Barretts donate $2M to shape global citizens at ASU’s honors college

Announcement made during remarks at Barrett, The Honors College convocation; gift bolsters Campaign ASU 2020

May 9, 2017

Arizona State University announced Tuesday a $2 million gift from Ambassador Barbara Barrett and her husband, Craig Barrett, to support global citizenship programming at the eponymous Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.

Vice Provost and Dean of Barrett, The Honors College Mark Jacobs made public the family’s most recent commitment to the university while introducing Barbara as a distinguished guest at the Honors Convocation at Wells Fargo Arena. Ambassador Barbara Barrett Barbara Barrett is a former United States Ambassador to Finland, a trained astronaut, advisor to four American presidents on trade and defense policy and chair of the Aerospace Corporation. She and her husband, Craig Barrett, have announced a $2 million gift to ASU to support global citizenship programming. Download Full Image

Jacobs explained that the Barretts’ endowment of The Honors College in 2000, the largest donation made to ASU at its time, set the college on its path to national renown. Their second major gift, he said, “will allow the college to support its students as they become responsible, global citizens while educating them about the issues and challenges that the international community and planet face.”

“Today, no one will be able to be successful without having some familiarity with the world around them. That is an important element of an education, whether it’s in aerospace engineering or real estate or anthropology,” Barbara said. “In presenting the gold standard of education, it is all the more important for ASU’s Honors College to have a global component.”

The New York Times’ Frank Bruni called Barrett, The Honors College, “the gold standard” in honors education. It is home to 6,800 high-achieving scholars.

The college urges students to enhance their educational experience by travelling. Advising services and several scholarship programs are available for those hoping to study abroad in one of Barrett, The Honors College’s off-site locations, including Peru, Greece, Italy, Australia and the United Kingdom. The Honors College also offers research and service-learning opportunities overseas.

The Barretts’ gift will boost those programs and will grow the Barrett Global Fellow program established this year to bring international leaders to ASU to engage with students.

Ghanaian engineer and senior researcher George Yaw Obeng, the inaugural Barrett Global Faculty Fellow, taught at Barrett, The Honors College during the 2016-2017 academic year and said, “The creation of facilities and provision of opportunities and resources that support exposure of students to different cultures, language and environments will help them to appreciate diversity in life and nature.”

“It is a gift that allows us to take a step we could not take before, allowing each honors student access to international leaders visiting the campus, international study trips and an honors curriculum exposing them to most pressing global issues,” Jacobs said.

ASU is a top-rated institution for domestic students who study transnationally and is ranked as the top public university chosen by international students, according to the Institute of International Education’s 2015 report.

Findings by the Association of International Educators suggest that studying abroad enhances one’s personal growth, career prospects, leadership skills, academic performance and empathy.

Along with Harvard, Stanford and Chicago, ASU is one of only four institutions to produce Rhodes, Marshall and Churchill scholarship winners in 2017. ASU’s three elite scholarship winners graduated Tuesday from Barrett, The Honors College and will pursue degrees in the United Kingdom next fall.

“I’m just so thrilled that I’ve had the opportunity to study with Barrett students and learn from Barrett faculty. It’s been absolutely the best experience of my life, and I’ve gotten so much more out of it than I ever imagined I could in a college experience,” said Erin Schulte, who was presented the Outstanding Graduate Award at today’s ceremonies.

Erin Schulte and Barbara Barrett

From left: Barrett, The Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs, Claire Williams, Erin Schulte and Barbara Barrett pose for a picture at the Barrett, The Honors College Convocation on Tuesday. Williams is an alumna and head of alumni and parent programs. Schulte is the college's Outstanding Graduate. Around 800 graduate scholars watched as Jacobs announced a $2 million gift from Craig and Barbara Barrett to support global citizenship programming at Barrett, The Honors College. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Schulte, winner of the Marshall Scholarship, majored in global studies and worked on international humanitarian issues while at ASU. She co-founded the All Walks Project, a student-led non-profit that brings awareness of human trafficking to at-risk populations, and facilitated the organization’s expansion into Thailand.

“Being a Barrett student opened doors for me I did not even know existed,” said Ngoni Mugwisi, an electrical engineering major and winner of the Rhodes Scholarship. “I am particularly grateful for the opportunity I received to take the Human Event classes, which challenged me to think critically about the human condition while engaging in conversations with diverse students whose diverse ideas about difficult topics were phenomenal.”

“We are tremendously grateful for Barbara and Craig Barrett and the opportunities they create for students to encounter new ideas and succeed in an ever-changing world,” said R.F. “Rick” Shangraw, CEO of ASU Foundation. “They are mentors for our entire community. Their generosity comes in multiple forms, and we are lucky to learn from them.”

The Barretts are among ASU’s most generous donors.

Together, they have made nearly 250 gifts to the university totaling in excess of $22 million, including a $3 million commitment in February to endow the O’Connor Justice Prize administered by the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law in tribute to the Honorable Sandra Day O’Connor, former U.S. Supreme Court justice and Ms. Barrett’s mentor.

Among their numerous accomplishments, Barbara is a former United States ambassador to Finland, a trained astronaut, adviser to four American presidents on trade and defense policy and chair of the Aerospace Corporation. Craig is former CEO of Intel and strong supporter of educational reform. He chairs BASIS Schools, whose Phoenix location ranked as the most challenging high school in America this week by The Washington Post. The well-known business leaders and philanthropists own Triple Creek Ranch, a Montana hideaway voted the best hotel in the world by readers of Travel + Leisure.

Their gifts contribute to Campaign ASU 2020, a comprehensive, campus-wide effort to generate at least $1.5 billion in support for the university’s programs and services, for which supporting Global Citizenship at Barrett, The Honors College is a priority. Barbara is an honorary principal of the campaign and spoke at its launch in January.

To learn more about the Barrett, The Honors College story and supporting its Global Citizenship programs, visit

Beth Giudicessi


Fourth-generation ASU student earns doctorate in musical performance

May 9, 2017

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

Ryan Downey is not only a native Arizonan, from Mesa, he’s also a fourth-generation ASU student: His great grandmother attended the university when it was still known as Tempe Normal School. School of Music student Ryan Downey is graduating May 2017 with a DMA in music performance. School of Music student Ryan Downey is graduating May 2017 with a DMA in music performance. Download Full Image

Downey knew from an early age that he wanted to be a musician.

“I began singing in the Phoenix Boys Choir when I was 10,” he said, “and sang throughout high school.”

He chose ASU for both his bachelor's and his doctorate not only because it runs in his family but also because at ASU, he found a great voice teacher and vocal coaches. Also, he adds, “ASU grants access to tons of resources for both academic research and performance opportunities, and the school is surrounded by a thriving and growing arts scene.” 

This week, Downey earns his DMA in music performance with a focus on voice from the School of Music, after which he plans to move to San Francisco to pursue a career in music, teaching and nonprofit administration.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: The university’s continued and increased emphasis on interdisciplinary participation made me rethink what it means to be a musician today. It is important to be well rounded and flexible in your art and academic concentration.

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

A: Think outside the box and take risks while you’re in school. Study something outside of your area that you think might have an impact on your career after you graduate.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Old Main! When I see it, I can’t help but imagine all of the ASU students who have made an impact in our community, our country and across the world.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would increase access to, and recording of, oral history. I think personal stories have the ability to change lives and inform others of specific communities’ struggles and successes.

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts