Voices of experience: ASU health solutions alumni visit with undergrads to coach, connect

November 18, 2021

For every College of Health Solutions student who has ever wished for an older sibling on campus to help them navigate ASU, here’s the next best thing — health solutions alumni.

Alumni from a wide range of health degrees connected with current students via Zoom this semester to share their experiences and lessons learned. Panel discussions featuring health solutions alumni, piloted last year, are now a key component of CHS 101: The ASU Experience, the one-credit course first-year students take to learn about all of Arizona State University's support services that can help set them up for success. College of Health Solutions Alumni Coordinator Katie Cannon and alumnae Sasha Bayat and Iman Bouanani Health Solutions alumnae Iman Bouanani (bottom) and Sasha Bayat (top right) share their student experience with new undergraduate students as part of the CHS 101: The ASU Experience classes. College of Health Solutions alumni coordinator Katie Cannon hosts the alumni panels. Download Full Image

Alumni join panel discussions during class where they answer a moderator’s questions and then field student inquiries during Q&A sessions.

“Being a resource for new students, especially freshmen, is important for me,” said Iman Bouanani, a panelist in the 2021 lineup of alumni. “I was in online school most of my life, and going from home to a school like ASU is a little daunting. I want these new students to know there are people like me who understand what they’re going through.”

While she completed her bachelor’s degree in medical studies in 2020, Bouanani is continuing on as an ASU graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in biomedical diagnostics. Ultimately, she wants to attend medical school.

“Going into a field that’s so competitive, it’s stressful and easy to get overwhelmed,” Bouanani said.

Her goal in participating on the panels was to help new students take advantage of opportunities and build an undergraduate resume that will help with graduate school applications.

Reena Patel had similar goals when she agreed to be a panelist. At ASU, she earned a Bachelor of Science in nutrition, and now she’s pursuing her doctorate in physical therapy. Both panelists had plenty of advice for the newcomers on how to get the most that ASU has to offer.

Karina Starbuck, the assistant director of student services at the College of Health Solutions who oversees the CHS 101 classes, said the alumni panels have proved to be a popular part of the course.

"The alumni really help to motivate and inspire so many of our students. We get positive feedback and reflections from our students about the advice shared during these panels. Students appreciate hearing about the path that each alumni took to get to where they are today," she said. 

Rising above the crowd

Though both panelists said they were shy and introverted in high school, they left that shyness behind at ASU, and they advised the first-year students to do the same. The key, they said, is to get involved. Clubs, campus activities, jobs and even hobbies will work.

“Be your own person, and put yourself out there,” Patel told the students who attended her session. “A lot of people think grad school requires you to just be book smart. That is one part of it, but another part is being a person. You are going to be a health care professional, and that requires you to interact with other people and create a comfortable environment. It’s hard to do that without strong social skills.”

Reena Patel

Reena Patel speaks to ASU health solutions students via Zoom.

Bouanani expanded her skills and confidence by joining the American Medical Students Association as one means of meeting like-minded individuals and getting experience in the health care field.

“They offer opportunities in terms of volunteering,” she explained.

Bouanani also started her own club, calling it Inspire Change, and focused her efforts on helping pre-med students like herself find more extracurricular learning during the height of the pandemic, when classes were mostly online. One door she opened was a chance for students to shadow doctors in telemedicine settings, thereby helping the students better understand clinical practice itself.

Like Bouanani, Patel immersed herself in student groups and activities, and also participated in research as an undergraduate, something she says helped prepare her for a physical therapy career.

“I volunteered with a professor working with adults who have Down syndrome, which taught me how to adapt quickly based on the environment,” she said.

She also studied abroad in Peru, where she learned to communicate effectively despite language barriers.

“These are key skills required to be a successful, caring health care professional,” she added.

Bouanani made sure she reached out to instructors to augment her classroom experience.

“A lot of students are afraid to go meet with their professors. They think they’re wasting the professor’s time. That’s not the case,” she said. “Any time I had a question, I’d go straight to my professors. They are there to help and guide you. Some of the best connections I have at ASU are with my professors.”

Today, as she works through her graduate program, Bouanani helps students and professors unlock learning opportunities through internships as part of her current student worker position in the College of Health Solutions’ community placements team. Soon, she’ll be working at Phoenix Children’s Hospital to get more experience.

“It’s aligned with what I want to do — one-on-one patient care,” she said.

Bouanani is passionate about helping patients gain access to health care resources and take control of their health.

“That’s the end goal — to become a doctor, to advocate for my patients and to support patient empowerment,” she said.

Patel has a similar vision. Once she completes her doctorate and is working as a physical therapist, she hopes her impact goes beyond the hours at the clinic and helps patients create a healthier lifestyle.

“For a very long time, the solution to pain or health issues was medication, and now we are moving away from that model,” she said. “I want to help individuals with pain and impairments gain relief through exercises and lifestyle changes instead of through medication. My goal is to not only treat the impairment but to treat the patient in hopes that we can set them up for success beyond their injury.”

That goal sounds a lot like the reason Patel gave for participating in the CHS 101 panel discussions.

“I wanted to give new students advice about what ASU can offer and help set them up for success,” she said.

The College of Health Solutions is always glad to hear from alumni who are willing to share their knowledge and experience, both from their days as students and as professionals in their fields. Contact CHSalumni@asu.edu to learn more about speaking opportunities, including the CHS 101 panels.

Engaging the public in science and technology studies

College of Global Futures students earn Making and Doing Awards

November 18, 2021

Research in science and technology studies (STS) goes beyond the traditional books and academic papers. It also includes the practical application of STS and how researchers are bringing those theories and knowledge to the public.

The Making and Doing program at the Society for Social Studies of Science conference highlights this type of research. At this year's conference, two Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology students at the School for the Future of Innovation in Society in the College of Global Futures received recognition for their projects.  Groups of people at different tables participate in Future Perfect in February 2020 at the San Francisco Public Library as part of the San Francisco Night of Ideas Festival. People participate in "Future Perfect" in February 2020 at the San Francisco Public Library as part of the San Francisco Night of Ideas Festival. Photo courtesy of Julie Ericsson Download Full Image

"Making and Doing embodies the ethos that research should have a social impact," said Assistant Professor Kirk Jalbert, who is on the Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology (HSD) committee and part of the Making and Doing panelPanelists were recused from judging submissions from their home institutions.. "How do we do research that can produce generative, positive relationships and make a difference in STS? It's about reflecting on our research practices as researchers. That's something students learn in the HSD program; no matter what the subject is or who they're doing it with, their research has the potential for social impact."

This year's awards recognized five winners and three commendations for how their projects expanded the modes of STS knowledge production and how those projects connected with the conference's theme, "Good Relations: Practices and Methods in Unequal and Uncertain Worlds." 

Winner: Noa Bruhis

Productive conversations between people with different backgrounds and values can be challenging, especially on polarizing topics. Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology PhD candidate Noa Bruhis is working to solve these communication breakdowns and promote collaboration through her participatory filmmaking project "Helium Rising." 

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Noa Bruhis

"Helium extraction is happening in northeast Arizona," Bruhis said. "There are various parties involved who have a stake in it and feel very differently about what should be happening, but so far, many of them have found the venues for communication to be unsatisfactory. I am working with these parties to create a public-facing, informational resource about geology, governance and extraction technologies."

The project started as a short documentary for Bruhis' documentary filmmaking class, but she wanted to develop the project further and learn more about how people perceive information. Bruhis collaborates with various stakeholders to create a script and animation based on their different perceptions of helium extraction. The stakeholders then anonymously review the script and animation to share their feedback and whether they believe any language or visuals are misleading. 

"I'm engaging people to have conversations in a different way through film. In STS, we call that a boundary object, so they're engaging with the thing instead of each other. I wanted to create a way for each of these parties to feel heard and have a platform to share their views and get their questions answered. I wanted something that everyone could take ownership in, and that would be mutually beneficial for both the community and our research."

The project was also done in partnership with School for the Future of Innovation in Society undergraduate research fellows Beth Keyes and Sakshi Hegde in the CivicFutures lab, created by Jalbert. The lab is a space where students can work collaboratively on projects with other faculty and students to produce high-impact research for public engagement in science. One of Jalbert's goals with the lab is to rearrange the relationship of power in research.  

"Why is it that, as researchers, our questions have to be the ones that lead?" Jalbert said. "Why can't the questions and concerns of the community lead our research? That way, researchers in public institutions become what they really should be, public servants."

Bruhis is finishing up the project this semester and then plans to have a workshop where these different groups can come together to discuss their diverse views and work toward forward-thinking resolutions. 

"It's such an age-old problem; there are different ways to think about anything," Bruhis said. "People have different values, and there can be friction when they come together. I hope this project can further conversations that lead to collaborative solutions or a shift in the procedure that makes people feel more included."

Commendation: Ben Gansky

Participating in civic engagement can seem overwhelming to some. What's the best way to get involved? Am I "qualified" to debate policy? But in order to create equitable futures, individuals and communities need to get involved. Human and Social Dimensions of Science and Technology PhD student Ben Gansky has designed a fun and interactive way to empower people to become advocates and play a critical role in creating these futures. 

Photo of . Photo credit: Ben Hamamoto

Ben Gansky

"Future Perfect is a live, group, choose-your-own-adventure in which participants take on the role of neighborhood council members in an imaginary society called Tomorrowland," Gansky said. "We then unfold this 20-year narrative going into the future. Neighborhood council members are presented with a series of different dilemmas to vote on. We then jump forward in time and find out what happened as a result of their votes and see the cumulative impacts of all the different decisions that the room has made."

Gansky and his team at Free Machine came up with the game as a way to get people more comfortable with civic participation around technology and science policy. They wanted to create a space where people could learn about issues and policies and their significance to their own lives. Experts in the community are brought in to act as the "ministers" of Tomorrowland, weigh in on complex topics and provide concrete calls of action that people can participate in after the game. The game also features volunteers who act as lobbyists and roll a die to give weight to their votes. At the end of the game, the group has guided their society to one of four potential futures based on the combination of abundance or scarcity and equality or hierarchy. 

"The game encourages people to think through their own reasoning on those hot-button issues, because it’s not just about voting for the way they think things should be done, but also convincing everyone at their table to vote the same way too. It becomes a way for people to realize that democracy is a team sport," Gansky said.

Ashley Richards

Communications Specialist , School for the Future of Innovation in Society