ASU grad inspired by fatherhood to research child development


April 19, 2021

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

When Cullin Howard decided to major in family and human development, it came at a time in his life when he was looking for a more meaningful career than the path he was on. Growing up in a home that provided foster care for infants and toddlers, he’d gained a lot of experience with children from adverse backgrounds. Then as a young father, he became fascinated with different child outcomes and how home environments and family influences impact their development. He knew then that he wanted to pursue a career that would contribute to the research in this area. Cullin Howard Photo courtesy of Cullin Howard Download Full Image

Howard received the Anna and Don Kirkman Family Scholarship and the Fitch-Craig Scholarship. During his time at ASU he has participated in several projects including the SIBS program with Kimberly Updegraff and the Arizona Twin Project in the psychology department with Kathryn Lemery-Chalfant.

He was also awarded the Children’s Equity Project Undergraduate Scholar Award and summer internship, where he worked with research professionals in children’s education on various projects, including early child care disciplinary regulations.

He is graduating this spring with a degree in family and human development. We asked him a few questions about his experience here at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: The most influential information I learned at ASU would come from learning statistical methods and applying it to research. I found that the more I came to understand various analyses, I started to look at research questions and even social issues differently. The world is incredibly complicated and I have found it valuable to be able to carry a more nuanced view of any given issue rather than an overly simplistic one. I largely attribute this outlook to my statistical training at ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU mainly out of convenience. I am born and raised in Arizona so I was happy to find a school that was local and was excellent in the field I was looking to go into. 

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

A: Dr. Spinrad is certainly one of the most influential professors I worked with. Her entire course on child development was remarkable, but especially her insights on caregivers teaching young children were very enlightening. I feel like I grew a lot as a father, but it also shaped what I wanted to focus on in my research.

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

A: “Pursue what is meaningful, not what is expedient.” – Dr.  Jordan Peterson, "12 Rules for Life" 

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

A: My favorite spot would have to be the little pathway behind the Piper Writers house. It has some benches that are nice and can feel a little secluded from the busy walkways. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In this upcoming year I will be starting a graduate program at the University of Georgia, pursuing a PhD in human development and family science. I will be engaging in research that looks at the social and emotional development of children who have experienced early life adversity. 

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

A: With $40 million I would not be able to solve the entirety of one problem but I would want to contribute to alleviating infant/child malnutrition in developing countries.

Shelley Linford

Web Content Communications Administrator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Sociology grad’s academic journey to social work began with a childhood illness


April 19, 2021

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

Natalee Lauro is no stranger to difficult times. She was diagnosed with brain cancer at the young age of 8.  Natalee Lauro Photo courtesy of Natalee Lauro Download Full Image

“The entire process was very depressing, painful and sometimes just completely soul-crushing," she said. "My social worker helped me through these difficult times and that is when I realized when I grew up, I wanted to be a social worker and help others just like those who helped me throughout my cancer and recovery experience.”

A first-generation graduate, Lauro is well on her way to make those dreams come true. She is graduating this spring with a major in sociology and a minor in communication.

Besides having a passion for helping others, she is also an avid animal lover. She is a firm believer that having a therapy dog during her recovery from brain surgery truly saved her life.

“I remember being stuck in the NICU and I couldn’t even open my eyes or pick up my head. One day, they brought a therapy dog in and she climbed into my bed. As soon as I felt that warm, furry body, I knew exactly what it was and I really think that was the turning point in my life because after that I started to progress. That is a big reason why I’m so passionate about animals.”

Lauro says she has really enjoyed her time at ASU and appreciates all the help and guidance given to her. She plans to continue to get her master’s degree through ASU in order to give back to the community, help others and strive to make a difference in the world. She shared a bit more of her experience by answering a few questions.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: I will say that during my time at ASU, I have learned a lot about myself and what I am capable of. It has always been my habit to underestimate and doubt myself. Throughout my many accomplishments at ASU, I’ve realized that I am capable of so much more than I give myself credit for.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for its outstanding reputation and for all the great things I have heard through my friends, teachers and members of the family.

Q: As an ASU Online student, what ASU resources did you take advantage of and find most helpful on your journey to completing your degree?

A: I personally found having a success coach, along with an academic adviser, Lisa Barth, the most helpful. As an incoming online student I was worried that I wouldn’t have a support system; I was nervous and fearful that I would be seen as just another number on the board. But I was pleasantly surprised to find how strong of a connection I was able to form with my success coach and how supportive and helpful my academic adviser was, together they both guided and steered me through my journey at ASU.

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

A: Each one of my professors taught me unique and individual lessons that collectively all ring true and overall contribute into my work ethic, and that is to ask for help when needed, don’t sit there in silence because fear or shame hinders you. You must be brave and bold enough to ask for yourself, because no one else will.

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

A: There is a quote I refer to: “Mistakes are proof that I am trying." No one is perfect; we all make mistakes, but that is part of the educational journey — that’s part of life.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My bedroom or the office is where I spent my time studying; secluded and quiet places are what helps me the most when studying.

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

A: I would tackle an issue that I am very passionate about and that is animal abuse. I love animals with all my heart and the thought of an animal being mistreated or neglected is enough to make me sick to my stomach. If someone gave me $40 million to solve this problem, all the money would go towards protecting animals, both domestic and wild.

Shelley Linford

Web Content Communications Administrator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics