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ASU Polytechnic campus celebrates commencement

May 6, 2021

Graduates were able to meet the dean and faculty for a goodbye and thanks

Down at Arizona State University’s Polytechnic campus on May 3, more than 30 grads from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts attended an in-person get-together in the breezeway of Santa Catalina Hall, which was decked out with tables holding bouquets and cookies.

Robed grads wandered in and out, having their photos taken with Dean Duane Roen in his academic regalia.

The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts hosted several events for its graduates: in-person receptions, virtual events and Zoom receptions for online students.

“The virtual events are fun,” Roen said. “People get to chat with each other.”

Roen beckoned grads to pose with him. “Come on down,” he said.

Troy Anderson, the Polytechnic campus student body president, posed with Roen, capping off earning a BS in political science and a BA in philosophy. The low-key sendoff didn’t bother Anderson in the slightest.

“I think it’s fine,” he said. “I’m not a big graduation person anyway. I’ve finished my four years and I’m done.”

Anderson doesn’t plan to go far. He’s looking for a job at ASU.

Nathan Reed celebrated earning his BS in applied biological sciences, which he earned at age 18. He plans to go to medical school and become an osteopath.

“It’s a little bit different,” he said of the graduation get-together. “I enjoyed all the YouTubes, taking them at my own pace.”

Reed said he missed all the activity of a typical graduation, but as a medical school candidate he understood why things were the way they were.

The Gilbert native enjoyed spending time at the Polytechnic campus with different people from different backgrounds, having had a challenging time in high school at his age.

“Here it was acceptance and doing things differently, and that’s what made it interesting,” he said.

Faculty attended as well, seeing students off. Rafael Martinez just finished his first year teaching Southwestern history and English at ASU. He graduated from the University of New Mexico last year.

“I’m loving ASU,” he said. “I’m super excited that CISA is meeting students’ needs and celebrating their accomplishments. … I’m sure parents appreciate we’re keeping it safe.”

Vanessa Fonseca Chávez teaches Chicano and Indigenous literature and Southwest studies. She attended the in-person reception and a virtual event, and had more virtual events planned for the next day. Her office is in Santa Catalina Hall.

“The space is really great,” she said. “The breezeway is an underutilized space. I appreciate they were able to do this. Students really wanted to do something.”

More Polytechnic celebrations

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

More campus celebrations

Top photo: (From left) Faculty members Assistant Professor Rafael Martinez, Assistant Professor Vanessa Fonseca Chávez, Lecturer Laurie Ralston and Dean Duane Roen flash pitchforks at the COVID-19-modified College of Integrative Sciences and Arts celebration on May 3, in the Santa Catalina Hall breezeway on the Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU News

Professor Sharon Hall earns teaching award in natural sciences

May 6, 2021

As an Asian American interested in conservation and environmental science, still largely white-dominated disciplines in the U.S., Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences Professor Sharon Hall always felt like a bit of an outsider.

Over the years, Hall has drawn on her experience and perspective to use her platform as a researcher and instructor to help change who is represented in biology, more specifically ecology and conservation biology, and inspire the next generation of conservationists. Sharon Hall teaches ecology and careers in environmental science, and she has helped to develop the online conservation biology and ecology major. In addition to teaching and mentoring, she has been serving a special adviser for diversity and inclusion to the director of the School of Life Sciences, and chair of the school’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. Photo courtesy of Sharon Hall. Download Full Image

Her commitment to teaching and inclusion has been recognized with the 2021 Zebulon Pearce Award for Outstanding Teaching in the Natural Sciences from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“I am grateful to receive this award and humbled especially after such a challenging year for undergraduates and our community,” she said. “I’m excited to continue my work with students to fuel their passion for nature and help them build skills for their future careers.”

“Sharon is inspirational,” said Jennifer Fewell, associate director of faculty in the School of Life Sciences. “Her dedication to her students and to their success shines through in all of her interactions, from the classroom, to her mentoring, to her advocacy for students and for inclusivity at ASU. SOLS is becoming a stronger and more academically diverse community because of her energy and actions.” 

Hall teaches ecology and careers in environmental science, and she has helped to develop the online conservation biology and ecology major. She creates student-centered classrooms and tries to connect the material to real life as much as possible. Students report that she has a unique balance between rigor and empathy, providing them with the support needed to reach her high expectations. Her students notice how much she cares about them as people and how inspirational her own journey has been, with some even calling her an “icon in conservation biology.” She started Nature@ASU, a student-led organization to create community and broaden participation in environmental biology.

“I have been incredibly impressed by Professor Hall’s energy and innovation to create opportunities for student success in the School of Life Sciences,” said Kenro Kusumi, current director of the School of Life Sciences and newly appointed dean of natural sciences for The College. “She is a superb instructor and important leader in our undergraduate programs, and we are all proud to see her receive this recognition.”

In addition to teaching and mentoring, Hall has been serving a special adviser for diversity and inclusion to the director of the School of Life Sciences, and chair of the school’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee. She has mobilized the unit to consider how to become more inclusive by coordinating myriad efforts with students, staff and faculty that focus on everything from inclusive teaching and curriculum reform to postdoc-to-faculty hires for candidates that will help the unit faculty become more representative of students. The work of the Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Committee was just recently showcased in a unitwide retreat that Hall and her team organized. 

“Sharon’s passion and commitment to diversity and inclusion is contagious,” said Sara Brownell, associate professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the Research for Inclusive STEM Education Center. “Her energy, her thoughtful approaches to problems, her support of others, her organizational skills and her willingness to listen and to act on what she hears make her such an impactful leader. Her work in SOLS focused on inclusion has fundamentally altered the instruction of thousands of students and makes her so deserving of this teaching award.” 

“I’m committed to helping ASU live up to its inclusive charter, for undergrads, grad students, staff and faculty,” Hall said. “We’ll be better able to develop solutions to the planet’s most pressing challenges if we tap into the best ideas from across our diverse communities. To be recognized for efforts is surreal and makes me proud to be part of this institution.”

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences