ASU Law grad is taking a lifetime of rigorous athletic training to an aspiring career in sports

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

A gymnast starting at age 3, Heather Udowitch says pursuing her Master of Sports Law and Business (MSLB) degree at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is helping her apply years as an athlete to becoming a leader in sports. photo of Heather Udowitch After earning her ASU Law MSLB degree this spring, former ASU gymnast Heather Udowitch will be pursuing her JD at ASU Law, furthering her dreams to become a leader in sports. Download Full Image

She also learned something else very important – how to balance her life while staying focused on her dreams.

“I successfully completed my collegiate eligibility when I graduated with my bachelor’s degree (from ASU); therefore, this (time at ASU Law) has been the first in my life that I am not competing in gymnastics,” said Udowitch, who hails from Dallas, is a Sun Devil Athletics graduate assistant and will be pursuing her JD at ASU Law this fall after she earns her MSLB this spring.

“I started gymnastics when I was 3 years old, began two-a-day workouts when I turned 9, and verbally committed to ASU Gymnastics when I was a sophomore in high school. Therefore, the sport has held a significant role throughout the majority of my life.”

Udowitch says the Allan “Bud” Selig Sports Law and Business program at ASU Law helped her to execute the skills she learned in gymnastics and apply them to her professional career aspirations.

“Additionally, I have built lifelong friendships with my classmates who share many of my same passions and hobbies,” said Udowitch, a 2019 Selig Sports Law and Business Scholar and a 2019 NCAA Ethnic Minority and Women’s Enhancement Graduate Scholarship recipient. “Their support has helped me transition out of my athletic career, and I now view myself as more than an athlete.”

Question: Why did you choose ASU Law?

Answer: I chose ASU Law to pursue my Master of Sports Law and Business because of the numerous notable professors and advisory board members. This program offers courses about topics I am passionate about (that) are taught by industry leaders, so I was excited to learn how to articulate various concepts and opportunities. Similarly, the MSLB Advisory Board connects students with numerous sports professionals. I hope to pursue a similar career as many of these committee members, so I looked forward to having the opportunity to interact with them. Overall, the Master of Sports Law and Business program offers its students a unique opportunity to learn from the industry leaders while providing top-of-the-line networking events.

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study in your particular field of law?

A: My “aha” moment has been an accumulation of events that have occurred throughout my life. However, there are a few key experiences that stand out to me. As a former women’s gymnastics student-athlete at ASU, I witnessed the leadership, advocacy and impact of strong sports administrators within Sun Devil Athletics. Their consistent action and support throughout my athletic career proved to me how proper governance acts to improve the student-athlete experience. Additionally, as a current graduate assistant to administration at Sun Devil Athletics, I have witnessed these same sports administrators navigate through varying situations and create opportunities for student-athletes and the broader Phoenix community. These leaders have inspired me to pursue a career in sports as I hope to hold a similar leadership role that impacts others.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Law?

A: I was fortunate to have worked with Professor Emeritus Myles V. Lynk on my published article, "The Larry Nassar Nightmare: Athletic Organizational Failures to Address Sexual Assault Allegations and a Call for Corrective Action." Throughout our year-and-a-half process of working together on this project, he taught me how to address my passions and turn them into an article that creates action and accountability. Professor Emeritus Lynk is a brilliant leader as his stature and knowledge inspired me to strive for more in my professional career.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those contemplating ASU Law, and those still in law school?

A: For those contemplating the Master of Sports Law and Business program, I would recommend gaining a better understanding of what drives your passion. For me, my passion shapes my goals in the short and long term, which then requires self-discipline and determination. In times of uncertainty, this ambition helps me take my next steps. Therefore, for anyone questioning their educational path, I would encourage them to stay focused on their passions.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be pursuing my JD from ASU Law. I have dreamed of earning my JD at ASU Law, so I am quite excited to be furthering my education at this prestigious university. One day, I hope to represent plaintiffs and work within a major university or athletic organization to help generate positive change.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If I were given $40 million to solve one problem, I would reinvest in collegiate athletics to broaden opportunities for student-athletes as the pandemic has caused numerous teams to be eliminated. As a former ASU gymnast, I understand that gymnastics is typically categorized as a non-revenue-generating sport. Many sports in this category of collegiate athletics have been dropped throughout the past year. I sympathize with these student-athletes as they will not be able to complete their athletic careers.

My experiences as a student-athlete taught me numerous life lessons and shaped my passions for my professional career. Therefore, with $40 million, I would reinvest in universities throughout the nation so these institutions could reinstate their athletic teams that were previously cut. This would allow hundreds, if not thousands, of student-athletes to pursue higher education, compete in their sport at one of the highest levels, and prepare student-athletes with lasting skills.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

ASU student graduates at 18, ready to launch a career in research

April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

Isabel Alcazar has already published research findings, will complete her second medical internship this summer and is graduating with two college degrees. It might seem like a lot for an 18-year-old, but it runs in the family. Isabel Alcazar. Photograph courtesy of Isabel Alcazar. Download Full Image

Alcazar, from Gilbert, Arizona, will be graduating from Arizona State University this spring with a Bachelor of Science in molecular biosciences and biotechnology from the School of Life Sciences and a Bachelor of Arts in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

She enrolled in community college at 12 years old, transferred to ASU when she was 15, and was a co-author on published findings at 16. It also meant deciding what to study at the age of 15. While that may seem daunting to some, for Alcazar it was an easy choice.

“I’ve always loved science,” she said. “Just the idea of being in the lab and being able to create something — that’s always been interesting to me.”

Alcazar’s mother, Amy, homeschooled her daughters since second grade. She said although she did think they would graduate slightly earlier than other students, she didn’t anticipate them graduating from college at 17 and 18.

Once her first daughter, Emily, enrolled at ASU, she recommended taking a while and enjoying the process, but Emily wanted to keep up with her classmates, so she took full-time coursework. Now, her younger siblings are doing the same.

Although this was challenging at times for the whole family, sometimes trading fun family weekends for study weekends, Isabel Alcazar said she is thankful to have had an education tailored to pursuing her interests.

She added global health as a major when she was learning more about medicine and disparities in health access around the world.

“When you’re talking about precision medicine, it’s really only accessible to the top few percent of people who can afford it,” she said. “I’m interested in finding out how we can make that more accessible to people and how we can develop therapies that can be widely accessible.”

For example, one research project she was involved with as an undergraduate student was with Associate Professor Hugh Mason, who is researching how to develop a hepatitis C vaccine using plant cells instead of animal cells. Alcazar noted this research bridges her interests in medicine and global health disparities, as the cost-effectiveness of utilizing plant-based systems may make future vaccines more accessible.

Alcazar said being a homeschooled student and a young graduate has also strengthened her relationships with her sisters, as they all know what it’s like to be the youngest in the classroom.

Alcazar’s older sister graduated from ASU in 2019 at age 17 with a Bachelor of Science in civil engineering, and her younger sister will graduate soon, with a Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering.

This summer, Alcazar is interning at Johns Hopkins University for the second year in a row, this time researching with the pulmonary and critical care medicine unit. She plans to continue her education and will be applying to graduate school this fall.

Alcazar was awarded the following scholarships: All Arizona Academic Team Scholar, Coca-Cola Gold Award, Western Alliance to Expand Student Opportunities and ASU Phi Theta Kappa Scholarship.

She shared more about her academic journey and experience at ASU.

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose ASU for its strong reputation for biological degree programs and innovation. My major in molecular biosciences and biotechnology allowed me to gain a strong foundation in biology while also learning about the rise of medical technology and its applications. This led me to question the access of these new developments and I began my second major in global health.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: One of my favorite aspects of the ASU Tempe campus was finding different places to study with friends — community gardens, music halls, empty classrooms and student centers. I couldn’t pick just one favorite!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Seek out internship or research opportunities! For me it was a great way to network with people in my field and meet students who share similar interests. While at ASU, I was able to shadow physicians and conduct research through summer internships at the Translational Genomics Research Institute (TGen) and Johns Hopkins University. These experiences also allowed me to learn more about my interests while confirming my career goals.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I plan to continue my studies in graduate school to work towards a PhD in biological sciences with an emphasis on health disparity. I started my college education at a young age because of my motivation to learn. With a career in research, I envision myself continuing my passion for scientific discovery as a lifelong learner.

Taylor Woods

Communications program coordinator, School of Human Evolution and Social Change