ASU grad passionate about a career in child protective services


April 19, 2021

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

Even though life hasn’t always gone the way she planned, Angelica Lopez has a courage and strength about her that is contagious. She’s had to take on a lot of responsibilities that could have derailed her dreams of a higher education, but she has persevered. Angelica Lopez Photo courtesy of Angelica Lopez Download Full Image

Lopez is a first-generation graduate who originally didn’t think it would be possible to gain a degree in higher education. Thanks to a high school teacher who saw her potential and believed in her, she was able to see it in herself and made the decision to attend college. She wanted to go somewhere that would make herself and her family proud. After visiting the Tempe campus, she knew ASU would be her choice.

“The environment was very welcoming, the students were friendly, and it was perfect in my eyes!” she said.

Lopez is graduating this spring with a degree in family and human development. Using her own experiences as motivation, she hopes to better the community with what she’s learned. Her ultimate goal is to become a social worker who can help children stay safe and flourish in healthy environments.

Lopez answered a few questions about her journey at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Rather than one particular “aha” moment, it has been more of a progression over time. I have always known that I wanted to learn more about the family and how certain upbringings affect child development. Then my senior year of high school solidified this interest and I became passionate about supporting children who have directly experienced or witnessed domestic violence, specifically. I can relate to these kids, so I made a promise to myself that I would major in a field where I would be better educated on family dynamics, with the professional goal of working for Child Protective Services (CPS). I hope my education can help me be a better case manager who protects and honestly cares for every child’s life who enters CPS and is impacted by instances of domestic violence.

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

A: In many of my classes I learned a lot about the family and how every person affects how families function, but I especially paid attention to better understand families impacted by domestic violence. For example, it is common for people to place blame on women who remain in abusive partnerships. I will admit that I held this belief, to some extent, myself. My courses taught me that these family dynamics are complex, and it isn’t fair or accurate to place all of the responsibility on those who stay in abusive situations. I learned to see things from various perspectives and that there are a lot of reasons why women stay, despite ongoing abuse.

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

A: Dr. Casey Sechler taught me that it was OK to speak up and talk to someone if I was struggling to balance my personal life and my academics. I never told any professors of mine when I had any sort of difficulty accomplishing or fully focusing on school, not until Dr. Sechler was one of my professors. She reached out to me and it was the kindest thing anyone has ever done for me. She noticed that there was a possibility that I was not OK. During this time, I was responsible for providing the bulk of care for my younger siblings because my mom was working so much during the pandemic. We were all attending school remotely; I was taking more classes than usual, and it was a lot to manage. At some points I felt like I should drop out because I could not focus 100% on my schooling. Dr. Sechler helped me realize that I could do it and she tried her best to work with me and anything I needed. To this day she still checks up on me, which I am beyond grateful for.

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

A: To those still in school I would say to never stop believing in yourself and to take a break and care for your mental health if needed. School will always be there, and you will accomplish your goals, but you need to believe it first and take care of your body along the way. This is something we often hear but don’t always practice, or at least I didn’t. When I was overwhelmed and struggling, thankfully I looked for help and that allowed me to realize that if I took care of my body it would help my self-esteem and in turn help me be successful in reaching my goals.

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

A: Without a doubt, the Starbucks right outside the Memorial Union. My friends and I would go there to study, and it was just so relaxing. Sipping on my iced chai latte as I worked on some discussion boards or statistics. Watching how vibrant our student life was, was so refreshing. The shade and the perfect breeze we got at times made me feel at peace.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, my main goal is to work for Child Protective Services. I want to be the best case manager I can be: someone who can truly determine if and when a child is in danger. There are many telltale signs that case managers miss, and I hope I am effective at speaking with children and finding out the truth about their situation so that I don’t miss the things that are commonly overlooked. I also plan to continue my education, hopefully get my master's soon in either social work or marriage and family therapy. As long as I have a job where I can help families that experience abuse, I will be satisfied with my life. I want to make a positive difference in people’s lives.

