ASU Army vet, father of four follows passion for rangeland management, conservation

April 25, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

ASU applied biological sciences graduate Keaton Davis has always loved the outdoors.  ASU natural resource management - applied biological sciences major Keaton Davis ASU applied biological sciences graduate Keaton Davis has always loved the outdoors. He's accepted a position with the U.S. Forest Service, working in the Tonto National Forest. Download Full Image

“I grew up in a family that did a lot of camping and was active in scouting,” said Davis, who grew up in Mesa, Arizona, and served in the U.S. Army for six years before attending college.

“I first thought about pursuing conservation work when I left the Army in 2015,” he explained, “but set that aside and started coursework in electrical engineering. After my first year at Mesa Community College, I wasn’t feeling passion and interest in engineering, so I reevaluated my plan and decided to switch over to a career in natural resources.”

ASU’s natural resource management concentration at the Polytechnic campus was the obvious fit for him, with the easy transfer process from MCC and Polytechnic's location in the East Valley, said the College of Integrative Sciences graduate, who in addition to completing the degree in applied biological sciences has completed the Certificate in Wildlife Management.

Davis, though busy as a father to three young sons (and he has a baby due in early June), took advantage of the many opportunities he had at the ASU Polytechnic campus to do natural resource management, not just study it. That included many opportunities to engage with alumni and practitioners in the field.

This last year he served as president of ASU’s chapter of the Wildlife Restoration Student Association, and in January he was among the nearly 20 students who participated in the Joint Annual Meeting (JAM) of the Arizona and New Mexico Chapters of the Wildlife Society in Albuquerque, New Mexico, and the annual conference of the Society in Range Management (SRM) in Minneapolis.

“We fielded two teams this year for the JAM Quiz Bowl and scored some pretty high point values; Sun Devils took home 40% of the photography awards, including Best in Show; a number of us took the Undergraduate Range Management Exam at SRM, and the five students who took the Plant ID test gave ASU a solid ninth-place finish among about 40 teams, ASU’s best finish so far,” he reported proudly.

Davis said having the chance to rub shoulders with Polytechnic campus alumni who are now well into their careers and to talk with hiring supervisors from federal and state agencies at these events was huge: “Everybody came back with new connections, ready to tweak their resumes.”

He highly recommends that students from any ASU campus or degree program who have an interest in plants, wildlife, fisheries, conservation or just being out in nature consider joining the WRSA club.

Though he’s just on the threshold of starting his career, having accepted a position with the U.S. Forest Service, Davis already speaks as an ambassador for his specialization: “They say that for every open job in wildlife ecology there are about 10 applicants; for every job in rangeland management that number is about 0.8.”

He recently shared with ASU Now some reflections on his ASU experience and dreams for the future.

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

Answer:  I learned to understand that every person I meet is unique and has personality traits and experiences that give them inherent value. I’ve also learned that I can be a positive influence on others with even the smallest gesture.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: I have had the most amazing group of professors, but if I had to pull an important lesson I learned while in the program it would be a conglomeration of lessons: There is no replacement for hard work; a common theme in biology and ecology is that there is an exception to every rule; and there are way more things that we don’t know than things we do know.

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

A: Although grades are important, they can’t replace human interaction. Become involved in on- and off-campus organizations, network, volunteer and don’t be afraid to possibly embarrass yourself.

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

A: My on-campus job, in the Poly Bike Co-Op, was the source for some of my more valued experiences and fond memories. I do some of my best thinking and pondering while working with my hands and fixing things, so the hours of tinkering with bikes and longboards allowed me to keep a clear mind and contemplate solutions to life’s questions.

Q: Did you do an internship related to your major?  

A: I held a summer internship in 2017 related to wildlife conservation, working with small mammals for the Arizona Game and Fish Department. Particularly, the internship worked with Gunnison prairie dogs on public and private land in Arizona. The program was an effort to measure colony size of prairie dogs to determine potential habitat areas to reintroduce the black-footed ferret, which is an endangered species native to Arizona.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?  

A: I received a job offer from the U.S. Forest Service, working on the Tonto National Forest. So, for the next year or so I anticipate living and working near Young, Arizona.

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

A: I would devote it to establishing environmental education programs in developing and developed countries. Most people base their behavior and perspectives on what they know. Most people do not know how much humans influence the global landscape and climate. I believe the only way to change the course of human influence is for those that do know to educate those who are unaware. This education can be formal or informal; the voice of conservation needs to be heard.

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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ASU pursuing deeper veterans' wellness engagement

April 25, 2019

Symposium brings together community stakeholders, ASU staff and faculty to investigate how to better serve veterans

Arizona State University representatives from across campuses attended a symposium April 17–18 in Phoenix to gain insight into the veteran space, network with local and military veteran community leaders and gather ideas on how the university can help further.

ASU was a key sponsor of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families — a highly attended event that included White House representation and a national Department of Veterans Affairs lead.

The coalition serves as the programmatic arm for the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. 

“These are significant times as we look to improve the quality of life of every veteran in Arizona,” said ASU alumna Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and a retired Air Force colonel.

Due to the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the collective efforts of many other groups to support veterans, Arizona is unique.

“This kind of work does not happen in most other states,” Wright said. “We are unusual in the way we are able to work together to influence the veteran echo system to manifest goodness for servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

ASU’s interest in the veteran echo system is twofold, supporting student veterans on campus and those out in the communities, plus driving innovative research and curriculum opportunities. The school’s military-affiliated student population grows each year, and currently hovers at well over 8,000 with continued growth expected. The university also owns comprehensive tools and resources to socially embed with public agencies that are on the front lines of veteran/military support.

One of ASU’s colleges with a significant number of student veterans is the College of Health Solutions. The college is aware of the unique challenges veterans face when they transition out of the military and onto campus. Its counselors, some of whom are also veterans, are there to assist.  

“We are trying to understand the veteran experience,” symposium attendee and College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer said. “And how their education at the College of Health Solutions can be enhanced by thinking about their situation from a more holistic perspective. We recognize that the veteran students come from a team environment to the university where they are individual learners. We believe our collaborative, experiential approach to education will be effective for veterans who are interested in careers in health.”

The college engaged with the VA to look at different areas where new collaboration may be possible, the dean said. Both ASU’s College of Heath Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation participated in strategic working sessions with the Phoenix VA Medical Center in January.

One of the key Arizona Coalition for Military Families programs College of Health Solutions faculty and students are engaged in is “Be Connected.” Launched in 2017, Be Connected is a collaboration between public and private stakeholders in Arizona aiming toward “upstream” suicide prevention in the veteran community.

“Right now Be Connected is a responsive model,” said Nicola Winkle, coalition project director. “You call, the team answers. You need help, it is provided. What we’ll be adding to complement this responsive approach is a proactive approach where we actively seek out and connect to segments of our military veteran and family population.”

Transitioning Be Connected to a proactive model requires data for focusing efforts, Winkle said. Data can prove what works, show how training and support increases intervention and reveal risk and protective factors of the military population. It can also help identify vulnerable populations within veteran communities with higher risk and lower protective factors.  

The symposium featured two days of programming and 11 learning tracks “all focused on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities for serving and supporting the military, veteran and family population.” The Pat Tillman Veterans Center hosted a roundtable discussion on building a veteran-supportive college campus, Veterans Upward Bound reps provided on-site resources throughout the event and ASU’s School of Social Work, a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, conducted a mindfulness and meditation session.

ASU participants also included around 25 faculty and staff from ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, Enterprise Marketing Hub, Office of Government and Community Engagement, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the President, Flag Officer Council, the Public Service Academy, and affiliate ASU Research Enterprise.

Top photo: Attendees of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families mingle at the exhibitor fair in Phoenix on April 16. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Assistant Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications