Neurobiology student re-creates famous mural during pandemic

May 13, 2021

During the height of the COVID-19 pandemic in August 2020, when Arizona State University's Tempe campus was at a standstill and students and faculty were preparing for another semester of virtual learning, Ariana Afshari started to paint.

A neurobiology major pursuing a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership, Afshari was looking for an opportunity to show that she was well-versed in more than STEM, philosophy, politics and economics — she is also an artist. Plato and Aristotle surrounded by philosophers, detail from School of Athens, fresco by Raphael, 1508–11; in the Stanza della Segnatura in the Vatican. Image: Erich Lessing/Art Resource, New York. Source:

“It makes sense to explore different avenues like art in the same way we would study ancient works,” Afshari said. “In a lot of ways, I don’t think students think they work in tandem but they do. This project has really made it possible for me to demonstrate to other students that art can also work in the same way to analyze history, politics and philosophy.”

When the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership developed their Coor Texts Reading Room, Afshari approached the school’s director, Paul Carrese, to ask if she could paint something for it. That something is a 60-by-40-inch canvas mural inspired by "The School of Athens" by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael.

“Arianna's work is a great example of SCETL students integrating their learning with their everyday lives, and integrating different disciplines," Carrese said. "The Coor Texts Reading Room is a space for our students and faculty to study, read and talk about their classes, as well as the wider world. Arianna is a scientist inspired by her SCETL studies to think philosophically across the span of human inquiry. We're so thankful she has contributed this splendid statement about SCETL and higher learning."

“With history, you have the benefit of knowing so much about the context, so many details, facts and figures, but you cannot really imagine what it might look like when you were there. Art has this profound way of making it more multidimensional and that’s the beauty of it,” Afshari said.

Over the past 10 months, Afshari has re-created Raphael’s masterpiece but with a SCETL twist: In addition to Plato and Aristotle, Afshari added Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cesar Chavez, Frederick Douglass, Frida Kahlo and other prominent historical figures.

The mural now hangs in the Coor Texts Reading Room, which is open to all Arizona State University students and faculty. Many items in the Reading Room are available through generous long-term loans made by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership faculty members. You can view the catalog here.

In addition to working on the mural throughout the year, Afshari also worked part time as a pharmacy technician, served on the Undergraduate Student Government as the director of health and wellness, was an Eichler Scholar through the Dartmouth Health Care Foundations, an IGNITE Fellow for Teach For America and a WINURE Neuroscience Research Scholar for the School of Life Sciences.

“This has served as a break for me,” Afshari said. “It was a nice opportunity to explore my passions and find something good in something really bad … I am proud of myself and I’m really excited for everyone to see it and admire it, and hopefully derive something cool out of it that I didn’t even intend.”

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


ASU at Lake Havasu City's newest entrepreneur

May 13, 2021

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

Brooke Bahde shines as one of the most successful photographers in her hometown of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. Not only is she a young, successful entrepreneur, she's also a recent graduate of ASU at Lake Havasu City. ASU@Lake Havasu City graduate, Brooke Bahde leads local photography business Usually behind the camera, Brooke Bahde poses with her graduation cap and her honors cords. Download Full Image

"I'm a 20-year-old entrepreneur who has devoted my life to chasing after my everlasting dream of being a photographer," Bahde said. "In fact, my itching desire to create motivated me to graduate high school a year early to get started on the business I've been growing since eighth grade." 

Bahde graduated summa cum laude from ASU at Lake Havasu City with a Bachelor of Arts in communication. 

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

Anwser: As a photography business owner, I was seeking to find a major that would help my company grow. Since photography was not offered at the ASU Havasu campus, I decided to go with communication. Through this degree, I realized that I would be able to grow my social media marketing methods, which would directly benefit my business. By staying in my hometown, I was able to expand my client base and begin my career while in school. I am also a huge fan of the lake and spending time boating with my family and friends, which made this campus perfect for me. 

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

A: Something that I learned through ASU was how to take advantage of the help offered. Every professor, staff member, and the student body was beyond kind and willing to help me grow. Once I started to learn how to make connections and ask for advice, internships, or other resources, my photography business began to grow and soar. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU was my first choice because it was close to my hometown and my family. 

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

A: Dr. Leepsa Madhabika taught me to treat every single day like it’s gold. Her business classes inspired me to push myself to become the best version of myself. Whether that meant growing my education, relationships, or my personality, she taught me to never stop learning. She also taught me to balance, have fun, take every moment in, and be continuously grateful for those who have helped me reach my goals. 

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

A: The best way to accomplish any goal is to imagine someone else your age doing the exact same thing, but 10 times better. This mindset helped me continuously strive to be ahead of the game and reach for the stars. 

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

A: My favorite spot on campus in Lake Havasu was the outdoor patio area of the student center. I would sit and look out at the lake between study breaks. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will continue to expand my photography career using the business and marketing skills that I have learned in college. 

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

A: With this money, I would invest in leadership training for middle school students around the world. Teaching young adults how to professionally present themselves, learn how to reach their goals, speak in public, build relationships with others, or the many other skills that come with leadership training, can help any kid become loving and hyper-successful in their future. 

Bahde was rewarded with the following scholarships: New American University Scholar — Provost's Award, John & Cindy Hughes Scholarship, Sun Angel Business, Havasu Classics, National Society of High School Scholars Foundation, London Bridge Rotary Foundation Inc., Catholic Daughters of America (Court our Lady of the Lake #2213), Marine Corps League Det 757. Lake Havasu City Detachment and London Bridge Lions Club.

Community Outreach Specialist, Lake Havasu City Programs