Student forms ASU alumni club for nonprofit professionals

December 3, 2013

Colleen Dunbar believes in helping people make connections. A student in the master of arts in communication studies (MACS) program offered by ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, Dunbar used her applied project as an opportunity to create a new club within the ASU Alumni Association for graduates working in the nonprofit sector who are interested in networking and philanthropic activities.

The ASU Nonprofit Professionals Alumni Club brings together Sun Devils from all degree programs and academic disciplines who have an interest in the nonprofit sector. The organization aims to strengthen the nonprofit sector on behalf of ASU and all Sun Devils by discussing collaborative opportunities, exchanging information about new resources and programs, advising one another on issues and challenges, and working hands-on with community issues. Nonprofit Professionals Alumni Club members Download Full Image

“It has been a really great learning experience starting this club, managing the board and being in charge of all the internal and external communications,” said Dunbar, whose goal is to pursue a career path in public relations in the nonprofit sector.

In the spring semester, she conducted background research on alumni groups, membership retention, communication campaigns and the nonprofit sector, while also completing primary research to determine the level of interest in this club with current alumni.

“I received a very positive response to both my research of potential members, as well as my proposal for the focus of the club,” Dunbar said.

She successfully completed the application process with the Alumni Association’s Board of Directors, and in May, the club was officially established. It held its first official event in September.

Activities include monthly events that vary from networking mixers to community service projects. “We volunteered as a group for the Y Race in October,” Dunbar said. “We also elected our club’s board of directors in June. I was voted to be president, and another MACS alum, Melissa Lopez, was elected vice president.”

“During her MACS program studies, Colleen has demonstrated a strong interest in organizations that represent the interests of professionals,” said Vince Waldron, a communication professor in New College’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences on ASU’s West campus, who served as Dunbar’s faculty advisor for her project. “Her part-time position with the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy & Nonprofit Innovation convinced her that nonprofit professionals needed a way to connect and have their voices heard.”

Waldron said Dunbar’s work with the Alumni Association became a classic win-win situation. “ASU benefits because many of the members of this new club are Sun Devils who graduated in recent years,” he said. “They play a vibrant role in the community and can bring energy and wisdom to ASU and our students. Colleen benefited from the Alumni Association’s experience in creating and sustaining organizations.”

Waldron noted that Dunbar’s project allowed her to apply many of the competencies she developed in the MACS program, including survey design and analysis, optimization of social media, relationship management and the creation of persuasive presentations. “A particular focus of Colleen’s project was the role of social media in growing and sustaining a group that bridges university and professional communities,” he said.

Dunbar has a track record of community service beyond her studies at ASU. She is an active volunteer for HopeKids Arizona, a nonprofit that offers weekly events and activities for children fighting life threatening illnesses and their families, as well as Sparked, an online micro-volunteering site where nonprofits describe current projects they need help with and volunteers use their skills to assist. She also donates time to organizations in her hometown of Vancouver, Canada.

The fact that she is an international student made Dunbar eligible for the Priscilla Richards Outstanding International Graduate Student award, presented by the International Students and Scholars Office for outstanding academic achievement and community/university involvement. Dunbar was recently notified that she was selected for the honor.

Dunbar said she is gratified to receive this recognition as she prepares for graduation this month and a transition from an academic career to a professional one. She said her applied project played an important role in readying her for that transition.

“Working with the Alumni Association not only provided me with real-world experience in my desired field, with a tangible outcome and portfolio of work, but it also helped me work towards my personal mission of making a difference in the nonprofit sector,” she said.

That’s exactly the point of having MACS students complete applied projects, said Lindsey Meân, faculty director for the master’s degree.

“Since the emphasis of the MACS program is communication and advocacy, the applied projects give students the opportunity to apply what they’ve learned, putting concepts and theory into practice in ways that actively engage within communities or organizations,” Meân said. “It’s a chance for them to become embedded with the groups, causes and issues that they feel drawn toward. For some, it is a way to give back to their communities or to engage with their passion.”

Lincoln Professor receives national award from peers

December 3, 2013

Joseph R. Herkert, a Lincoln Associate Professor of Ethics and Technology in the School of Letters and Sciences, is on deck to receive a national award from his peers early next year.

Herkert will be recognized by the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) for distinguished scholarship, teaching and interdisciplinary research in the ethics of engineering and technology, and in the relationships among science, technology and society. The AAAS will make Herkert a Fellow and present him an official certificate and gold and blue rosette pin at its annual forum in Chicago, Feb. 15, 2014. Download Full Image

“I’m thrilled and honored because the AAAS is the foremost scientific organization in the United States, and their work in the area of ethics and public policy is among the best,” Herkert said. “Since these are my areas of expertise and interest and this is a peer group, to be honored by them is quite meaningful.”

The AAAS is the world’s largest general scientific society, and publisher of the journals Science and Science Translational Medicine. It was founded in 1848 and included 261 affiliated societies and academies of science, serving 10 million individuals. Science has the largest paid circulation of any peer-reviewed general science journal in the world, with an estimated total readership of one million.

“Professor Herkert has made significant contributions to the intellectual life of ASU,” says Fred Corey, dean and director of the School of Letters and Sciences. “He is a first-rate scholar in engineering ethics, and he has offered sustained insights into the social implications of information technology, as well as environmental policy. That he is receiving this level of recognition from his peers is certainly fitting and very much deserved.”

Herkert has been teaching engineering ethics and science, technology and society courses for more than 25 years. He is co-editor of “The Growing Gap Between Emerging Technologies and Legal-Ethical Oversight" (Springer 2011), editor of “Social Ethical and Policy Implications of Engineering: Selected Readings” (Wiley/IEEE Press, 2000) and has published numerous articles on engineering ethics and societal implications of technology in engineering, law, social science and applied ethics journals.

Herkert received his bachelor's in electrical engineering from Southern Methodist University and his doctorate in engineering and policy from Washington University in St. Louis. Despite all of his accomplishments, Herkert says his greatest joy remains teaching.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching both technical and non-technical students, and challenging them to think critically about the role of science technology and engineering in the broader context of society,” Herkert said. “Hopefully, I’m also preparing my students to become better citizens, and in some cases, better leaders.”

Reporter , ASU News