Newly appointed director of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights reflects on ASU beginnings

ASU alumna Lisa Pino to be recognized as one of The College Leaders for 2021


October 28, 2021

Arizona State University alumna Lisa Pino was born and raised in New York City — her mother a political refugee from Cuba and her father a political refugee from Spain. As a first-generation American and a first-generation college student, navigating her young adulthood and finding her identity was challenging at times. But Pino said that it was at Arizona State University that she was able to truly find herself.

“Figuring out how to formulate my own voice and find my own place at ASU and in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, where most of my friends were international students, most of my professors were international or taught classes related to foreign languages and culture, it was almost like a microcosm of New York, but in a completely new terrain that helped me develop growth and find my confidence,” Pino said. Arizona State University alumna Lisa Pino will be recognized by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as one of The College Leaders for 2021. Download Full Image

Pino earned three degrees from ASU — a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1996, a master’s degree in humanities in 1999 and a juris doctor in 2005. Using these degrees as her foundation, Pino has dedicated her career to addressing poverty and creating opportunities for low-income individuals from diverse backgrounds. 

She has spent much of her career in leadership positions at federal agencies. In 2009, she was appointed the deputy administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Program at the ​​U.S. Department of Agriculture by former President Barack Obama. Under Pino’s leadership, ​​SNAP had its highest growth period in history, serving 46 million Americans monthly.

In 2012, she became the USDA’s deputy assistant secretary in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. After working at the USDA for over four years, Pino was then named the senior counselor to the secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Just last month, Pino was named the director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR). The OCR enforces federal civil rights, conscience and religious freedom laws, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA); Privacy, Security and Breach Notification Rules; the Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Act; and the Patient Safety Rule.

Prior to her work at the federal level, she worked in Arizona as a staff attorney for migrant farmworkers, an affordable housing advocate and a nonprofit leader.

For her professional accomplishments and community contributions, Pino will be recognized by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as one of The College Leaders for 2021. She shared more about her Sun Devil story and her career.

MORE: 4 outstanding ASU alumni honored as The College Leaders of 2021

Question: What initially interested you about your major?

Answer: I spent a significant amount of time selecting my major as I could not initially decide. I was torn between history and journalism, but ultimately landed on Spanish, which became a focus on Latin American and Spanish language, literature and history. My own self discovery as a Latina, first-generation American and the first college graduate in my family made me revisit what my background, family heritage and identity meant to me as a person and a student. The inspiring liberal arts curriculum at ASU and the open minds of varying backgrounds of my new global friends fostered my interest, fascination and focus on what being LatinxA gender-neutral or nonbinary term used to describe people who are of or relate to Latin American origin or descent. now meant to me, and how my personal background would shape my own education and career path.

Q: How did your programs in The College help prepare you for your career?

A: The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offered classes and an environment where I truly felt comfortable and supported to pursue my own interests without being burdened by limited options. My graduate program in humanities encouraged me to choose my own focus, where I combined prior interests in the Latino community with media portrayals and discriminatory portrayals of immigrant communities. As a graduate student, I learned to juggle classwork, academic writing, part-time work ranging from teaching to research, and push my own academic boundaries with coursework that was ahead of its time. 

Q: What is your favorite part about your chosen career path?

A: ​​That my work naturally combines my own personal story, background and professional interests, and that I am one of a much broader movement contributing for good on behalf of communities. I remain continually challenged. It is never boring. The work remains increasingly complex. My work in law, public service and social justice is part of who I am, but this work is one that must be granted from one generation to the next, and I hope to keep mentoring and building the next generation of leaders.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish in 10 years?

A: I think the next 10 years are a great opportunity to see what more I can do in terms of mentoring young people, students and recent grads. I've mentored many high school students, undergraduate students and aspiring law students throughout the years. So I think the next chapter in my own career is to see how I can harness my wisdom and experiences in a more strategic way to better serve the new generation of public servants and civil rights leaders.

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

4 outstanding ASU alumni honored as The College Leaders of 2021


October 29, 2021

On Oct. 29, four outstanding alumni of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will be recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments with an induction into The College Leaders. 

Since 1997, The College Leaders program has recognized 77 outstanding alumni from across The College’s natural science, social science and humanities divisions. The College will also be recognizing 137 of its current students from across the divisions.  Collage of headshots of ASU College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumni Lisa Clark, Herman Frazier, Lisa Pino and Dave Wilson. Alumni of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (from left) Lisa Clark, Herman Frazier, Lisa Pino and Dave Wilson will be recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments with an induction into The College Leaders on Oct. 29. Download Full Image

This year’s leaders, Lisa Clark, Herman Frazier, Lisa Pino and Dave Wilson, demonstrate the ways in which a degree in liberal arts and sciences can lead to a successful career in a number of fields. Each alumni will be recognized for their achievements in business, research and community service. They join a distinguished group of individuals who showcase extraordinary leadership skills while driving positive change locally and internationally.

