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New College student reaches out locally, globally

April 12, 2010

How much of a difference can one person make? If that one person is Tessa Causland, the answer is quite a lot. And she’s just getting started.

Causland is a senior life sciences major in ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Her passion for science prompted Causland to become involved in ASU’s Science is Fun internship program, which sends students to local elementary and middle schools to conduct demonstrations. It was at a science fair that she became acquainted with representatives of the nonprofit organization Sustainable Resources, Ltd. This connection led her to Africa last summer.

The six-week trip with Sustainable Resources took Causland to Malawi, Zambia, Ghana and Tanzania. She delivered specialized devices, designed by ASU students, to assist people with disabilities caused by polio. Causland also helped research a plant whose seeds can be used in making biodiesel, and met with representatives of a Tanzanian university to discuss a potential collaboration with ASU.

“This experience has quite literally changed my life,” she said. “Not a day goes by in which I do not think about my experiences in Africa.”

When she returned to ASU’s West campus, Causland started a club named A Healthier Africa, to support organizations that are working to improve health standards in Africa.

While this effort is impressive, it barely scratches the surface of Causland’s involvement as an ASU student. She works in the lab of New College faculty member Peter Jurutka on a project investigating the role of vitamin D in heart tissue. Under the direction of faculty mentor Maureen Sander-Staudt, Causland is working on her honors thesis for Barrett, the Honors College, comparing adult and pediatric cancer care. She serves as president of Honors Devils, a group of Barrett students who assist with the college’s recruitment efforts.

Because she aspires to attend medical school, Causland applied and was selected to participate in the Premedical Scholars Program through Barrett. This collaborative initiative with the Mayo Clinic pairs each student with a physician mentor and provides experiences including the chance to shadow physicians in several specialties and participate in hands-on laboratory experiences.

“I am amazed by the sheer amount of opportunities that I have been presented with as an ASU student,” said Causland, a graduate of Cactus High School in Glendale, Ariz. “Through ASU programs, I have been able to really cultivate and strengthen my leadership, critical thinking, and communication skills, and I know these tools will be invaluable in the work force. Any interest that I have, I’ve been able to nourish at ASU.”

If all of her on-campus activities weren’t enough to keep her busy, she also is a volunteer crisis responder for the police and fire departments in Tempe, Ariz.

Causland will graduate from ASU in May 2010 and hopes to enter medical school in 2011. But she won’t be taking it easy in the meantime. Her goals for the upcoming year include returning to Africa with Sustainable Resources and landing an internship in Washington, D.C., that enables her to be involved with nonprofit aid organizations and foreign aid policy.

Wherever her travels take her, Causland will look back at her time at ASU with the satisfaction that comes from making the most of the opportunities that came her way.

“I knew that ASU would give me the opportunity to succeed,” she said. “All I had to do was say 'yes.'”