ASU students, staff, faculty and organizations named Catalyst Awardees

November 18, 2020

They’re student advocates and storytellers. They’re leading the way in making their classrooms and workplaces more equitable. They’re providing invaluable resources to students. They’re creating community and much more.

Thirteen ASU students, student groups, organizations, staff and faculty have been named 2020 Catalyst Awardees by the Arizona State University Committee for Campus Inclusion for their work fostering and promoting diversity and inclusion at ASU and beyond.  2020 Catalyst Award Winners Committee for Campus Inclusion Download Full Image

The 2020 awards included 35 nominees across six categories. The nominees are submitted by the ASU community, and recipients are chosen by the Committee for Campus Inclusion executive board, which is made up of staff and faculty from across ASU departments and campuses. The committee is an advisory group to the vice provost for inclusion and community engagement, and promotes a positive campus environment that fosters inclusion and diversity through advocacy, resources and programming.

Vice Provost Stanlie James, who leads the Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement, oversees the work of the Committee for Campus Inclusion and the Catalyst Awards. She said the impetus for the awards was to recognize campuswide excellence in implementing the ASU Charter and to honor the collaborative work of students, faculty and staff, organizations and others. The charter emphasizes that ASU will be “measured not by whom it excludes, but by whom it includes and how they succeed.”

“With (the committee), we were able to design an award that recognizes the critical work across campus and from different configurations such as departments, student organizations and faculty or staff endeavors that were identifying needs and issues of diversity, inclusion, equity and justice,” James said. “We felt it was imperative to provide a way to honor that important, innovative work, which is representative of our commitment to the charter.”

The Committee for Campus Inclusion is a core committee that falls under James’ leadership in the Office of Inclusion and Community Engagement. James said she’s been heartened and inspired by the commitment of the ASU community to making a difference in the world and that she appreciates the work of the committee to solicit and carefully consider nominations. She mentioned that each year the awards also recognize the outstanding work of the committee, and this year the Committee for Campus Inclusion Chair’s Award was given to an instructional professional in comparative culture and language, Arina Melkozernova, for her contributions to the work of the committee.  

“The nominees and the recipients, as in years past, reflect the very best initiatives that ASU has to offer to making our campus a safe and welcoming place and to preparing our students as well as our faculty and staff to contribute innovative ideas to their home communities and to other places around the world where they might find themselves when they leave ASU,” James said. 

Turning Points magazine, the first magazine in the United States created by and for Native American college students, was a recipient in the employee clubs/organizations/teams category. Launched in 2017, the magazine publishes once per semester and allows students to tell the story of their own higher education journeys grounded within their own home, family and culture. 

Senior editor Taylor Notah, a management intern for the Center for Indian Education and 2018 journalism graduate from ASU, said that the publication, its podcast and other content enriches Native students’ college experience and provides a platform to share the stories of their homelands and “the needs of Indian Country.”

“This win is a recognition for all of the Indigenous student designers, writers, scholars, thinkers and creatives who have contributed to our student magazine and shared stories of their college experiences and journeys since 2017, when our first issue was published,” Notah said. “This is a recognition of how powerful and impactful the Indigenous voice can be — and is — within institutions that weren’t originally intended for us.” 

Notah said that the Turning Points team is honored to be recognized alongside other advocates on campus and that the impact of collective inclusion work is vital.

“Inclusivity begins when we listen to the stories and experiences that we don’t often hear from, and it is only after listening when we can empower and support others through engagement of resources, mentorship and more,” she said. “Inclusivity begins when the community as a whole respects and appreciates what makes each of us different. ... We have seen that the collective voices within a community can become even stronger when like-minded individuals seek change and foster spaces to do so.”

Mako Fitts Ward earned recognition in the faculty category for her dedication to transforming communities, raising awareness about social inequality, the histories of racism and violence, and how to respond to these issues with care. She said being recognized by the Committee for Campus Inclusion is a true honor.

“This award means so much to me. It is a recognition by the community of my most treasured peers, the steadfast JEDI leaders across ASU committed to walk the talk and to boldly speak truth to power,” Ward said.

Ward, who is a clinical assistant professor in the School of Social Transformation, said that inclusive social justice principles are the foundation of her work and that creating communities of care that value difference is what inclusion is all about.

“Inclusion is part of the ASU Charter, and we must invest in difference to stimulate innovation and growth,” she said. 

ASU W. P. Carey School of Business public service and public policy major Aniyah Braveboy — who is president of the Black African Coalition; undergraduate student representative on the W. P. Carey Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee; and appointee to President Michael Crow’s Advisory Council for African American Affairs —  was honored for her extensive service work to combat racism in campus communities. She has helped move forward inclusion initiatives such as advocating for a multicultural center on campus, establishing a scholarship for Black students and promoting the hiring of more diverse faculty and staff.

Braveboy said receiving the award is an honor, and the news inspired a lot of feelings.

“I have worked extremely hard over the past seven months, and the recognition means that people are seeing the changes and believe in my abilities to continue to break barriers for the Black community at ASU,” Braveboy said. “As the president of the (Black African Coalition), I continuously place the needs of our organizations and students before myself, which I will continue to do in the future as I am always pleased to see Black students succeed. This award makes all of the meetings, sleepless nights and stress worth it.”

Braveboy said she was inspired to take action after she experienced racism in the classroom. 

“I wanted to conjure up ways to ensure other Black and brown students did not have to experience what I did. I put myself on the line countless times to advocate and stand tall for the (Black African Coalition), and whenever I was afraid, I thought of Rosa Parks, Barack Obama, Harriet Tubman and many others. Their advocacy and dedication to their communities is what drives me to work harder,” she said.

Cassandra Aska, ASU deputy vice president and dean of students for ASU’s Tempe campus, serves as the university chair for the Committee for Campus Inclusion, overseeing and leading the committee. She said it’s an honor to recognize the 2020 recipients for their work and that all of the nominations detailed the outstanding and extensive work being done at ASU and beyond, fulfilling the ASU Charter in innovative and impactful ways. 

“Our awardees embody the continued need for us to be solution-oriented as we all work toward evolving ourselves as individuals and our communities in which we work, live and serve,” Aska said. “Our awardees inspire more dialogue, give voice to more people, foster connection and cultivate innovation. In their own way, they are raising awareness on varying topics that educate and advance change and inclusion. We are a better community because of their contributions to the university.” 

The 2020 Catalyst Awardees are listed below. Visit the 2020 Catalyst Awards site for the list of recipients and descriptions.

ASU Committee for Campus Inclusion Catalyst Award 2020 recipients

  • Supriya, postdoctoral scholar, School of Life Sciences, staff category.

  • Melinda Borucki, communication and events coordinator, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, staff category.

  • Mako Fitts Ward, faculty head and clinical assistant professor, African and African American studies, School of Social Transformation, faculty category.

  • Sara Brownell, associate professor, School of Life Sciences, faculty category.

  • Aniyah Braveboy, undergraduate student, public service and public policy, W. P. Carey School of Business, student category.

  • Liam Gleason, doctoral student, evolutionary anthropology, School of Human Evolution and Social Change, student category.

  • Healthy Lifestyles Organization at ASU, student clubs/organizations/teams category.

  • Multicultural Student Journalists Coalition, student clubs/organizations/teams category.

  • TRIO Devils Poly, student clubs/organizations/teams category.

  • ASU Poly Sol, employee clubs/organizations/teams category.

  • University Technology Office Giving Back Team, employee clubs/organizations/teams category.

  • University programs category: Turning Points magazine.

  • Arina Melkozernova, Committee for Campus Inclusion Chairs Award recipient.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services


ASU theater alumna tells stories of military children

Sarah Dolens-Moon wants more people to understand children of veterans and in military families

November 18, 2020

Sarah Dolens-Moon, who recently graduated from Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, completed her MFA with a project that focused on drama engagement with military families.

She examined how storytelling and applied drama methods can be utilized as tools for building community and promoting self-expression in the children of military members and veterans. As part of her research, she worked with a couple of different populations of military children in Arizona and New Mexico, exploring these storytelling and drama methods through a residency program she developed called “We Serve Too!”   Sarah Dolens-Moon works with children of military members as part of her “We Serve Too!” project. Photo by Arianna Grainey Download Full Image

One of her research sites was in Tempe at Valor on 8th, a veteran and military family housing community. Over several months, Dolens-Moon worked with youth residents as well as children she recruited from the greater Phoenix military family community to participate in a weekly drama workshop. These students explored their identity as military kids through the lens of storytelling and drama. 

A performance originally scheduled for March 2020 was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Dolens-Moon is still moving forward with her work. 

I'm in the process of refining my program to be included in a residency program module for veterans and military families with the nonprofit Warrior Songs,” she said. “This program will be offered to VA and military organizations interested in providing arts-based programming as part of their services for veterans and military families.”

As the wife of a combat veteran of the Iraq War, Dolens-Moon said the work is personal to her. 

“This experience changed him, and he developed PTSD due to his combat experience,” she said. “Our military family learned to navigate PTSD together, but it was particularly difficult for my stepson who was 4 at the time of my husband's deployment.”

Dolens-Moon said her family has worked together to heal, but that they have all been impacted by the trauma of PTSD, including her daughter who was born years after her husband's military experience. 

“The impetus for this project came from reading a bedtime story to her about helping military kids to understand PTSD. As I read that book to her, I wondered why the military children characters in the book were portrayed as sad, helpless individuals without thoughts and feelings ancillary to their military parents. I recalled other military kids stories which reflected this same narrative. I began thinking about what it would be like for them to tell their stories the way they wanted to tell them. Good and bad, but mostly from their honest perspective. Getting my MFA allowed me the time to delve into the many layers of and iterations of this project.”

Through the project, Dolens-Moon affirmed what she sensed in her initial musings on the project. 

“Military kids are dynamic and incredibly resilient due to their military family lifestyle. They are incredibly proud of their parents while understanding the tremendous sacrifice and risk in military life because they live it.” 

She also discovered just how little programming there is just for military children and in particular avenues to share their experience with other military children. 

“Something I'll never forget from one of our residency sessions was when one of the military kids said to the group, ‘It's not like we're aliens or something!’ In that moment she repeated the phrase and as she did I witnessed a collective recognition among the other military children in the room. Each of the children in that room had felt different at some point in their lives due to their military family, but in that moment they shared solidarity and also expressed that they wanted to be seen for who they really were, not some idea of who others think they should be.”

Danielle Munoz

Media and Communications Coordinator, School of Film, Dance and Theatre