Conservation club puts ASU grad on path to protect the environment

Sara Donaldson received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years and the New American University Scholarship


April 20, 2021

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

When she first started as a Sun Devil, Medallion Scholar Sara Donaldson knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in science. While she was searching for ways to get involved on campus, she found the Central Arizona Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology (CACSCB) and found her passion truly was in protecting wildlife and the environment.  Sara Donaldson Sara Donaldson. Download Full Image

Donaldson’s experience with the club resulted in her changing her major to conservation biology and ecology in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences so she could prepare for a career in conservation. During her first ecology course at ASU, Donaldson learned about relationships between organisms and how they interact with their environment. 

“Learning about all the diverse species and plant life changed the way I saw a typical landscape,” she said. “I began to see how living things connect to each other and how they contribute to the value of biodiversity.”

During an environmental ethics course taught by Ben Minteer, she realized that not everybody thinks about the environment the same way she does.

“Dr. Minteer helped me understand that all people have different motives and backgrounds that contribute to their own personal set of ethics," she said.

Donaldson realized that people are motivated to protect the environment for various reasons and described the course as one that challenged everything she had previously learned about ethics.

Donaldson, who received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years along with the New American University Scholarship, initially chose ASU for the biology program, but also because of her father’s Sun Devil legacy. 

“He attended ASU and shared many fond memories of his education with me,” she said. The Chandler native wanted to stay close to her family during college while being able to make her own memories on the campus that her father was so proud of. She loved walking around the campus with him as he pointed out buildings he took classes in and study spots he enjoyed.

After exploring the campus for herself, Donaldson’s personal favorite spot became the balcony of the Student Pavilion. She enjoyed listening to the live music that would sometimes be playing outside the Memorial Union and eating sushi while studying with her friends.

“After class, I would go to the Memorial Union, get some food and then head over to the balcony,” she said. “Watching the day slowly turn to evening, all the colored lights surrounding the MU would illuminate the campus.”

Her advice for current students is to find a lifestyle and environment that works best for them. For her, that meant studying in a calming, outdoor spot on campus, but for others, that may mean working at home or in a coffee shop. 

Donaldson, who also minored in dance with the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, understands that each person has a unique learning style and different interests, so it’s important to “find your own groove.”

“Surround yourself with subjects that interest you and classes that spark passion,” Donaldson said. “Be brave, take chances and participate in new things.” 

After graduation, Donaldson plans on working toward her master's degree in plant biology in conservation from ASU. After finishing her degree, her dream is to work at the Desert Botanical Garden and learn about the diversity of plants there.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association

480-727-7106

Civil engineering grad found diverse opportunities at ASU, both academic and social

Tre Pinn received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years as well as the New American University Scholarship


April 20, 2021

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

For engineering major Hartley "Tre" Pinn III, one of the reasons he initially chose to attend ASU was the university’s commitment to diversity and inclusion. These are cornerstones built into ASU’s charter. Tre Pinn Tre Pinn. Download Full Image

“The ASU campus is so diverse,” he said. “I was bound to find something to get involved in, whether that be academic or social.”

For Pinn, it turned out to be both. He joined the American Society for Civil Engineers, served as the secretary for the Civil Engineering Honor Society and actively participated in the Medallion Scholarship program all four years. He also received the the New American University Scholarship. The Mesa, Arizona, resident graduates this May with a degree in civil engineering from the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

The Medallion Scholarship Program, one of the ASU Alumni Association’s signature scholarship initiatives, especially enhanced Pinn’s experience at ASU. The scholarship — which is a financial scholarship funded in part by the sales of ASU’s collegiate license plate — also includes a leadership program that incorporates service and academic excellence.

“Through the program, I was able to meet and form connections with so many people that I have relied on heavily throughout my time at ASU,” he said. Some of his fondest memories of the Medallion Scholarship Program included driving to Flagstaff for the annual team-building retreat and joining fellow scholars at the local Snooze after early morning events.

The connections he has made with Medallion scholars and other students confirm for Pinn that ASU was the right university for him. He shared that the most important thing he learned at ASU is the value of relationships: “The connections I have made here are priceless and will benefit me for the rest of my life."

Pinn began his academic career at ASU as a software engineering major while also knowing that he’s always been mesmerized by structures like the Golden Gate Bridge and Shanghai Tower.

“It wasn’t until after my first semester as a software engineering major that I realized I should have followed this obsession for building while still applying my love for applied mathematics and physical sciences,” he said. Pinn then switched his major to civil engineering to accommodate both passions.

After changing his major, Pinn became even more passionate about his future profession. He remembers Keith Hjelmstad, his dynamics professor in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, giving a short lecture that he will never forget.

“(Dr. Hjelmstad) talked about how the civil engineering profession is not about the money, and at the end of the day, it’s all about how you can improve people’s lives and keep them safe,” he said. After graduating in May, Pinn plans on working in a full-time role for McCarthy Building Companies as a project engineer.

Morgan Harrison

Director of strategic communications , ASU Alumni Association

480-727-7106