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Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs retiring after nearly 20 years of service to ASU

October 15, 2021

As a university student, Mark Jacobs always hated descending into dark residence hall basements to do his laundry, but he liked mingling with and sharing conversations with fellow students and faculty in a central dining hall, and spending time out from studying in grassy outdoor spaces.

So when, as dean of Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, he had the chance to contribute ideas to the design of the college’s residential complex on the ASU Tempe campus, he made sure to suggest laundry rooms be located on the upper floors of residence halls, and that there be outdoor courtyards and a dining hall with a refectory modeled on the one at New College Oxford in England.

Photo of Mark Jacobs

Dean Mark Jacobs

As dean, he was as committed to students’ intellectual growth as to their quality of life on campus, and he believed the new Barrett Honors College Tempe complex should reflect that.

In 2009, true to Jacobs’ vision, ASU’s four-year residential campus for honors students opened on nine acres at the southeast corner of the Tempe campus, with residence halls accommodating 1,700 students, classrooms, social lounges, a dining center, cafe, courtyards, an outdoor fireplace, an environmentally sustainable residence hall with a rooftop organic garden, offices for administrators, faculty and staff, and laundry rooms on the top floors of residence halls, next to lounges with natural light streaming through large windows.   

After 19 years of service as the dean of Barrett, The Honors College, Jacobs intends to retire at the end of the 2021–22 year. The Barrett Tempe complex is part of the legacy he will leave the university.

Jacobs came to ASU in the fall of 2003 from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, where he had held an endowed chair in biology and had been both chair of the Biology Department and associate provost of the college.

“Some people at ASU focus on the comma as the great differentiator of Barrett, The Honors College,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “What makes Barrett distinguishable isn’t the punctuation, it’s the people who have made this unique honors college what it is — one of the finest colleges for honors students in the country. Quality and excellence are as much a part of what makes ASU what it is as access, and it is people like Mark Jacobs who have made sure we establish the very highest standards in that regard.

"His work has carried Barrett from what was still a work in progress to what is now one of the great successes of the entire university. We are grateful for the work he has done to help establish what is today a truly remarkable college that he will hand off to its future leaders.” 

ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Nancy Gonzales echoed those sentiments.   

“As the architect for ASU’s top-ranked honors college, Mark Jacobs brought a deep understanding of our students and what is required to create a community that would meet their needs on many levels — intellectually, socially and culturally. Barrett now attracts outstanding students from across the country, and the entire ASU community has benefited,” Gonzales said.

“We will immediately launch a national search for the next dean. We expect this opportunity will attract a visionary leader who understands Barrett’s unique position among honors colleges nationally and is prepared to lead its continuous evolution for future generations.” 

Craig Barrett, former Intel CEO, and Barbara Barrett, former U.S. secretary of the Air Force, said in a joint statement, “Under the steady hand of Dean Mark Jacobs for almost two decades, Barrett Honors College has inspired students, administration, faculty and alumni.

“Dean Jacobs designed an innovative residential and academic micro-campus, expanded student global exposure opportunities and modeled the best in honors college protocols. No wonder high-performing honors colleges everywhere study his pioneering vision. While we will miss his talents and charm, our greatest sentiment is gratitude for his steadfast leadership.”

In addition to the construction and opening of the Barrett Tempe complex, the honors college experienced significant milestones under Jacobs’ leadership.

In recent years, the honors college expanded into Barrett @ Vista del Sol — a complex covering more than 20 acres adjacent to Barrett Tempe and accommodating 1,800 sophomore, junior and senior students in an apartment-style living community with easy access to faculty and staff offices, classrooms, the dining center and other services.

The honors college has evolved with full honors facilities, including faculty and staff offices, community space and residence halls on all four ASU campuses, consistent with the New American University concept of one university in many places.

Honors course offerings, including signature classes called The Human Event and The History of Ideas, are supplemented by study abroad programs in such countries as Greece, Italy, England, Ireland, Scotland, Peru and Costa Rica. The college also has an honors domestic travel/study program called Great American Cities in which students visit such major cultural centers as New York City, Washington, D.C., New Orleans and San Francisco.

Other significant advances during Jacob’s tenure include the development of the Barrett Office of Global Initiatives, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development and a Barrett Honors online presence.

In 2017, thanks to the generosity and advocacy of the Barretts, the Office of Global Initiatives was established, enabling honors students to enhance their education and increase their global impact through the Barrett Global Classroom, a Distinguished Global Leader speakers series, travel abroad and exchange opportunities, service learning programs like Global Resolve and a world-leader-in-residence program, the first of its kind in the country.

In 2019, the T.W. Lewis Center for Personal Development was established at Barrett, The Honors College. The center, which is supported by funding from the T.W. Lewis Foundation, provides innovative courses, workshops and a speaker series focused on self-awareness, personal values and character development, leadership and entrepreneurship, career planning, success and happiness.

More recently, with a mission to expand access, the honors college partnered with ASU's EdPlus to explore honors opportunities for ASU upper-division online students.

Barrett Vice Dean Kristen Hermann has worked with Jacobs since his arrival at ASU.

“I think Mark’s optimism is a driving force behind his leadership. He is open, genuine and approachable, and able to discern the greatest strengths of his colleagues, and help them to best use those strengths. He is unpretentious, self-aware and a confident visionary and decisive leader,” she said.  

Hermann said Jacobs “focused on reconceptualizing Barrett Honors College not as a peer of other honors colleges, but as a peer of the nation’s top private liberal arts schools like Amherst, Pomona, Williams and Swarthmore with a vision to build infrastructure, programs and a physical facility that would offer a new version of a great residential college.

“He has conceptualized and developed the honors college over the past two decades into what is widely recognized as the most evolved and resourced honors college in the nation and in the world. His most significant accomplishments include having the vision to see Barrett as a residential college that competes with the top private liberal arts schools in the country but offers so much more because of the diversity and choices of research and educational resources at a large public research university — in the nation’s fifth-largest city.” 

Tom Lewis, founder, owner and CEO of the T.W. Lewis Company, a Phoenix-based real estate investment firm, said Jacobs helped him envision the design of an honors college at his alma mater, the University of Kentucky.

“He’s not just the dean of Barrett Honors College, but an expert nationally known in the field of honors experiences. Because of Mark, Barrett is the gold standard for honors colleges in America. It’s one of the first (honors colleges) and to this day I think it’s the gold standard of honors colleges, and it couldn’t have happened without Mark.”

Susan Drescher-Mulzet, who, with her husband Mark Mulzet, established the Sol and Esther Drescher Endowed Development Fund to support research opportunities for Barrett Honors College faculty fellows, called Jacobs “a renaissance man.”

“Over the past two decades, Dean Mark Jacobs has steadily guided Barrett, The Honors College to its current position as the pinnacle of excellence," Drescher-Mulzet said. "We have thoroughly enjoyed sharing this journey with him, his staff and his students. In addition, we cherish our friendship and happy memories.”

Barrett, The Honors College by the numbers

In 2003–04, the total student population in Barrett was 2,696, with 231 National Merit and National Hispanic Scholars among them. In 2020–21, total student population in the honors college grew to 6,987, with 283 National Merit and National Hispanic Scholars.

In 2003–04, 110 students graduated ASU with honors from Barrett Honors College. In 2020–21, 1,200 students graduated ASU with honors.

There were nine honors faculty members in 2003–04; now there are 44. The number of staff has grown from 16 in 2003 to 82 today. In 2003, the honors college offered 128 honors courses and 1,260 honors contractsHonors contracts are the agreements students make with faculty to do coursework for honors credit.. In 2020–21, there are 672 honors courses and 4,874 honors contracts.

Barrett, The Honors College facilities grew from 198,132 square feet in 2003–04 to more than 1.7 million square feet currently.

Top photo: Barrett, The Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs addresses the crowd at college's spring 2019 convocation. Photo by Barrett, The Honors College

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College


Felicidades, 2021 ASU Hispanic Heritage Month honorees

ASU recognizes distinguished alumni for their achievements and contributions to the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona

October 15, 2021

Through a wide array of activities and events, Arizona State University annually celebrates the histories, cultures and contributions of Latino and Hispanic individuals and communities across the United States. The monthlong celebration commemorates National Hispanic Heritage Month, observed Sept. 15Oct. 15.

As a highlight of the celebration, the university recognizes distinguished ASU alumni for their achievements and contributions to the Hispanic and Latino community in Arizona. The 2021 honorees were announced and presented on the field at the Oct. 8 ASU football game at Sun Devil Stadium. The honorees were also recognized at the Access ASU Partner Tailgate in La Casita, held just prior to kickoff. Silhouettes of six people giving the forks up hand signal in front of a sunset Download Full Image

“We’re so proud to recognize the 2021 honorees for Hispanic and LatinxA gender-neutral term for Latino/a preferred by some individuals and organizations. Heritage Month who have done so much for not only the ASU community but for Arizona families,” said Edmundo Hidalgo, vice president of outreach with Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU. 

2021 ASU staff honoree: Provost Nancy Gonzales

Nancy Gonzales is the executive vice president and university provost at ASU. A first-generation college student who earned bachelor's degrees in psychology and biology from ASU, Gonzales has dedicated her career to expanding educational access and conducting research in culturally diverse populations. 

Gonzales is proud to be the first ASU alum to serve as provost and considers it an honor and a responsibility to advance the Hispanic community.

“When you are raised in a tight-knit Hispanic community like I was, giving back to the community comes naturally; it's something that you are proud to do,” she said. 

“It has been a great honor for me that I've been able to also give back as a researcher, a teacher and now as university provost. Arizona State University this year will be designated federally as a Hispanic-Serving Institution, and as an institution serving a large number of Hispanic students, it is our responsibility to make sure that they succeed.”

Gonzales serves as ASU’s chief academic officer, advancing all educational programs and degrees for ASU’s diverse student population and the world-class faculty needed to train the next-generation workforce and leaders of our state and nation. Prior to leading as university provost, Gonzales was the dean of natural sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. She has also enjoyed a long research and teaching career as a Foundation Professor of psychology. 

2021 alumni honoree: Maria Echeveste

Maria Echeveste remembers her time at ASU fondly, and not just because of the liberal arts degree she earned; she met her husband, Craig, at a reception for the Hispanic Business Student Association. As the senior vice president and community relations manager for Bank of America’s Phoenix Local Markets Office, Echeveste now executes philanthropic programs to the tune of $2 million annually that address economic opportunities in Phoenix. 

She said that she’s so grateful to be a part of ASU to help solve inequalities in Arizona.

“ASU is an important institution in our community, in our country and around the world,” she said. “And when you look at that intersection of how are they addressing needs such as housing, climate, heat islands, education … a lot of the inequities are impacting our Latino community.”

Echeveste serves on many local boards and committees, including on the board of directors for the Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, the Arizona Grantmakers Forum, the Phoenix Local Initiative Support Corporation Local Advisory Committee, the Arizona Partnership for Healthy Communities, Arizona Housing Coalition and Arizona Community Reinvestment Collaborative, in addition to her work with ASU Leveraging Talent AZ and Be A Leader. 

2021 community organization honoree: Aliento

Aliento is an Arizona organization that serves undocumented, DACAThe Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. and mixed-immigration-status families to transform trauma into hope and action. Founder and CEO Reyna Montoya grew up undocumented in Arizona. A proud ASU alum with degrees in political science and transborder studies and a minor in dance as a first-generation student, Montoya launched Aliento in 2016 after years of organizing, and the group has touched the lives of more than 25,000 people through youth-led arts, leadership development and community organizing. 

Montoya said that after going to school in predominantly white spaces, arriving at ASU was a breath of fresh air, realizing “there’s people that look like me.” Raising awareness of the power and value of diversity is very important to her. 

“I feel a lot of pride to know that our music, our heritage, our culture matters and brings a unique perspective, and that I don't have to choose between being a Latina, being Mexican, being American,” she said. “This is what home means. And ASU and Arizona are my home, and I can be Latina. I can be proud. And I can be an example for other generations to be reminded that that diversity is a strength, not a weakness.”

Aliento Education and External Affairs Director Jose Patiño was born in Mexico and became involved in the Dreamer"Dreamer" refers to those who would benefit from either DACA or the DREAM (Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act. movement in 2009. A DACA recipient and first-generation student, Patiño earned his bachelor’s in mechanical engineering from ASU and now leads Aliento’s efforts to gain in-state tuition and access to scholarships for all Arizona students, regardless of their immigration status.

He is proud to serve his community and believes in giving back through opening up access to higher education. 

“I think at the end of the day, nobody can succeed alone,” he said. “That's what it's about. It's about being able to not only pay it forward, but being there for one another.”

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services