Lincoln Scholars program engages students in ethics and co-creative learning

Student profile: Double major combines passion for ethics and science, emphasizes equity for women in STEM fields

October 12, 2021

The Arizona State University Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics encourages students from all disciplines to engage in ethical issues through its Lincoln Scholars seminars. The program awards scholarships to students who participate in a one-credit seminar that features community and ASU faculty speakers, along with interactive discussions and activities.

“We provide space for students to take on ethical topics by bringing in faculty from other fields to share their knowledge and engage students on important concepts like personal data privacy, the future of higher education, and topics close to the mission of our center like humane technology and ethical innovation,” said Sean Kenney, Lincoln Center education program manager.  Lincoln Scholar Miriam Goras is double majoring in biochemistry and biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior). Download Full Image

The small-group seminars encourage students to have intense conversations, explore topics outside their majors and interact directly with faculty and guests. They also teach students new ways of thinking and of asking questions, while creating a community that facilitates undergraduate research within the center.

Because the Lincoln Center believes the process of learning itself is essential to what participants can gain from the seminars, the program employs a unique learning modality. Co-creative discussions and research turn classroom experiences of participation and collaboration into vital parts of the learning process.

“We don’t want to just have students listen and take notes; we want students to learn from their peers through the inherent knowledge each person brings to the table,” Kenney said.

The emphasis on a co-creative approach offers students a learning modality that differs from traditional learning styles. Instead of a lecture-based program, the students’ life experiences and inherent, personal knowledge generate conversations and lead to discoveries.

The Lincoln Scholars program attracts students of diverse beliefs, cultures and values who share a commitment to understanding and bettering their communities. 

Lincoln Scholar Miriam Goras exemplifies this commitment while studying abroad in Germany with the department of molecular neurobiology at the Friedrich-Alexander University of Erlangen-Nuremberg, conducting research on sphingomyelin synthase inhibitors and their ability to induce controlled autophagy in vitro. She is passionate about equity in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math), especially when it comes to representation of women. Goras answered a few questions about her interests and engagement with the Lincoln Scholars program:

Question: What is your major, and what inspired you to choose this educational path?

Answer: I am a biochemistry and biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior) double major. Arriving at ASU I knew I loved biology, but I had never taken a chemistry class before. With a bit of trepidation, I signed up for an introductory chemistry class, mostly because it was a prerequisite for a cell biology class. I ended up loving it! I felt so simultaneously challenged and supported, and doing chemistry became a part of my daily routine. It was just as, if not more, difficult as I had expected, but I never felt like I was on my own. In the summer after my sophomore year, I started researching in a molecular neuroscience lab at the Biodesign Institute. In the lab, I met biochemistry students who eagerly described the major to me and encouraged me to consider it.

A great thing I love about double majoring is that I get the resources and the support of two great departments — School of Life Sciences and School of Molecular Sciences; that’s double the professors I can meet! I have had the privilege of being fully immersed in the research world at ASU. I have been working with Professor Paul Coleman since the summer after my sophomore year at ASU. In his lab, I study nuclear pore complex dysfunction in Alzheimer’s disease. Doing research at ASU has made me excited for the future research I’ll do in graduate school and in my career. It’s a bit daunting to see how much has already been discovered, and yet there is much more to be discovered and understood. Nevertheless, I’m confident I’ll leave ASU prepared to face the world of molecular anomalies and make impactful research discoveries.

Q: What motivated you to join the Lincoln Scholars program?

A: My desire to explore interdisciplinary approaches to learning and problem-solving is what inspired me to join this program. I entered college with the mindset that there is a methodical, structured approach to get to a solution. However, as my mentors, seminars and internships have taught me, creative problem-solving is nonlinear and there is tremendous value to interdisciplinary collaboration. Interactions with students from diverse disciplines will challenge me to engage in strategic thinking associated with interdisciplinary learning and channel my scientific curiosity into the development of thorough and integrative solutions.

Q: Students in the Lincoln Scholar program come from various academic disciplines. Does engaging in ethical discussions with diverse groups of people lend a new perspective to your studies?

A: As a scientist, my values and subjectivity inevitably affect my work. However, taking part in ethical discourse will allow me to become aware of my personal biases and identify gaps in my ethical decision-making process in research. Thinking critically about ethical norms will prompt me to examine the aims of my research and determine my responsibilities as a researcher. Recognizing that scientific progress is rooted in creative ethical inquiry, I believe that having my perspective challenged will strengthen the connection between discovery at the bench and innovation in the real world.

Q: In your Lincoln Scholars application, you indicated a passion for equity in STEM, especially the representation of women in STEM. Could you share with us a little about that?

