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College prepares liberal arts grads for changing world

December 17, 2010

Convocation ceremonies set for Dec. 17 

An estimated 1,480 Arizona State University students are set to graduate this week with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Awarded are 1,272 bachelor's degrees, 123 master's degrees and 85 doctoral or terminal degrees. 

Among the graduates is Shantel Meek, named a Channel 12 Hero Central for her community work with autism. She is the first member of her family to receive an advanced degree – a master’s in family and human development. 

In preparing students for a changing world, the college is redefining liberal arts education. Many of the students who graduate this week earn degrees from transdisciplinary schools that are unique in the world, including the School of Social Transformation; the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, the School of Transborder Studies, the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, and the School of Earth and Space Exploration. 

"We literally are educating students for jobs not yet conceived, using technologies not yet invented, to solve problems not yet recognized. No preparation could be more appropriate than the liberal arts," says Quentin Wheeler, ASU vice president and dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

The numbers 

Top undergraduate majors in the college this semester – by the numbers – are psychology (165), communication (154), biological sciences (137), political sciences (106) and English (96). 

Among the largest number of degrees awarded at the graduate level were marriage and family therapy, liberal studies, English and psychology. At the doctoral level, they were: psychology, physics, biology and anthropology. 

Nearly a quarter of the students at ASU pursue degrees through the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, often viewed as the intellectual heart of the university. It is the largest and most diverse college at ASU, encompassing the humanities, natural sciences, life sciences and social sciences. 

Convocation ceremonies 

Because of it size, the college will hold two convocation ceremonies on Dec. 17 – one at 8 a.m. (Maroon Ceremony) and the other at noon. (Gold Ceremony) – in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU's Tempe campus. More information at

Featured speaker 

The convocation featured speaker is Jewell Parker Rhodes, an acclaimed author and the Piper Endowed Chair and artistic director for global engagement at ASU's Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. This distinguished professor in the department of English counts among her literary honors the Pen Oakland Award for Outstanding Writing, American Book Award, National Endowment of the Arts Award, Black Caucus of the American Library Award for Literary Excellence, and two Arizona Book Awards. Her work has been published in Germany, Italy, Canada, Turkey, Korea and the U.K. 

Rhodes is the author of five novels: "Voodoo Dreams," "Magic City," "Douglass’ Women," "Voodoo Season," "Yellow Moon;” a memoir, "Porch Stories: A Grandmother’s Guide to Happiness;" and a children’s book, “Ninth Ward.” She has written two writing texts: "Free Within Ourselves: Fiction Lessons for Black Authors" and "The African American Guide to Writing and Publishing Non-Fiction." Her fiction appears in several anthologies, most recently in "Best African American Fiction 2010," edited by Nikki Giovanni. 

She received a Bachelor of Arts in drama criticism (Honors) a Master of Arts in English, and a Doctor of Arts in English (Creative Writing) from Carnegie Mellon University. 

Also participating in the convocation ceremonies are other members of the college administration, including: Sid Bacon, dean of natural sciences; Linda Lederman, dean of social sciences; Neal Lester, dean of humanities; Robert Page, dean of life sciences; Paul LePore, associate dean; Cheryl Conrad, associate dean; Gerry Corey, senior assistant dean; Barbara Colby, assistant dean; and Teresa Bales, assistant dean. 

The master of ceremonies is Michael Dorman, a professor in the department of speech and hearing science. Reading the names of the graduates as they walk across the stage to be recognized will be faculty members Peter Lafford, Barbara Lafford, Helene Ossipov and Mark James. The soloist is Abigail Kimball, a second year doctoral student in the School of Music in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; sign language interpreter is Victor Brown.

The national colors were posted by cadets from the Army ROTC unit in the college. Presenting the colors were: John Pedraza, a junior majoring in political science; Miles Guggemos, a freshman majoring in political science; Nicholas Keels, a freshman majoring in political science; and Michael Winters, a freshman majoring in civil engineering.

Carol Hughes,
College of Liberal Arts and Sciences