ASU grad connects K–12 students to higher education

May 9, 2019

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

Andrea Garza, a senior studying psychology and justice studies with a minor in sociology, knows the importance of having someone to turn to when you’re unfamiliar with higher education. And being a first-generation college graduate, she felt strongly about being that connection for others. ASU grad Andrea Garza Andrea Garza Download Full Image

Garza, who graduated this week from ASU, did just that in her work for the ASU Early Outreach Scholarship Ambassador Program for the past four years.

Garza has impacted countless students by being their connection to higher education. Garza knew firsthand how important it was to have someone to turn to when you have questions about a new environment.  

“During my time at ASU, I have tried to make my mark by being involved with the educational outreach of K–12th graders,” she said.

“I found it extremely important to share my knowledge with these individuals because when I was in high school I did not have a person to discuss higher education with. If I had a college student to ask questions about in high school I would have felt more prepared when I eventually attended ASU.”

Garza credits her success and personal growth in part to all she has learned working with the program.

“Being a part of EOS has been an eye-opening experience because you come in contact with so many individuals and provide information that they may not have received before. This program really assisted in my personal as well as professional development for the better. The person I was before the program is definitely not the same person who came out of the program due to the growth I have experienced over the past four years.”

Garza discussed with ASU Now how her time at ASU has impacted her and where she will be going from here.

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

Answer: I initially had an “aha” moment in middle school to be a psychologist because I thought the work my guidance course did was really helpful for the students. This idea stuck with me all throughout high school, and I eventually majored in psychology at ASU.

As my undergrad progressed, I started to notice an interest in the intersection between psychology and law because of a couple of classes that I had taken. I talked to an adviser about the other options I had, and she mentioned justice studies as a possible major route. After taking a few classes geared toward justice studies, specifically my death-penalty course, I added it as my second major. Both of my majors analyze very different things but at the same time cross over in various ways.

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

A: Throughout all of my classes at ASU I have consistently learned that being objective on a topic is extremely important. There are so many sides to research, stories, articles and people that remaining objective allows an individual to critically analyze all resources. This changed my outlook on media because you may only hear one thing consistently; however, the facts are what make the story.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I originally applied to four different schools and was accepted into all but one. When it came down to choosing one of the three, I really had to think about who offered the most financial assistance.

I come from a low-income home and I was a first-generation student, so money played a significant role in my education. After reviewing all the monetary offerings, ASU offered me the most money to pursue my education.

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

A: The professor who taught me the most important lesson while at ASU was Susan Corey. Professor Corey is actually a capital defense attorney, and ultimately she consistently told the class to know our most basic rights, be aware of the injustices that the justice system is guilty of, as well as thinking critically and logically about different situations.

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

A: Get involved. When I was in high school I played two sports, participated in orchestra and volunteered for the school as well as out in my community. Being involved helps to develop character, social skills, as well as work ethic, which are all important qualities to carry into the workplace and higher education.

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 have to be the Design Library due to its large silent-study area. I am the type of person who needs to have limited distractions when it comes to studying, so this library, in particular, was the best place to go.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I am continuing my education at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law to complete my master’s in legal studies. After that, I may either apply to law school or apply to a few PhD programs focusing on behavioral health.

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

A: The one problem I would solve would be climate change, because all creatures and people on this Earth share the same planet. If we don't address climate change, the planet will cease to be and all living creatures will lose the one thing we have in common, which is a home.

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Fulton Schools’ youngest graduate gets head start on making an impact

Emily Alcazar earns bachelor's degree in civil engineering at age 17

May 9, 2019

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

Emily Alcazar started taking college courses when she was 12 years old. This month she graduated magna cum laude from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering at the age of 17. She is the youngest graduate out of more than 2,600 students in the Fulton Schools’ spring 2019 graduating class. Emily Alcazar, who is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering at 17 years old, wants her legacy to be more than just earning a degree at a young age. She wants her work to be inspirational and contribute to society. Photo courtesy of Emily Alcazar Download Full Image

“Starting college so young made my academic accomplishments impressive merely because of my age,” said Alcazar. “Because of this, I knew I wanted my legacy to be more than earning a degree at a young age. I wanted my work to be inspirational and contribute to society. Civil engineering allowed me to do that through emphasizing topics such as environmental issues, water treatment processes, transportation, structural analysis and more.”

The Gilbert, Arizona, native received a Maricopa County Community Colleges All-Arizona Academic Team Scholarship in 2015 while a student at South Mountain Community College.

“The scholarship provided me with a full ride to any public university in Arizona,” said Alcazar. “ASU has the strongest engineering program and I’m very glad I chose to join the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.”

Alcazar, who was homeschooled for high school, has been a very active member of the ASU community during her undergraduate years. She participated in the Fulton Undergraduate Research Initiative, better known as FURI, for two semesters in the lab of Professor Narayanan Neithalath studying 3D printing of concrete.

“The various applications of this technology, such as providing affordable housing to developing countries, innovative architecture and implementing sustainable materials, gave me immense motivation to join (Dr. Neithalath’s) research group,” said Alcazar. “During my time in this lab, I gathered 3D point cloud imaging data and conducted pressure cell tests on various concrete mixes.”

Alcazar was also involved in Fulton Ambassadors, served as a teaching assistant, was a member of the AZLoop Hyperloop Team and was a member of Chi Epsilon, the civil engineering honors society.

In addition to her various roles within the Fulton Schools, Alcazar is also an example to her two younger siblings who are following in her footsteps. One sister is currently enrolled at ASU as a molecular biosciences and biotechnology major in ASU’s School of Life Sciences at age 16, while her youngest sister has already been accepted to ASU at age 13, though she won’t enroll for another two years.

portrait of Emily Alcazar

Emily Alcazar worked with Professor Narayanan Neithalath to advance the current state of 3D-printed concrete for its industrial use in the future as a means of faster, cheaper and cleaner construction. Photographer: Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

“(My siblings) have been able to see that ASU has many opportunities that allow you to individualize your undergraduate career,” said Alcazar. “This experience helps you to figure out what you want to pursue in your field and be a competitive applicant for future endeavors.”

The future has a lot in store for this high-achieving graduate. Alcazar will continue her education in the fall when she begins studies toward a doctoral degree at Georgia Tech in Atlanta, where she’ll work under Professor Glaucio Paulino on structural topology optimization with the implementation of machine learning.

“After stressing and doubting myself during the graduate school application process,” said Alcazar, “the most rewarding outcomes of my undergraduate experience was getting accepted into Stanford, Berkeley, Georgia Tech and other noteworthy institutions for graduate school.”

Alcazar's favorites:

  • Hobbies: Playing the cello and piano.
  • Performer: Rex Orange County.
  • TV Show: "Blacklist."
  • Activity: Yoga
  • Last Book Read: "The Immoralists" by Chloe Benjamin.
  • Geeky Possession: Plan sets from my work.
Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering