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Ambitious ASU students guided toward the world's most prestigious awards

ASU guides ambitious students on the path to winning top-flight awards.
October 12, 2017

Applying is rigorous; staff members at ASU's scholarship office help with information, writing and interviewing assistance

All of Arizona State University celebrates when its students win prestigious awards.

The journey to those prominent scholarships and fellowships is long, requiring years of work and reflection, and ASU provides an enormous amount of help along the way. The Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarship Advisement works with students as young as freshmen, providing information sessions, writing help and practice interviews.

All of that sounds like practical assistance, but guiding these accomplished people as they refine their goals and reflect on their talents can be life-changing in ways that will help the world.

Frank Smith III, who’s majoring in political science, is applying for the Rhodes, Marshall and Schwarzman scholarships this fall. The process has altered his path.

Frank Smith III

“I’ve done a lot of foster-care reform work. I’ve helped to get bills passed in the state legislature and I’ve gone to the White House,” said Smith, who was in foster care as a child and took a semester off last year to work on Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign.

“At first I thought that’s what I wanted to do. And yes, I’ll always be an advocate for foster reform. But working on these applications has helped me tie my previous work into a much larger goal of closing the opportunity gap, providing equal opportunity to all.”

Smith, who hopes to get a master’s in public policy, took some time after the campaign and traveled in Europe, then did a study-abroad program in Ghana over the summer.

“The more I’ve gone abroad the more I see that you can’t just look at public-policy issues through the lens of a single nation or single point of view — you need to see it from that global vantage point,” he said.

Bren Ram had a vague idea of wanting to work in the world of academia after acquiring a doctorate, but the Marshall Scholarship application has created a new vision.

“It’s now solid that teaching is the thing I want to do with my life,” Ram said. “I’m passionate about education, research and writing.

Bren Ram

“This process helped me to learn that what I enjoy doing is working with students, and I always want to do that.”

ASU has been raising its profile with elite awards. In March, ASU became one of only four institutions to have winners of the threeErin Schulte, who earned a degree in global studies, was the 18th ASU student win a Marshall Scholarship. Ngoni Mugwisi (at left in the photo), who earned a degree in electrical engineering, is ASU’s first Rhodes Scholar since 2001. Christopher Balzer, a chemical engineering graduate, was ASU’s first Churchill Scholar. All three are currently studying in England. most prestigious international scholarships – Marshall, Rhodes and, for the first time at ASU, a Churchill Scholar. And ASU has become a top producer of Fulbright winners, with 15 students currently abroad in the U.S. government’s flagship exchange program.

In addition, 19 Sun Devils won a prestigious GilmanThe nationwide Gilman scholarship funds international travel for students who might not otherwise consider study abroad — such as first-generation college students, those with disabilities and underrepresented ethnic and demographic groups. scholarship to study abroad this past summer — the most ever for ASU.

These awards are highly competitive but within reach of many students, according to Kyle Mox, director of the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement at ASU and associate dean of Barrett, the Honors College. He has seen ASU’s students, especially at Barrett, arriving with higher academic ability and more ambition.

“They’re well aware of where they are and what the values are. They feel empowered,” he said. “They made a choice to come to ASU and to benefit from that choice.”

Mox is the president of the National Association of Fellowship Advisers, so he has a good perspective on the national landscape. Many universities have small offices, with a part-time faculty member doing the work. ASU has three full-time and two part-time staffers in its office, housed in Barrett, the Honors College. Besides recruiting students from across the university, including non-Barrett students from all campuses, the office also helps applicants work with faculty to get good letters of recommendation and offers workshops showing examples of successful and unsuccessful application packages.

Most deadlines are in the fall, so the scholarship office ramps up in the spring with information sessions and workshops.

Simply choosing among the many options is another way the office helps, Mox said.

“A lot of students come in and say, ‘What am I eligible for?’ And it could be dozens of awards,” he said, each with varying requirements.

But many have a rigorous application process and students get a lot of help with that.

“My original rough draft for my personal statement for the Marshall was about 700 words over the limit. It was rambling. It was incoherent. It was me talking about my life story and all these things I was interested in,” said Ram, who is majoring in philosophy and creative writing.

But Mox helped Ram whittle away and shape the narrative.

“So I was able to look back on my life and goals and interests with an eye toward how they made me who I am rather than a series of disconnected events,” Ram said. “Even if I don’t get the scholarship, the process of the personal statement has helped me learn about myself in a personal way.”

Cara Popeski

That process can be long, as Cara Popeski found out when she applied for the Marshall and previous scholarships.

“I sent Dr. Mox dozens of drafts of my essays, and I mean dozens,” said Popeski, who said the work is helping as she also applies to medical school. Popeski graduated in May with a degree in psychology and hopes to have a career in behavioral health.

Applicants also get prepped for interviews. Some are practice sessions, but many top awards require the university to endorse or nominate students and that means an interview with ASU staff and faculty. Smith, who won a Truman ScholarshipSmith was awarded the Truman Scholarship for 2015 for his work getting the state legislature to pass a bill that creates a college tuition waiver for former foster children. Then-Gov. Jan Brewer signed the bill in 2013. two years ago, said his interview at ASU was more difficult than with the Truman panel.

“It was the most intense interview of my life,” he said.

“It was confrontational — anything is on the table. And it made me better. It made me think more meticulously about what I say and where I can steer the conversation.”

Ram is actively involved with the forensic debate team and is a confident speaker. But the ASU interview was tough.

“I thought I bombed it. It went well enough that ASU decided to endorse me, but I learned a lot,” Ram said.

“I always think that I can just wing, it but it opened my eyes that I have to be ready.”

Top photo by Jarod Opperman/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU Law professor says political pacts should be kept

October 12, 2017

President Donald Trump is considering backing out of the Iran Nuclear Agreement Review Act of 2015. Many believe it could leave the United States a diplomatic pariah if he follows through.

Trump says he will make a decision this week, which has led to wide speculation about sanctions, soured relationships and the future implications of multinational pacts.

To seek answers, ASU Now turned to Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law Professor Daniel Bodansky, an expert in international law.

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Daniel Bodansky

Question: President Trump has been talking about scrapping the Iran nuclear deal, which was struck in 2015 before he took office. Good or bad move, and why?

Answer: This raises two questions: First, is scrapping the agreement legal and, second, is it a good idea? The Iranian Nuclear Agreement is not a legal agreement but a political agreement. It doesn’t have the status of a treaty, and it’s not binding in the area of international law. Presidents have quite a bit of authority to terminate legal agreements like treaties, but they have even more authority to terminate political agreements. So, yes, as a legal matter, President Trump is able to terminate the agreement.

But that doesn’t mean terminating the agreement would be a good idea. Opinions about the deal differ, but in my view the overriding idea of the agreement was to curb the Iranian nuclear program and it’s been successful in doing that. The agreement hasn’t curbed Iran’s support for terrorism and activities in the Middle East — it wasn’t intended to do that. Like most agreements, it can’t do everything. However, pretty much everyone agrees that Iran has been complying with the limits on its nuclear program. There’s very strict monitoring under the agreement, and there’s no evidence of violations.

Q: What are the foreign-policy repercussions if the United States pulls out of this agreement?

A: Two kinds of implications. First, pulling out of the Iranian agreement would make it much more difficult to do a negotiation with North Korea because even if an agreement was reached, if Trump pulls out of the Iranian deal, it means that he very well might pull out of a North Korean deal as well. North Korea will be less likely to want to strike a deal with the U.S. if they feel we might change our mind later.

The second implication is for our relationships with our allies in Europe who support the agreement. Pulling out of the Iran deal will obviously undermine relationships with European countries and make it more difficult to work together on issues like North Korean in the future.

Q: What would pulling out of the Iran nuclear deal achieve?

A: It’s not clear whether Congress will re-impose sanctions on Iran, so it may be more symbolic than anything else. Also, if our allies don’t re-impose sanctions, any sanctions imposed by the U.S. would be a lot less effective than previously. It seems as if Iran is holding up its end of the bargain, so if the sanctions were proposed again by the U.S., we’d probably be going it alone at this point.

Q: How does a political deal like the Iran agreement differ from a treaty like the North Atlantic Treaty that established NATO?

A: The North Atlantic Treaty was intended to establish legal obligations and be governed by international law. In contrast, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action was intended to create only political commitments.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay