The mood was festive at Desert Financial Arena in Tempe where ASU College of Health Solutions students, their families and friends gathered to mark the milestone of graduation, the first time a convocation ceremony has been held in person since 2019.
With masks on and physical distancing observed, almost 500 students processed, along with Health Solutions faculty and staff, at a Dec. 16 ceremony marked by more bursts of applause than usual as graduates and guests alike expressed their joy at being able to be together to celebrate. Some 2020 and spring 2021 grads also came to walk the stage since the COVID-19 pandemic had limited their graduations to virtual or hybrid ceremonies.
Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions, addressed the crowd, noting the collective experience of living and learning through a pandemic as well as the training and support students received to prepare them to improve health.
“I am truly in awe of all that your generation is already doing to make a difference in the world of health, and I’m confident the future of health is in your very capable hands,” she said.
Keynote speaker Jeff Taylor echoed a similar view about the transformative power of health professionals. A top-ranked Arizona collegiate football player whose life spiraled out of control after a career-ending injury led to addiction, homelessness and prison, Taylor said it was dedicated behavioral health professionals who finally helped him turn his life around.
“I’m here to thank the educators because they taught the professionals who saved my life, and as a result, my 22-year-old son, who is here today, has never known his father to be under the influence of drugs or alcohol. You have created a miracle,” he said.
Today Taylor is a registered lobbyist and national speaker who writes and promotes policies and laws to combat homelessness and reduce recidivism among Arizona’s prison population.
Meet some of the College of Health Solutions' most impressive health leaders:
Read about the career journeys of some of the college's graduates:
- “Grad sets sights on improving Indigenous health”
- “Family's health journey led ASU grad on path to becoming a medical doctor”
- “Army veteran and Health Solutions grad aims to be a changemaker in future physical therapy career”
- “ASU honors graduate Sarah Lopez aspires to be a doctor specializing in women’s health”
And below, learn about the plans graduates shared on the College of Health Solutions' social media channels.
Hawa Maiwand earned her BS in nutrition with a concentration in dietetics and is off to a dietetics internship at the Louis Stokes Cleveland Department of Veterans Affairs Medical Center while she pursues her master’s degree at Case Western Reserve University.Photo courtesy of Hawa Maiwand
Jade Valencia graduated with a bachelor’s degree in speech and hearing science and is applying to speech-language pathology master’s programs, aiming to focus in pediatrics.Photo courtesy of Jade Valencia
Natalya Fajardo attended ASU as an online student in the Bachelor of Science in health sciences program and said she loved every minute of it. In January, she’ll begin her journey to become a chiropractor at Southern California University of Health Sciences.Photo courtesy of Natalya Fajardo
After earning her BS in speech and hearing science, Kellie Donithan will be working as a speech-language pathology assistant while pursuing a master's degree in speech pathology with the hopes of one day becoming a pediatric speech-language pathologist.Photo courtesy of Kellie Donithan
Alicia Miller is a healthy lifestyles and fitness grad who is working on a personal training certificate and health coaching certification with plans to become a corporate health coach.Photo courtesy of Alicia Miller
Danelle Tucker is starting her high-performance training career at Redline Athletics after earning her Bachelor of Science in sports science and performance programming.Photo courtesy of Danelle Tucker
Skylar Birch earned a degree in medical studies and is applying to dental schools. Meanwhile, he’s planning to use his skills in a microbiology lab or a hospital as a technician.Photo courtesy of Skylar Birch
Emily Onwiler’s experience caring for her grandfather who had Lewy body dementia led her to pursue a certificate in hospice and palliative care from the College of Health Solutions to fulfill her dream of improving the health and well-being of older adults.Photo courtesy of Emily Onwiler
After earning her degree in medical studies, Hiba Alobaidi is headed to the University of Arizona’s College of Medicine with the goal of becoming a pediatrician.Photo courtesy of Hiba Alobaidi
After earning her BS in medical studies and a minor in business, Kirsten Wang is taking a gap year to study for the Dental Admission Test and apply to dental schools.Photo courtesy of Kirsten Wang
Erik Turtle earned a Doctor of Behavioral Health (Management) and plans to design, implement and operate an integrated health care program.Photo courtesy of Erik Turtle
Mallory Zembower joined this year’s in-person convocation ceremony after graduating in December 2020 with her medical studies degree and is already on her way to fulfilling her dream of being a doctor. She is currently a first-year medical student at A.T. Still University School of Osteopathic Medicine with plans to work in emergency medicine in a rural community.Photo courtesy of Mallory Zembower