ASU grad learns lessons on her path to being a pastor

April 30, 2020

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

Claire Mulholand has always known that she wanted to work with people, and her experiences inside and outside the classroom at Arizona State University paved the way for her to do just that as a pastor. Claire holding up a laptop on a screen related to her field of study Claire Mulholand celebrates her work on the relationship between the enneagram personality types and empathic development. Download Full Image

Originally from Slinger, Wisconsin, Mulholand moved to Chandler, Arizona, 15 years ago. She is graduating from ASU this semester with a degree in psychology and a minor in sociology.  

As a student, Mulholand worked for University Housing. She started as a community assistant and was ultimately promoted to a lead community assistant position serving residential students on ASU’s Tempe campus. Mulholand was able to work with her residents and help them navigate their first-year experience.  

“I absolutely love connecting with [students] one-on-one and helping them accomplish their goals in the first year of college — it has been the most rewarding experience of my college career by far,” she said.

Throughout college Mulholand also learned that no two people have the same life experiences and that it is important to be compassionate toward others. Her time working with students from all different backgrounds and traveling to another country showed her the value in being kind to everyone she meets. 

“I’ve loved that this job has given me a new and added perspective to the college experience and allows me to be so much more in tune with all that ASU has to offer,” she said.

After graduation, Mulholand will begin working for Desert Springs Church while she also works to become a licensed pastor. As she prepared to graduate, she reflected on her time at ASU.

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

Answer: I originally chose the psychology field wanting to be a genetic counselor — I’ve always loved genetics and loved the idea of counseling people through that field. I switched interests in high school following a research project on occupational art therapy. I wanted to stick to psychology and felt that the counseling aspect would still apply with a focus in therapy. Immediately following high school, I began working at my church as an administrative assistant. That experience opened my eyes to the back end of ministry, which often means leveling with people and meeting them right where they’re at.

My “aha” moment really came from this as I realized having a background in psychology in the ministry really gives me a strong backing to work with people. I truly believe in the business of investing in the lives of those around us and that every interaction should have a “leave it better than we found it” spirit. 

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

A: One important lesson that I learned while at ASU is that everyone is so different and lives a life completely different than your own. It’s a lesson that seems too simple but it’s truly a reminder that there is so much power in just listening to others and being kind, knowing there are so many perspectives beyond your own. Through all of my classes and my job in housing, I have seen this lived over time and time again. 

Last year I had the chance to study abroad for 10 days in Morocco as part of a Global Intensive Experience through Barrett. I will always recommend that people travel internationally if they have not done so before as it’s a great way to expand our perspective of the human lives around us. It’s amazing how much you can learn from just sitting with someone and asking them how they’re doing or what they’re working on. It puts you in a place to have a greater understanding and appreciation for the work that others are doing. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Realistically, it was close to home and still allowed me some independence and space to grow. I always thought I would go out of state, but when it came down to deciding where I wanted to go, I felt that the programs in psychology, and especially the individualized experience that Barrett had to offer, were a great fit for me. 

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

A: This is such a hard question. I’ve been extremely blessed to learn so much from so many amazing professors in my three years at ASU. The absolute best class I’ve ever taken at ASU was AFR 365 Unruly Voices, taught by Ersula Ore

The course was taken as an elective that covered women’s and gender studies in the context of racism and injustice. Dr. Ore taught me so much about the importance of not ignoring the issues that impact others. It’s crucial, now more than ever, to listen and believe the voices around us who bring to light the injustices that undercut specific people groups of our community. We all have a voice, and we need to use it to advocate for others and call out the injustice that disproportionately disadvantages those around us. 

I also have learned so much from Dr. Marcella Gemelli, who was my undergraduate thesis director. Her constant support and willingness to invest in my project taught me so much about empathy and being open to new projects. 

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

A: Don’t be afraid to try new things. Talk to your professors, advisers and faculty! They are here to curate your experience, and you’d be surprised how much insight they can provide when you just come in to talk about their or your interests. Not only are they a wealth of knowledge, but they can open your eyes to so many more opportunities with the connections they have. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I could most often be found at Noble Library. I loved studying at the large study tables on the second floor, meeting classmates in the group study rooms or grabbing a drink at the Starbucks more times than I care to admit. I loved the nostalgic feeling of the rows of books and the pretty orange trees outside.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to begin working full time with my church, Desert Springs. We recently launched a new campus in Gilbert, and I will be signing on as the administrative assistant to our campus pastors in addition to my current role as the admin for our missions department. Through this, I will be pursuing further education to become a licensed pastor. 

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

A: I travel pretty frequently for my work and through my church. On one of my trips to the United Kingdom, I had the opportunity to serve on a building project that provided homes to incoming refugees who would otherwise experience housing displacement in the country they sought asylum in. 

I would love to tackle the issue of the disproportionate disadvantages that refugees face. I want to address the issue of the political unrest that is often the cause of this issue and adjustment to life in a completely new environment and how that may impact work, education and mental health for refugees.

Written by Claire Muranaka, EOSS Marketing 

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Graduating ASU seniors publish children’s science book

April 30, 2020

Graduating Arizona State University seniors Annmarie Barton and Alison Lane worked together on their Barrett, The Honors College creative project to write and publish "The Scientist in Me," a children’s “scientific notebook” that explores the lives and specialties of five scientists from historically underrepresented backgrounds.

Their book recounts the struggles and successes of Mary Anning, James Pollack, Temple Grandin, Percy Lavon Julian and Ayah Bdeir, while at the same time asking critical-thinking questions and encouraging readers to explore on their own through experiments and further research. School of Molecular Sciences seniors Annmarie Barton and Alison Lane holding their newly published book, "The Scientist in Me." Download Full Image

“I thought it important to write a book that helps kids explore and understand science while also addressing social issues," Barton said. "The scientists we write about are people who have overcome challenges while making strides in their fields.”

“We believe that representation in science is important, and therefore chose people from underrepresented backgrounds relating to race, religion, sexuality, disability and gender," Lane said. "It was also important to us that the scientists’ fields of study appeal to kids. Although X-ray crystallography might be interesting to us, subjects related to space and dinosaurs are more likely to interest kids.” 

Lane and Barton, both students in the School of Molecular Sciences, decided to write about three women and two men, with at least two of the individuals currently living — and one scientist with a connection to ASU: Mary Temple Grandin. Grandin received her master’s degree in animal science from ASU in 1975. She is one of the first people to document firsthand insights about having autism. 

Temple Grandin, ASU alumnus and scientist. Artwork by Alison Lane

To gather background information, Lane interviewed Grandin. “I am extremely grateful that I had the opportunity to correspond with Temple over email and speak with her on the phone," she said. "I was extremely nervous to talk with her, but she turned out to be very funny, personable and straightforward!”

Barton and Lane wanted to publish a book that is relatable for many children.

“I remember when I was younger, feeling I didn’t relate to the scientists I read about," Barton said. "That was something I wanted to change.”

Consequently, the book recounts the backgrounds and struggles of the featured scientists. One of these scientists is Percy Lavon Julian, who is among the first African Americans to earn a doctorate in chemistry, and the first African American chemist in the National Academy of Sciences. Julian’s story impacted both Barton and Lane. 

“Percy Julian’s altruistic tendencies and ability to recognize potential in others are very inspiring to me,” Lane said.

Percy Julian, pioneering African American chemist. Artwork by Alison Lane 

Barton added, “His story was one of the hardest for me to write. He was a great chemist but rejected from many jobs because of the color of his skin. That really riled me up!”

Barton and Lane hope their book will help readers be empathetic toward those with different backgrounds, as well as learn something about themselves, whether that be a new interest or a recognition of their own potential abilities.

For Lane, working on this book challenged her abilities as an artist. The artwork throughout the book was made by Lane on her computer. She had never created digital art before and doing so was both a challenge and a rewarding experience. 

“Prior to this, the artwork I have done has been using physical media, such as chalk or paint on paper. Learning a new medium in such a short time for a significant project required patience and persistence,” Lane said, noting that these are important qualities in scientists, of any era.

In the 1800s, paleontologist Mary Anning patiently explored the cliffs along the English Channel, discovering Jurassic fossils that transformed how people thought about ancient life and the history of Earth. Her first major discovery, as Barton and Lane’s book recounts, the discovery of an Ichthyosaurus fossil, happened when Anning was only 12 years old.

“Kids can make discoveries too,” Barton said. She hopes to inspire them to explore the world around them, or even explore other worlds, like James Pollack, an American scientist who studied the atmospheres of Mars and Venus. His study of planetary atmospheres includes the formation of gas giant planets and climate change on Earth, and also relates to the extinction of the dinosaurs. 

“One of my favorite things about this book,” Barton said, “is that I wrote it with educational standards in mind. I wrote a general lesson plan that could be adapted to any part of the book, as well as a specific example. It helped that my mom is an elementary teacher.” 

Having her mom’s help and support has been an encouragement to Barton. “My mom always reminds me to be myself and love what I do,” she said.

That was important for this project, because not everyone supported Barton’s idea to write a book.

“There were some people who thought this project was silly and tried to discourage me from starting it,” Barton said. “So I really want to thank all those who told me not to listen to them. I am honored to have had the opportunity to work with many amazing people on this project, especially Alison, who took my dream for this book and made it into a beautiful reality through her artwork. I am proud of what we have made, and I dream that it can give people the hope they need to pursue doing what they love.”

“I hope that readers feel like they can be a scientist too," she said. "I want them to see themselves in the position of the scientist. I want them to ask questions, even if the answers are sometimes difficult. I want to see the joy that science brings me instilled in the next generation.”

James Klemaszewski

Science writer, School of Molecular Sciences