Drawn to the outdoors since her childhood, ASU grad seeks career protecting the environment

May 3, 2019

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

Linzy Jane Voytoski had no hesitation about studying engineering at Arizona State University. She wanted to carry on the legacy of her “family of engineers” ­— especially a grandfather who graduated from ASU with a degree in electrical engineering more than 50 years ago. Linzy Voytoski Spring 2019 graduate environmental and resource managment Linzy Jane Voytoski. Download Full Image

Her initial selection of a focus area within the field wasn’t made with absolute certainty, and after three semesters as a software engineering major she decided it wasn’t a good fit.

Fortunately, in exploring alternatives, Voytoski said, “I realized I could turn my favorite hobby into a career.”

But the way she describes that hobby makes it clear it’s much more to her than a simple pastime.

“I have been drawn to the outdoors since I was a kid. Greenery makes me feel at peace inside,” she said. “So, it made sense for me to pursue a career that seeks to preserve and protect the environment.”

Voytoski excelled in environmental and resource management studies at The Polytechnic School, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU.

Her grades earned her a place on the Fulton Schools dean’s list throughout her undergraduate years, while she used what she was learning to contribute to the Environmental and Resource Management student club at ASU.

Voytoski got valuable experience outside the classroom as a student lab assistant with ASU’s Arizona Center for Algae Technology and Innovation, which uses algae technology to produce renewable energy, food and other sustainable systems and products.

She also worked as an assistant industrial hygienist for ASU Environmental Health and Safety operations and as an assistant at the Student Union on ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Even after finding a major that aligned with her passion for preserving the environment, Voytoski was challenged by some tough classes and rough semesters.

“There were a few times when I was struggling in classes and really wondered if I had it in me to be an engineer,” she said. “I’m glad that I stuck it out in those moments because I have never been more confident in my ability to be a successful female environmental engineer.”

She says Fulton Schools Associate Professor Kiril Hristovski was the most influential of the teachers who helped her achieve that self-assurance.

“He changed my entire perspective on my education,” Voytoski said. “He cares about his students individually and measures success based on how much we have learned and improved, rather than focusing on low points of the learning curve.”

Now, Voytoski has her sights set on “taking the knowledge I have of the environment and what I know about making effective and lasting changes in the world and applying it to my community here in Arizona.”

Her foremost career aspiration is “to preserve the Arizona desert and highland landscape for many generations to come,” she said. “I want my nieces and nephews and their children and their children’s children to be able to cherish the outdoors in the same way I did when I was a kid.”

Hometown: Mesa, Arizona

Voytoski's favorites

Performer: Bishop Briggs.
Movie: "
Across the Universe."
TV show: "
Book: "
House of Leaves" by Mark Z. Danielewski.

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2019 class.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Driving toward a profusion of literary voices

May 3, 2019

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

Representation matters. It certainly did for Arizona State University online student Daniel Murillo. When he saw parts of his experience represented on the page, when he encountered writers who were like him, who he really was became … possible. Graduating ASU student Daniel Murillo / Courtesy photo After a conversation with an ASU faculty member, graduating online student Daniel Murillo realized he was too often emulating others in his writing — instead of being himself. "While I still look to my favorite writers for direction," he said, "I am sure to write with my voice, the contemporary voice." Download Full Image

Murillo is earning a BA in English this spring, and has secured a competitive ConversaSpain teaching assistantship postgraduation.

Before his epiphany, Murillo — who identifies as queer and Mexican American — believed that a “writer” was someone like Sylvia Plath or Arthur Rimbaud, maybe Charles Bukowski. In short: white and Eurocentric.

Murillo said he is grateful for the diversity of literature courses he’s taken at ASU. Each area and genre opened up new ways of thinking and being. And it gave him confidence to find his own voice.

Murillo lives in the Los Angeles suburb of Lakewood, California, where he’s participating in ASU’s Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Online education has allowed him to continue working while adding meaningful opportunities like travel experiences — all while keeping up with his studies.

Closer to his home, Murillo added to his resume by interning at the Los Angeles Review of Books, a well-regarded literary supplement covering the national and international book scenes. Murillo wrote, edited and created weekly content for their social media platforms, being instrumental at increasing the review’s levels of engagement.

“This is no surprise,” confirmed Ruby Macksoud, an instructional professional who directs the Department of English’s internship program. “Daniel has an eye for choosing engaging authors, musicians, interviews and images to draw people in. During our many conversations, one thing was clear — he cares deeply about connecting with people. The best part of those conversations? Hearing his excitement about the social impact of his internship work and how much he learned about himself through the process.”

We caught up with Murillo to ask a few more questions about his ASU career and his plans for increasing literary diversity.

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

Answer: I would say my “aha” moment happened when I came across Allen Ginsberg and David Wojnarowicz my freshman year. These queer men really solidified my desire to study literature and ignited my passion to write. I took a few creative writing workshop courses here at ASU. Being in the company of other writers and being in conversation about literature reinforced my desire and ability to write.

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

A: I am very thankful for the indigenous poetry, American ethnic literature and sexuality in literature courses that promoted diversity in the literary world. These courses exposed me to a diverse array of writers who aren’t in the mainstream, writers I wouldn’t have come across on my own. As a Mexican-American queer writer, I was really encouraged by these diverse voices. I believe we as a culture have made tremendous progress in the past few years. I do believe, however, we still have a far way to go. I intend to write poetry, essays, even venture into screenwriting about my experience and my communities’ experience.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: The Starbucks partnership with ASU played a big role in my decision to attend the university. I am very thankful to the company for their generosity and their flexibility. Starbucks was very accommodating with my work schedule, which allowed me to focus on my studies. Online schooling also allowed me to take my studies with me as I traveled. Over the course of my studies, I’ve had the opportunity to travel to France, the Netherlands and Montreal (Canada).

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

A: I would have to say (former English teaching assistant) Cheyenne Black. I was taking her intermediate poetry workshop course. I attribute her advice as one of the defining moments of finding my artistic voice. I always looked to my favorite writers and thought what would they be writing about in this current climate? What would Rimbaud write about the internet? What would Bukowski write about dating apps? What would Plath write about social media? These topics are altogether trivial and yet so deeply imbedded into our day-to-day life. I was writing with them in mind and not considering my own voice. I had a Google Hangout with professor Black to discuss my poetry. She was very straightforward in her approach and told me to stop using archaic language. While I still look to my favorite writers for direction, I am sure to write with my voice, the contemporary voice.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m moving to Spain! I applied to be a language assistant for a school year and got the position. I missed creative writing MFA program application deadlines so I decided to use my time well during this gap year and apply what I’ve learned in the field, in a different country! The ultimate goal postgraduation is to write, write, write and get it published.

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

A: I would tackle the AIDS epidemic. I think it is a big misconception that the AIDS epidemic is over. Sure, we’ve increased awareness. Yes, we have developed effective treatment. But we still have ways to go. I would like to put this money toward further educating people and finding a cure.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English