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

A: The problem I would tackle is child abuse. Children are the most innocent beings on this planet and in no way do they deserve to be treated in horrid ways because they do not have the capacity to hurt another human in the same manner. Their souls are pure, and they should be kept like that for as long as can be. I want to protect children from abuse of all kinds — physical, psychological, emotional abuse, etc. There is not any justification for why someone would hurt a child in any manner, yet we know how often this occurs, unfortunately. Child welfare services are also so underfunded, it would be a dream to solve problems that lead to child abuse.

Shelley Linford

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

ASU grad carries on her mother’s legacy of working with children


April 19, 2021

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

Growing up in a small town in Washington, Cate Marken knew from a very young age she wanted to make a difference in her rural community. Her mother, a second grade teacher, instilled in her a love of learning and showed her how to serve others daily. Cate Marken Photo courtesy of Cate Marken Download Full Image

With the help of several scholarships — including the Brandon Scott Koetje Memorial Scholarship from her hometown, the New American University  Scholarship, and the Dean’s Circle Scholarship— this small-town girl was ready for a move to a much bigger city.

The lead community assistant in Barrett, The Honors College, Marken will graduate this spring with a dual major in medical microbiology and family and human development. She plans to attend a medical school that offers a dual program with a master’s degree in public health, ultimately becoming a pediatrician and doing research that will benefit rural areas like her hometown.

Marken acquired her love of research at ASU. “I’ve had the privilege to work with Sarah Lindstrom-Johnson for the past two years,” she said. “I started out as just a microbiology student. I thought that research would only be sitting in a lab with your goggles and test tubes, but she showed me a whole other side of research that is working with people, which is what I love doing.”

She often had a front row seat in witnessing the efforts her mother and other teachers made in their community by sharing ideas on how to impact students’ lives. She hopes to carry on her mother’s legacy in working with children in her own way, by helping them become their best selves.

“One person can make a huge impact on (kids) just by caring. Caring can get them the community resources available to help them change direction.”

Marken shared more about her experience at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: When I was in sixth grade, Paul Tough wrote an article for The New Yorker called “The Poverty Clinic” about Dr. Nadine Burke-Harris and adverse childhood experiences. Fast forward to my first year of college and I took human development as an elective. As soon as I heard our professor utter the words “adverse childhood experiences,” I knew I was in the right place, and that day I added family and human development as a double major.

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

A: The best lesson I got from my time at ASU is that it’s OK to lean on other people when you’re struggling. I thought I constantly had to be an academic powerhouse to get by, but after all of my personal struggles, I started realizing I could be so much happier — and more successful — if I let friends, family and colleagues support me through challenges. Overall, I think that boils down to letting yourself be vulnerable with the people who love you.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: At first it was because I wanted to be in a big city. Moving into the dorms and starting classes let me realize going to school out-of-state was a chance to become independent and learn about myself after being raised in such a small town.

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

A: During my thesis this year, Dr. Lindstrom-Johnson made a great point that the work I do now won’t be the best I ever do, because I have a lifetime of learning ahead of me to improve as a scientist. 

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

A: My best advice would be not to judge yourself too harshly. College is the time to learn our strengths and weaknesses, and failure is a natural part of that experience. Giving yourself some grace is always a good choice.

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

A: I love the Academic Court in the Barrett Complex. Especially for the sake of social distancing, I always have a great time sitting in the grass with my friends to catch up or do homework.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m headed out to some of the national parks around the Southwest to take a breather with my friends, then I’ll be working as a medical assistant and studying for the MCAT. I’m excited to take everything I’ve learned over the last four years and put that into clinical experience.

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

A: One of the issues I’d love to tackle is getting doctors and health care professionals into rural areas of the country. Our national physician shortage has negatively impacted the people who need high-quality care the most, and putting $40 million dollars into training pediatricians and family doctors would go a long way. Needless to say, the highest quality training we can provide for new doctors includes learning about their own biases and adapting their practices to a wide variety of cultural backgrounds.

Shelley Linford

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