Adventurous ASU senior wins top scholarship

November 29, 2007

Her passion to help the most vulnerable in society, along with a sharp intellect and an amazing breadth of life experiences, have led ASU senior Megan McGinnity to win a 2007 Marshall Scholarship. The scholarship is among the most prestigious awards for graduate study in the world.

At 22, McGinnity has traveled around the world more than once, studied child slavery in Africa and Egypt, learned Arabic, volunteered in a Romanian orphanage and created a model U.N. program, for starters. Download Full Image

She is one of about 40 college seniors nationwide chosen to receive the award, which provides full funding for two years of graduate study in the United Kingdom, worth more than $60,000. McGinnity is the latest in a string of 13 ASU students who have won Marshalls in the last 15 years.

McGinnity, who also was a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, decided not to pursue a Rhodes because the Marshall program fits better with her passion: ending human trafficking. She wants to study Middle East politics at the University of London, and intelligence and international security at Kings College London.

Her interest in the international crime began several years ago, when she received a grant to study in Romania and began volunteering in an orphanage while there. After hearing about the horrors of people being sold into slavery and prostitution, she decided to begin studying the economics of such transactions around the globe. In 2006, she traveled to Africa and last summer to Egypt.

“My journey into this shocking field began in a Romanian orphanage, but I found that trafficking in persons is a transnational crime that touches every country in the world,” says McGinnity, who is majoring in political science and economics. “The U.S. Department of State estimates that, each year, 800,000 people are sold or forced to work against their will.

“Like narcotics and arms smuggling, it is part of a larger security framework in the system of international relations, driven by market incentives and profit. I want to be part of uncovering them through financial intelligence and analysis. Ending trafficking will be a lifelong endeavor for me.”

McGinnity is a 2003 graduate from Mesa’s Mountain View High School, and also a Truman Scholar. She speaks regularly to community groups about human trafficking. Her global vision was formed by talking with parents who sold their own children in Ghana, sipping tea with a Bedouin sheik and his wives, sharing a meal of pig fat with workers in Phnom Penh and accepting lavish hospitality from battle-weary Rwandans. There seems no end to her adventuresome spirit.

But one more adventure awaits. Shortly after her upcoming graduation in May – and before she leaves for graduate school in England – McGinnity is getting married, having gotten engaged recently to a young American doctoral student she met in Egypt, in the Arabic language program.

ASU teacher earns 2007 Arizona Professor of Year

November 29, 2007

John Lynch, an honors faculty fellow in Barrett, the Honors College at ASU, has won the 2007 Arizona Professor of the Year. The honor comes from the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education.

The title is a rare honor for a 39-year-old lecturer. The prestigious award, which is part of the only national program to recognize excellence in undergraduate teaching and mentoring, generally is given to tenured professors. Download Full Image

Lynch received the award Nov. 15 in Washington, D.C., after being selected from more than 300 top professors in the United States.

He is known for demanding high standards from his students, yet he receives enthusiastic teaching evaluations. Lynch is said to be a dedicated and patient thesis director, mentoring and directing numerous undergraduate honors theses over the past seven years. He also shapes the national teaching of science issues in his work with the National Center for Science Education and other nationwide groups.

“John Lynch is an extraordinary educator whose exemplary dedication to students and scholarly approach to teaching has a wide-ranging impact on undergraduate education at ASU, the community and the nation,” says Mark Jacobs, Barrett’s dean, who nominated Lynch.

Lynch, a native of Ireland, was intent on doing research when he joined ASU in 1994 after getting his doctorate in biology from University College Dublin. He discovered a love of teaching once he was asked to teach a combined science and humanities course.

Reaching across disciplines to open young minds was thrilling, he says.

“I found I really liked it when I could get non-science majors interested in science, and get science majors to think about the history and philosophy and social impact of science,” Lynch says. “There were a lot of ‘Aha!’ moments. When the opportunity came to teach at the Honors College in the fall of 2000, I took it.”

Lynch teaches the core honors humanities course, “The Human Event,” each semester to small groups of freshmen. But he also continues teaching 300-level lecture courses in history and philosophy of biology to large classes while maintaining an active agenda of scholarship.

As an evolutionary biologist and specialist in geometric morphometrics, Lynch regularly publishes peer-reviewed scientific papers in leading journals. His science blog, “Stranger Fruit,” was listed by the journal Nature as the 18th-most-popular science blog worldwide written by a credentialed scientist. He also co-created an evolutionary biology blog, “Panda’s Thumb,” to spur a national discourse on K-12 education standards.

As for his impact on ASU undergraduates, the comments on student evaluations are telling. They include:

• “He is the most motivating teacher I ever had. … He made me want to learn.”

• “Awesome class – makes this political science major not hate biology anymore.”

• “He loves what he teaches – you can feel and see it in his lectures.”

Other students attribute Lynch for their acceptance into graduate school or for winning national scholarships, through his guidance and mentoring. Lynch also shares his teaching methods with other faculty members, mentoring new faculty fellows and teaching university-level workshops.

“John Lynch is always teaching, always learning and always promoting discovery in the community in which he lives,” says Jane Maienschein, Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences. “He does a terrific job of exciting students about learning, and there is a good reason his courses are always full.

“But more than that, his impact extends well beyond ASU. He has played important roles in helping to shape the state of Arizona science standards with respect to evolution, and he plays a leadership role in the education committees of several international societies. He takes seriously the importance of engagement with the community, at all levels.”

Lynch says he was “stunned” to receive the award, and he credits the support he has received over the years from Jacobs and from Peggy Nelson, associate dean. He is one of 40 state winners throughout the nation.

CASE and the Carnegie Foundation have been partners in awarding Professors of the Year since 1981. CASE is the largest international association of education institutions, serving more than 3,300 schools in 55 countries. The foundation is the only advanced-study center for teachers in the world.