ASU alum combines love of geology, passion to share earth science

September 21, 2020

Growing up in Cave Creek, Arizona, Chad Kwiatkowski chose to study geology because he had a desire to learn the geologic story of the mountains that he grew up exploring, located in and around metropolitan Phoenix.

“I knew ASU would be the best place to learn this," the Arizona State University alumnus said. "Additionally, I heard great things about the geology program at ASU from my community college professors. After being given a tour of the School of Earth and Space Exploration’s headquarters and seeing the Center for Meteorite Studies on the second floor, my choice was set in stone.” ASU alumnus Chad Kwiatkowski. Download Full Image

Kwiatkowski earned his Bachelor of Science in earth and space exploration (geological sciences) in 2018. He is currently a graduate student in geology at Northern Arizona University.

During his time at ASU, Kwiatkowski was a member of the ASU GeoClub, a student organization that sells minerals on campus to fund geology trips and public outreach events. He also served as the GeoClub’s outreach coordinator during his senior year.

“It was a memorable experience and I made many friends that will last a lifetime,” he said. 

Kwiatkowski was also selected as the School of Earth and Space Exploration Dean’s Medalist for 2018, having earned this award through his stellar academic record, his skills as a leader, and his drive and energy in pursuing his academic passions. 

After Kwiatkowski earns his master's degree, there are two paths he is considering. 

The first is to teach intro geology at a community college or university. “I would love teaching earth science, sharing the wonders of our world with the upcoming generations, and making it accessible and relatable to students,” he said. 

The second path he may take is working as a park ranger at a county, state or national park, where he would still be teaching and sharing geology, just in the outdoors rather than in a classroom.

Here, Kwiatkowski shares what inspired him to apply to ASU and why he credits the School of Earth and Space Exploration for finding his place in the world.  

Question: What impact or value do you believe ASU has had on your life?

Answer: At the end of high school, I had no idea what I would do with the rest of my life. Getting my geology degree at ASU not only taught me about the 4.6-billion-year history of the world, but also helped me find my place in it, specifically as a science communicator who breaks down complex geological concepts into bite-sized pieces that people of all backgrounds can enjoy. The value of figuring this out is literally priceless, and I am so glad I found my passion at a young age. 

Q: Were there faculty or students who made a particularly positive impact on you?  

A: All the professors I had at ASU, as well as many of my peers, had a profound impact on my life. A few professors had such a great impact that they forever changed my views on geology, education and life in general. One of these was Steve Semken, whose knowledge of the Southwest and place-based education approach really struck a chord with me. Another was the dynamic duo of Steve Reynolds and Julia Johnson, whose passion for teaching earth science using techniques informed by cognition research reshaped not only my views on education, but also my perception of the world. Lastly, Christy Till demonstrated the importance of enthusiasm in teaching complex topics, making every class something I looked forward to. Although all of my peers had an influence on me, Devin Keating, Joshua Gonzales, Brooke Kubby, Andres Aldana and Kelly Vote — all in my graduating class — influenced me the most. I will forever cherish the memories we made and know we will remain friends for life. 

Q: Are you involved with nonprofit or charitable organizations?

A: When living near Phoenix, I volunteered for Skate After School, a nonprofit providing skateboard instruction and positive reinforcement to over 200 students in underprivileged areas of metropolitan Phoenix. I also volunteer for Pinnacle Peak Park in Scottsdale, running the new volunteer geology training and designing digital and print resources to help enhance the geologic understanding of the area for park visitors. Lastly, I give geology presentations for various nonprofits and other organizations in my hometown of Cave Creek, such as the Desert Foothills Library, Desert Awareness Committee and the Desperados trail club.  

Q: In what ways have you been involved with ASU since graduating?

A: I have continued to work with a peer at ASU, Devin Keating, who is a  graduate student in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, using drones to monitor and assess geologic hazards. We have collaborated for a study of debris flows in a mountain range north of Phoenix resulting from an extreme 2014 monsoon storm. 

Q: How do you stay informed about what is happening at ASU?

A: I read articles from the online publication ASU Now to stay informed about the university. I also continue to use my ASU email to be informed about upcoming events.

Media Relaitons and Marketing Manager, School of Earth & Space Exploration


ASU professor wins Distinguished Scholar Award from National Communication Association

September 21, 2020

Sarah J. Tracy, professor of organizational communication and qualitative methodology in the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication at Arizona State University, is the recipient of the 2020 Distinguished Scholar Award from the National Communication Association (NCA).

