ASU Leadership Institute accepting applications


March 2, 2021

The ASU Leadership Institute, sponsored by the ASU Alumni Association, is seeking nominations for Class 4. This nine-month program, dedicated to professional and personal leadership development featuring ASU executive leaders, faculty and alumni, annually accepts a cohort of Sun Devils who are up-and-coming or current leaders.

During the program, participants attend monthly Innovation Days that focus on ASU and the importance of higher education through industry leader presentations and tours of the ASU campuses. ASU Leadership Institute alumni and current members agree that the leadership program featured valuable resources and showcased the latest from their alma mater.  Class 3 of ALI visits the Phoenix Biomedical Campus Innovation Center near ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus. Download Full Image

Members of Class 2 Richard Nakazawa and Bianca Vargas, Class 3's Curtis Smith, and Class 1's Morgan Dick agree that through the program they had the opportunity to see firsthand many of ASU’s new ventures and enhance their leadership skills.  

Smith, who graduated in 2010 with a bachelor's degree in construction management engineering, said that he had been wanting to get back on campus and reengage with ASU. After hearing about the experiences of his co-workers at Sundt Construction who have been through the program, he believed it would be a great experience.

“ASU is a university that is truly trying to make an impact not only in the Arizona community, but the world or universe,” Smith said. 

After his son graduated from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, Nakazawa, who graduated in 1985 with a bachelor's degree in engineering, felt inspired to apply for the institute. 

“I saw how much ASU had grown and changed since I attended and wanted to learn more,” he said. 

As director of manufacturing technical operations for the cybersecurity company McAfee in California, Nakazawa would travel back to ASU for the Innovation Days, and during the fall he was able to attend home football games.  

In addition to his involvement in the institute, Nakazawa stays engaged and connected to the university through the Northern California Alumni Chapter and ASU CARES, a series of volunteer events organized across the country by the ASU Alumni Association’s chapter network. Currently Nakazawa also serves as a member of the association’s National Alumni Council. 

The ASU Leadership Institute helps leaders grow in both their personal and professional lives. Vargas, who graduated in 2013 with a bachelor's degree in business communications and is the staff accountant at St. Mary’s Food Bank Alliance, said that through the institute, she has been able to both align her values and network with successful Sun Devils.

“I have made an everlasting connection to the ASU community, where individuals like myself want to grow,” Vargas said. She describes her fellow members of Class 2 as family and appreciates their commitment to making an impact in their own communities while giving back to the Sun Devil community.

While the ASU Leadership Institute has been an excellent opportunity for participants to network with other alumni industry leaders and stay connected to ASU, it has also helped them gain insight into who they are as leaders. Nakazawa compares what he learned during his time as a student at ASU to his time in the institute.

Growing up in Tolleson, a small Arizona farming community at the time, Nakazawa didn’t have much exposure to technology careers prior to attending ASU.

“ASU was a different world, exposing me to new ideas and different ways of thinking, but mainly I learned how to learn and apply that knowledge,” he said. 

In a fast-paced industry like technology, continued learning is imperative in Nakazawa’s professional life and hearing from experts on a variety of subjects outside of his particular industry helped him further enhance his leadership skills.  

For Smith, a project manager at Sundt Construction and Sergeant First Class in the Arizona Army National Guard, being a strong leader is essential to both his military and civilian careers. Smith believes he now has a better understanding of who he is as a leader, and the institute has been a great opportunity for him to grow professionally and personally.

“Through ALI and the Innovation Days, I’ve been able to take that journey with others that are striving to not only become better leaders, but better humans in life,” he said.

Vargas agrees that the institute is a place for alumni to gain insight about who they are as leaders and develop their leadership skills while engaging with the university and other Sun Devils who want to make a difference in their communities.

“If you are asking yourself what’s next, I would say the ASU Leadership Institute is the perfect program to help you develop,” she said.

Dick, who graduated in 2017 with bachelor's degrees in political science and Spanish, continued to stay actively involved with her alma mater since she graduated. Now director of money in politics at the Arizona Advocacy Network, she enjoyed participating in the Innovation Days and developing connections with her cohort. 

“The ASU Leadership Institute is an incredible program that offers alums the priceless opportunity to remain connected to the vast ecosystem of the university,” Dick said. “The opportunities for continued growth in leadership both professional and personal, shepherded by ASU, has been a transformative experience.” 

The application for Class 4 of the ASU Leadership Institute is now open and the deadline to apply is Friday, May 14.

Macey Sierka

Student assistant, ASU Alumni Association

Join March 3 panel featuring Sun Devil business owners


March 2, 2021

In honor of International Women’s Day, a global celebration of the achievements of women, the ASU Alumni Association is highlighting four successful Sun Devil businesswomen. 

On March 3, Latasha Causey will moderate Sun Devil Stories: Women in Business, featuring panelists Joya Kizer, Crystal Patriarche and Lisa VanBockern. The three panelists are Sun Devil 100 honorees, which designates them as owners or leaders of the fastest growing ASU-led businesses across the country. At this virtual event, these entrepreneurial alums will be sharing stories, knowledge and advice on navigating a successful career.   Lisa VanBockern Lisa VanBockern, one of the three panelists for Sun Devil Stories: Women in Business, is a Sun Devil 100 honoree for her business Skin Script. Download Full Image

Register here.

Latasha Causey, an interdisciplinary studies alumna, knows exactly what it takes to be a successful businesswoman and leader in her community. Causey is currently the vice president of human resources for the south region of Bell Bank and has over 20 years of experience in recruiting and human resources. She also has held leadership roles at U-Haul, USAA’s North Phoenix campus, Charles Schwab and Wells Fargo. Her leadership extends beyond her career in human resources — she serves on the board of directors for the ASU Alumni Association, Teach for America of Arizona and the Valley of the Sun United Way. She was awarded an Outstanding Woman in Business by the Phoenix Business Journal in 2018.

President and CEO of CASA Unlimited Enterprises Joya Kizer, a zoology alumna, is a prominent community leader. CASA Unlimited, a family-owned airport concession business, was founded in 1989 by her mother, Yolanda Collazos Kizer. Kizer succeeds her entrepreneurial mother as president of the company, but has held various roles throughout her 20 years at CASA — from accounts payable clerk to buyer to general operations manager. Her degree in zoology may seem like an unlikely transition to business, but she shared that her background in science has benefitted her greatly.

"Identifying patterns, making connections, problem solving have been instrumental to my success in business," she said.

Kizer's skills in these areas have influenced how she views tools like operational systems, as well as data and reports.

Along with being a Sun Devil 100 recipient, she was also recognized as one of the 40 Hispanic Leaders under 40 by Univision and Valle del Sol. Kizer is motivated to help women feel supported and expose them to resources that can benefit entrepreneurs. 

"Forums such as these allow us to network, tell of our own successes, trials, and tribulations, as well as share best practices," she said. "It’s a privilege to be asked to contribute my story."           

For Lisa VanBockern, a computer information systems and accountancy alumna, starting her own skin care company was a leap of faith. After graduating from ASU, she worked for Ernst & Young Consulting to help global companies implement databases. After pursuing a steady career in corporate America for several years, she decided to return to her childhood passion of aesthetics. 

“It didn’t take me long to see an opportunity in the aesthetic industry for a professional skin care company,” she said. 

VanBockern worked with seven colleagues and a cosmetic chemist to create Skin Script, which now has been operating for 14 years and is sold to over 25,000 aestheticians, spas, salons and resorts.

Crystal Patriarche, a journalism alumna, began her public relations career leading strategies for Fortune 500 and startup software and technology companies, such as Microsoft, Sony and LSI Logic. After being involved in the engineering and technology industries, she transitioned to freelancing and eventually starting her own PR agency, SparkPoint Studio. The agency has evolved into a multimedia company that offers public relations for authors and publishing services. Patriarche says that she has learned how to be a successful businesswoman from mentors and leaders throughout her life. 

“Anytime I can listen to other entrepreneurs, and specifically women entrepreneurs, and learn how challenging, and rewarding, being a woman business leader is and a business leader in general, I do,” she said. 

Macey Sierka

Student assistant, ASU Alumni Association