ASU professor helps students make their own mark

February 21, 2020

Richard Herrera’s interest in politics started at a young age when his school did a mock debate during the Nixon and McGovern presidential election. Over the years, Herrera — who is now an associate professor at Arizona State University — would volunteer with local candidates just to see what working in politics would be like.

Upon graduating with his MA in political science, Herrera envisioned that he’d get a secondary education certificate and teach high school. When discussing his plans with an alumnus connection, he was asked about the idea of pursuing a PhD. After some consideration, Herrera enrolled in UC Santa Barbara for his doctoral program focusing in American politics. Richard Herrera, associate professor at ASU's School of Politics and Global Studies. Download Full Image

“To me it was a way to marry my interest in politics and teaching,” Herrera said. “As a professor you get to decide what kind of research you want to do and that was really attractive to me.”

Herrera called getting hired to Arizona State University upon graduation “serendipitous.” He applied to schools across the country but due to an oversight on his part, he left out ASU.

Over the winter break, Herrera got a call from a mentor at Santa Barbara asking if he had applied to the job in the political science department at ASU. After admitting that he hadn’t, Herrera was encouraged to apply. The rest, so they say, is history.

Last semester marked 30 years that Herrera has taught political science at ASU. During that time he has done it all: He’s held leadership positions in both undergraduate and graduate studies, he’s led two different Washington, D.C., internship courses, he’s co-directed study abroad programs and so much more.

In 2014, when he was associate director of undergraduate studies for the School of Politics and Global Studies, Herrera was approached by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences to be one of three units to pilot the Early Start Program — a two-week immersion program to help incoming first-year students gain the necessary tools for a successful college career.

After talking it over with the school’s director, Herrera decided to add a second faculty lead to the program in Gina Woodall, senior lecturer at the School of Politics and Global Studies.

“One of the things I was coming across was the idea that to help students succeed they really need multiple contact points,” Herrera said. “They need to know that there are a number of people they can go to when they have questions or issues.” 

The duo wanted to focus on resilience and how to deal with setbacks. They included readings such as Angela Lee’s "Grit," brought in guest speakers like politicians Kyrsten Sinema and Jon Kyl, and helped students develop key skills that would better prepare them for their college coursework.

Herrera said he hoped to help students who might be facing things like imposter syndrome — a feeling that not only do they not belong but that it will be exposed — something that he said he faced himself during his time in college. 

“That sort of thing is a very real feeling that can have detrimental effects to your own success if you don’t have the tools to deal with them,” he said.

In 2005, Herrera took over as the program director for the Capital Scholars Program, which is a six-credit internship course that takes students to Washington, D.C., over the summer.

Most of the classes Herrera has taught at ASU have been large courses such as Intro to American Government, which can include upward of 200 students. The Capital Scholars Program, however, gave him the chance to work with smaller groups.

Herrera shared that it gave him an opportunity to know the students' strengths, weakness, ambitions and anxieties. During the course of the summer he saw firsthand many of the students' growth in responsibility, professionalism and confidence.

“The greatest benefit to me as a professor and as a person really, is being able to see the personal and professional growth of students who participate in the program over those nine weeks,” Herrera said.

Past participants, like political science alumnus Matt Caruso, were moved so much by the program that they have continued to remain in touch. Caruso, who has known Herrera for 14 years, volunteers his time as a mentor to current Capital Scholars while they are in the nation’s capital.

“Herrera's influence on me from Tempe to D.C. has turned out to be life-changing,” Caruso said. “I am a proud example of Herrera's contribution to ASU students and alumni.”

This year, Herrera is being honored with the Faculty Teaching Achievement Award at Founders’ Day. This has given him a chance to reflect on his time at ASU and the impact he’s made on his students and colleagues.

When he came to ASU, Herrera knew he had a lot to learn about being a scholar in political science. However, he was certain that this university was right for him once he saw the type of mentorship he’d be receiving. Some of Herrera’s most memorable experiences were just talking with his colleagues about research or innovative ways to teach a course.

When it comes to mentorship, Herrera has certainly paid it forward.

Woodall met Herrera her freshman year when she was assigned the role of delegate in a simulated party convention that combined an upper and lower division class for a three-day event in the university's gymnasium. Since then Herrera has served as a mentor, whether it was allowing her to TA for a course or asking her to co-direct a study abroad program.

“As someone who had Rick as a professor, mentor, administrator, co-director and colleague, I can say with 100% certainty that he left an indelible mark on our school, on thousands of students’ lives, and in the lives of his colleagues and, thus, is very deserving of such an award,” Woodall said.

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


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Alumni Association celebrates ASU legacy at Founders’ Day 2020

February 28, 2020

In front of a record-breaking crowd of more than 950 community leaders, business executives and Arizona State University alumni on Feb. 25, the 2020 Founders’ Day Awards program honored ASU alumni, faculty members and benefactors for their distinguished achievements.

Video by ASU

The awards ceremony, hosted by the ASU Alumni Association, has been a signature event for the university for decades, and honors individuals who exemplify the spirit of the founders of the Territorial Normal School of Arizona, ASU’s predecessor institution. It also celebrates the innovations of alumni, faculty members and supporters of one of the nation’s fastest-growing knowledge enterprises.

The 2020 awards program honored an alum who has achieved athletic feats at the championship level; an alum who has made significant contributions to the state of Arizona; three faculty members who prepare and inspire the next generation of leaders; and a power couple who have invested in improving life in Arizona. 

The following individuals were be honored at the event, which took place at the Arizona Biltmore in Phoenix.

Faculty achievement awards

Devoney Looser: Faculty Research Achievement Award

headshot of ASU Professor Devoney LooserDevoney Looser

ASU faculty researcher Devoney Looser, an internationally recognized scholar and critic, specializes in British women’s literary history. She has been a professor of English at ASU since 2013 and a Foundation Professor since 2018. Looser teaches undergraduate and graduate courses in 18th- and 19th-century British literature, women’s writings and Jane Austen.

She has authored and edited nine books, including “The Daily Jane Austen: A Year of Quotes” and “The Making of Jane Austen,” a Publishers Weekly Best Summer Book for nonfiction. She was named a Guggenheim Fellow and a National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar in 2018, in support of her forthcoming biography, “Sister Novelists: Jane and Anna Maria Porter,” to be published by Bloomsbury in 2021. As a widely published essayist, her writings have appeared in the Atlantic, the New York Times, the Times Literary Supplement, the Chronicle of Higher Education, Entertainment Weekly, Slate and Salon.

James Collins: Faculty Service Achievement Award

headshot of ASU Professor

James Collins

Nationally heralded for his contributions to the ASU community and for the lasting impact of his service on science policy, Professor James Collins has made significant improvements to the field of science. Currently, he serves as chair of the board of life sciences at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, using his scientific expertise to call attention to critical issues in modern science.

As co-chair of the Academies’ committee on gene drive research in non-human organisms, he was instrumental in establishing important new precedents for the responsible use of gene editing technology, especially the scientific and ethical issues surrounding environmental release of genetically engineered organisms. From 2005 to 2009, Collins served as the head of biological sciences at the National Science Foundation and as a member of NSF’s senior management team.

Richard Herrera: Faculty Teaching Achievement Award

headshot of ASU Associate Professor

Richard Herrera

Nationally recognized as a pioneer in political science education, Associate Professor Richard Herrera embodies ASU’s teaching mission by creating innovative opportunities for students and by inaugurating programs that will continue to build ASU as a leader in education. He has been a valued member of ASU’s School of Politics and Global Studies for 30 years and played a leading role in developing the School of Politics and Global Studies Early Start program in 2014.

Herrera oversaw the Capital Scholars Washington, D.C., summer internship program from 2004 through 2019, and during that time, he enhanced students’ learning opportunities and was instrumental in obtaining scholarships to help undergraduate students fund their internship experience. In 2018, Herrera created a new study abroad program in Ireland called the Politics and Culture of Ireland. 

Alumni achievement awards

Anthony Robles: ‘11 BA interdisciplinary studies, Young Alumni Achievement Award

headshot of ASU alum Anthony Robles

Anthony Robles

Robles is known nationally for his career as an NCAA wrestling champion, author and motivational speaker with an ability to conquer adversity. For nine years, Robles has been the leading wrestling analyst for ESPN, and since 2015 for the Pac-12 Network.

Robles knew he wanted to become a wrestler, but being born without his right leg, the odds were stacked against him. His mother told him he could do whatever he wanted to in life, or in his words, that he could be “unstoppable.” When he was 14, he tried out for his high school team. He went from being last in the city to finishing his junior and senior years at Mesa High School with a 96-0 record, a two-time Arizona State Champion and a high school national champion.

At ASU, Robles was a three-time All-American, the 2011 NCAA national champion and a Nike-sponsored athlete. He served four years on the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, was a two-time ESPY Award recipient — including the prestigious Jimmy V Award for Perseverance — and was a 2012 inductee into the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, as well as a 2017 inductee into the Arizona Sports Hall of Fame.

Karrin Taylor Robson: ’88 BA political science, Alumni Achievement Award

headshot of ASU alum

Karrin Taylor Robson

Taylor Robson is the founder and president of Arizona Strategies, as well as a member of the Arizona Board of Regents, serving as secretary of the board; chair of the finance, capital and resources committee; a member of the audit committee; and a member of the academic affairs and educational attainment committee. The Arizona businesswoman, philanthropist and community leader works to promote and sustain economic growth, enhance property values, develop an inclusive higher education system, cultivate civic engagement and support those who serve in our military.

Taylor Robson has led national efforts representing property owners and stakeholders across the country to achieve responsible land use and property regulations. In addition, she has worked with private sector interests for the advancement of public infrastructure and other development-related community benefits.

Prior to forming Arizona Strategies, Taylor Robson served as executive vice president of DMB Associates, Inc., a master-planned community developer, and was a principal with the law firm of Biskin, Hunt and Taylor. She also serves on the boards of numerous government, community and economic development organizations, including the Joe Foss Institute, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and invisionAZ. For nearly 15 years, she has served as a member of the U.S. Air Force Chief of Staff’s Civic Leader Group in Washington, D.C.

Philanthropists of the Year Award

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Annette and Leo Beus

Annette and Leo Beus are longtime supporters of ASU, generating a lasting impact through a series of philanthropic investments. They have enriched a range of units and programs through their generosity, including research, student scholarships, service groups, a teaching award, an endowed chair and Sun Devil Athletics.

Most recently, they gifted $10 million to enable the completion of the Beus Compact X-ray Electron Laser Lab in ASU’s Biodesign Institute, and also gave $10 million for the Beus Center for Law and Society, which now houses the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus. Leo Beus has practiced law in the Valley for more than 48 years and is the co-founder of Beus Gilbert McGroder PLLC.

Top photo: The Founders’ Day 2020 honorees and more than 25 student scholars helped celebrate the 60th anniversary of the annual event and awards program. Photo courtesy of the ASU Alumni Association

Tracy Scott

Director, Strategic Communications , Office of Senior Vice President & Secretary of University