Communication graduate set her sights on the entertainment industry

May 5, 2019

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

Imagine maintaining a perfect GPA throughout your college career and still finding time to work and perform in a band.   Alexa Graves Download Full Image

That has been the experience of senior Alexa Graves, who is graduating summa cum laude this spring with a degree in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication and a minor in film and media studies. At the May 6 commencement ceremony, Graves will receive one of ASU's top academic honors, the Moeur Award, for her efforts. 

Since 1901, the ASU Alumni Association has presented the Moeur Award to graduating seniors who have maintained the highest academic standing over the course of eight consecutive fall and spring semesters. The award was named for Dr. B. B. Moeur, who was a physician and businessman in Tempe in the early 1900s.

Graves also received the Louis and Louise Menk Endowed Scholarship in 2017 from the Hugh Downs School. 

Graves has been a standout student since she arrived at ASU four years ago. In her first semester, she impressed her professor in her COM 100 class, Pauline Davies, who later invited her to be a classroom assistant to provide support and advice to more inexperienced students. 

“Alexa is very capable, conscientious and empathetic, and she's also very modest about her achievements. Though we've stayed in close touch, I just learned she would be receiving the Moeur Award when I was invited to the ceremony,” said Davies. “Only then did I realize that she has been an outstanding student in all her courses.”

Graves also worked as an office assistant at ASU’s Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science for three years, where her diverse talents were put to good use.

“From planning events to building websites, I’ve had a chance to work on many different types of projects,” said Graves. “Overall, I was able to learn many different interpersonal skills such as professionalism, dependability and time management.”

In addition to her work and studies, Graves is also the lead singer of the band, Lo Standard, formed in the summer of 2017, whose members are either ASU students or alumni. During that time, the band has performed all around Arizona including several times in front of the Memorial Union, and also at ASU’s Homecoming Block Party. They have also released their first music video, “No Fight Left” filmed by ASU Film Student Xavier Sanchez with the hope to raise awareness about emotional and physical abuse and to let victims know that they are not alone.

Alexa Graves, lead singer in the band Lo Standard, performing in front of the Memorial Union.

ASU Now sat down with Graves to learn more about her college experience: 

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

Answer: I have always loved being social and working in teams. One day when I was looking at the different majors offered at ASU on their website, communication stood out to me as something I would enjoy and also had the flexibility to apply to many different career paths. That was the moment that I realized it was the perfect degree for me.

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

A: ASU is a really unique school, and part of that is because of how diverse the campus is. I have gotten to work with so many different types of people that I have never had the opportunity of meeting anywhere else. It is a really inclusive university when it comes to celebrating different cultures, and everyone is very respectful. I learned that hand gestures have different meanings in different cultures, so it is important to do your research before going to a new place!

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I chose ASU because the campus is beautiful and I felt that there would be an abundance of opportunity here. Which I have to say was a good choice because I have been blessed with so many amazing opportunities like being a student worker at the Beyond Center for Fundamental Concepts in Science. I have worked there for three years as an office assistant for Paul Davies and I have been able to help plan events and meet really fascinating people like Lucy Hawking and Jennifer Doudna. As a singer, I have also had the opportunity of being one of ASU’s Got Talent’s top 10 finalists, and I performed at the Memorial Union multiple times as a part of the ASU Culture Express Yourself Series.

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

A: During my time at ASU, I had the opportunity to teach a student success class for incoming freshmen, and the advice I always gave them was to get involved. The best part of ASU is how easy it is to make connections and participate in the many clubs and organizations. This type of experience is invaluable, so don’t be afraid to put yourself out there.

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

A: My favorite spot was definitely the Secret Garden. I went there many times to study or hang out with friends! If you’ve never heard of it before you’ll have to ask around and see if you can find it.

Alexa Graves with her guitar.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would love to work in the entertainment industry, so I am actively pursuing that right now with the help of people I have met at ASU. Besides that, I’m going on a graduation trip to Hawaii to celebrate!

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

A: I would love to donate to the Ocean Cleanup Project to help rid our oceans of plastic. As humans, I believe we have the responsibility of protecting our environment. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is now estimated to be three times the size of France. If you would like to donate you can go to

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


Dream to become a physician coming true for microbiology graduate

May 5, 2019

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

When Zach LeBaron was a young child, he would sit on his mother’s lap and scour her textbooks while she was studying to become a medical assistant. He especially liked to look at the diagrams of human anatomy and pretend to explain to her what was going on. Zach LeBaron Zach LeBaron is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has been accepted to the Creighton School of Medicine. Download Full Image

The seed to study medicine was planted. But so was another desire — learning.

LeBaron was born and raised in Colorado, but once he started his college search, found himself drawn to the culture at Arizona State University. After his entire family moved to Arizona, he decided that ASU had everything he wanted.

In addition to a diverse and inclusive culture, LeBaron felt ASU offered him a community where he could constantly evolve and grow.

As it turns out, ASU was a perfect fit. LeBaron is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology and has been accepted to Creighton's School of Medicine.

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

Answer: I think an overall lesson that I learned while at ASU was the sheer magnitude of things that I didn’t know, and how important the pursuit of knowledge would become for me. Each of my classes expanded my understanding of life in such a huge way and provided a new glimpse into something that was completely foreign to me prior. I have always been amazed at the intellect of and knowledge of each of my professors, and it has helped me to see the importance of continually expanding one’s own understanding.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to pursue a career in your field?

A: Besides going through the phase of wanting to be an astronaut, I have always had a desire to go into medicine. When I worked in an orthopedic center as a clinical assistant, I saw how much joy and fulfillment there was in the treatment of other people.

I guess my “aha” moment came when an elderly woman who had previously been debilitated by her knee pain returned after a joint-replacement surgery with a smile on her face and expressed gratitude to the doctor with whom I worked. It touched me to see how much good someone could do for an individual person, by helping to get them their health back. 

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

A: I feel fortunate to have had some wonderful professors, but one of the most valuable lessons for me came from my advanced English professor [Kent Linthicum]. As someone who loathed English growing up, I was blindsided with how much a good professor can change one’s outlook on a subject. He taught me that being a well-rounded student was crucial to becoming a good doctor. He discussed often how his course could benefit me personally in my career, and it helped me to engage more fully with the course material.  

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

A: I would say to stop and smell the roses! As I’m preparing for the next step in life, I can’t help but feel that my time at ASU was like turning the pages in a book. I enjoyed every day that I was given, but there were times where I just wanted to be done with college. However, just like when you finish the last page of the book and it closes, I feel that is how the college experience goes and you can’t go back to read it again. Therefore, it’s important to enjoy the moments that we have in college!

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

A: As a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, I spent a lot of my time in the Institute building on campus. It was a great place to meet new friends as well as add some religious learning for a well-balanced college experience. Next would have to be Chick-fil-A.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be heading to Creighton medical school in the fall to pursue my dream of becoming a physician.

Q: What’s something you are most proud of during your time at ASU?

A: Besides making some of the best lifelong friends that someone could ask for, I am proud of who I have become following my time at ASU. This experience has helped me to see the importance of expanding my own viewpoint and seeing life through the eyes of those around me. I have also felt an increase in empathy for those who come from different backgrounds, and an appreciation for them as human beings.

Q: What did ASU provide to you that you think you could not have found anywhere else?

A: I am sure that everyone is biased to their university, but without a doubt ASU was the best choice for me. The drive that the college possesses to include as many viewpoints, people and ideas as possible while pushing for the next innovative idea has really come to be a part of how I evaluate the world.

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

A: One issue that I feel passionate about is helping to fight childhood obesity and diabetes. I feel that solving this problem would better the lives of so many individuals around the world.

Q: Describe some challenges or hurdles you faced while earning your degree, and what you did or what took place to overcome them.

A: I remember one of the greatest hurdles during my time at ASU was finding balance between school, work, family, friends and simply enjoying life. It also seemed that during the times where I was trying to do everything in my life at once, it seemed like I wasn’t doing exceptionally at any of them. I remember realizing that I couldn’t do multiple things at once, but I could do one thing at a time, and do it very well. I decided that when I was in school, I would dedicate myself wholly to learning and performing well in class.

Whenever I was with family or friends, I would only focus on interacting with them. Dedicating myself to each individual task rather than doing everything intermingled at once helped me to create a healthy balance in my life.

Q: Are there any particular people who really supported you on your journey — and what did they do to help?

A: I wouldn’t have been able to dedicate myself so fully to ASU without the love and support of my family and my wife. They have been my rock and continually motivated me to go the extra mile in my classes, while also providing an outlet to destress after a long day.

Q: Looking back, is there anything you would go back and change?

A: If I could go back and start over at ASU, I would take advantage of all the different clubs at ASU and join as many as my time would allow. I enjoyed my time working in hospitals, as well as the other activities in which I participated; however, I would love to have seen another side of ASU!

Q: Anything else you’d like to add?

A: I am grateful to ASU, my professors, advisers and all of those at the school who have supported and guided me throughout my undergraduate. Even though I am moving on to medical school, I will always be a Sun Devil at heart!

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise