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


University, nonprofits and corporations unite for student success

May 10, 2019

History has shown that positive things can happen when individuals unite for the greater good. The HOLA partnership — the Hispanic/Latino Organization for Leadership — follows in that tradition.

The HOLA partnership is a collaboration between Arizona State University, nonprofit Be A Leader Foundation and leaders from Hispanic Employee Resource Groups from corporations in the Phoenix metro area. The initiative combines each partners’ strengths and resources in support of education and student success. HOLA Partnership volunteers HOLA Partnership volunteers at Be A Leader’s October 2018 Taking Steps Toward College Success event. Photo courtesy of Karla Robles/Be A Leader Foundation Download Full Image

“Taking responsibility for the success of students in our community and helping them uncover the possibilities available to them is a priority for Educational Outreach and Student Services and for ASU," said Lorenzo Chavez, assistant vice president for outreach partnerships at ASU. "Working with our longtime partner Be A Leader Foundation and bringing new corporate partners into the fold enables all of us to broaden our efforts for the benefit of Arizona’s students, families and communities.” 

The partnership was formed when leaders from the Hispanic ERGs were looking for an education-focused community service opportunity. Through connections to ASU and Be A Leader, who have partnered for the past 10 years, they worked together to create a FAFSA application event that would take place during Be A Leader’s annual Taking Steps Toward College Success event in fall 2018.

The free event serves Arizona high school students and families, helping them navigate the path to college. The day includes a college-going resource fair with more than 50 organizations including nonprofits, in-state universities, military academies and scholarship organizations.

Karla Robles, chief strategy officer for Be A Leader Foundation, said that the majority of the students they serve haven’t been exposed to the college application process, and those in the partnership are able to help guide them and make the experience less cumbersome.

In preparation for the event and service opportunity, Chavez worked with Robles to train more than 60 individuals from the ERGs on how to assist with FAFSA completion. The volunteers represented organizations including Wells Fargo, MUFG Union Bank, Vanguard, Discover, American Express, Bank of America, the city of Phoenix, SRP, APS and Arizona Federal Credit Union.

Ivan Calderon is vice president of third-party management at MUFG Union Bank and leader of the company’s Hispanic ERG. He said the event was a perfect opportunity for all ERGs to promote and support higher education efforts in Arizona.

“We were inspired to support Be A Leader’s ‘Taking Steps Towards College Success’ after learning about the impact that just completing a FAFSA application has on the likelihood of someone attending college. All the folks involved in this initiative were surprised to learn how much of an effect we could have if we supported students and families in that process,” Calderon said. 

He believes collaborations like the HOLA partnership are important not only for philanthropic reasons, but for economic ones as well. “Given the advances in technology, we need to have an educated and prepared labor force to meet future challenges and to keep Arizona competitive in the global economy.”

Adriana Delgado, who leads Wells Fargo’s Hispanic Employee Resource Group, echoed Calderon’s comments. 

“Published research shows that higher education is directly correlated with economic growth and stability,” Delgado said. “Directly applying that notion to the Taking Steps Towards College Success event, one can argue that the students we helped during this event will one day be our colleagues, our customers, our government leaders.”

Chavez said the partnership plans to continue working together and grow their participation for other FAFSA-focused events this fall.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services