ASU graduate motivated by desire to help people in need

May 2, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Matthew Hernandez faced some challenges before heading to college, but he didn’t let it hinder his progress. He chose to attend Arizona State University because it was the best fit for his needs. Matthew Hernandez Matt Hernandez will graduate this May with a bachelor's degree in family and human development from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Download Full Image

“There are so many experiences that we, as college students, go through that seem challenging,” he said, “but after every drawback we are propelled forward. My college experience is best described as a time of personal, professional and intellectual growth.”

Hernandez is graduating with a bachelor’s degree in family and human development. He began his college career as a nursing major before deciding to pursue his main interest in human development.

Planning to attend law school, Hernandez thinks the switch was the right decision for his future. He also decided to pursue a human rights certificate after witnessing the immigration crisis firsthand in Europe. He plans on studying international law or human rights law after completing his undergraduate degree.

Hernandez answered questions about his future as well as his time spent at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study family and human development?

Answer: It wasn’t necessarily an “aha” moment. It was more so that I wanted to pursue my interests. [But] another thing that led me to adding on my human rights certificate — because I didn’t do that until I came back from studying abroad — was witnessing the influx of immigrants going into different countries.

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

A: Pursue your interests. There’s not many times you’ll be able to do things here; I feel like we’d regret it later. So, if you’re like, “Oh, I should have studied that in college rather than do this” — I think the one lesson I’ve learned here primarily is that you can relate anything you study to any career, any experience you’ll have later in life.

Q: What was an important event or experience you had in college?

A: Particularly, I had this one experience in Spain where my friends and I went to the capitol and you could see a bunch of immigrants camping outside in a stadium that’s full of them already and there [was] a banner welcoming them. And I thought that was so profound because here it’s kind of foreign to acknowledge an open-door policy.

Q: What skills have you learned in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences that will help you conquer challenges in life?

A: I feel that my coursework fostered a sense of fearlessness. I should not be afraid to ask questions, seek help, offer critique, substantiate my claims and engage in discourse. This newfound sense of fearlessness has definitely amplified my critical thinking skills.

Q: What do you plan on doing after you graduate?

A: I plan on either attending Georgetown University or the University of Washington studying international law or human rights law. It would be under the human rights umbrella, focusing on indigenous rights, women’s rights [or] immigration rights.

Parker Shea

Student Writer and Reporter, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU grad maps water pathways in Phoenix

May 2, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

While studying abroad in Chile her junior year, Chloe Warpinski started thinking about water in a new way. Chloe Warpinski '17 Chloe Warpinski Download Full Image

“I was studying in a water-scarce area of Chile, where we had to use a single bucket of water to shower and had to boil water before drinking it,” said the Arizona State University Barrett, The Honors College senior.

However difficult, the experience compelled her to enroll in the ASU course “Poverty, Social Justice and Global Health,” which focused on water as a basic human right and the challenges that vulnerable populations often face in accessing it.

The course became the starting point for Warpinski’s senior honors thesis — mapping the city’s water pathways and social service infrastructure to address water accessibility in Phoenix for people experiencing homelessness.

When Warpinski graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in global health, she will leave behind a valuable resource for Phoenix social service providers and those who rely on them — a project that epitomizes ASU’s emphasis on innovation, social embeddedness and use-inspired research.

Water, water — not everywhere

While many people are familiar with the term “food desert,” less is known about water scarcity.

“Historically, there’s been a lot of focus on food and ‘food deserts,’ and that’s because only until recently, water has typically been a community resource rather than a commodity,” said Warpinski, who began laying the groundwork for her thesis last fall by studying the ways homeless people in the Phoenix metro area access water.

What emerged was a problem of distribution, especially during the hot summer months when daily temperatures rise above 100 degrees Fahrenheit and lead to greater demand for water — putting vulnerable communities at greater risk and overwhelming homeless support service providers who are unable to keep up with the demand.

“In Phoenix during the summer, a person who is homeless can only travel about a half-mile radius due to the extreme heat,” said Warpinski, explaining that while some of the city’s service providers become overwhelmed, others are underused – indicating a need for greater awareness and coordination. 

The power of geospatial data

A student worker at ASU Library, Warpinski felt at home using library resources and so enlisted the help of Mary Whelan, a geospatial and research data specialist at ASU Library, to help her design, from the ground up, a map of Phoenix and its social service infrastructure.

“Chloe’s work makes a great contribution and in many ways illustrates the power of GIS (geospatial information systems) to help people visualize inequality. She also is part of a new generation of students for whom the library is not just books on a shelf, but a space for active, engaged learning opportunities with access to new technologies (GIS, makerspaces) and support from experienced, knowledgeable library personnel,” said Whelan, who helped Warpinski use the GIS mapping tools she needed to conduct her research – resources available through the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub.

Leveraging map, data and technology resources, as well as technical expertise, the Map and Geospatial Hub is exactly that — an all-inclusive library hub servicing the geospatial research and learning needs of the ASU and broader Phoenix communities.

“Our model is pretty simple,” said Matt Toro, director of the Map and Geospatial Hub. “We make thousands of maps, aerial photographs and geospatial datasets available; provide training and consultation so that people can extract meaningful information and add value to those resources; and then conduct or facilitate projects that can have an impact on the spaces that were mapped and analyzed.”

According to Toro, Warpinski’s research serves as an excellent example of how to apply geospatial technologies to better understand and bring attention to a pressing socio-environmental issue such as water scarcity.

“Maps, and the geographic stories they tell through data, can be powerful tools for informing community development policies,” Toro said.

A lasting legacy

Warpinski says she hopes her geographic model of Phoenix can improve infrastructure for support providers as well as alleviate the burdens of homelessness.

“The map I’ve created does a few things. It can be used to predict the movement of homeless populations at various times of year by locating refuges and resources — places where people can get water, food and shelter,” said Warpinski. “It can also assist social service providers in showing how to create greater infrastructure systems and provide and manage them more effectively.”

It’s difficult for the public to get this kind of data, Warpinski said, so she’s hoping her map can be updated each year at ASU Library and distributed freely — a lasting effort to inform and educate about the need for better access to resources that are necessary for human survival.

After graduation, Warpinski plans to travel to the Slovak Republic, where she will live for a year and teach English as part of a Fulbright Scholarship — an appropriate ending to an undergraduate career punctuated by service.

“What I love about ASU and the library, in particular, is that it’s truly the pinnacle of accessibility and impact,” Warpinski said. “It’s the place where you go to think differently, to find new ways to solve problems and make real change.”  

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library