ASU alumnus honored for notable community contributions

April 27, 2020

Max Wyman, an Arizona State University alumnus and former faculty member who earned his PhD in geography in 1994, was recently selected as the recipient of the 2020 Social Science Distinguished Alumnus Award.

The award, given by Elizabeth Wentz, social sciences dean at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, recognizes alumni from the social sciences who personify the ASU Charter through significant contributions to society, business and commerce and the greater community. Max Wyman with his wife, Josephine (left), and daughter, Hannah (right). Photo by Lillian Chmura. Download Full Image

“I am pleased that Max Wyman was selected as this year’s distinguished alumnus of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning,” Wentz said. “His ongoing commitment to the success of ASU students, his pursuit of innovative solutions and his notable contributions to the community make him stand out as a true visionary in his field.”

Wyman’s successful career in geography didn’t initially begin with a strong interest in pursuing a profession in that field. After earning his bachelor’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the United States Air Force Academy, Wyman went on to serve in the U.S. Air Force. He then returned to Arizona and worked in real estate while pursuing his master’s degree in building design. Upon completion of his master’s degree, he was encouraged by faculty to pursue geography.

Wyman’s involvement with ASU has gone far beyond graduation. After completing his PhD, he worked as a senior scientist at ASU for several years, focusing on geographic information science and engineering. He later took a position with GIS/Trans, Inc. where he consulted with state Departments of Transportation around the country and other Departments of Transportation around the world. Through this work, he developed many areas of GIS and software expertise that fostered his creative proclivity toward creating alternative solutions. 

Today, Wyman continues to find creative solutions to societal dilemmas through his consulting company, TGI Systems. Wyman founded TGI Systems with his wife, Josephine, in 1997 with the goal of harmonizing the environment, engineering and socioeconomic systems through proactive design centering on technology and the use of location to store and integrate information. He maintains a close relationship with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, often hiring recent graduates of the GIS programs.

“Max Wyman has had an outstanding impact on the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and Arizona,” said Trisalyn Nelson, director and Foundation Professor of the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Other alumni credit Max’s commitment as a teacher’s assistant to their own career success. We are proud of his success and lucky to have his continued support.”

The award is scheduled to be presented to Wyman at the 2020 Social Science’s Evening of Innovation this September.

Wyman shared more about his experiences and what winning this award means to him.

Question: How does it feel to be honored with the Social Science Distinguished Alumnus Award from The College?

Answer: To be recognized by their well-grounded values is both humbling and satisfying. ASU is an institution of knowledge and innovation and they’ve been a very key part of my life — I've become what they made me. I’ve found satisfaction in following a career using the tools and methods ASU and its faculty taught me.

Q: What interested you in geography when you were pursuing your PhD at ASU?

A: Upon completion of my master’s in building design, my interests centered on solar energy and sustainability. A class taken in support of this degree was in the Department of Geography, stressing energy and environment. It was well formulated, direct and seemed to highlight a methodology for a better future. My PhD adviser, Michael Kuby, was able to convey what it is they do, and that really sparked my interest. When I initially signed up for the program, I did not have a goal in mind until then.

Q: How did The College and university help prepare you for success?

A: Graduate study is stressful but I’ll never forget three of my professors who took it upon themselves to help boost my perseverance and confidence — Malcolm Comeaux, Robert Mings and Ray Henkel. Michael Kuby became my mentor, spending a dozen Saturdays in a row teaching me the math and tools I didn’t know, but would so desperately need on this new path. The dedication of the faculty really helped me along in my journey. They offered programs and extracurricular activities that got me deeper into the subject material and out and practicing in the field. As an engineer, I did not expect to find a home in geography — only additional tools. Nevertheless, a great adventure awaited me in geography with a variety of topics blended together and faculty on different quests of common purpose inviting me to come join them to accomplish great things together.

Q: What career advice would you offer students and alumni?

A: Planning for your career is important, however, always leave the opportunity open for a career to select you, which is what happened in my case. My experience has been that life will find you. Take each day and do the most with it. There is a cadre of really smart people out there who want to help make you all that you can be — seek them out and stay open to them. Most importantly, when the time comes, pick up their torch and prepare the next generation. ASU was my teacher, its people opened the road and helped light the way for me.

Emily Balli

Multimedia specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU graduate finds success through hard work and making the most out of the college experience

April 27, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

College life has been busy for Francesca Lascala, but she isn’t one to shy away from hard work or a challenge. She’s president of Advocates for Education, a member of the Next Generation Service Corps and a curriculum designer in the Center for Games and Impact.   Francesca Lascala Download Full Image

“I've taken advantage of as much as I could while here at ASU,” said Lascala. “I’ve been in leadership roles in various clubs since my freshman year while maintaining at least one on-campus job and a full class load. I am also very grateful that ASU made studying abroad my junior year accessible and affordable.”  

Her drive and determination have led to her success at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Lascala is earning a Bachelor of Arts in Innovation in Society and a minor in media analysis. She’s in the Accelerated Master's Degree Program for a Master of Science and Technology Policy degree, and a part of Barrett, The Honors College. She’s also received several awards and scholarships, including the Obama Scholarship, the Graduate College Fellowship and the Public Service Academy Commitment Award.

The people at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society drew her to the school — people with unique mindsets, who think about problems differently and are open to new ideas.

“The faculty and students are just so amazing. The professors are doing powerful things. They really care, are easy to talk to and have great insights.”

After she finishes her education, she will join Teach for America, where she can continue to make a difference in the classroom. 

“I care a lot about education. I want to spend two years in a classroom to understand what it's like to be a teacher. After that, I can then find solutions for problems in the classroom through technology. At the Center for Games and Impact, I’m doing things with the ThriveCast platform, which provides opportunities to learn in ways that you don't necessarily get in the classroom. I want to continue doing work like that.”

Her never-give-up mentality also extends outside the classroom. Even with her busy schedule, she still finds time to bake and try new recipes. She considers baking a good stress reliever.  And although there’s a macaron recipe she hasn’t quite mastered yet, she keeps trying. It’s just part of the persistence and dedication that drives her to succeed in all things she does.

Question: Why did you choose ASU? 

Answer: When I was starting to get serious about choosing a school, I noticed ASU had the most options out of anywhere else. I was able to combine my major with my minor, get certificates and be a part of (Barrett). I think if I went anywhere else, I wouldn't have been able to create the path that I'm creating for myself right now. I'm very grateful that I was able to come to ASU and pursue all that together.

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

A: I chose my major on a whim. There was a paragraph description about Innovation in Society that said students would match STEM with ethics. That really interested me because I always wanted to do something in STEM, but I had a liberal arts background and was more focused on ethics than actual science. I thought this would be a good chance for me to explore that more.

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

A: All the classes have definitely changed my perspective. Before this, I didn't know much about STEM and hadn’t thought about policy before. The FIS 308 class — Politics, Markets and Innovation — introduced me to new and interesting concepts, including economics, policy and innovation in technology. Being able to see all those things together was fascinating. I had never thought about policy in that way before, especially involving science, and it had never occurred to me that that was something important. 

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

A: Take advantage of the ASU campus. Right now, I miss studying there. The campus has always been the best place to get my work done, whether using campus computers or taking advantage of the nice study spaces with pretty views in Hayden Library. I've always been more successful when I spend more time on campus.

Ashley Richards

Communications Specialist , School for the Future of Innovation in Society