Three-time ASU grad reflects on mentors, motivations

December 9, 2020

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

Born and raised in the Philippines, Errold Elad is the first in his family to have earned a college degree in the United States. And his bachelor’s degree from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this fall won’t mark his first degree from Arizona State University, it’ll be his third. Errold Elad Errold Elad graduates this fall with his bachelor's degree in family and human development. Download Full Image

Elad and his family immigrated to California 12 years ago and once he turned 18, Elad embarked on his nearly decade-long journey in higher education. His first stop was vocational school where he became a medical assistant, next came community college where he earned his associate degree and then, after researching top programs for anthropology, he arrived at ASU.

“I was able to work with renowned professors, people who are experts in their fields. That is what attracted me to ASU and the reason I keep coming back,” Elad said. “I feel at home at ASU, I feel they offer so much information and so many learning opportunities. Professors mentor you, they push you to pursue your goals, they make sure you have a better future.”

In 2015 Elad earned his bachelor’s degree in anthropology, in 2019 he earned his master’s degree in applied ethics and professions and now in 2020, he’s earning another bachelor’s degree, this time in family and human development.

“For me to better help people, understanding the cultural, social and economic factors will be helpful. I decided to major in anthropology and then family and human development because when it comes to health, it starts at home,” he said.

Elad’s not ready to leave academia quite yet – in his pursuit of a career in healthcare, he is continuing on at ASU to earn his doctorate in behavioral health. He said he’s driven by the desire to help people.

“Back in the Philippines, we don't have a lot of medical professionals focused on behavioral health. I think that's the reason why there are less people getting diagnosed with depression and anxiety and stuff like that,” he said. “Hopefully in the future, I’ll be able to go back to the Philippines and help train people how to effectively help their patients.”

Elad shared more about his academic journeys at ASU.

Q: What did it mean to you to be the first in your family to earn a college degree in the US?

A: At first I really doubted myself because no one in my family had attended college here in the U.S. We didn’t know anything basically, so I just pushed myself and said, “I really want to graduate. I really want to get my bachelor's degree.” Being the first one in my family to receive a degree here in the U.S., it's not only helping me, but also helping my family here and in the Philippines because it’s basically lifting us up from poverty. Education is like a window or a door for us to work in a higher paying job and not just stay at minimum wage.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? How did you overcome them?

A: One obstacle was me not being a native English speaker. It's really hard for me; it's difficult because when it comes to things like studying, I doubled the expected time spent on reading and homework, sometimes it tripled because I had to read and relearn and understand all the materials to be able to follow the instructions and pass my courses. To overcome this, I maximized the use of ASU’s resources, like the tutoring and writing centers. I also got involved on campus to communicate with fellow students, my professors and coworkers.

Q: Were there any clubs/organizations or opportunities that positively impacted your ASU experience?

A: The first time I came here to ASU, I joined the anthropology club and was also a part of the Residence Hall Association. I also joined the Asian/Asian Pacific American club. I enjoyed the experiences because I was able to socialize with my fellow students and learn so much. Joining those organizations gave me confidence and the ability to network and get introduced to new information and opportunities, like learning about grad school.

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

A: Dr. Shauna BurnSilver and Dr. Monica Gaughan both mentored me and helped me be more confident when it came to research and getting involved. I was a student researcher for them and they introduced me to a lot of techniques when it comes to research. They provided information about things like applying for a physician assistant or medical school. They gave me access to information that I didn't know I was able to access. As professors, they believed in me and were very patient even though English is not my first language. Dr. BurnSilver pushed me to do a symposium about Native kinship in Alaska and she said, “You need to do this. I think you’re ready to participate.” She pushed me because she knew that I could do it. She just believed in me, and that really feels good that someone is believing in you.

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

A: There's a lot of resources at ASU that you can utilize. Do not be afraid to ask for help because ASU is there to help you be successful in life.

Q: Next, you’re pursuing your doctoral degree. What are your plans or goals after your next graduation?

A: I plan to work for a year then return to school to become a physician assistant. I think the combination of my background and specifically the DBH and PA programs will complement each other because I’ll have an understanding of human behavior, background and the medical aspect.

Q: Is there anything else you’d want to share with students or people considering pursuing higher education?

A: I just want to share that education is very important. It will open a lot of doors for you and if you have the ability to go to school, don't waste it, just go for it.


Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


ASU Graduate College announces Mexico-US binational award to research sustainable agriculture in Sonora, Arizona

December 9, 2020

A new collaborative effort between Arizona State University and the Instituto Tecnológico de Sonora (ITSON) will allow graduate students to participate in a hands-on, cross-cultural program focused on sustainable agriculture in the desert landscapes of North America.

