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Class of 2009: New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

woman working with spider in lab
May 02, 2014

ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences alumni are trailblazing new areas of study through their careers in such fields as neurology, urban ecology, communication and politics.

Chris Whiting, bachelor’s degree in life science and neurology resident at Geisinger Medical Center in Pennsylvania, remembers President Obama saying (at the 2009 ASU commencement ceremony) “not to rest on our laurels,” and that “we must continue to learn and to improve if we want to succeed.” After graduating with his bachelor’s degree from New College, Whiting attended medical school at Kansas City University, and has since started a neurology residency.

Whiting said, “In the field of medicine, there is no time to be stagnant. There is always something new and different to learn. Each procedure or experience is an opportunity to learn and grow. I believe we become stronger by trying and learning new things. So each and every day is perhaps a new opportunity.” Whiting hopes to change the world of medicine with his work in neurology by helping patients with disorders of the nervous system, such as stroke, dementia, headaches, seizures and multiple muscle problems.

Patricia Trubl, bachelor’s degree in life science and instructional specialist at New College, remembers President Obama saying, “Your body of work is yet to come,” and there is “always more to do, always more to learn and always more to achieve.” In the last five years, Trubl has completed her master’s degree with a focus in urban ecology, had her undergraduate research and one chapter in her master’s thesis published, and found a passion for teaching: “I love being challenged. I request that I teach something new every semester.”

President Obama challenged graduates in his speech to “take risks and new opportunities,” and Trubl has done just that. She has recently accepted a position with the University of Houston – Clear Lake (UHCL) , where she will help the institution transition into a four-year university. Trubl will develop all of the teaching biology labs at UHCL and continue her education as a doctoral candidate. She hopes to “serve as an inspiration for [her] students, the same as ASU New College faculty have done [for her].”

The Communication Assessment and Learning Lab (CALL) at ASU’s West campus had existed for 10 years before Bonnie Wentzel, master’s communication studies and New College lecturer, stepped in and converted the lab into “a gem of the West campus.” She has spent countless hours transforming the lab into “a place where students (both mentors and those they serve) can move toward their potential and passion in communication.” Wentzel stated, “President Obama’s speech really confirmed what I hoped to be true. That a college degree brings with it an obligation and responsibility to invest that knowledge and experience in others. My degree doesn't add to the conversation – it can multiply conversations.”

In her short time as the director of CALL, Wentzel has already left an impression on students and was honored with the 2013-2014 Centennial Professorship Award from the Associate Students of ASU for her dedication and excellence in classroom instruction. Wentzel’s hard work and commitment to CALL helped earn its place on the national stage. CALL is now a nationally certified communication lab, the only one of its kind west of the Mississippi, and was the location for the 2014 National Association for Communication Center’s Conference.

During the 2009 commencement ceremony, Brandon Chase Goldsmith, master’s communication studies and doctoral candidate at the University of Memphis, watched as his colleagues received their doctorates and shook President Obama’s hand. He said, reflecting back on the day, “It was great getting to see the president recognize education. Now it is up to our generation to take it to the next level.”

Goldsmith was one of the handful of students whose thoughts from President Obama’s speech were published in the Arizona Republic in the weeks following commencement.

Goldsmith said, “Half a mile outside the stadium, a growing energy builds as streams of family, friends and graduates pour down the streets of Tempe. Inside, the heightened anticipation reaches a fervor as Obama steps onto the stage to a roar of excitement. Amid the celebration, the president brings a tone of seriousness for this moment in American history and the unique challenges facing the class of 2009. Our success, he says, rests in the success of others. He leaves us with a renewed sense of responsibility that expands beyond personal accomplishments and ambitions as America is once again challenged to become ‘We the People.’”

Goldsmith has acted on the “responsibility that expands beyond personal accomplishment,” that President Obama spoke about. This spring, Goldsmith drove over 8,000 miles gathering data for his research. He has been in pursuit of his doctorate researching civic engagement and citizenship and three models that universities use to engage with their local community: deliberation, volunteerism and advocacy. He still keeps the commemorative commencement button given to graduates in his car as a source of inspiration.

Drawing upon his civic engagement research experience and passion for politics, Goldsmith served as a political consultant for a mayoral candidate in Memphis, and has been published in nearly 20 opinion articles in local newspapers. Goldsmith plans to continue working in the political realm once he has completed his doctorate, as well as create and present civic engagement workshops around the country for school-aged children about being a good citizen, putting ideas into writing, engaging with the public and turning those ideas into action.

President Obama urged the class of 2009 to make their mark on the world, and New College alumni have risen to the challenge. These four stories represent the larger number of alumni who are building a stronger foundation for our nation, following their passion in new and emerging fields of study, and breaking through the shifting economy. Despite having achieved remarkable milestones in their careers only five short years after graduation, New College alumni are continuing to build their body of work and are paving the way for a better tomorrow.