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.
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.
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