When seeing is believing

Study shows vividness of imagining future goals improves success in college


May 25, 2021

More than 40% of college students do not graduate after six years. And, though women are more likely to graduate college than men, they remain underrepresented in STEM and business careers.  

A new study from the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University has found that achieving academic or career goals is linked to how vividly men and women can visualize future events. College graduates celebrate as confetti swirls. The ability to vividly imagine graduating college can predict grade point average and whether a student continues in a STEM or business degree program, according to a longitudinal study recently published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin. Photo by Keith Luke/Unsplash. Download Full Image

First-year college students who could imagine graduating college in great detail had higher grade point averages in the second year of college and were more likely to continue in STEM and business degree programs. During the first two years of college, men and women diverged in how they visualized postcollege career goals. Men increased the level of detail, but women remained stagnant. The work was published in Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin.

“We found that how vividly students imagined their future initially, and how that visualization changed over time, were both important for academic success,” said Samantha McMichael, a graduate student in the Department of Psychology and first author on the paper. “The differences in how men and women imagined their postgraduation life might help us understand the sex differences we see in STEM and business field. When people vividly imagine the future, they can connect better with their goals and make decisions that benefit their future self rather than their present self.”  

The study followed nearly 900 undergraduate students through their first two years of college. 

Students completed questionnaires that measured how vividly they imagined themselves graduating from college and five years after graduation. They were surveyed five times: from their first week of freshman year to the fall semester of sophomore year. 

The research team also tracked the grade point averages of the students and whether they left a STEM or business program of study.

Students who vividly imagined themselves graduating college at the beginning of their freshman year had higher grades and were less likely to change majors away from STEM and business fields. 

“People report higher self-efficacy, or the belief in their ability to do something, for achieving their future goals when they can vividly imagine the outcome of those goals,” said Virginia Kwan, professor of psychology and senior author on the paper. “Imagining the outcome of goals is like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” 

The research team expected that college students completing their first year or beginning of their second year would gain clarity in visualizing their postgraduation goals. But this was only the case for men. 

“On average, women did not see their postgraduation selves more clearly as they went through college. Why women are losing their focus is an important question that could have implications for them being underrepresented in leaky pipeline fields like STEM and business,” Kwan said.

The research team is currently working on ways to increase how vividly students imagine future academic and career goals.

This study was supported by a grant from the Institute for Education Sciences, U.S. Department of Education (R305 A160023). 

Morris Okun, Cameron Bunker, Oliver Graudejus and Kevin Grimm of ASU also contributed to the study. Michael Baxter of Montclair State University, a former postdoctoral researcher at ASU, was also part of the research team.

Science writer, Psychology Department

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Novus Innovation Corridor receives LEED-ND Gold certification

Partnership between ASU, Catellus achieves national sustainability recognition from US Green Building Council


May 25, 2021

In a first for Arizona, the Novus Innovation Corridor earned LEED-ND Gold certification last month from the U.S. Green Building Council. The 355-acre mixed-use, public-private partnership between Arizona State University and Catellus Development Corporation is adjacent to the ASU Tempe campus.

Novus is the first LEED-ND (Neighborhood Development) community certified at any level in Arizona. The Gold certification is the second-highest certification awarded by USGBC on its scale of Certified, Silver, Gold and Platinum designations. The 62 points awarded to Novus qualifies it nationally among the top 10 best-scoring LEED-ND projects of all time. The LEED-ND program is designed to combat urban sprawl by inspiring and helping to create better, more sustainable, well-connected communities. Aerial rendering of the Novus Innovation Corridor at future completion, looking northwest from University and Rural Artist rendering of the Novus Innovation Corridor, looking northwest from the intersection of University Drive and Rural Road in Tempe. Image courtesy of Novus Download Full Image

“This is a remarkable achievement to earn certification at this level so early into a long-term development,” said Brian Kearney, first vice president of Catellus, master developer of the multiphased Novus community. “Our company is committed to creating sustainable mixed-use communities that integrate energy-efficient design with cutting-edge technology.”

Certified green buildings, compact development, walkable streets and proximity to transit facilities are key sustainable components of the development. Located in the heart of the Phoenix metropolitan area alongside Tempe Town Lake, the Novus Innovation Corridor on the campus of the nation’s most innovative university is less than 2 miles from Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport and easily accessible from Valley Metro light rail and the regional highway system. All were important factors in gaining the Gold certification.

This announcement follows recent news that the first Class-A commercial office building in Novus’ Phase III also earned a LEED Gold certification as an individual project.

“We have set an early high bar within Novus both at the community and project levels, an appropriate step that is important to our partner, ASU,” Kearney said.

Novus’ first phase was the development of the 2.1 million-square-foot Marina Heights regional hub for State Farm, followed shortly by the $307 million reinvention of Sun Devil Stadium. Novus is currently in Phase III of development, a 19-acre area at the northwest corner of University Drive and Rural Road. In addition to the 777 Tower’s completion in June 2020, the Hyatt Place/Hyatt House hotel opened its doors in August 2020, while the 318-unit Piedmont, Novus’ first multifamily residential project, is scheduled to welcome its first residents in July.

Additionally, the Novus Place Parking Structure has been completed and will serve office, hotel and retail uses. More office, residential and retail projects, including the Novus Place Retail District, are following close behind. Reflecting the development’s strong momentum, the first project in Novus’ Phase IV will be announced shortly. When fully developed, Novus will contain more than 10 million square feet of offices, residences, hotels, retail and entertainment uses.

ASU has a long history of focusing on sustainability under the guidance of its president, Michael M. Crow. ASU is currently rated ninth in the world and first in the U.S. by the Times Higher Education Impact Ratings, the only global performance measures that assess universities against the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Sustainability is embedded into departmental goals and operational practices across ASU. Currently under construction at the intersection of ASU’s research facilities and Novus’ commercial development, the new Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7 (ISTB7) will achieve at least LEED Gold certification.

“The evolution of the Novus Innovation Corridor as an exemplar of what can be accomplished through a strong partnership between an innovative global research university and the private sector is truly exciting,” said Morgan R. Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer. “Receiving LEED-ND Gold status underscores our shared commitment with Catellus to sustainable building; our collaboration continues to produce outstanding accomplishments.”

Novus is one of the largest urban commercial developments in the country, incorporating a theme of live, work, learn and play by integrating retail districts, residential spaces, high-rise office space, shaded sidewalks, bike paths and urban parks into a fully “walkable” community.