ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences recognizes fall 2018 Dean’s Medalists

December 7, 2018

On Tuesday, Dec. 11, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest achieving students from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities at its 2018 convocation ceremony.

Department and schools within the college each have selected a phenomenal student who has demonstrated a steadfast commitment to academic excellence during their time at ASU. These students will be awarded a prestigious Dean’s Medal in honor of their scholastic achievements, to be worn with their graduation regalia as they lead their fellow graduates during the processional. Dean's Medal Download Full Image

The Dean’s Medalists have stood out in their fields through a number of practices, from advanced coursework and honors theses to innovative research and consistently high grades.

Each of these students has earned their medal and will make incredible contributions to the world after graduation.

Meet this year’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalists:

Angelica Berner

Dean's Medalist Angelica Berner

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics  

Major: Physics

Accomplishments: In her time at ASU, Berner has served as a mentor to her peers, presented at conferences, authored a publication and completed on-campus research.

“Angelica served as a leader in Sundial, helping incoming students acclimate to ASU and develop technical skills. As an example, she led a project in which first-year students learned to program a self-driving robot. She has also volunteered in Sundial leadership retreats and outreach activities,” said Anna Zaniewski, an associate instructional professional in the Department of Physics.

Berner gained valuable experiences through internships with Beyond: Center for Fundamental Concepts, NASA Langley NIFS and as a computational researcher for the NASA Space Grant Scholar program. She served as president of Students for the Exploration and Development of Space and helped with outreach on behalf of the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“Angelica embodies the characteristics that should be recognized with a Dean’s Medal: She is intellectually and technically strong, pursues challenges and contributes to the community,” Zaniewksi said.

Clark Boudrie

Dean's Medalist Clark Boudrie

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures

Major: Asian languages (Japanese)

Accomplishments: Faculty members describe Boudrie as an “exceptional linguist and exceptional student.” In his first year in the Japanese program, Clark won the highly competitive Japanese Business Association of Arizona prize, and in last year’s Arizona Speech Contest, he won second prize in the highest language-level category.

Clark’s involvement with Japanese culture goes beyond coursework. This year, he served as president of the Japanese Student Association and has been active in promoting the group’s activities at campus events. He was also initiated into the Japanese National Honor Society.

“Clark’s impressive intellectual abilities are complemented by a friendly, humble and unassuming demeanor,” said William C. Hedberg, an assistant professor of Japanese in the School of International Letters and Cultures. “In my course, for instance, when Clark’s peers raise a question about the reading or a difficult grammar point, Clark has consistently volunteered to answer the question in a way that clearly resolves the issue, and — equally impressively — makes it clear that his peers’ contributions are valued and taken seriously.”

Fabiola Cervantes

Dean's Medalist Fabiola Cervantes

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics  

Major: Family and human development

Minor: Sociology

Certificate: Working with Military Families

Accomplishments: Cervantes came to ASU with her sights set on a career path that would allow her to help others and completed her bachelor’s degree and minor in just two and a half years.

During her time in school, Cervantes participated in the Sanford Student Leaders Club, gained research experience and earned scholarships through the school. She has been a member of the National Society of Collegiate Scholars since spring 2017.

Cervantes’ desire to help others grew from her international experiences. She spent every summer as a child with her grandparents in Mexico, studied abroad in Finland and volunteered for a summer in Chile where she worked with children with mental disabilities in a group home. Chile is where her dedication to helping foster children was solidified.

“There is no doubt that Fabiola will contribute to her vision of a better world,” said Stacie Foster, the undergraduate director of programs at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. “Fabiola exemplifies the type of student the Sanford School of Social Dynamics is proud to call our Dean’s Medalist and alumni.”

Daniel Dandurand

Dean's Medalist Daniel Dandurand

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Major: Geography

Minor: History

Certificate: Secondary Education, Geographic Information Science

Accomplishments: Dandurand is a nontraditional, returning-veteran student who has been a mainstay of the undergraduate program at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Described as an exceptional student by Randall Cerveny, President’s Professor in the School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning, Dandurand was recently awarded the Ray Henkel award, one of the school’s highest undergraduate awards.