Lisa Clark: Starting anew as an amateur race car driver

Clark received a bachelor’s degree in psychology in 1988, and went on to have a successful career as a business owner and real estate agent. In 2013, when her daughters were grown and moved out, she decided it was time to start a new chapter and explore her passion for motorsports. 

After eight years of tirelessly working her way up in the racing world, Clark is now going into her sixth season as an amateur race car driver in the Ferrari Challenge series. She also does endurance racing in Europe with Audi and Porsche.

Clark said her degree in psychology is incredibly versatile and has come in handy both in her real estate career and her racing career.

“Being a psychology major helped prepare me for my career in real estate when dealing with people, and not necessarily like-minded people, that have an interest in purchasing real estate,” Clark said. 

“Understanding psychology in racing is also very important because you have to be aware of not only your relationship with people that you're racing against on the track, but also the team and your pit crew. You're dealing with a lot of like-minded people because you share the same passion and there's a lot of respect there. But it's a highly competitive business, and a lot of the personality types can shift in high-stress situations.”

Herman Frazier: From gold medal Olympian to successful athletics director 

Frazier received a bachelor’s degree in political science in 1977. At just 21 years old, he won gold and bronze medals in track and field at the 1976 Olympic games. Upon graduating he was offered a position with Sun Devil Athletics. He remained with the university for 23 years, working in athletics administration and eventually becoming the senior associate athletic director where he led ASU to a national title in track and field.

He currently serves as the senior deputy director of athletics at Syracuse University, where he’s been since 2011. Prior to working at Syracuse University, he held a number of athletic director positions at universities around the country, including the University of Alabama at Birmingham, Temple University and the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa. 

Frazier looks back fondly on his time at ASU, and encourages students to make the most of their time at the university.

“My three and a half years as an undergraduate were some of the best years of my life; I didn't want to leave college,” Frazier said. “I had so much fun and every day was a blessing. … I would say to all the young people, even if you're not an athlete, enjoy The College and all the things that Arizona State University represents.”

Lisa Pino: Pursuing social justice and creating opportunities for low-income communities

Pino received three degrees from ASU — a bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 1996, a master’s degree in humanities in 1999 and a juris doctor in 2005. Using these degrees as her foundation, she has dedicated her career to addressing poverty and creating opportunities for low-income individuals from diverse backgrounds. 

In 2009, she was appointed the deputy administrator of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) at the ​​U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) by former President Barack Obama. In 2012 she became the USDA’s deputy assistant secretary in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Civil Rights. 

After working at the USDA for over four years, Pino was then named the senior counselor to the secretary in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Just last month, she was named the director of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights.

Prior to her work at the federal level, she worked in Arizona as a staff attorney for migrant farmworkers, an affordable housing advocate and a nonprofit leader.

Reflecting on her time at ASU, Pino said it was in The College that she was able to find her voice and identity.

“My own self discovery as a Latina, first-generation American and the first college graduate in my family made me revisit what my background, family heritage and identity meant to me as a person and a student,” Pino said. “The inspiring liberal arts curriculum at ASU and the open minds of varying backgrounds of my new global friends fostered my interest, fascination and focus on what being Latinx now meant to me, and how my personal background would shape my own education and career path.”

Dave Wilson: Addressing health disparities in Native American communities

Wilson received a bachelor’s degree in microbiology in 1998 and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology in 2007. As a member of the Navajo Nation, he has made it his mission to have a positive impact on Native American communities. 

Throughout his career he has worked as a public health adviser in the Office of Minority Health at the Department of Health and Human Services, as a legislative analyst in the office of the director at the Indian Health Service and as an adjunct professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health’s Center for American Indian Health.

In 2017, he was selected as the first-ever director of the Tribal Health Research Office at the National Institutes of Health . In this role he engages with hundreds of tribes to provide guidance, education and research that helps improve the health and well-being of these communities.

“​​My hopes and aspirations are to be able to bring the scientific community to a place where we all recognize and appreciate what it costs Native people to be recognized as sovereign nations,” Wilson said. “I think there's just not a lot of this understanding across the country about our history. So it's really important for people to think about this and really understand what it means.”

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences