Communication major recognized as fall 2021 Dean's Medalist

December 10, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Arianna Ruth, who hails from Tempe, Arizona, has dedicated her time and efforts to not only do well in her classes (she is graduating this month with a 4.0 GPA) but is also utilizing her communication skills outside the classroom through her job, internship, philanthropy and civic engagement. Arianna Ruth Download Full Image

In recognition of her work both inside and outside the classroom, Ruth has been named The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. She is receiving a bachelor's degree in communication and a minor in women and gender studies.

“Using the theory and skills I’ve learned as a communication major, I’ve had great success networking, building lifelong relationships with the people I have met along the way, maintaining the closeness I have with my family and navigating my way through my future career steps,” Ruth said.

In addition to her coursework, Ruth says the Hugh Downs School also provided her with career-related experience through an internship with Cable One.

“My summer internship was fun and successful,” Ruth said. “My communication skills were highly relevant in my position in human resources. I completed 376 working internship hours and walked away with new insight and excitement about HR, confidence in myself, and a mentor and company who would love to hire me on upon graduation.”

Ruth also held a position at retailer Kendra Scott for four years. This experience allowed her to exercise the three company pillars she takes pride in family, fashion and philanthropy.

“Working at Kendra Scott has not only been a job but also a passion of mine. I enjoy collaborating with a close-knit team, helping and empowering women, and partnering with outside organizations to put on events that raise money for a cause.”

Ruth has helped raise money for causes such as metastatic breast cancer, Phoenix Children’s Hospital, the American Heart Association, Folds of Honor and COVID-19 response. She has also volunteered at nonprofit organizations such as Jose’s Closet, Feed My Starving Children, The Boys and Girls Club, and Liberty Arts Academy.

Ruth adds that her minor in women and gender studies has made her more socially aware and helped bring issues of injustice, in a variety of contexts, to her attention.

Arianna Ruth at a Liberty Arts Academy fundraiser

Arianna Ruth with fellow volunteers at a Liberty Arts Academy Fall Festival in Mesa.

“I have become able to understand and reflect on my standpoint more deeply as a woman of color in America. I've also become even more proud of who I am and what I believe in. For this reason, I've made it a priority to attend BLM protests and the recent women's marches, and to educate myself, and others, when I can.”

We caught up with her to talk about her time at Arizona State University.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study communication?

Answer: After taking my first communication class! I was interested in what I was learning and found that I could relate what I was learning to my own life.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you that changed your perspective?

A: I learned that I often underestimate myself and that I’m usually capable of way more than I think!

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I love Arizona and I wanted to stay close to home. ASU was the obvious choice!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Don’t follow a path just because it is what is expected of you or what someone else wants you to do. Be bold; do what inspires you.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Starbucks, always.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I landed a job and will be working, pursuing creative projects on the side, and living my best life!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would tackle mental illness and mental health. As someone who took time off from school to recover from an eating disorder, these issues are very close to my heart.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


Dean's Medalist enjoys challenge of actuarial science

December 10, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2021 graduates.

Joe Simpson is the fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. Joe Simpson, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences fall 2021 Dean's Medalist, will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in actuarial science. Download Full Image

He will graduate with a Bachelor of Science degree in actuarial science. He has an impressive GPA of 4.21 and excelled in the most challenging senior level and graduate level actuarial science courses.

He earned the New American University Scholarship and Optumas Actuarial Science Scholarship. He also received the Moeur Award, given to undergraduate students with a 4.0 GPA who earned all of their courses at ASU within eight consecutive fall and spring semesters with no transfer hours.

Simpson chose Arizona State University because of its great resources and world-renowned faculty. He began in engineering but fairly quickly realized that was not for him. He heard about the actuarial science program, which led him to sign up for ACT 201.

“Looking back now, I don’t believe I would have discovered actuarial science had I not chosen to attend ASU,” Simpson said.

In the Introduction to Actuarial Science course, he learned about the many opportunities of an actuarial career and found himself challenged intellectually throughout the course.

“While it was certainly the most difficult course I took my freshman year, ACT 201 proved to be exceedingly rewarding and solidified my desire to study actuarial science,” he said.

Simpson took advantage of ASU’s strong relationship with actuarial industry partners by completing an internship with Nationwide E&S/Specialty as a pricing actuarial intern. He currently interns at Optumas, where he assists with developing capitation rates for various state Medicaid programs.

This semester he also worked at the ACT Lab, where he collaborated with a team of students and faculty to work on interesting real-world projects from the local insurance industry.

To become credentialed, actuaries have to pass a series of professional exams. Simpson has already passed three actuarial exams and is sitting for his fourth exam in the spring.

In addition to his academic achievements, Simpson has served in leadership roles with ASU Navigators, a Christian based student club. He has also tutored fourth and fifth grade refugee students in math as a volunteer for the Community and Outreach Advocacy for Refugees, a non-profit organization that supports locally resettled refugees in their efforts to rebuild positive, self-sufficient lives.

“Joey is a bright and personable guy who I expect to be a very successful actuary. His experiences here at ASU as a member of Gamma Iota Sigma, an intern at local companies, a researcher in the ACT lab, and in the classroom will make him a highly attractive candidate to employers,” said John Zicarelli, a professor of practice in ASU’s actuarial science program, and former vice president and chief actuary for Scottsdale Insurance Company with over 30 years of experience in the industry.

After graduation, Simpson plans to stay at ASU to complete his 4+1 master’s degree in actuarial science. After graduate school, he hopes to work as an actuarial analyst in the healthcare field. We asked him to share more about his journey as a Sun Devil.

Question: What is something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

Answer: Something I learned at ASU that surprised me was how quickly it is possible to build strong relationships both with students and faculty. I feel as though I have built many such relationships that I hope will last my entire life.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Jelena Milovanovic has taught me many important lessons throughout my time at ASU, and her guidance has been essential to my success. Arguably the most important thing she has taught me is how essential it is to network, get involved and get out of my comfort zone.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

A: The best piece of advice I would give to those still in school is to take the time to build relationships with your peers and with industry professionals as much as possible. Many of these relationships have assisted me in my career and have grown into strong friendships.

Q: What do you like most about mathematics?

A: My favorite part of mathematics, specifically in the actuarial context, is the way it challenges me to think critically to solve complicated, real-world problems in a multitude of different fields. I have thoroughly enjoyed being able to take what I have learned in my courses at ASU and apply that knowledge in my internship.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus is the “Harry Potter room” in the Barrett (Honors College) dining hall. It has always been a great place for me to meet with friends, relax and enjoy a nice meal.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time for fun?

A: In my spare time I enjoy spending time with friends doing anything from playing video games, to playing sports, to just sitting down and talking. I have learned the value of having solid friends to live life with and I love enjoying life with them.

Q: What do you think is most misunderstood about math by the general public?

A: I think the variety of ways math is applicable, present and important to everyday life is vastly misunderstood by the general public. Principles of mathematics are all around us every single day, and they are essential to life in general. While not everyone needs to completely comprehend math, I do believe it is necessary for people to respect and recognize its importance.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve a problem on our planet, I would seek to tackle the lack of access to clean water and food that faces far too many people. I would fund research for sustainable methods of solving these issues long term in hopes of helping as many as possible both now and in the future.

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences