At the top of CLAS: College launches Graduate Excellence Awards

April 24, 2014

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences has launched a new initiative designed to reward outstanding doctoral and masters students recognized nationally or internationally during academic year 2013-2014.

“Students who strive to establish themselves as leaders in their field, compete for fellowships, grants, travel awards and scholarships,” says Kenro Kusumi, associate dean of graduate programs in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “This award is just one small way that we can honor the top 5 percent of our college’s students for their initiative, hard work and achievements.” ASU students working in lab Download Full Image

More than 120 graduate students will receive graduate excellence inaugural awards. A reception for the awardees and the college’s deans, chairs and directors will be held from 1-3 p.m., May 7, in the Memorial Union’s Alumni Lounge on the Tempe campus.

Among the students receiving awards from the School of Earth and Space Exploration are Gayatri Indah Marliyani, Mingming Li (geological sciences) and Marc Neveu (astrophysics), who came to ASU from hometowns in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; Jiangzi Province, China; and Dreux, France, respectively.

“Indonesia experiences a variety of geologically-related hazards, including earthquakes and tsunamis, so my research focuses on the active faults and earthquake hazards,” says Marliyani. “My results can contribute to the development of seismic hazard analysis in Java, and may be useful in understanding similar systems in other parts of the world.” Marliyani competed for and received awards from the Schlumberger Foundation, the Seismological Society of America and the Indonesia Endowment Fund for Education to support her field work and laboratory expenses.

More than 60 graduate excellence awards will be received by students in the School of Life Sciences and the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. Among them are graduate students Ashleigh Gonzales, Jorge Ramos and John Rowan.

Gonzales is pursuing a master’s degree in biology and society. Her goal is to forge new approaches to education and technologies for visually impaired students seeking research careers in the sciences. She was awarded a Reach for the Stars Fellowship, Alma and Ruth Wilson Scholarship, Donald and Dorothy Colee Scholarship and a travel grant from the Society for Neuroscience.

Ramos is pursuing a doctorate in environmental life sciences. He recently traveled to Chihuahua, Mexico, as part of a study of ecological diversity that included the making of a documentary about Cuatro Cienegas hot springs. In addition to his other successes, Ramos serves as the chair of the student section of the Ecological Society of America and is an active member of the Society for the Advancement of Chicanos/Latinos and Native Americans in Sciences.

Rowan is a doctoral student in evolutionary anthropology, hoping to generate greater understanding about human evolution and mammalian paleontology. His studies take him to the fossil-rich sediments in Hadar, Ethiopia, to the Turkana Basin in Kenya.

In addition to these exceptional awardees are graduate students with the Department of Psychology, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, Department of English, School of Politics and Global Studies and the Consortium for Science Policy Outcomes. Applications for excellence awards will be received through May 18.

“Opportunities such as this draw attention to the critical role graduate students play in forwarding the university’s mission of becoming global leaders of discovery and innovation,” says award-winner Megan Fisk. Fisk is a doctoral candidate in Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, whose studies offer insight into more effective suicide prevention in the military.

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


Advocates for child welfare emphasize prevention, community engagement

April 25, 2014

Over 16,000 Arizona children are in group homes, foster care or other temporary placement. The costs – not only financial, but trauma to children and families – are staggering.

Child abuse prevention advocates from the public and private sectors gathered with the community to examine solutions at the Annual Statewide Child Abuse Prevention event held at the Rising Youth Theatre in downtown Phoenix, April 22. woman speaking at event Download Full Image

Held as part of Child Abuse Prevention Month, the event aimed to increase dialogue around prevention and community involvement to help children and their families receive the resources and education they need to live healthy and productive lives.

Focusing on prevention

Charles Flanagan, director of Arizona Child Safety and Family Services, spoke on the importance of child abuse prevention and elevating efforts toward prevention to be at the same level as other services. He also noted that prevention is a shared responsibility, and community partnerships play an important role.

“One of the things that I’ve discovered is that we have got to raise the profile of the prevention work that we do, as well as intervene earlier when we get calls that require some sort of a response” he says. “So that’s what this is about. This is about us coming together and joining our resources together in such a way as to leverage our resources to affect a better outcome.”

Maricopa County Presiding Juvenile Court Judge Colleen McNally echoed the sentiment, noting the significance of parental education in lessening the risk of future intervention, and how connecting with the community helps build resilience.

Healthy Families Arizona, a statewide home visitation program is one such initiative.

“Healthy Families is a prevention-based program, birth to age five. We coach parents to be parents – developmental skills, parental skills and better forms of discipline,” says Sarah Tyree, family support specialist with Southwest Human Development, which offers the program.

Over the past 20 years, the program has seen a 99-percent success rate in the prevention of child abuse.

“We start with high-risk families who are at risk, so we really do make a difference in people’s lives,” says Suzanne Schunk, vice president of family support services for Southwest Human Development.

Researching factors that influence success

As part of the event, Rising Youth Theatre presented excerpts from the play "Shipwrecked." Playwright Sigrid Gilmer worked with foster youth and the adults who care for them to create a play that “tells the stories of the system from the perspective of the young people at the heart of it.”

Cynthia Lietz, associate professor in the School of Social Work and Tucson component coordinator for the College of Public Programs, pointed to examples in the play that highlight how individuals cope with challenging circumstances.

“Protective factors are key,” she says. “Social support – at least one meaningful relationship – can help keep someone on track.”

Protective factors can encompass a number of personal traits, too, including insight, creativity and humor.

Lietz’s research looks at how family units are able to sustain or improve their situations despite traumatic circumstances. In addition to investigating how negative experiences predict outcomes, she looks at success. She notes that it is easy to see a relationship between negative factors and failure, but more difficult to explain how people overcome adversity and succeed.

She says that overcoming adversity is possible.

Her work focuses on case studies of people who have completed care programs and succeeded. This has direct impact on the resources put in place for families.

McNally notes that while the courts intervene when an adverse event that has already occurred, they are still interested in ways to improve prevention. Working with ASU, they gain insight and measurable outcomes.

Building a community of support

“This event prompted important dialogue between public and community leaders committed to preventing child maltreatment. I was pleased to hear that director Flanagan plans to increase the amount of attention paid toward preventing abuse before it occurs,” Lietz says.

She also says that seeing these organizations come together to find creative ways of fixing the problem of child abuse prevention gave her, and those who attended, hope for future changes.

“The involvement of ASU’s School of Social Work in the event demonstrates our desire to partner with our public child welfare system to work toward achieving our shared mission,” she says. “All children and youth in Arizona should have the opportunity to grow up in a safe and loving environment.”

Written by Anastasia Landeros and Heather Beshears

Heather Beshears

director marketing and communications, College of Public Service and Community Solutions