While in school, Dandurand has used his acquired knowledge to help others, working as a student teacher at Skyline High School as well as a work-study student at the Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

In addition to being a full-time student in the geography program, Dandurand has pursued a minor in history and certificates in secondary education and geographical information science.

Jaime Faulkner

Dean's Medalist Jaime Faulkner

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Major: Communication

Accomplishments: During her time at ASU, Faulkner was involved with performing arts, the Encyclopedia Show Arizona and trained as a facilitator for Storyscope, a storytelling project that hosts events across the Valley.

This year, Faulkner was the co-recipient of the Kristin Bervig Valentine scholarship, earning the recognition from her excellent academic work as well as her public performances at the Empty Space.

“She has written and performed solo performances at the Empty Space that interrogate gender, sexuality and power,” said Jennifer Linde, a senior lecturer and the director of online learning at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. “This work is intersectional and critical and asks audiences to consider their assumptions and beliefs about gender and queer identities.”

“Jaime is a student who makes commitments, extends herself beyond the classroom and works to make the ASU community a stronger place. Her laugh is infectious, her intellect is sharp and she is a stellar example of a student who will continue to make significant contributions to her world,” said Linde.

Learn more about Faulkner’s experience at ASU.

Andres Bernal Gavino

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics

Major: Economics

Minor: Mathematics

Accomplishments: Since transferring to ASU from South Mountain Community College, Gavino has challenged himself by taking higher-level mathematics and statistics courses with excellent performance. Faculty praise his superior academic performance.

His coursework in economics, mathematics and statistics prepared him for obtaining a competitive internship at Western Alliance Bank with the risk modeling group.

“The Department of Economics is proud to recognize Andres with the Dean’s Medal award and to count him as one of our alumni,” said Cara McDaniel, a clinical associate professor and executive director of undergraduate studies.

Zoe Harrison

Dean's Medalist Zoe Harrison

Dean’s Medal: Department of English

Major: Film and media studies, American history

Accomplishments: As a dual major, Harrison has taken advantage of the opportunities present at the university. Last year, she worked on a team of research assistants to help aid Professor Matthew Delmont with his project entitled, “African-Americans During World War II at Home and Abroad.”

Harrison also gained a special opportunity to attend an immersion program at Penn State as part of the Richards Center Emerging Scholars Mentoring Program. Additionally, she presented at the 2018 National Women’s Studies Conference.

“Zoe Harrison represents the best of the undergraduate scholars coming through the English department at ASU,” said Bradley Ryner, an associate chair and associate professor in the Department of English.

Zoe plans to pursue a PhD and continue her work as a scholar.

Clarissa Jaramillo

Dean's Medalist Clarissa Jaramillo

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration  

Major: Earth and environmental studies

Minor: Sustainability

Certificate: Energy and sustainability

Accomplishments: Jaramillo is known among faculty and fellow students for her piercing questions, sharp sense of humor, attentive attitude and diligence with assignments and exams.

After transferring from Glendale Community College, Jaramillo dove into studies at ASU, pursuing her passion for exploration and learning. She worked as a hydrology intern for the Arizona Department of Water Resources for two years and, more recently, is working for the same department as a water resource specialist.

“Clarissa’s ‘can do’ attitude is well-known by all who have taught her and interacted with her and is a delightful testament to how well life experience can serve our students,” said Arjun Heimsath, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “Clarissa is highly deserving of this award and is a wonderful example of how well students do when their drive and energy is directed to pursuing their academic passions.”

Nicholas Jarvis

Dean's Medalist Nicholas Jarvis

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences

Major: Biological sciences

Certificate: Ethics

Accomplishments: Jarvis is described as inquisitive, intelligent, critically minded, engaged and exceptionally personable.

Jarvis’s interest in his chosen degree began in childhood while seeing a physician for migraines. He decided to take a chance and ask his physician if he could shadow them to learn more about the career path.  

Ben Hurlbut, an associate professor in the School of Life Sciences, said Jarvis is a rare individual.

“I could say much more — about the truly excellent papers he wrote for my class, about the topics and range of our conversations, but suffice it to say that I am extremely impressed with Nick and expect him to succeed at whatever he chooses to do in his life. I expect that to his future profession, he will bring the same hard work, intellectual curiosity, smarts and thoughtful sensitivity and attunement to the human condition that he has demonstrated in every moment in which I have interacted with him.”

Jarvis plans to pursue a career as a neuroscience physician and researcher.

Marianna Kaneris

Dean's Medalist Marianna Kaneris

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology

Major: Psychology, biochemistry

Accomplishments: Kaneris is a member of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU graduating this fall with a double major in psychology and biochemistry.

Earlier this year, she defended her thesis on conceiving the Mediterranean diet as a dynamic system of relationships. After completing the thesis, Kaneris went on to take a leadership role in a lab on learning and development. In addition to her work in the lab, Kaneris held a part-time job in the academic advising office in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. Kaneris was also involved with Psi Chi, the National Honors Society of Psychology.   

Outside of ASU, Kaneris completed a study abroad program in digital photography at the Aegean Center for the Fine Arts and maintained her membership in her home church choir.

After graduation, Kaneris plans to pursue graduate studies in public health.

Jonathan Liechty

Dean's Medalist Jonathan Liechty

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Major: Philosophy

Accomplishments: Liechty, a member of the Starbucks College Achievement Program, displayed a track record of successful coursework while at ASU. According to his professors, through his writing and interactions with other classmates, Liechty demonstrates the intellectual virtues cultivated by the study of philosophy: care for rigorous and precise definitions, patient and methodical reasoning, clarity in argumentation, openness to changing his mind and both civility and interpretive charity toward others who disagree.

During his time in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Liechty showed an interest in applying philosophy to practical issues facing our world. One of his projects focused on the epistemology of the concept of "fake news" and the origins of polarization in public discourse, and what might be done about them.

Learn more about Liechty’s return to academia after a 20-year hiatus

Adisa Podrug

Dean's Medalist Adisa Podrug

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies

Major: Global studies, family and human development

Accomplishments: Podrug is a first-generation, multicultural student who is eager to make a difference at ASU and in her community. While a student, Podrug worked with Upward Bound, where she provided first-generation students with academic support and taught English and math to students as well as their parents.

Podrug speaks multiple languages, including Serbian and Croatian, and is adept at French. As part of her global studies requirements, Adisa completed a study abroad program in London. There, she worked as an intern with Hibiscus Initiatives where she facilitated classes for many multicultural clients in the Hibiscus Women’s Centre.

In addition to her work in the School of Politics and Global studies, Podrug is concurrently obtaining a degree in family and human development from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics.

“Adisa embodies the core tenets of the School as her academic work and personal life engage directly within social and cultural contexts at local and global levels,” said Richard Herrera, associate director at the School of Politics and Global Studies. “(She is) eager to use her academic training and program experiences to make a difference in the lives of others.” 

Alexis Ramirez

Dean's Medalist Alexis Ramirez

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences

Major: Biochemistry with an emphasis on medicinal chemistry

Accomplishments: After transferring to ASU from Mesa Community College with his associate degree, Ramirez quickly distinguished himself in his coursework and research.

As a student in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, his honors thesis focused on developing a dielectrophoretic method to separate gold nanoparticles.

“This research epitomizes ASU’s strength in use-inspired research, since the inability to sufficiently purify gold nanoparticles is currently the key problem limiting their application in areas like medicine and consumer products,” said Anne Jones, associate professor and associate director of academic affairs in the School of Molecular Sciences.

Outside of honors classes, Ramirez worked in the Dillard’s Distribution Center as well as at the university as a laboratory technician. He also served as an academic advocate and tutor this fall to at-risk high school students in Chandler.