A: Growing up, I did not have many female role models in STEM as most of my math and science teachers were men. While I did have strong females in my life, it was still difficult to envision myself working in male-dominated fields of STEM. Few women pursue a career in chemistry-related fields for this exact reason — the lack of female role models working in STEM. With that in mind, I took it upon myself to show young females that pursuing this career is very much an option for them.

I started small by becoming a member of Education for Humanity, where I mentor younger female college students that are in STEM to help them navigate their way through their college endeavors. As I proceeded through my college career, I was named a SOLUR undergraduate research fellow, allowing me to further prioritize my outreach efforts. I participate in a variety of educational outreach programs to get the younger public excited about recent science and biochemical breakthroughs. As one of my volunteering programs, I will be returning to my high school and giving talks to students about my research and pursuing a career in STEM. My goal with this program and my other outreach involvement is to be the role model to young females who may be struggling the same way I was as I was beginning my career in STEM.

Applications for the Lincoln Scholars program will open in late spring 2022. Learn more about the program and its students.

Victoria Vandekop

Communications Program Coordinator, Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics


ASU celebrates heritage speakers of Spanish

October 12, 2021

As part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated from Sept. 15 to Oct. 15 every year, the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University held a series of events during the first full week of October for its Spanish Heritage Language Awareness Week. 

Heritage speakers of a language are those who grew up speaking the language with family, friends or other members of their community, as opposed to learning it for the first time in a formal educational setting.   Odalis Amaya Amaya wears blue jeans and a yellow ASU T-shirt. Her arms are crossed in front of her. She is smiling and has long dark wavy hair. She is standing in front of a gray fence in front of tall grass. Junior Odalis Amaya Amaya decided to join the Spanish Heritage track to learn more about the language and culture she was raised with. Her parents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico and speak only Spanish, so Spanish is her primary language at home with them. Download Full Image

The school's Spanish department includes a specific Spanish heritage track that helps “reconnect students to their cultural heritage and linguistic roots, as well as build their self-confidence and sense of identity,” said Sara Beaudrie, the director of ASU’s Spanish Heritage Program. 

It is one of the largest such programs in the country and includes a significant online presence. 

Junior Odalis Amaya Amaya decided to join the Spanish heritage track to learn more about the language and culture she was raised with. Her parents migrated to the U.S. from Mexico and speak only Spanish, so Spanish is her primary language at home with them. With her Spanish-speaking friends, meanwhile, she typically speaks English with some Spanish mixed in. 

“Spanish has always been a part of my life since it was my first language,” Amaya Amaya said. “After I took my first Spanish class here, I knew I wanted to continue to take more Spanish classes and learn as much as I possibly could about my culture and where I come from. To me, it is important to develop my Spanish language skills to continue to have bonds and relationships with individuals who only speak Spanish and, more importantly, my family.”

Heritage courses differ from other language classes by focusing more on comfort and confidence in a language rather than rigid fluency. These courses strive to meet language speakers where they are to avoid repeating lessons they already know or assuming the level of knowledge they are entering the classroom with.

“I enjoy spending time in the classroom with other ASU students who come from the same background that I do because we all have that connection that allows for us to feel more comfortable with one another,” Amaya Amaya said.

Instructors of heritage classes are aware that heritage speakers may have complicated feelings toward the language they grew up around, such as frustration at not being at the level of competency they desire or disappointment at not being taught the language sooner.

Spanish Instructor Melissa Negrón, the coordinator of the Spanish Heritage Program, said the goal is to value students’ unique backgrounds and help them find their voices in Spanish-speaking communities, as well as the many other linguistic and cultural contexts they inhabit.

“Our students in the heritage program explore the complicated relationship of growing up in/with multiple cultures and sometimes feeling the need to pick one or the other,” Negrón said. “In the Spanish heritage classes, they are able to find a space where their multicultural identities and experiences are celebrated.”

Beaudrie, who is also an associate professor of Spanish linguistics and the associate director of the School of International Letters and Cultures, said research shows that Spanish heritage programs improve college retention for Latino students and help them build a community and find mentors.

Spanish heritage programs “teach them that their bilingual voices and ways of speaking are valid and should be celebrated,” Beaudrie said.

Amaya Amaya, a concurrent major in criminology and criminal justice and Spanish linguistics, sees her bilingualism as an asset for her future career, as well as her communication with friends and family.

“Being in the heritage program here at ASU made my love for Spanish grow even more because in the past I had not really embraced it as much as I do now,” she said. “I now understand the importance of continuing to be a part of this heritage and learning more about it every day.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures