From mayor to nonprofit CEO: Alumnus shares how ASU prepared him to be a successful leader

November 5, 2020

Throughout his career, Neil Giuliano, an alumnus of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, has worn many hats.

From working at ASU's Alumni Association and serving as the mayor of Tempe, Arizona, to serving as the president and CEO of three different nonprofit organizations, Giuliano has gained invaluable experience and a unique set of skills. Neil Giuliano, alumnus of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, will be honored as one of The College Leaders this fall. Download Full Image

Giuliano graduated from ASU in 1979 with a bachelor’s degree in communication and in 1983 with a master’s degree in higher education. After graduation, he stayed at ASU for more than 20 years, working in several different roles including as director of federal and community relations, faculty associate, interim executive director and associate executive director of the ASU Alumni Association, and program coordinator and director of student leadership programs. 

He said it was his beginnings in The College that set him on a path to success.

“My whole ASU experience, both in the classroom and outside of the classroom, was transformative for me because it gave me, a skinny little kid from New Jersey, the opportunity to be exposed to people, ideas, information and knowledge that I just don't think I would have been exposed to had I not come to a big institution,” Giuliano said. “There was such tremendous opportunity.” 

In his last 14 years at ASU, he simultaneously served as the mayor of Tempe, where the creation of Tempe Town Lake, the Tempe Performing Arts Center and the implementation of the regional light rail system were advanced under his leadership. He was the youngest person ever elected mayor of Tempe.

In 2005, he was recruited to serve as the president and CEO of GLAAD, an organization devoted to countering discrimination against members of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) community in the media and promoting understanding, acceptance and equality. After four years with GLAAD, Giuliano served as the president and CEO of the San Francisco AIDS Foundation. In 2012, he published “The Campaign Within: A Mayor's Private Journey to Public Leadership,” his memoir that delves into the ups and downs he experienced throughout his life and career.

Today, he is the president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Leadership, a nonprofit organization with the mission to improve the greater Phoenix area and the state of Arizona by bringing together talent, resources and leadership to create action on priority issues. In his role, Giuliano works with 127 leaders of the largest organizations in Arizona to push forward initiatives, public policy and projects that will strengthen the state’s future.

This fall, Giuliano will be honored as one of The College Leaders for his many achievements. He has been recognized for his outstanding leadership with a variety of other awards as well including the 2020 MLK Jr. Community Servant Leadership Award from ASU, Valley Leadership’s 69th Man of the Year, Phoenix Business Journal’s 2017 Most Admired Leader Award, the 2014 Tempe Humanitarian of the Year, the Distinguished Lecturer at the William J. Clinton School of Public Service at the Clinton Presidential Library and more. 

Giuliano shared about his Sun Devil story, what motivates him to succeed, advice for students and more.

Question: How did your program at ASU help prepare you for your career?

Answer: Both inside and outside of the classroom, ASU helped me to better understand working effectively with groups of people, how to listen and navigate different opinions and how to insert my own opinion to move things forward. The experiences I had were very valuable to me as a student and as a professional. These are skills I’ve used all throughout my career, as a city councilman, as mayor and even in my current role, where I facilitate dialogue and communication to try to help focus toward a really positive end. Those are all things I first experienced at ASU.

Q: What is your favorite part about your chosen career path?

A: Every day is different. Every day, I'll talk to different people. There's always a new little problem or hiccup or something that's unique and different that I have to learn about, pivot, and talk to people about. I have to do something and just to try to keep it all moving forward. I enjoy planting seeds along the way that will continue to push these leaders in a positive way to help the organization accomplish its mission of having a positive impact on the quality of life in Arizona.

Q: What has been your biggest motivation to succeed professionally?

A: I think my motivation to succeed is that if I succeed, the organization advances. And if I'm successful, the organization can do more. If I'm successful, the leaders that I'm working with have the ability to make a difference in society and take on additional community leadership roles. I spent 10 years as a mayor and that's obviously a very front and center, very visible, kind of role. Same thing with running GLAAD, and as CEO of one of the largest AIDS service organizations in the world. Now my role is more behind the scenes, to help people advance what's important to them, through the organization, to be a sounding board and a coach sometimes. I feel really fortunate to have this kind of an opportunity professionally.

Q: What advice do you have for students in The College?

A: You don't have to have the answers today. In fact, if you have all the answers today, I think you can probably count on them changing over time because things are changing so fast in society. The way we learn is changing. The way we acquire information is changing. The way we share and receive information is changing. The way we communicate is changing. You have to be adaptable and you have to be comfortable being uncomfortable. You can't be afraid of change and discomfort. If you're starting to feel really comfortable, something is probably not right. Be open to a level of discomfort that motivates you and inspires you. The people who are able to do that, and yet still have a purpose while being grounded and having a clear set of values, will be the people that are going to rise to leadership positions because other people will be attracted to those qualities. Also, remember that no one individual accomplishes anything of great significance by themselves. You have to be open to working with other people in order to succeed.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Breaking down the data behind a record-breaking summer in Arizona

Explore historic temperatures from the 1890s to the present

November 5, 2020

Patio weather is officially here, but Arizona will not soon forget the scorching summer months. This year, Arizona broke several temperature records, and Phoenix saw its hottest summer since 1895. 

The historic temperature visualization developed by Arizona State University's Knowledge Exchange for Resilience is a tool that shows shifts in temperatures using an interactive heat map and bar graph. It includes historical Arizona temperatures from the 1890s to the present.  A plane flying in to Sky Harbor Airport Download Full Image

Some of the most significant data points and trends: 

  • Phoenix experienced 128 days with temperatures over 100°F in 2018. Tempe had 83.

  • Its analysis highlights that since 2010 the median monthly temperature for the month of June deviated 4.1°F above the baseline observed between 1961–1990 in Phoenix. This marks a break-even point in the temperature rise phenomenon and highlights how the temperature deviation from baseline accelerated since the last decade.

  • Since 2010 the median monthly temperature for the month of June deviated 2.3°F above the baseline observed between 1961–1990 in Tempe.

"The raw data from the Arizona State Climate Office features 130,000 traces of daily temperature data spanning across three cities over 130 years. It was challenging to transform such an extensive data set into a useful visualization,” said the lead scientist for the tool, Assistant Research Professor Sarbeswar Praharaj, PhD with the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience.  

“It was essential to stay grounded in science, make it visually appealing and easy to use for our stakeholders and community,” he added. 

A graph showing historic temperature data

The warm and cool color palette highlights the degree of temperature changes from the baseline number. The data is organized by month, which shows changes over a calendar year and allows users to travel back several decades or just to last summer. 

The rise of Phoenix 

“The shift in colors from blue to red shows a significant change in temperatures starting in the 1970s,” said state climatologist Nancy Selover with the Arizona State Climate Office.

A tower at Sky Harbor airport collects weather data for the city of Phoenix. The transformation of the airport represents the story of a city growing a new identity. 

In the 1930s, the rural airport that would become Sky Harbor was nicknamed "The Farm," and surrounded by agriculture. A few decades later, the airport and city would explode with urban development. 

A 1930s photo of what became Sky Harbor Airport

Image courtesy Phoenix Sky Harbor.

"The city started to take off in the early '70s, and then the building of I-10 during the '80s allowed people to start moving farther away from their jobs and pushed even more development," Selover said. 

New houses, tall buildings and dark pavement would become the new normal. Rapid urban growth would create impacts on heat and temperature for decades to come. 

Changes in the landscape and use of materials

The heat-island effect is one critical contributor to the heat. 

"In the natural desert, you will see desert sand turf surfaces at 150 to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. When you go down 4 or 5 inches, it's back to the 80s and much cooler," Selover said. 

Natural surfaces like vegetation, sand and desert turf have more airspace between them. The heat stays in the top few inches of the soil or surface. 

"As the sun goes down, the soil starts to cool immediately. All the heat starts to come back up and dissipate. And within 15 minutes, you walk barefoot on the sand — no big deal," Selover said. 

On the other hand, dense material like asphalt or concrete holds molecules tightly in place. When the top surface gets hot, the vibrating molecules will travel far and fast. 

"With concrete or asphalt, it takes all night long for the heat to come back out. As the heat continues to go back out, it's heating the air above it too, so it doesn't ever get cool overnight," she added. 

Arizona had 29 record-breaking morning temperatures of 90 degrees or warmer this year. 

Weather experts anticipate Arizona could break even more records this year with lingering heat and lack of rain. Typically, high-pressure movement from Mexico brings moisture and monsoon rain. In 2020, Arizona saw a dry summer and current forecasts show a dry winter nearing too. 

“The mild winters and ample sunshine in the Phoenix area continues to be an asset that continues to attract and retain residents. As temperatures continue to rise and rainfall decreases, these climate assets could become a hazard to human health, economic security, plant life, and the overall health of the community," said Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and dean with the ASU’s Graduate College and director of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience. 

Rising temperatures and lingering heat mean reliable data and heat planning will be critical for a resilient future. 

"The visualization data clearly demonstrates the urgent need to address the problem of increasing urban heat due to climate change. KER is designed to lead efforts that provide solutions to the impact of such pressing problems. KER's efforts in the Phoenix metro area will also benefit communities across the United States and around the world,” said Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost with ASU’s Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory. 

To explore the KER Temperature visualization, visit All of the maps and graphs are free to download and use for educational purposes with proper citation.

Crystal Alvarez

Communications manager , Knowledge Exchange for Resilience