History student named Dean's Medalist

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Shawn Courson stands out among his fellow history majors due to his commitment to others and his education. Because of his accomplishments and engagement to ASU, he was chosen as the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Shawn Courson Headshot Shawn Courson will continue his commitment to serving others after graduation and move to Seattle as a member of Teach for America. Download Full Image

“He has worked tirelessly at ASU in the service of others,” said history Professor Calvin Schermerhorn, who nominated Courson for the medal. “I have taught many students with his potential but never one with that talent and determination focused on giving so much to others and to seek out those who might need his gifts and dedication the most." 

Courson impressed his faculty and peers as he balanced teaching full-time at Tempe High School, earning top marks in his courses and working on his honors thesis that details the struggles of African-American political leaders in Texas after the Civil War.

He will continue his commitment to serving others after graduation and move to Seattle as a member of Teach for America.

Courson answered a few questions about his time at ASU, tips for current students and future plans.

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

Answer: I came into ASU as a math major, but I never felt a real passion for my studies during my freshman year. I began studying history and discovered a passion for learning about marginalized groups and cultures throughout U.S. history. I knew I’d be making a far more significant impact teaching the subject where my heart was truly at.  

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

A: I learned how important it is to be an active participant in your environment. You will meet so many incredible people at ASU—the faculty, students and more. Open yourself up to others around you and form meaningful connections. You never know who might end up helping you land your next job or join you on your next adventure! 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Coming from a small town in New York, I had been looking at several out-of-state universities from all different parts of the country. I was immediately drawn to ASU because of its beautiful campus, sports history and its unparalleled value for out-of-state students. I was also impressed by the incredible facilities and top-tier professors teaching at ASU.

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

A: College is so much more than lectures and assignments. Make the most of your ASU experience by getting involved — in classes and in extracurricular activities. The most rewarding and life-changing experiences I’ve had at ASU have stemmed from developing close relations with my favorite professors and from staying involved with ASU club sports for four years.

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

A: My favorite study spot on campus is in Hayden Library, on the second floor, tucked away behind the bookshelves at a row of individual desks positioned next to windows facing out towards campus. I read dozens of books and spent several months working on my thesis at this very spot. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be moving to Seattle to combat educational inequity as a member of Teach for America, teaching high school history. I will also be pursuing a master’s degree in education at the University of Washington.

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

A: I wouldn’t be able to solve the problem, but if I had $40 million, I would invest it into struggling school districts with high percentages of students from low-income backgrounds. An investment into education practically pays for itself. Such an investment would update facilities, help secure necessary materials and technological tools, retain quality teachers and provide students with more out-of-school educational trips. All these additions would help retain students and better engage them with a more modernized learning environment. Investments into education pay great dividends as the students you invest in are put in a far better position to become high-achieving and successful outside of academics.

Erica May

Communications specialist, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies


ASU psychology dean's medalist named Fulbright Scholar

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

When she graduates in a few weeks, Catie Carson will have accomplished more in her four years at Arizona State University than many students across the nation. She will graduate with a double major in psychology and justice studies, and with a human rights certificate and minor in Mandarin Chinese. Carson was named the spring 2018 Dean’s Medalist for the ASU Department of Psychology. Catie Carson, Dean's Medalist ASU Psychology Catie Carson was named the spring 2018 Dean’s Medalist for the ASU Department of Psychology, as well as a Fulbright English Teaching Scholar. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

Carson is also a Fulbright English Teaching recipient and will teach English next year in Taiwan. While working in the Behavioral Neuroscience of Memory and Aging Lab with psychology Professor Heather Bimonte-Nelson, Carson was an author on two peer-reviewed publications, published in volume 64 of the Neurobiology of Aging and in volume 87 of Hormones and Behavior.

She also completed an honors thesis with Delia Saenz, associate professor in psychology and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, on the impact of numerical distinctiveness on social and academic outcomes of Native American Honors' students. Additionally, she studied discrimination and societal issues in the Evolutionary Social Psychology Lab with Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and chair of the Department of Psychology.

"From the time that Catie started working in our laboratory as a high school student, it was clear she had far-reaching potential. Catie is a naturally deep and methodical critical thinker, and she has an uncanny ability to assimilate material across difficult theoretical concepts. She thinks with breadth and depth,” Bimonte-Nelson said. “These are rare skill sets and gifts for such a young scholar. No matter what her path, I have no doubt that Catie will accomplish anything she decides to do.”

"It has been such a pleasure to serve as Catie's thesis advisor and mentor. Throughout, she has demonstrated the highest levels of intellectual curiosity, motivation, leadership, and concern for justice.  Her thesis is but one example of Catie's approach to blending these attributes," Saenz said. "Even at this early stage of her career, Catie is at once a scientist, a practitioner, a humanist, and a bridge-builder. The recognition she has received is much deserved."

Carson is also the Barrett Honors College Outstanding Graduate, an award given annually to the highest-achieving undergraduate in Barrett, The Honors College. This award is given to only one bachelor-degree graduate from each college. Award recipients have demonstrated exceptional academic achievement, with special attention to extracurricular activities and service to their college.

“There are so many deserving students in the Barrett Honors College, and I’m sure any of them could have won,” Carson said. “I am grateful that my interests were recognized.”

Carson had an international upbringing: She lived in Arizona until her father’s job moved her family to China for three years. Carson credits living in China with giving her a broad perspective about how people live and inspiring her to want to make a difference everywhere she goes.

“Catie is the kind of student who makes your heart leap with enthusiasm. She is very smart, intellectually thoughtful, curious, eager to learn and willing to challenge conventional ideas, all the while being authentically kind, caring and driven in a calmly intense way to make the world a better place,” Neuberg said.

Carson chose to attend ASU because it afforded her the opportunity to earn a liberal arts education at a nationally recognized university and to conduct research with faculty that supported her passion of serving others.

One of her primary interests outside of class is the Gammage Scholars group. The group consists of 16 Grady and Kathryn Gammage scholarship recipients who work on a variety of service projects such as renovating an elder-care facility, mentoring kids at local elementary schools and hosting a prom for veterans. The scholars group honors the legacy of the former president of Arizona State University who pledged intellectual vision and a commitment to the well-being of the broader community.

In addition, Carson is a community assistant at Vista del Sol, a residential housing complex on campus for students of Barrett, the Honors College; works as a tutor off campus; and leads a campus ministry group. She also interned with AmeriCorps at ASU's School of Social Work, where she worked specifically on domestic violence. Additionally, she was awarded a scholarship from the Friends of the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict that enabled her to intern over the summer with a nonprofit that focuses on autism in Tajikistan.

“It’s been an incredible pleasure to have her working in my lab and as a student in my class,” Neuberg said. “I can’t wait to see what she does in the next phase of her life … and beyond!” 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology