ASU grad advocates for access and sustainability

May 7, 2019

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

Noel von Mizener has always been passionate about sharing her love for education with others. ASU grad Noel von Mizener Noel von Mizener Download Full Image

Majoring in supply chain management and business law with a certificate in applied business data analytics, von Mizener kept busy during her time at Arizona State University doing what she could to help K–12 students and make a sustainable difference.

Von Mizener started working with Access ASU on its campus visits team before the start of her junior year and was drawn to the team’s commitment to preparing Arizona students for success after high school and opening up access to higher education.

“Campus visits specifically felt like the perfect team for me because it enabled me to interact with thousands of students and help support the mission of creating an environment where education is accessible for everyone regardless of your socio-economic background. Through campus visits I was able to work with and hopefully inspire Arizona K–12 students to pursue their passions, so they can make a difference too, which I know they will.”

Along with education, von Mizener was a leader in Undergraduate Student Government at ASU’s West campus and Well Devils West. She was involved with Honors Devils, Business Ambassadors, A New Leaf and the Supply Chain Management Association, and she was also very interested in sustainability.

Sustainability has always been something I have been passionate about, and ASU has enabled me to pursue this further.”

With the opportunities she found at ASU, von Mizener was able to do everything she could to try and create a more sustainable world.

“I was able to research through my Barrett thesis on sustainability in supply management,” she said. “I concluded that corporations have a responsibility to their consumers, the planet, society and the economy to pursue sustainable solutions through the use of the most powerful digital technologies.”

As she prepares to graduate, von Mizener talked with ASU Now about what she learned at ASU over the past four years, what advice she can give to those still in school and what the future holds for her.

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

Answer: My “aha” moment came much later in my college experience. I always knew I was meant to study business. My whole life my mom owned her own business out of our house, and watching her grow that business inspired me to want to be a powerful businesswoman like her.

Also, growing up, my dad always had the best legal mind I had ever seen. His love and passion for the subject amazed me. So I chose business law.

However, when I took my first supply chain course, I knew supply chain was what I was meant to do. Supply chain connects everything in this world: people, the planet, animals, everything. This field enables me to make a global impact while challenging myself to become the best version of myself. Supply chain has shown me how I can better serve my community and the environment more responsibly and effectively.

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

A: Something I learned at ASU is how important it is to build a support system and a network. I came into college thinking I could do everything on my own, but I quickly realized surrounding myself with strong, like-minded people would help me in bettering myself and my community.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was born and raised here in Arizona, and I have always loved Arizona, so that was a big factor in why I chose Arizona to stay close to my family. Also, my older brother, Oliver, went to ASU for his undergrad three years before I started at ASU, and he has always been a big inspiration to me, so I wanted to follow in his footsteps.

When I first visited ASU, it was clear that community and diversity was central to the culture here, which I absolutely loved. Also, I was fortunate enough to receive the Obama Scholarship to attend ASU, which just amplified the feeling that coming here was meant to be.

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

A: This is such a hard question for me to answer, as I have met so many professors at ASU who changed my life in small but significant ways, even though they probably don’t know that they did.

However, during my sophomore year, I took ACC 231 with Professor Donald Frost. I truly struggled in that class, because it was different from anything I had learned before, and it did not come naturally for me, making me question whether or not I should even be in business.

Professor Frost believed in me, encouraged me and listened to me. As I look back, I realize he taught me that listening and showing empathy is one of the greatest forms of kindness. He always pushed me to my greatest potential, and I will always be thankful for that.

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 comes from one of my favorite quotes: “Have courage and be kind.”

Life, school and every obstacle you encounter may be trying, but through passion and perseverance you will pull through.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus is Dean’s Patio at W. P. Carey. I have some of my favorite memories from Dean’s Patio. It has always been a great place to work, hang out with friends and be a part of the business community at ASU.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am fortunate to be able to say that I have accepted an offer with my dream company. I will be working at Deloitte, a consulting firm, as a solutions analyst in their Enterprise Operations Department in Gilbert in their brand-new U.S. Delivery Center.

I am also planning to go back to school to continue my education in supply-chain management and sustainability.

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

A: I would invest it in sustainability research and development to tackle issues such as climate change and human rights around the world.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Biology test first publicly available to measure understanding of 5 core concepts

ASU-created assessment free for any institution to use

May 7, 2019


We can study for them. We can prep and practice for, cram, pass, fail or ace them. School of Life Sciences active learning in biology classroom The School of Life Science's effort to improve science education includes developing ways to assess what students are learning. Because of this, a team led by ASU researchers has developed a national test to measure if students are learning core concepts through their college careers. Photo by Jacob Sahertian/ASU VisLab Download Full Image

Taking tests is one way students can find out whether they’ve learned the material taught in a particular course. But now, college biology students can find out whether they understand the five core concepts of biology: evolution, structure and function, pathways and transformations of energy and matter, information flow, and systems.

A team of researchers led by Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Associate Professor Sara Brownell and instructional professional Christian Wright have developed a first-of-its-kind comprehensive test to measure student understanding of these concepts.

This was no simple matter given how diverse the field of biology is. Test questions range from asking about molecular processes in the cell to physiological mechanisms to ecosystem dynamics.

The test, called the General Biology–Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science (GenBio-MAPS), assesses student understanding of the national core biology concepts in a way that can be used by biology departments at any type of college. And, it’s designed to measure knowledge at three separate points: before beginning the degree program, after taking general biology classes and near the end of the program. This will allow departments to track a change in learning, not just in one class but throughout the entire program.

“If you value something and you want to see it change, you have to measure it. If we really value these core concepts in biology, then we have to find a way to assess them,” Wright said. “That’s the utility of the test.”

In 2011, a national report published by the American Association for the Advancement of Science called "Vision and Change" outlined five core concepts that college biology students should learn to be proficient in biology. However, the report contained vague descriptions with few suggestions on how to implement changes or ideas to assess whether students are learning the concepts.

GenBio-MAPS, recently published in the scientific journal CBE Life Sciences Education, is already available at an online portal for any university to use free of charge. Because the test is written with multiple true-false questions, biology professors can get results the same day.

“Something that’s really cool about this test is that it can be used by any college biology department to test themselves to see how well they’re doing in teaching the core concepts,” Brownell said. “Because it is a curriculum-level test to use throughout the program, not just in one class, we can actually see whether they increase their understanding of biology in intro bio and then plateau, or whether they don’t learn anything at all across the board. And, we actually see different patterns at different institutions.”

SOLS researchers Sara Brownell and Christian Wright create biology assessment

Instructional professional Christian Wright and Associate Professor Sara Brownell led a team of researchers at several universities to create General Biology–Measuring Achievement and Progression in Science (GenBio-MAPS), the first test of its kind to measure student understanding of core biology concepts. Photo by Samantha Lloyd/ASU VisLab

To develop the assessment, Wright, Brownell and colleagues from University of Nebraska, Lincoln and University of Washington presented a variety of questions to more than 5,000 undergraduate students taking biology courses at 20 institutions nationwide. They targeted students at large research universities, liberal arts colleges and community colleges to attain a wide range of participants. Students were given an opportunity to talk through the questions as they worked on the test, so any misunderstandings in question wording could be cleared up in later versions of the exam.

All questions aim to standardize the way university biology is taught in the United States.

“A huge problem with this, as you can imagine, is that biology is so diverse,” Brownell said. “So how do you create a test that measures all students’ understanding of biology? Even within these core concepts, you can ask about each concept within different disciplines and students will think of them in a different way. Ecologists think about the world very differently than molecular biologists, but they are both under the biology umbrella.”

The researchers overcame this issue by developing questions that test multiple ideas, ensuring that students are thinking about concepts focused on specific prompts related to their disciplines.

The assessment includes a paragraph of information that presents multiple ideas that fall within the core concepts. Students must then answer a series of true-false questions about this paragraph. Previous research has shown that this is more effective than using multiple choice questions and can reveal as much as short answer questions, while also being easier to grade.

Universities can then use the data to understand the learning patterns of their students. Are students learning the concepts in introductory biology courses or in their later classes? Are there challenges that face particular demographics during the different stages? Do community college students have the same core knowledge entering the program as traditional four-year students?

It can also help answer the most pressing question: Do students learn these five concepts while obtaining their biology degree?

“Ideally, I would like to train students to be better than I was as an undergraduate. I don’t think I learned the core concepts to the extent that I needed to in my undergraduate,” Brownell said. “I want to make sure that the students I teach learn those core concepts so when they graduate, they have a much more integrated view of biology. I am motivated by the question: How are we going to create a more sophisticated biology graduate who is going to be better than we were when we graduated?”

This work was supported by a collaborative grant from the National Science Foundation Transforming Undergraduate Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics program.

Melinda Weaver

Communications specialist, School of Life Sciences