Philosophy graduate to pursue career in law, human rights

April 20, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Isabella Conti was born and raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, but considers herself a New York City girl at heart. She is part of a close-knit Italian family from the East Coast and grew up knowing the value of education.  Photo of Isabella Conti Isabella Conti will be graduating this semester with concurrent degrees in philosophy and justice studies, as well as certificates in human rights and socio-legal studies. Download Full Image

“I was taught from a very young age to always put forth my best effort when it comes to my academics,” Conti said. “I have always planned on attending a university and earning a degree because as a woman, I feel extremely fortunate to have access to an education and I recognize that this privilege is not given to every woman.”

She wanted to attend an out-of-state university but after being accepted into Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, she knew she would regret turning down the opportunity.

“I am beyond happy with my decision to attend ASU because it has opened so many doors for me and I couldn’t imagine my college experience anywhere else,” Conti said.

She will be graduating this semester with concurrent degrees in philosophy from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and justice studies from the School of Social Transformation, as well as certificates in human rights and socio-legal studies. 

While attending ASU, Conti became a member of the Undergraduate Law Association, the vice president of the Junior Purple Society and president of the Undergraduate Philosophy Club

“(The Undergraduate Philosophy Club) was one of my favorite experiences at ASU, as this opportunity opened many doors for me in the philosophy world,” Conti said. “During my time as president, I coordinated and hosted multiple webinars and panel discussions with philosophy professors on various philosophical topics, such as the ‘Amplification of Disinformation' and ‘Disability Rights.’”

Conti also helped coordinate the Undergraduate Philosophy Conference where undergraduate students from various discourses presented their papers to an audience.

“Philosopher Tyler Burge also joined us for the keynote address, and I was honored to speak alongside such an influential person and philosopher,” Conti said. “If there are any students who are interested in getting more involved with philosophy, I would definitely recommend joining the club and considering a leadership position.”

As Conti prepares for graduation, she reflects on her time at ASU.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: Ever since high school I knew I wanted to go down the path of law, which is why I chose to major in philosophy. Because there are so many different types of law that one could pursue a career in, my freshman year was filled with a lot of questions pertaining to the type of law I would ultimately work with. It wasn’t until my second year at ASU, when I added the justice studies major, that I had the “aha” moment of studying human rights. I had the opportunity to work alongside Professor LaDawn Haglund during my internship with the ASU Human Rights Film Festival. From using film to expand my knowledge of human rights issues to working alongside the most influential human rights advocates all over the country, this internship presented me with invaluable experiences that solidified my passion for human rights.

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

A: The most impactful lesson that I learned at ASU was during a meeting I had with my adviser during my freshman year. He encouraged me to add the double major and the two certificates because of how well my first semester at ASU went. I was extremely hesitant to take on such a workload, but he pushed me to do it because he knew I was capable of succeeding with these degrees and certificates. The situation taught me to believe in myself and the things I am capable of. Oh, and Marcos Enriquez, if you are reading this, thank you for pushing me to challenge myself and follow my passions.

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

A: The professor that taught me the most important lesson during my time at ASU was Professor LaDawn Haglund. Although I only took one class with her and only worked alongside her during one semester of my college experience, I consider her to be a really important mentor in my life. Not only did she open my eyes to the human rights violations that occur throughout the world, but her dedication to human rights taught me to use my privilege to help those who are less fortunate than I am. She also taught me to use my voice to help the oppressed, whose voices are too often silenced.

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

A: The best piece of advice I could give those who are still in school is that college is all about finding yourself. People put a lot of pressure on themselves during their freshman year and feel as though they need to stick with the original path they choose, whether that be their initial major or initial career goal. But one of the best parts of college, in my opinion, is that you have the opportunity to move freely and make the choices that benefit you. Some of my most interesting classes that really solidified my passions were because I took the plunge and added the justice studies major and human rights certificate during my second year at ASU. So, if you are feeling as if your initial path is not making you happy, prioritize yourself and change directions.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus for studying has always been the patio area outside of Biodesign. It was always so peaceful, and the bakery inside Biodesign has the best muffins which makes studying much easier.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation I am taking a gap year before moving on to law school. I plan on pursuing a career as a lawyer for international human rights.

