Microsoft announced as new ASU-Education at Work partner for student jobs, tuition assistance

June 28, 2019

When Carderay Stafford started college at Arizona State University, he was also working too many hours at a job he didn’t like. His job was affecting his school performance, and he wasn’t learning the skills he needed to succeed. 

“It was interfering with the reason I came to school, to learn,” said Stafford, a computer science major heading into his sophomore year.   ASU students Daymee Hissu, and Carderay Stafford at the Education at Work Microsoft ribbon cutting at Old Main on ASUs Tempe campus From left: Daymee Hissu and Carderay Stafford at the Microsoft-Education at Work ribbon cutting. Photo by Asa Culver. Download Full Image

“I knew I couldn’t stay in my current situation, with a job that would never allow me to reach my full potential, so I took a leap of faith to see where it would take me,” he said.  

He applied for a job through Education at Work, a nonprofit collaborating with ASU to offer students quality part-time jobs to promote career readiness while avoiding student debt. Microsoft recently joined the collaboration as the newest employer partner.

Launched in 2016, the collaboration between Education at Work and ASU has resulted in $8.5 million in wages and tuition assistance to ASU students. Participating local employers have included Discover Financial Services, Cable One and others. 

The program has the capacity to employ 200 ASU students to do work for Education at Work on behalf of Microsoft, resulting in an estimated financial impact of $2.5 million annually in wages and assistance. The new jobs will allow students to help Microsoft customers troubleshoot technical support issues and solve other problems. Students earn $11 an hour for 16 to 20 hours per week with shifts scheduled around classes. Students also have the opportunity to earn up to $5,250 per year in tax-free tuition assistance. The job site is just northwest of ASU’s Tempe campus in downtown Tempe. 

Stafford thought the job and tuition assistance available seemed too good to be true. But, he accepted the job, and since then Stafford said that he became more comfortable with himself and more comfortable with stepping out of his comfort zone. 

“I’ve noticed that even with college presentations and things, I’m more comfortable going up there and meeting more and more people every day,” he said. 

Stafford said that the working culture was also fun and motivating: Everyone encourages each other to do well in school and improve themselves. 

Striking the balance of a student-focused work culture, resume-worthy career building opportunities, financial assistance and education is the focus of the partnership. But part of Education at Work’s mission is also to stem student loan debt. According to Forbes, student loan debt in the United States totals $1.56 trillion. The average student loan debt is $28,650; in Arizona the average is $23,967. The tuition assistance, which is based on GPA and attendance, is a key component to helping students stave off debt while being able to focus on their studies. 

At a ribbon-cutting event on June 6, Stafford and another current ASU student employed through the Education at Work partnership with Microsoft, Daymee Hissu, spoke about their experiences and how the opportunity has impacted them. 

Hissu is a first-generation college student studying psychology heading into her sophomore year. She became involved with Education at Work because her friends recommended she apply. She describes that she’s had to learn to tackle new experiences in a customer-facing role and has gained self-confidence and networking opportunities through her job.

“It’s a great way to build connections with important people. It opens up many different opportunities for me,” Hissu said.  

Hissu said she is certain that her job experience will help her in her future endeavors — she said she just wants to make a difference in the world — and that she’s grown as a professional.

“I’ve learned that failure is what makes us better, but support is what makes us stronger,” Hissu said. 

The innovative partnership is a win for students, but it’s also a win for employers, said Scott Blevins, senior vice president of university partnerships and student success at Education at Work. Students have a good job, tuition assistance and an introduction to work cultures and metrics, as well as exposure to professional opportunities beyond ASU. And employers have access to smart, tech-savvy college students and a future talent pipeline. 

“Our students are the heart and soul of our business. At Education at Work, with the support of our client and university partners, we invest in the future of our students. This is truly bringing together leaders at the forefront of innovation —  Arizona State University and Microsoft, who both continue to push boundaries in the future of technology and education, and both are committed to students’ success,” he said.

ASU Vice President of Outreach Edmundo Hidalgo said that ASU is excited to open more pathways to great careers for Sun Devils at sought-after employers, because the partnership offers so much more than a temporary job. 

“This is more than just a part-time job; it’s an environment that will support your studies, which contributes to higher GPAs among Education at Work students with an added bonus of tuition assistance,” Hidalgo said. 

“It’s a holistic experience that helps students develop professionally with the ultimate goal of student employees going into full-time positions with Microsoft or another leading company.” 

By the end of 2020 Education at Work is projected to pay $9 million in wages and tuition assistance to the ASU campus community, employing 650 students. Applications are open now for positions working with Microsoft and other employers. 

This story was written with Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis, EOSS Marketing. 

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Exploring Grand Canyon geology through the eyes of ASU experts

June 28, 2019

It’s hard to imagine what the world looked like millions of years ago. But in Arizona, a journey through the Grand Canyon on the Colorado River gives a sense of how it might have felt. 

Scientists believe the waterway began etching its path 5 to 6 million years ago to form what is now a mile-deep chasm in the Earth’s surface. But the rock layers it tore into date back 500 million years and encase the fossil remains of ancient life forms that are even older. 

For researchers, the marbled canyon walls offer a fractured timeline of its history, from the earliest life forms it hosted to the ancestral remains of indigenous peoples who still inhabit it today.

In May, a Colorado River trip organized by the Institute of Human Origins, a research unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, gave some 20 alumni, institute supporters and community members the chance to see that history through the eyes of ASU experts studying it.

The Grand Canyon draws millions of visitors each year, but a trip with The College's Institute of Human Origins this summer gave visitors a chance to see the site alongside ASU experts.

The Grand Canyon draws millions of visitors each year, but a trip with The College's Institute of Human Origins this summer gave visitors a chance to see the site alongside ASU experts. Photo by Julie Russ

Chris Campisano, an associate professor in The College’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and an institute research associate on the trip, said understanding the Grand Canyon’s makeup serves as a basis to unravel broader quandaries about the geological world at large. 

“You have 2 billion years of Earth history there,” Campisano said. “Individual layers of rock piece together to tell a much larger story about how sediments were being deposited in the canyon and speak to a larger framework of what was going on globally at the time.”

Understanding human history from the ground 

Campisano was one of two ASU geologists who joined the weeklong river trip to break down the Grand Canyon’s geological significance for passengers. It is the latest destination in a travel outreach program bringing researchers and institute supporters together for trips to archeological hubs around the globe including Tanzania, the Galapagos Islands, Ethiopia and South Africa. Funds generated support the institute’s operations, scholarships and field and laboratory research.

This year’s Grand Canyon journey featured Campisano, an expert in ancient landscapes and evolution, and fellow geologist Ramon Arrowsmith, a professor in The College’s School of Earth and Space Exploration who specializes in geological faults and topography.

William Kimbel, the institute’s director, said faculty lead trips according to their area of expertise and highlight new research happening at the institute.

“All of our trips focus on one aspect of how humans developed on Earth, and put participants in a space with scientists who are able to bring that expertise,” he said. “Organizing a Colorado River trip through the Grand Canyon with two geologists is our way of adding educational value to a journey many have always wanted to take.” 

Expeditions like these have become a legacy for the institute. Paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson Johanson is the Virginia M. Ullman Chair in Human Origins and a professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.founded the operation in Berkeley, California, in 1981, just seven years after discovering the 3.18 million-year-old remains of Lucy, a fossil hominin thought to be an ancient ancestor to modern humans. He began leading public trips to sites of interest to human origins in the 1980s that continued after the institute moved to ASU in 1997.

Previous years have sent travelers to the Gombe Stream National Park, where groundbreaking primate researcher Jane Goodall spent decades studying chimpanzees, and the Ethiopian site Hadar, where Johanson himself uncovered Lucy in 1974. 

But this year’s Grand Canyon trip marked the first to take place locally, a change Kimbel hoped would make the institute’s activities more accessible.

“This is an Arizona trip, and I think that makes it available to a larger audience than some of our international trips,” he said.

Casting a wider net

That was the case for Bryne Broderick, an alumna who graduated with a degree in physical anthropology in 1996, just a year before the institute came to ASU. As an undergraduate, she’d originally wanted to study geology and said taking part in the institute’s expeditions abroad intrigued her, but felt out of reach. Going to the Grand Canyon on this trip was a way to return to a scientific passion she fostered at ASU.

“Listening to Ramon explain the rock layers and the different processes that formed the canyon really tapped into my love of geology, because it provided an actual experience to reference,” said Broderick, who now works as a radiologist in Michigan. “I think it was also special that people on the trip came from so many different walks of life; it spoke to the fact that anyone with an interest in the natural world can feel like they have a place on trips like these.”

For Arrowsmith, the trip was the most recent in a lineup of academic endeavors on the Colorado River that began under the mentorship of the late Troy Péwé, an emeritus professor of geology at ASU who spent decades researching the Grand Canyon.

Not long after Arrowsmith joined ASU as an assistant professor in 1995, Péwé invited him to join an annual river trip for undergraduate students to conduct research. From pointing out fossil-rich slot canyons to identifying walls with rock dating back almost 1 billion years, he said what he learned from Péwé informs the history he relays to new passengers today. 

“I think Péwé taught the importance of having that enthusiasm for telling the story of the Grand Canyon on multiple levels; from its geology to the sweeping Earth history that it holds,” he said. 

Millions of visitors from around the world visit the site today, which celebrated its centennial as a national monument this year. As part of a public institution in Arizona, Arrowsmith said it’s also important to continue finding ways to educate the public about the geological wonder in their backyards. 

“When you meet somebody on the other side of the world and you tell them you live in Arizona, one of the first things they will mention is the Grand Canyon,” he said. “At ASU, we have a responsibility to dig deeper to help people learn more about the natural world and how to preserve it.”

Top video: Passengers taking part in The College’s Institute of Human Origins’ Colorado River trip floated through the Grand Canyon alongside two ASU geologists this summer, part of an institute outreach program sending participants to archeological hotspots around the world. Video by Julie Russ.

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