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ASU's New College helps students make connections

Adrian Escobedo & Lisa Tsosie
March 25, 2014

Adrian Escobedo spent part of his childhood in Texas; Lisa Tsosie lived in Oregon as a teenager. They both found their way to a college and a campus of Arizona State University that create an ideal atmosphere for students to connect with professors, their fellow students and their passions.

The college is ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, the core college on the university’s West campus in northwest Phoenix. Escobedo is a New College freshman majoring in psychology with a minor in communication. Tsosie is a senior planning to graduate in December with a degree in applied computing and a writing certificate. New College enables both students to pursue their wide-ranging academic interests while experiencing personal growth through activities outside the classroom.

“What I like the most about being a student here is the interaction with peers of different backgrounds, the extracurricular activities West provides, and the professors,” said Escobedo, who played soccer in high school and who aspires to a career as a clinical sports psychologist.

Escobedo serves as a New College volunteer and a Young Life volunteer leader at the West campus. “Being a New College volunteer has got me connected with mostly everyone in New College and in some parts of other colleges on campus as well,” he said. “I'm learning that it is truly valuable to have connections with various people, because they can help you in situations that you don't have control over, when they do. Being a Young Life volunteer leader has helped me make even more connections with other people and build relationships with them.”

Tsosie, meanwhile, has worked since she was a sophomore on computing-related projects with Yasin Silva, a New College assistant professor who earned his PhD in computer science from Purdue University.

“Yasin is a wonderful – and typical – example of New College faculty members,” said Marlene Tromp, the college’s dean. “Most small colleges simply don’t have the exceptional faculty records that we have at New College. We bring together the best of a small-college experience, with its close personal relationships, and a top-tier research university, with its cutting-edge research faculty. And our professors share a genuine interest in working closely with students, helping them develop the critical thinking skills that are so important for career success.”

One of Tsosie’s projects with Silva is an effort to develop “BullyBlocker,” an application that aims to prevent cases of adolescents being cyberbullied on Facebook by extracting information from a youngster’s Facebook data and alerting parents to potential issues.

Silva encouraged Tsosie to apply for a Google Women of Color Scholarship to attend the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration (GHC) of Women in Computing, last October in Minneapolis. Tsosie was selected for a scholarship from hundreds of applicants. At the conference she made a poster presentation about the BullyBlocker project.

Attending the conference was an eye-opening experience. “I never knew that there was so many women seeking, pursuing, and succeeding in technical fields,” Tsosie said. “Meeting powerful, intelligent and competent women really reminded me that just because I may be inexperienced, it doesn't mean I'll always be any less qualified.”

One of New College’s advantages for both faculty and students is its wide variety of lab facilities – and not just science and computing labs. There is the sound and video lab, computer gaming lab, law and cognition lab, and CALL (Communication Assessment and Learning Lab), along with scientific facilities like the black widow spider lab and state-of-the-art mass spectrometer, among others.

These resources enable students to work with faculty on cutting-edge research, often receiving financial support from New College. The NCUIRE (New College Undergraduate Inquiry and Research Experiences) program pays stipends to students who successfully submit proposals to conduct research with faculty guidance.

Tsosie attests to the approachability of New College professors. “I like how the classes, even the ones that are relatively large for the West campus, are still small enough for me to feel comfortable asking questions, or approaching the professor for clarification after the class,” she said. “I think my success as a student is due in part to the fact that professors take time to know their students as individuals.”

Along with small class sizes, the West campus boasts a range of modern amenities including a new fitness center, dorm and dining facility. Fletcher Library, which opened in 1988, is the original building on campus. It combines the service and values of a traditional library with a state-of-the-art approach to the Information Age (and also features a Starbucks just inside its entrance).

Students at the West campus can make use of a shuttle service to travel to other ASU campuses in metro Phoenix. Buses carry students to home football games at Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Fans of lacrosse can watch the Sun Devil men’s lacrosse team play its home games on the West campus.

And for students from 14 Western states, the Western Undergraduate Exchange (WUE) provides an opportunity to pursue most New College bachelor’s degrees and pay significantly less than the full price of nonresident tuition.

At the end of the day, it’s the simple things that make New College and the West campus a special place for students. “Most of all, I like the community of the campus,” Tsosie said. “I can walk to Starbucks and see several familiar faces.”

A listing of New College’s degree programs may be found at