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Degrees from ASU's New College lead to some of this year's 'best jobs'

ASU New College graduates walking to commencement
October 16, 2014

“Another day, another reason to get better at math.”

So begins a recent Wall Street Journal article reporting on a ranking of most desirable careers – based on environment, income, growth potential and stress level.

Compiled by, a job search website, the ranking lists mathematician, statistician and actuary as three of the four “best jobs of 2014.” Also in the top 10 are software engineer and computer systems analyst.

“Not many people can say that they jump out of bed to begin their workday, but I can,” said Jessica Grado, a recent graduate of Arizona State University's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, who is putting her applied mathematics degree to work as an actuarial analyst at a Scottsdale actuarial consulting firm called Optumas.

“Two years ago, I had no knowledge of what actuarial science was, nor the fulfilling, lucrative career path it offered,” Grado said. “It wasn’t until my first year in New College when a professor took personal interest in my career development and introduced me to the actuary profession. It was the smallest gesture and yet the most impactful influence on my personal career path.”

Applied mathematics is just one pathway to a desirable career path among many offered by New College, the university's core college on ASU's West campus. Other bachelor of science degree offerings include applied computing and statistics.

“Our faculty members conduct research at the cutting edges of their fields,” said Roger Berger, director of New College’s School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences. “Undergraduate students have the opportunity to gain valuable experience by participating in this research. Our main goal, both in and out of the classroom, is to teach students how to continue to learn.”

Like Grado, Buffy Lloyd benefited from working under the mentorship of the school's professors. Lloyd, who returned to college as a single mother of five children, considered various career paths in the medical field before honing in on applied mathematics as her major. After completing her bachelor's degree in 2012, she is now pursuing ASU’s doctorate in biomedical informatics and a graduate-level statistics certificate.

And like Grado, Lloyd was influenced by the caring attitude of the school's professors. She first met with Erika Camacho.

“For two hours, this passionate woman not only encouraged me to become an applied mathematics major, but gave me an abundance of resources in books and online materials that would provide additional support,” Lloyd said. “Following our meeting, she introduced me to Dr. Omayra Ortega.”

Camacho and Ortega encouraged Lloyd to attend and make presentations at national conferences, participate in national workshops and apply for scholarships.

Ortega invited Lloyd to participate in the Mathematical Epidemiology Research Group. “I was so grateful for this opportunity,” Lloyd said. “I was only beginning my applied mathematics program and did not feel that I had the skills to contribute. Dr. Ortega was patient with me and spent an extraordinary amount of time teaching me the skills necessary to conduct research within her group.”

The support of Camacho and Ortega was typical of Lloyd’s New College experience.

“Each professor provided me with ample office time to be completely successful in my academic studies,” she said. “They all encouraged me to apply to graduate school and provided me with the tools and skills necessary to be successful as a graduate student. I absolutely would not be where I am today had it not been for the applied mathematics dynamic team of support. This team is invested in all of its students and truly wants them to be successful.”

Applied computing major Lisa Tsosie has gained valuable experience through her work with faculty member Yasin Silva. Tsosie is part of a team working to develop an application called BullyBlocker, which aims to prevent the cyberbullying of adolescents on Facebook by extracting information from an adolescent’s Facebook data and alerting parents to potential issues.

With encouragement from Silva, Tsosie earned a Google Women of Color Scholarship to attend the 2013 Grace Hopper Celebration of Women in Computing, last fall in Minneapolis. She was selected to receive one of the highly competitive awards from more than 900 applicants, and she made a poster presentation about BullyBlocker during the conference.

“As a BullyBlocker participant, I am gaining the kind of networking experience that will benefit me as I pursue the professional world of computer science,” Tsosie said. “Learning the kind of language that’s used to persuade, inform and request support is important if I want to establish a solid, reliable network within my field of interest.”

Tsosie is preparing to land one of those “Best Jobs,” as identified by, after graduation. She can be encouraged by the experience of Grado, who credits New College in helping her land her actuarial job with Optumas.

“ASU and New College played a significant role in the acquisition of my current position,” Grado said. “ASU not only equipped me with the necessary education needed to fulfill the job requirements, but also provided me with a networking platform that I could leverage in attaining this position.”