Ramirez’s honors advisor, Professor Mark Hayes, praised his work ethic and talent.

“He provided a ‘draft’ of his honors thesis to me that needed almost no revisions. I have never had that happen before,” Hayes said. “Mr. Ramirez is simply the most extraordinary young researcher I have come across during my time at ASU. He is very deserving of this recognition and he will be one of those recipients that we will look back upon as someone that we were proud that we honored.”

Jeremy Scholz

Dean's Medalist Jeremy Scholz

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation

Major: Justice studies

Accomplishments: Since transferring from Mesa Community College with his associate degree, Scholz has excelled in academics at ASU. He has made the Dean’s List every semester while balancing two part-time jobs and volunteering at his church. Scholz is dedicated to his studies, often working closely with professors after class or in office hours to gain better insight into the course topic.

As one professor stated, “Jeremy represents a true ambassador of the School of Social Transformation. His academic work critically focused on topics such as hate speech, the politics of open borders and the conceptualization of ‘political leanings’ in the United States.”

Myles West

Dean's Medalist Myles West

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Major: Economics, anthropology

Accomplishments: As a student of Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, West designed and implemented a thesis which explored the problem of how legacies of legal racial segregation shape the higher education aspirations and achievement of African-Americans in the Phoenix area.

“He brought together an interdisciplinary array of scholarly literature that exemplifies the spirit of a liberal arts education in the New American University,” said Monica Gaughan, associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “The results are interesting, illustrating how educational and residential patterns continue to create barriers to full participation by African-Americans.”

During his time as a student, West studied abroad in Greece and Italy, participated with organizations including the ASU Theatre and Shakespeare Club, tutored students and worked as an instructional aide.

Haiming Zhang

Dean's Medalist Haiming Zhang

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences

Major: Mathematics

Accomplishments: Zhang has excelled in his coursework, often taking courses beyond what is required by the program.

“Whereas the program requires two ‘depth courses’ (the most challenging capstone courses), Haiming has already successfully completed six of these,” said the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences President's Professor Matthias Kawski.

During his time at ASU, Zhang conducted a research project on randomized singular value decompositions. In addition, Kawski said Zhang contributed to the mission of the school by working as an instructional aide.

Zhang plans to continue working towards a PhD in either applied mathematics or statistics.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


First-generation graduate pursues passion for education access

December 7, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates

Yvonne Cabrera, a student from Buena Park, California, is graduating this month with a master’s degree in higher and postsecondary education from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. As a first-generation student, her passion for promoting education and access is the driving force in her studies. After graduation she plans to make a career out of expanding access to higher education through Access ASU. Yvonne Cabrera sitting in her graduation cap in front of ASU sign Yvonne Cabrera. Download Full Image

She shared some of her takeaways from her time at ASU.

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

Answer: Being a first-generation student, the importance of continuing education has been a passion ever since I was young. I aspire to continue to influence and motivate younger generations who are in my position to continue their education and make a difference in their community.

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

A: I’ve learned the importance of networking. Being an extremely shy individual and then beginning my career at ASU, I’ve built strong relationships within my department as well as other departments to further enhance my program.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU not because it is close to home but because there have always been opportunities to continue my career.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was it and how has it helped you?

A: Dr. Kevin Correa used this wonderful metaphor about how we are all dealt a set of cards from a deck, and we have to be able to use these cards to our advantage no matter how challenging the cards may be. I have always kept this in mind when I am out in my field of work and constantly think of this when I am working with K-12, first-generation, low-income students across the Valley to assist in motivating these students to build a love and passion for education.

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

A: My best piece of advice for students still in school is that although you may be going through obstacles in school and in life, everything works out in the end.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus would be the ASU Art Museum.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to continue to be a part of the Access ASU family and continue the mission to build the pipeline for our Arizona youth to pursue higher education.

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

A: Access to education for all.

Written by Bryan Pietsch, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services