Emergency management graduate driven to help those in need

May 10, 2017

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

The signs were always there for Melissa Munguia. A job as a certified nursing assistant dealing with life and death issues at an assisted living home. Search and rescue missions as a member of the Texas State Guard. And then, as she was researching a large scale dam failure as a maritime studies senior at Texas A&M in Galveston, Munguia realized what all the signs were pointing toward. Melissa Munguia on the Leon Valley Community Emergency Response Team Melissa Munguia and a colleague on the Leon Valley (Texas) Community Emergency Response Team. Download Full Image

“I don’t want to say I fell into it, but all of my paths led me to emergency management,” Munguia said. “I've always been a person that stays very calm during an emergency.”

At the age of 31, Munguia (pronounced moon-GEE-uh) is the spring 2017 outstanding graduate for the College of Public Service and Community Solutions in downtown Phoenix. She is already putting her master’s degree in emergency management and homeland security to use. Munguia recently started as the deputy coordinator of the Emergency Management Office for Nueces County in Corpus Christi, Texas.

After high school, the Austin, Texas native became a certified nursing assistant at a senior home.  

“You have a lot of elderly people that have heart conditions and strokes and fall down, it happens quite often,” Munguia said. “That’s kind of where I developed my passion for response.”

Munguia learned that saving lives could depend on how quickly you respond. But, she couldn’t save everyone.

“It took a toll on me after, you know, three and a half years of doing it,” Munguia said. “I built relationships with every single one of them. It was like losing a grandparent over and over again.”

She credits friends and family with giving her the confidence to enroll and succeed in college.

“I have had my moments in time where I didn't believe in myself for things that I could succeed or accomplish what everybody else was,” she noted. “And it took me time engrossed in a network of people that helped me believe in myself. And as soon as that happened my life started to change.”

Munguia is a member of the Texas National Guard, serving as a research and rescue technician and diver on several rescue missions along the U.S./Mexico border. She volunteers with Red Cross Disaster Services, ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.

She took an unpaid internship with the Bexar County Office of Emergency Management helping educate the public about the importance of disaster preparedness. Munguia volunteered with a San Antonio nonprofit helping homeless people acquire documents needed to establish their identify and qualify for services. And she’s worked in shelters for Central American kids who are refugees detained after crossing the border.

“Both of these experiences motivated me to create a project that will change the death toll on U.S. soil,” Munguia said. “I think it is important not only to protect our border but to prevent the death of those who have made it across.”

Melissa Munguia is the spring 2017 outstanding graduate of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Melissa Munguia is the spring 2017 Outstanding Graduate of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

To that end, she is working with the South Texas Human Rights Center, Border Patrol, local ranchers and a Sheriff’s office to build strategically placed shelters for people in crisis to escape the sweltering summer heat. Each shelter contains first aid materials, snacks and water.

“Melissa is a perfect example of the kind of student we have in our graduate programs who is absolutely committed to public service,” said Brian Gerber, an associate professor in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions and director of the Emergency Management and Homeland Security program at Arizona State University. “She is a great example of the kind of high-quality person that makes profoundly important contributions to her community and the nation as a whole.”

While she has served her community and nation, she has also helped her husband care for his mother who has Alzheimer’s. Her mother-in-law moved in with them a year ago. Munguia admits It isn’t easy juggling work, school and other commitments with helping provide 24/7 care.

“Everything about my life has changed,” Munguia admitted. “Although it has been a tremendous challenge, it has taught me things about myself that in the long run have made me a stronger person.”

Munguia isn’t done with learning. She plans to become a Certified Emergency Manager and obtain advanced professional series certifications from the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Graduating dancer uses artistry to impact society

May 10, 2017

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

Erika Moore graduates with her MFA in dance this week. And she has no intention of slowing down after the ceremony. ASU dance MFA student Erika Moore Erika Moore. Photo by Focus First Photography Download Full Image

“I am an artist, arts administrator, arts advocate and arts entrepreneur,” Moore said. “My plans are to continue to make impactful works of art, support the administration of artists and arts and culture, advocate and create programs, launch business ventures and capitalize on opportunity that exists today and will be there in the future.” 

Moore realized the power art after learning about legislation that passed in Arizona on her birthday in 2010.

“HB 2281, a bill that bans ethnic studies in the State of Arizona, was passed in response to the Mexican American Studies program in Tucson, and I was outraged at the language of the bill and the fact that it passed through legislation,” she said.

Moore said she discovered most people were unaware of the bill and gave little thought to the effects it had on Arizona schools, so she decided to explore how her artistry could make an impact on social, political and educational issues such as HB 2281.

“The bill provided a way in to work with dancers and the audience in exploring the cause and effects of its passing and the intra and inter-personal effects it has on people and the overall community — this touches on the social, political and educational climate we live in and have been a part of for centuries.”

Moore says she is an artist first, and everything she does and will do will be from the perspective of an artist, and that through working on the project, she realized just how far that perspective can go.

“In the beginning, I wanted to be an executive director of a performing arts organization, a non-practicing but participatory artist. These experiences and many others helped me see that it was the least that I could do,” she said. “My perspective of my position in the arts changed.”

Moore answered some questions about her time at ASU. 

Question:  What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I loved the work I was doing but missed the arts greatly. I went on a mission trip to Brazil and Argentina with Experience Arts School, and when I saw the need for art facilitators, globally, I began to think about my place in the arts. I later participated in Valley del Sol African American Leadership Institute, where I attended the Black Philanthropy in the Arts event. Prominent women of color were represented on the panel and I thought to myself, I can do that too. I met with Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage, and got plugged into ASU Gammage after I was accepted in the MFA program.

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I believed that ASU would give me the freedom I wanted to explore (innovate); they also had a great GA program to help decrease the amount of money needed for graduate school. 

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

A: It is ok to not have everything figured out. Explore. Take risks — in order to go somewhere you’ve never gone before, you have to do something you never did. Kiss fear goodbye and be courageous! 

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

A: Does King Coffee count? It's across the street. 

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

A: I would not use it to solve a problem, I would use it to build more capital to have a larger pool of funding available to address multiple problems. 

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts