, global studies and research,” said Johnson, a chemical engineering major.

Anderies, a double major in biomedical engineering and mathematics, offered a similar sentiment, reflecting on the breadth of options for undergraduate research that allows students to experiment and tailor their academic experience.

“I had access to a huge number of research opportunities in both mathematics and engineering. These opportunities allowed me to extensively explore and develop my interests,” he said. “I am especially appreciative of the numerous funding opportunities available to undergraduates interested in conducting research.”


Jessica Hocken is fascinated with Chinese culture. Since middle school, she has wanted to visit China and explore the country.

“I’ve always wanted to explore and experience everything China has to offer," Hocken said.

This fall, she will have the opportunity to go to China as a Schwarzman Scholar. Hocken will be a part of the inaugural class of scholars, a group of 111 students who will study at Tsinghua University for a year to earn a master's degree and broaden their understanding about China.

The scholarship, which accepted less than 4 percent of all applicants, fits well with Hocken’s entrepreneurial spirit.

Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award

Hooked Documentary

Last fall, ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication won an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, which has recognized the very best in broadcast journalism for more than 70 years. 

Cronkite News, the school's student-produced news division of Arizona PBS, received the honor for “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” a 30-minute documentary produced in association with the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA), which reached more than 1 million Arizonans. The report, the final product of more than 70 dedicated student journalists and which aired on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio stations in Arizona in January, examined the rise of heroin use and its impact on the state.

The win marks just the third time in the history of the duPont Awards that a Phoenix-based news operation has received the honor. Cronkite News joins 12 News KPNX-TV, which won the award last year, and KOOL-TV, which won the award in 1979 when it was the region’s CBS affiliate.

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