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

A: If I was given $40 million I would tackle the climate refugee crisis. Climate refugees are referred to as the “forgotten victims” because they are so often not given the attention, support and protection that they deserve. As the climate crisis contributes to progress at an alarming rate, the issue of widespread displacements as a result of natural disasters is becoming a more pressing issue that needs to be addressed immediately.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Dean’s Medalist and global health graduate has a passion for health equity

April 20, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Ellianna Lederman, a Colorado native, thrived at Arizona State University by becoming involved and staying focused on her goals.  Ellianna Lederman Photo courtesy: Ellianna Lederman Download Full Image

Lederman was selected as this semester’s Dean’s Medalist by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a prestigious award that recognizes outstanding academic achievement, and is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts degree in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. 

“I couldn’t believe it when I first heard, it’s been something I’ve wanted for a very long time,” Lederman said about being selected for the award. 

She came to ASU because she was impressed with what Barrett, The Honors College offered. Lederman spent her second year online, instead of in-person, due to COVID-19, but became involved in several campus organizations and is graduating with her undergraduate degree in three years. 

An internship with the non-profit organization Esperanca also helped Lederman with her Barrett honors thesis. Esperanca is focused on providing health equity to individuals across the world. 

“My thesis project worked with Esperanca's Diabetes Empowerment Education Program to explore patient's experiences within the program,” Lederman said. “I created pre and post surveys and conducted interviews with class participants to learn about how the class influenced participant's diabetes knowledge and management. 

Along with her focus on global health, Lederman is involved in the Hillel and Chabad clubs on campus and she helps lead the Global Health Student Association. She was also a case investigator for the ASU COVID-19 student-outbreak response team. Her passion for health started in high school and grew during college. 

“I’ve always been interested in infectious diseases, but I didn’t know I could make a career out of it,” Lederman said. 

Lederman received numerous awards during her time at ASU, including: the Presidential Volunteer Service Award in 2020 for volunteering with Tri County Health Department (in Colorado); the Maricopa County Department of Public Health (for case investigation); and Energize Colorado (a pandemic startup).

Lederman will attend the Colorado School of Public Health to pursue her master’s degree in public health policy. Leading up to commencement, we asked Lederman a few questions about her time at ASU. 

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I think that’s when I was a freshman and the very first classes I took were global health. I knew I wanted to study global health, but what really confirmed it was looking at the syllabus and seeing all the materials and topics we were going to cover.   

Q: Were you involved in any labs during your time at ASU? 

A: I was a Barrett College Fellow, where I participated in the Children in the Law Lab at the ASU Downtown (Phoenix) campus. But I did this remotely because of COVID-19. Research is very important, and it was one of the draws when I came to ASU. I knew that getting research experience in college was important for graduate school and professional work, and I knew that ASU offered a lot of those opportunities to students. I’m very glad I was able to get involved in those opportunities. I think it’s different from classroom work, I like practice work the best. There is a whole side of research that is very complicated. I have a lot of respect for people who do research as a full-time job.

I was also in another research position on campus helping map COVID-19 testing sites across Arizona and tracking vaccine data by ethnicity to better understand racial health disparities in Arizona. The professor overseeing that project, Dr. Hyunsung Oh, ended up directing my honors thesis. 

Q: Were you involved in internships during your time at ASU?  

A: The first was through Esperanca, a nonprofit in Phoenix, where I was a global health intern. I was also an operations intern at Project CURE in Centennial, Colorado, last summer. I worked in the warehouse where they store, process and ship donated medical supplies to countries overseas, helping lead volunteer groups through the warehouse and helping pack for shipments. They are the largest supplier of donated medical supplies to countries internationally — the perfect definition of global health.

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

A: Say "yes" to every opportunity and experience you get. You only have a limited time in college and you really have to make the most of it. 

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

A: I really like Noble Library. I had a math class there freshman year and I had a global health group that first semester and we were in a cohort because we all had the same classes. So we spent a lot of time together, some days starting in the morning and working together until 6 p.m. Noble was the place we would go between classes for our breaks. After that, I always liked going back because it always reminded me of my friends.    

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

A: I know $40 million would not solve the problem, however the problem that I want to solve and what I want to focus my career on is health equity. I want to make sure that everybody has equal opportunities to health care. There is this scientific concept called the “social determinants of health,” that explains your health is not just related to what you’re doing, everything is based on the environment around you and influences your health. This includes housing, having clean water and even your education. Although $40 million wouldn’t be enough, that is the big problem I would like to solve and focus my attention on.  

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change