ASU Graduate College announces first-ever Staff Awards for Excellence winners

6 ASU staff members awarded the Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence

June 23, 2021

The Graduate College has announced the recipients of its inaugural Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence. Established to recognize the prodigious role Arizona State University staff members play in the success of graduate students at ASU, the awards are one way the Graduate College can shine a spotlight on the tireless work of ASU staff members who play a critical role in the college's mission.  

“ASU staff members who support ASU graduate students often go the extra mile to make sure they complete their graduate degrees successfully and move on to bright futures. We couldn’t be more thankful for their hard work and dedication, which makes our job that much easier,” said Elizabeth Wentz, vice provost and Graduate College dean. collage of portraits of the six winners of the Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence (clockwise from top left): ndra Williams, Kylie Burkholder, Katie Ulmer, Kathleen Malles, Natalie Hebert and Lynn Pratte Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence winners pictured clockwise from top left: Andra Williams, Kylie Burkholder, Katie Ulmer, Kathleen Malles, Natalie Hebert and Lynn Pratte. Download Full Image

ASU has more than 300 hardworking staff members who support graduate students during their academic journeys, many of whom are deserving of recognition for their dedication to graduate students. The number of deserving staff members is much higher than the number of awards that can be given, as evidenced by the overwhelming number of nominations the Graduate College received from ASU faculty, staff and students. In the case of the Going the Extra Mile award, there was a three-way tie almost doubling the number of total awards given. 

“Reading the nominations from students, faculty and staff across ASU was inspiring,” said Brian Mattson, Graduate College executive director. “It’s a testament to how many lives ASU staff members touch in consequential ways in their role as part of the graduate student support system at ASU.” 

The Graduate College Staff Awards for Excellence are awarded in four categories: Going the Extra Mile, Outstanding New Staff Member, Supporting Student Success and Outstanding Collaboration. All winners will receive a personalized award for their office and a letter of congratulations from Wentz. 

Going the Extra Mile

The Going the Extra Mile award is an opportunity for ASU staff and faculty to recognize a staff member in a graduate support roleA graduate support role includes any staff member that provides support to graduate students and has made a significant impact on the graduate experience at ASU. that has contributed in a significant way to the academic success or overall experience of graduate students at ASU.

Andra Williams, senior coordinator in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society 

For Williams, students are her top priority and she cares about their success deeply. Among her accomplishments this year, Williams:

  • Created a PhD milestone chart based on feedback from students for tracking their graduate degree programs to supplement the iPOS in the HSD program. 

  • Used her experience and ideas in a proposal through which more than 20 students from the University of Guyana were brought to the immersive IGD PhD program. She was also instrumental in helping to redesign the $1.8 million grant to enroll 22 PhD and master's students from the University of Guyana. 

  • Helped design the IGD Pathway program of online course work, which helps graduate students complete several credits before they arrive in Tempe and ensures a smooth enrollment process. This can be used as a model for how to recruit professionals from around the world in the future.

According to her nominator, “The students love her and the faculty cannot do without her.” She brings kindness, words of encouragement and addresses issues promptly.

“She is a gem and we are very appreciative of her contributions to SFIS and to ASU.” 

Kylie Burkholder, graduate support coordinator in the School of Life Sciences 

Burkholder is a believer in long-term planning, a quality that benefits the students she works with and her colleagues in the School of Life Sciences. Burkholder went above and beyond her regular duties in the following ways:

  • In response to the pandemic, Bukrholder developed a new virtual guide for incoming students on Canvas, organizing the information they would need for starting classes in an “effort that will pay off for years to come.” 

  • Overhauled the admissions process for the School of Life Sciences 4+1 programs, creating new informational materials, building new forms and hosting webinars. She worked closely with undergraduate advisers and program directors to streamline the process and train other staff to guarantee smooth operation. 

  • Began an EdD program to learn more about the creation of online programs so that she could help the School of Life Sciences create a new online degree program. 

According to her nominator, Burkholder “finds creative solutions to intractable problems and helps students focus on their long-term goals.”

Katie Ulmer, student support coordinator in the Department of Psychology 

Ulmer likes to build systems to make things easier for everyone else, especially ASU graduate students. Among her accomplishments this year, Ulmer:

  • Conducted personalized orientation sessions for all new graduate students to help them plan to meet their academic milestones and complete their degrees, eliminating a great deal of students’ stress and anxiety. 

  • Provided iPOS training to first-year graduate students as part of the Professional Issues seminar. 

  • Stepped up to help with the American Psychological Association accreditation self-study, making sure that her unit had the information and data needed for the ongoing accreditation process. 

According to her nominator, “Her commitment to our students is without equal, and I know (and our students know) that no ball will ever be dropped with Katie on the job.” 

Outstanding New Staff Member

The Outstanding New Staff Member award is an opportunity for ASU staff and faculty to recognize a newer staff memberin current position at ASU for two years or less in a graduate support role that has contributed in a significant way to the academic success or overall experience of graduate students at ASU.

Kathleen Malles, program coordinator in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Malles has been a part of ASU for a long time, earning both her undergraduate and now her graduate degree from ASU. As a result, she brings insight into what students need and want to her work. Among her accomplishments this year, Malles:

  • Created a number of resources for new students, including a welcome packet, a student orientation program and a new student mentor program. The mentor program pairs new students with second-year students and/or alumni and professionals depending on student needs and goals. The program started with eight students and currently has more than 150 actively involved. 

  • Launched a monthly webinar series that includes faculty and experts in the field from around the world, which students can attend and earn continuing education units.   

  • Developed a student tracking system to identify students who are struggling or might be falling behind that provides an opportunity for early intervention. 

According to her nominator, Malles has never just done her job. “She has always looked for ways to improve and increase the efficiency of our program."

Supporting Student Success

The Supporting Student Success award is an opportunity for graduate students to recognize a staff member in a graduate support role that has contributed in a significant way to their academic success or overall graduate student experience during their graduate program.

Natalie Hebert, administrative associate in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice

Hebert coached her graduate student nominator through debilitating social isolation during the pandemic and to make a decision that improved their mental health and their career trajectory. In the nominator's own words, “Thanks to Natalie’s support in making this decision, I was able to take a position this spring where I wake up excited to go to work ... I’ve seen such a positive change in my mental health as a result.”

But that’s not all. Herbert also helped this student find extra funding to attend professional workshops. 

According to her nominator, “Natalie Herbert is a key example of ASU’s commitment to the success of each unique student.”

Outstanding Collaboration

The Outstanding Collaboration award is an opportunity for Graduate College employees to nominate a staff member in a graduate support role outside of the Graduate College that has volunteered to collaborate on projects, tasks and/or who have served as a trusted source to champion new Graduate College initiatives.

Lynn Pratte, senior academic success advising coordinator in the School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering

Pratte is always focused on making things better for students and colleagues. So it makes sense that she is the “go-to person” for the Graduate College’s graduate program support and data/IT teams for beta testing new tools that will help her graduate support colleagues. Among her contributions, Pratte:

  • Helped create filters for gaduate student progress analytics reports and helped to test and improve the faculty approval process in iPOS and the manage staff adviser tool.  

  • Served as a model for how to work with International Accelerated Degree Programs (IADP) students by creating orientations and registration and advising practices. 

  • Volunteered to serve in focus groups for improving the 4+1 process to increase enrollment and for improving the grad adviser portal. 

  • Assisted in graduate support staff meetings and periodically leads them as a subject matter expert to share her knowledge. 

According to her nominator, Pratte is committed to collaborating on projects that will increase student success, especially if they make systems and processes work more smoothly. Through her advice and feedback, she has enhanced the operational effectiveness of the Graduate College. 

Tracy Viselli

Director of Communications and Marketing, Graduate College


Gender equity center boosts burgeoning ecosystem of female entrepreneurs in Hawaii

June 23, 2021

Arizona State University’s Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology co-hosted a virtual pitch competition on June 17 sponsored by AnitaB.Org to support Hawaii-based startups led by women.

“It was so exciting and heartwarming to see this event finally come to fruition,” said President and CEO Brenda Wilkerson. “This is something we’ve been talking about for at least two years. We couldn’t be happier with this experience and can’t wait to see the impact these amazing women are going to have on our world.” screen cap of Kalani Bright wearing headphones and smiling during a Zoom call in which she accepted the first place prize for Mana Studies in the Pitch Competition Download Full Image

Wilkerson was one of the three judges for the event, along with Quincy Brown, head of the programs department at, and Darien Siguenza, program manager at Hawaii's new accelerator program designed for and by women — Hawai'i FoundHer. These three women focus on connecting, funding, uplifting and mentoring women and their entrepreneurial aspirations.

Six finalists were chosen to participate in the competition from an array of emerging female entrepreneurs who use science and technology to address challenges and create new opportunities to make a positive impact in Hawaii and beyond.

First place was awarded to Kalani Bright at Mana Studios for the ʻŌleloflix platform that uses crowdsourcing and technology to translate any Netflix or Disney+ film into ʻŌlelo Hawaiʻi (Hawaiian language). This organization won $5,000 to advance its work, empowering Indigenous communities to renormalize their language by integrating it into popular media platforms.

Second place went to Noe Foster at HealthTechApps whose platform pairs AI with video to capture, compute and communicate mental health symptoms and triggers as they unfold to assist users in authoring their own health stories so that health professionals can better personalize interventions and improve quality of life.

In third, Mauka Market, presented by Trinity Asing, hand-selects artisans who are committed to sourcing ethically and developing a restorative ecosystem to create a platform for these products to be sold and purchased. In fourth, 3Rwater Inc. and its founder, Lauren Roth Venu, created a platform that utilizes rainfall data and gauges to develop green stormwater infrastructure and management strategies for individual properties.

To round out the competition awards, Nohealani Frizzell at Native Stories provides an audio player that allows users to take walking tours and hear Native stories, which is also supported by the popular Native Stories podcast, and Joelle Simonpietri at Aloha Carbon takes construction and demolition waste and converts it into green hydrogen and sustainable aviation fuel. 

This pitch competition is just one of the many Hawaii-based initiatives that the Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology has been a part of over the last couple of years. Executive Director and founder of the center Kimberly Scott is committed to continuing to amplify the burgeoning ecosystem of female entrepreneurs and supporting more girls of color in STEM.

“My center is honored to collaborate with Hawaii partners on this important endeavor. Thanks to the foresight and benevolence of, the pitch competition allows us to provide opportunities and resources so that more techno-social change agents can build their capacities for transforming STEM. At a time when many organizations are new to supporting and/or driving social justice initiatives, our center has been engaged in equity practices since its inception five years ago. Integral to our work is supporting future leaders such as those who participated in the pitch competition.”

In addition to their prize money, each finalist has been given the opportunity to work one-on-one with Siguenza at Hawai'i FoundHer to polish their pitches and business models.

“Throughout my career supporting startups, I have seen the significant challenges that women and mother entrepreneurs face. Women-led startups receive 2-3% of venture capital funding, and women of color receive less than 1%,” Siguenza said. “Events like this are critical to elevating women in business and providing them exposure for future opportunities. Supporting women-owned businesses in Hawaii creates jobs in our communities, empowers women as leaders and leads us toward a future free of tourism dependence.”

Hawai'i FoundHer is tailored to the needs of Native Hawaiian, Pacific Islander and/or Asian women and mothers starting businesses. Co-founder Bella Hughes said, "Women, and especially women of color, are historically over-mentored and underfunded. The barriers to entry to build a new business with a clear path to profitability are increasingly more challenging, and very few accelerators and incubators are designed to empower women entrepreneurs holistically.” Hawai’i FoundHer aims to provide funding, child and elder care, workspace and mentoring to five women-led startups in five core markets of Hawaii’s economy: technology, fashion, health and wellness, food system/restaurants, and keiki/education. Its pilot program is set to launch this September, and it is currently accepting applications to participate until July 1.

Julianne Culey

Communications Specialist, Center for Gender Equity in Science and Technology