Presented annually, the NCA Distinguished Scholar Award is the association’s highest accolade. It honors a lifetime of scholarly achievement in the study of human communication. Recipients are selected by their peers to showcase the best of the communication discipline. A coffee shop break after teaching with ASU's study abroad. Photo by Brad Hendron Photography Download Full Image

“NCA’s Distinguished Scholar Award is the ultimate honor bestowed by our largest professional association,” said Hugh Downs School Interim Director and Professor Paul Mongeau. “Only four or five of these awards are provided each year, so this means that recipients are in the top 1% of the top 1% of scholars in our discipline. This well-deserved honor reflects the quality and scope of Sarah’s scholarship. We are very proud of having her as an important part of our scholarly community.”

Over the last 26 years, Tracy has developed a significant program of study in the area of emotions and well-being in organizational communication. She is also recognized as one of the best-known qualitative methodologists in the field. Through the model for qualitative quality and the phronetic iterative approach to qualitative research, Tracy’s work continues to influence scholars throughout the subdisciplines and has been used by several other disciplines including education, management and sociology.

Tracy was hired by President’s Professor Janet “Jess” Alberts in 2001, then the director of the Hugh Downs School.

“Sarah Tracy is an outstanding scholar and leader in the communication discipline,” Alberts said. “She consistently produces important research that breaks new ground in areas such as workplace bullying, work/life issues, compassion and happiness, as well as qualitative methods. Furthermore, Sarah is an exemplary teacher of graduate and undergraduate students. She has mentored many graduate students who have gone on to have outstanding careers and is a recipient of the Western States Communication Association’s Distinguished Teaching Award.”

Tracy calls the award humbling and says it invigorates her to ask how to further her work. Recalling a meeting she once had with late broadcast legend Hugh Downs, Tracy says she knows she has more to offer.

“Years ago, soon after I joined ASU’s Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, Mr. Hugh Downs took me out to lunch. Among other things, I asked him to what he attributed his success. He told the story of how he found exactly what he was good at when he was quite young, and then put all of his passion and energy into it. He ended the story by saying, ‘It’s so sad when people work really hard, but at the wrong thing.’ I feel so fortunate that I found my ‘right thing.’”

Left to right: Assistant Professor Heewon Kim, Professor Sarah Tracy and President's Professor Jess Alberts at a writing retreat with The Transformation Project in Payson, Arizona, in 2018.

Ragan Fox, a professor at California State University Long Beach recalls his time as a graduate student at ASU and the impact Tracy had on his research and instruction.

“Her 'Qualitative Research Methods' course is the most rigorous and rewarding class I ever took. I also admire the amount of feedback she provides on assignments," Fox said. "I had my fair share of professors who left little-to-no marginalia on major research papers I submitted. Dr. Tracy’s extensive feedback resulted in a revised final project that landed in a peer-reviewed publication. Dr. Tracy not only taught me how to write like an academic, but she is the professor I emulated once I entered higher education.”

Professor Tracy’s research — which includes ethnographies on cruise ships, 911 call centers, correctional facilities and detailed case analyses of workplace bullying targets and hospice workers — is regularly featured in courses and books related to both organizational communication and qualitative research methods. Her scholarship has resulted in theoretical development of communication as it relates to identity, emotion, organizational well-being, burnout, communicative craft practice and compassion.

Tracy is well-known across disciplines for her expertise in qualitative research methods. This research has garnered a number of top articles, papers and disciplinary awards, including the prestigious Charles Woolbert Award from the National Communication Association.

An academic leader and award-winning teacher, Tracy is the director of The Transformation Project, a consortium of faculty, students and community members who seek to discover and promote creative change processes that encourage healthy communication patterns, collaborative group behavior, and equitable forms of social organization. She regularly provides interdisciplinary workshops and public-outreach workshops and hosts a YouTube channel called “Get Your Qual On.” 

“NCA’s annual awards honor communication scholars’ teaching, scholarship, and service,” NCA Executive Director Trevor Parry-Giles said. “NCA is proud to recognize Dr. Tracy’s significant contributions to the communication discipline with this award.”

Tracy’s award will be presented virtually on Nov. 21 at the NCA 106th annual convention. For more information about NCA’s awards program, visit

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication