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Michael Crow honors recipients of 2020 President’s Awards and SUN Awards

October 9, 2020

Arizona State University President Michael Crow honored members of the ASU community during the 2020 President’s Recognition Ceremony, which was held virtually on Oct. 7.

The annual event recognizes individuals in the community and ASU who work tirelessly to promote the university’s shared values of excellence in innovation, sustainability and social embeddedness. The ceremony also honors the top Serving University Needs (SUN) Award recipients. The peer recognition award is given to ASU employees who have demonstrated individual excellence.

“Congratulations for helping to make ASU who we are; helping us to be unbelievably innovative; helping us to adapt and adjust,” Crow said in his opening remarks. “It’s exciting to be able to recognize people for the work that they are doing to make our institution more successful.”

Here are the recipients of this year’s SUN Award, President’s Awards in the categories of sustainability and innovation, and the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness.

SUN Award

Macho Cartagena is a success coach at ASU’s EdPlus Success Coaching Center. In his first year, Cartagena has helped develop a new student welcome strategy while sticking to his mission statement: “Be true to your passion to partner with students to work, achieve, and celebrate their goals through relationship building, understanding and empowerment.” Students say Cartagena genuinely cares about their success, and his supervisor says Cartagena always puts students first by supporting them through progress plans, helping them overcome obstacles and encouraging them to stay motivated.

Jane Crane is the events and administrative program coordinator in the College of Health Solutions. After working as a stay-at-home mom for many years, she returned to the workforce a year ago, joining ASU originally as a receptionist for the dean’s office. Crane is known for her positive, can-do attitude and willingness to identify solutions to challenges — always with a smile. Her supervisor writes: “Jane exhibits true professionalism, in everything she does, and is dedicated to the success of the College of Health Solutions and the university. She is a true inspiration to the faculty, staff, students and guests of the College of Health Solutions.”

Adam Daut is a senior coordinator at University Academic Success Programs, but has been part of the unit since 2015 when he joined UASP as a student staff graduate writing tutor at the Tempe Writing Center. Daut now manages the Writing Center and Graduate Writing Center at ASU’s West campus. Daut is team-oriented and enjoys assisting students with their academic, career and professional goals, and making sure they have access to resources to achieve them. “Through his collaborations with students, staff, and faculty inside and outside the classroom, Adam has made meaningful contributions to both undergraduate and graduate student learning and writing and has established himself as having a positive attitude and being a service-oriented campus partner,” writes his supervisor.

Maggie Lacerenza is a senior student services coordinator at The Polytechnic School Advising Services Office. Self-described as “the happy helper,” Lacerenza believes that when people are surrounded by creative thinking in a positive, healthy environment, the entire team maximizes its strengths and achieves phenomenal success. Her supervisor calls Lacerenza the “heart and soul” of the advising services office. Lacerenza, her husband and son are all ASU alumni. Her active, long-term goal is to open a horse therapy business in Prescott.

President’s Award for Sustainability

The President’s Award for Sustainability recognizes ASU faculty and staff who have worked together to develop, implement and promote sustainability principles, solutions, programs and services at ASU. The 2020 recipients of the President’s Award for Sustainability are members of Produce Rescue at ASU — a partnership program between ASU and the nonprofit Borderlands Produce Rescue. The program helps “rescue” fresh produce that would otherwise go to waste, helping feed students and families across Arizona.

“Sustainability is a core value of ASU,” Crow said. “We’ve been altering the university intellectually. We’ve been altering it operationally. We’ve been altering it culturally. The fact that we can get students and staff and others to work together on projects like this are really fantastic.”

The Produce Rescue at ASU team:

  • Alita Aberlein
  • Linda Anderson
  • Marisela Arias
  • DeDe Grogan
  • Kendon Jung
  • Paul Kwan, Borderlands Produce Rescue
  • Michelle Lyons-Mayer
  • Melanie Matos
  • Regina Matos
  • Ryan Olkes
  • Alyssa Orozco
  • Rayanna Pearson
  • Seline Szkupinski Quiroga
  • Jennifer Stults
  • Raynaldo Valenzuela, Jr.
  • Partnerships with E.A.R.T.H. Club and House of Refuge

President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness

The President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness recognizes ASU faculty and staff who are working to transform society by collaborating with communities to drive discovery and solutions. The 2020 recipients of the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness are members of Survivor Link — a partnership between ASU and AmeriCorps that increases access to evidence-based interventions for domestic violence survivors, trains students as domestic violence victim advocates and makes research accessible to professionals in the community.

Crow said that the more embedded ASU becomes in the community, the more opportunity for broader impact. “Through our social embeddedness, we become a more impactful institution; the community is better served and we become better scholars, better researchers, better teachers — all these things.”

The Survivor Link team:

  • Millan AbiNader
  • Virginia Bagby
  • Ruby Barraza
  • Megan Lindsay Brown
  • Jill Etienne
  • Megan Ferral
  • Julie Greenberg
  • Samantha Hinchey
  • Tina Jiwatram-Negron
  • Andrea Kappas
  • Cherra Mathis
  • Jill Messing
  • Doreen Nicholas
  • Ijeoma Ogbonnaya
  • Lauren Reed
  • Jade Sun
  • Karin Wachter
  • Felicity Welch

President’s Award for Innovation

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the prestigious President’s Award for Innovation, which recognizes ASU community members who strive to develop and implement innovative projects, programs or initiatives to benefit the university, state of Arizona and beyond. The ASU members behind ASU Law and Behavioral Science Initiative were honored for their ambitious initiative to become the No. 1 university in the world in the field of law and behavioral science.

Since 2014, the initiative has grown to 32 core and affiliated faculty across seven schools and colleges at ASU. The group operates five cross-college academic programs that educate over 1,700 students at the undergraduate, master's degree and doctoral levels, making the group and programs among the largest in the world of their type.

In order to drive the law forward and to see more social justice in our country, Crow said he advocates for 21st-century law that is “more scientifically based.” 

The ASU Law and Behavioral Science Initiative team:

  • Jose Ashford
  • Adam Fine
  • Hank Fradella
  • Tess M. S. Neal
  • Stacia Stolzenberg Roosevelt
  • Tosha Ruggles 
  • Michael Saks
  • Jessica Salerno
  • Todd Sandrin
  • Nick Schweitzer
  • Rick Trinkner

Top photo by ASU

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Ocean plastic does not lead to marine life population decline, ASU study shows

Senko on surprising marine life and plastic findings: “It caught us off guard.”
No evidence yet to suggest plastic causes population decline in marine life.
October 9, 2020

Analysis of decades of research reveals no evidence that plastic pollution causes overall losses in megafauna species

The carcass of an albatross chick, covered in bottle caps. A dead sperm whale on a Scottish beach, stomach full of debris.

Horrifying images, to be sure. But is plastic pollution causing populations of large sea animals like these to decline?

There is no scientific evidence to support that it is, according to a new study led by a marine biologist at Arizona State University.

The research examined 1,200 peer-reviewed studies published over the past 50 years that described interactions of marine wildlife with plastic pollution. Of these, only 47 studies considered population-level effects of plastic interactions with marine megafauna.

“I think there's some glimmer of hope in this study that is showing at least at current levels, it really isn't affecting these animals on a population level,” said lead author Jesse Senko, an assistant research professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

“We did not expect this when we started the study,” Senko said. “It caught us off guard.”

Graphic photos shock readers, but threats that don’t show up well on cameras are more serious, Senko said. Climate change, fisheries bycatch, habitat degradation, noise pollution, and direct catch for human consumption are all threats that have been proven to cause population levels to decline.

“It’s not a free pass for people to use as much plastic as they want. I think we should still aim to reduce it, obviously. But I think we really need to think about how we cover this problem because I fear that it draws away attention from the real threats.”

— Assistant Research Professor Jesse Senko

“If you look at the amount of coverage plastic pollution gets, it's really disproportionate compared to all the other threats,” Senko said. “The take-home is we know that plastic pollution kills individual animals. And it's certainly an animal welfare issue because not only does it kill them, it causes a lot of suffering, but there's no evidence yet to suggest that it causes any population decline in any of these species.”

Some species are more tolerant of plastic than others. Senko pointed to certain populations of large whales where almost 80% of the animals in that population have become entangled in plastic and eventually shed the gear. Sea turtles can have plastic in their guts for as long as four months.

“In a lot of cases, sea turtles and seabirds will just poop the plastic right out,” Senko said. “And so a lot of the mortality that we've attributed to the plastic might actually be because the animals are sick. … Sometimes animals wash ashore dead and they have a bunch of plastic in their stomach. Scientists will do a necropsy and say, ‘Oh, the animal died of plastic pollution.’ Well, it turns out that what we're starting to see is sick animals tend to feed on plastic so that it may be that the animal was already sick and then interacted with plastic. It's not necessarily the plastic itself that's killing the animals.”

This juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle was found 65 nautical miles west of Sarasota, Florida. It had ingested the latex end of a toy balloon, from which the synthetic ribbon trailed from the turtle and was wrapped around its front flippers. Photo by Blair Witherington 

When Senko and his team started the analysis, they expected that they would find some studies that found population level impacts.

“This was a shocker that, you know, in the last 50 years, after sifting through thousands upon thousands of studies, not a single one was able to document that plastic caused the population decline and/or reduced population growth in any of these species.”

Senko believes that controlled studies can help shed light on the fate of marine wildlife. Studies will need to be evaluated on a case-by-case basis in terms of animal welfare, but surrogate species could potentially be used for endangered ones. These studies can control the amounts and types of plastic ingested, including chemical-laden plastic, as well as track weathering, dosage, and components of the introduced items. Researchers can concurrently track changes in feeding, weight, growth rates, and other behaviors to gain a better understanding of how marine megafauna might be affected, which can ultimately be used to infer possible population-level impacts where interaction rates with plastic pollution are well-documented or believed to be high.

“It’s not a free pass for people to use as much plastic as they want,” Senko said. “I think we should still aim to reduce it, obviously. But I think we really need to think about how we cover this problem because I fear that it draws away attention from the real threats.”

Co-author Janie Reavis said it’s possible to study the ocean without being near it.

"Working on this global review paper as an undergraduate student at ASU made me realize it’s possible to study marine species and global-scale conservation threats in a landlocked state like Arizona. It also gave me the opportunity to co-author a paper during my undergrad, which ended up being a stepping stone into my PhD project," said Reavis, a second-year PhD student in biology.

The study publishes Oct. 12 in the journal Endangered Species research. 

Top photo: Jesse Senko studying sea turtles in the Sea of Cortez, Baja California, Mexico, with research associate Juan Cuevas. Photo courtesy of ASU Enterprise Marketing Hub.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News