Skip to main content

College prepares liberal arts graduates for a changing world

December 17, 2009

Convocation ceremonies set for Dec. 18

An estimated 1,458 Arizona State University students graduated with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dec. 17. They earned 1,290 bachelor's degrees, 98 master's degrees and 70 doctoral or terminal degrees.

Among the graduates were Mackenzie Cotlow, who received the first bachelor's degree in global health, and William "Rex" Weeks, who became the first Native American to receive a doctoral degree with a specialization in archaeology from ASU's competitive anthropology program.

In preparing students for a changing world, the college is redefining liberal arts education. Many of the students who graduated Thursday earned degrees from new transdisciplinary schools that are unique in the world, including the School of Social Transformation; the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies; the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences; and the School of Politics and Global Studies.

"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 - by the numbers - are communication (157), psychology (149), political science (121), biological sciences (105) and English (98).

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

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 and social sciences.

Convocation ceremonies

Because of it size, the college will hold two convocation ceremonies on Dec. 18 - one at 8 a.m. (Maroon Ceremony) and the other at 11:30 a.m. (Gold Ceremony) - in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU's Tempe campus. More information at

The convocation student speaker for the first ceremony is Daniel Curzon, who graduated with a degree in English Literature and a minor in history. In addition to his rigorous studies with the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and Barrett, The Honors College, Curzon is an accomplished competitive pairs figure skater. He has competed at the U.S. Figure Skating National Championships each of the past six years and earned the bronze medal in Junior Pairs at the 2008 National Championships. As a member of Team USA Figure Skating, he has competed around the world, and placed in the top 10 at the 2008 World Junior Championships in Sofia, Bulgaria.

A native of Phoenix, Curzon has appreciated the opportunity to receive a top education at ASU while pursuing a skating career without having to sacrifice either of his dreams. Following graduation, he plans to pursue a skating career and then attend law school.

The convocation student speaker for the second ceremony is Brittany Collins, who received her degree as a first-generation college graduate in Women and Gender Studies with a certificate in Arabic Studies. A native of Las Vegas, she exemplifies the spirit of ASU and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with her commitment to community service and desire to have an impact on the lives and experiences of others around her.

Collins participated as a panelist during this year's Women of the World Lecture Series hosted by the college's School of Social Transformation. This past summer, she was awarded the Critical Language Scholarship by the United States Department of State and spent the summer studying Arabic in Amman, Jordan. Before leaving for Jordan, she participated in an internship with The Allen Girls Ministries an organization that specializes in helping women in the Las Vegas adult entertainment industry transition into different occupations. She has been part of the ASU Women's Rugby Football Club and was vice president of the Arabic Language and Literature Club. Collins is awaiting a decision from the U.S. Fulbright Committee. If selected, she will participate in an English teaching assistantship in Jordan. Or, she will be working with a non-profit organization in Las Vegas with plans to attend law school.

Featured speaker

The convocation featured speaker is a distinguished ASU professor and acclaimed author. Alberto Ríos is a Regents' Professor in the department of English, where he has taught for more than 27 years and where he holds the further distinction of the Katharine C. Turner Endowed Chair in English.

Professor Ríos was born in Nogales, Ariz., and his memoir about growing up on the Mexico-Arizona border - "Capirotada" - won the Latino Literary Hall of Fame Award and was designated as the One Book Arizona choice for 2009.

In addition to the memoir, Professor Ríos has written 10 books and chapbooks of poetry, and three collections of short stories. His books of poems include, most recently, "The Dangerous Shirt," preceded by "The Theater of Night," winner of the 2007 PEN/Beyond Margins Award, along with "The Smallest Muscle in the Human Body," a finalist for the National Book Award.

Ríos' writing has been published in the "Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry," as well as more than 250 other national and international literary anthologies. He is the recipient of several honors, including the Western Literature Association Distinguished Achievement Award, the Arizona Governor's Arts Award, fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Walt Whitman Award, the Western States Book Award for Fiction, and six Pushcart Prizes in both poetry and fiction. His work is regularly taught and translated, and has been adapted to dance and both classical and popular music.

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; Deborah Losse, dean of humanities; Paul LePore, 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 Philip VanderMeer. The soloist is Sarah Smith, a graduate student of music; sign language interpreters are Helen Young and Amber Simons.