The U.S.-Mexico Training in Environment, Agriculture and Management (TEAM) program aims to teach graduate students about the agricultural practices, environmental assessments and sustainable management tools used by different agricultural regions in a similar climate.  Farmer drives tractor in Sonora, Mexico A farmer drives a tractor in Sonora, Mexico. Download Full Image

Specifically, students will examine the agricultural landscapes of the Maricopa and Pinal counties in central Arizona and the Yaqui Valley in southern Sonora, Mexico and conduct a comparative study to assess the capabilities of sustainable farming in each region.

TEAM is the result of a 100,000 Strong in the Americas Innovation Award, the U.S. Department of State’s signature hemispheric-wide initiative to champion the power of education to transform societies, provide opportunity and stimulate economic prosperity. The objective of the grant is to improve student competencies and provide real-world training for the future workforce in sustainable agriculture. 

Interdisciplinary focus on sustainability

TEAM will be composed of students and faculty from a variety of sectors relating to agricultural sustainability, such as food, energy and water. 

Enrico Yepez, a faculty member in the Department of Water and Environmental Sciences at ITSON, will be using his background in ecohydrology to lead students in one of TEAM’s pilot programs.

“In order to study any ecological systems, you first have to understand water systems,” Yepez said. “The Yaqui Valley has the largest river system in the Mexican state of Sonora and is the ‘breadbasket’ of Mexico. Because of the resource challenges facing the area (water, socio-economic, agricultural, etc.), it’s a very important site for ecohydrology research.” 

Yepez is one of four faculty members from ASU and ITSON helping to develop and lead TEAM’s one-year pilot program. It will consist of two field visits (1.5-week duration each) to central Arizona and southern Sonora, and a three-semester virtual class (38-week duration, three academic credits from each institution) spanning the period between the field visits.

Enrique Vivoni, associate dean of graduate initiatives in the Graduate College and ASU’s principal investigator for the program, believes that this interdisciplinary field experience will be most beneficial to the graduate students who take part in TEAM.

“Graduate students from ASU and ITSON will be in a unique position to interact through formal coursework facilitated through technology as well as hands-on, practical field experience garnered through visits to agricultural systems of different types in Arizona and Sonora,” he said. 

Cross-cultural cooperation

TEAM will also provide students the opportunity to directly interact with a diverse set of agricultural producers and stakeholders.  

“By innovating in international education, the U.S.-Mexico TEAM effort will provide faculty, students and community partners with opportunities to view the sustainability of agricultural systems from multiple perspectives,” Vivoni said. “It is through these intercultural exchanges on STEM topics that advances are made.” 

Given the similarity between the regions involved in the TEAM program, Vivoni said he was surprised that binational U.S.-Mexico efforts do not already exist for sharing best practices on agricultural sustainability. 

He hopes this program will address this gap by “establishing a faculty-led student exchange between ASU and ITSON designed for interdisciplinary and cross-cultural training of graduate students through international mobility.”

Maria Menchu Maldonado, a PhD student studying civil and environmental engineering, is enrolled in the TEAM pilot program. She says she is most excited for the international collaboration aspect of the program. 

“The name of the program is significant: TEAM, like teamwork. We can achieve huge things by working as a team,” she said. “There are a lot of people and cultures represented who will be able to exchange a lot of knowledge.”

Comparative exchange

Maldonado said she is also excited for the comparative aspect of the program. 

“In the end we will compare how things work in the U.S. and Mexico,” she said.  “It is the same environment in both places, but things are done in a different way. So, we will know which things work better and why, and that is really exciting.” 

The program is designed to help address issues in social equity and corporate responsibility as they relate to the socio-economic activities within and supported by the local agricultural sectors in which the program will take place. 

As such, the program aims to understand the ways agricultural practices and policies affect local communities and to help serve those communities. 

“As public research universities located along the U.S.-Mexico border, ASU and ITSON both take responsibility for the economic and social well-being of the communities they serve,” Vivoni said. “The U.S.-Mexico TEAM program will bring a research-based learning environment into action for the participants and communities involved.”

For Yepez, the highlight of the program will be comparing management in each city, county and state.

“The cultural exchange is important for the TEAM initiative, but the exposure to real-life socio-environmental issues will be of high value,” he said. 

Maldonado first joined her PhD program in order to learn how to better serve her community in her home country of Guatemala. This is also part of the reason she applied for TEAM.  

“This program will increase the opportunities for both universities to serve and share knowledge,” she said. “Hopefully, I can replicate what I learn in my own country.” 

Written by Emily Carman

Tracy Viselli

Director of Communications and Marketing, Graduate College