Dean's Medalist dedicates his career to preserving America's constitutional democracy

Gregory Abbott follows his passion for US history and civic education

April 25, 2022

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

A Phoenix native, Gregory Abbott entered Arizona State University in 2018 after graduating from Brophy College Preparatory with a much different perspective than the one he has today. Gregory Abbott Dean’s Medalist Gregory Abbott Download Full Image

“I always had an interest in the U.S. Constitution and political thought, but my original major was biological science,” he said.

One night, though, his father mentioned he had heard about a new ASU program, one focused on civic and economic thought and leadership.

“We checked out the (School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership) website that evening and I decided to take a course,” Abbott said.

His first course at the school was CEL 100 with Professor Karen Taliaferro. 

“I was intimidated at first, but I fell in love with the Socratic seminars and with the opportunity to share my ideas. Slowly, I became more confident and pushed myself. It was a growth process,” he said.

The following semester, he took CEL 200 Great Debates in American Politics with Professor Zachary German.

“I was hooked. I switched to a major in civic and economic thought and leadership and never looked back,” he says.

Abbott graduates in spring 2022 with a Bachelor of Science in civic and economic thought and leadership and brings home the 2022 Dean’s Medal, but his journey has just begun.

In May, he moves to the University of Notre Dame campus in Indiana to begin his graduate studies in education. We talked to him about his experience at ASU, his career goals and about receiving the Dean’s Medal.

Question: How has the School of Economic Thought and Leadership impacted you?

Answer: I came in very cynical about our country, but by learning about our government, its institutions, the fragile equilibrium between the different powers, the compromises and the genius of our constitutional democracy, I gained a deep respect for it. I learned that it all relies on compromises and civil disagreement. And this made me want to help preserve it. It is our task to make it last.

Q: What is your ultimate goal?

A: My goal is to remain dedicated to being a part of the conversations to find common ground to solve the civics crisis in America. I plan on becoming an American history and civics teacher at the high school level.

Q: What do the next two years look like for you?

A: The program I’m entering at the University of Notre Dame has a teaching component. I will teach in Florida for two years during my master’s, then I intend to apply for the doctorate program in constitutional studies at the same university. 

Q: What makes the school special?

A: It feels like family. My favorite part is the (school's) community, something I never expected to find in such a large university. It is much more than I had expected. The tight community gave me the confidence to apply for fellowships, courses and opportunities.

Q: What would you say to an incoming School of Economic Thought and Leadership student?

A: The (school's) education is more than studying history. It’s more than studying political science. And it’s more than studying philosophy. It’s learning about those subject matters to find ways to make our country stronger. In essence, it combines critical thinking and analytical skills for the purpose of improving society.

Q: Your career path shows your passion for civic education. How did your professors impact you?

A: I feel immense gratitude for (the school) for making me a student, who loves to learn and grow, and receiving the Dean’s Medal is a symbolic representation of the (school) community’s faith in me.

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Fourth-generation Sun Devil finds her own path at ASU

April 25, 2022

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

As a fourth-generation graduate and the 22nd member of her family to attend Arizona State University, Legacy Scholar Anya Pressendo has considered herself a Sun Devil since the day she was born.  Download Full Image

This year, Pressendo’s grandmother will have graduated from ASU 60 years ago, and they are excited to celebrate such significant milestones together in May. Pressendo will graduate with degrees in psychology, and family and human development, from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Pressendo’s parents have been actively involved with the ASU Alumni Association. Her father was the chair of the ASU Alumni Association, her mother was on the Medallion of Merit Scholarship committee and both were past presidents of the Phoenix alumni chapter.

“Because of my parent’s involvement, I grew up attending countless ASU events. I remember watching football games from the president’s skybox, participating in the homecoming parade, having lunches with Sparky and so much more,” Pressendo said.

After moving to Virginia, she continued to feel pride for the maroon and gold nation and ASU was the only out-of-state college to which she applied. Pressendo recalls touring the campus with her dad and him sharing memories he had made as a student.

“I remember how worried my dad was that I would choose ASU just because he wanted me to, but I fell in love with the campus on my own,” Pressendo said. “Becoming a Sun Devil has been one of the best decisions of my life.”

Pressendo found her passion for her first declared major, psychology, while taking AP psychology in high school. With her degree, her goal is to become a counselor. 

“What brings me the most fulfillment is understanding other people and doing whatever I can to help them,” she said. “I have loved learning about the different processes, stages of development, experiences and interactions that shape people into who they are today.”

She initially added family and human development as a minor, but committed to the major when she realized a double major was attainable. Pressendo has loved learning more about relationships, patterns and outcomes across people’s lifespans.

One of her favorite college lessons came from Professor Denise Bodman in a Personal Growth and Human Relationships course.

“In one module, we learned about the importance of talking to strangers. We were challenged to talk to people who we didn’t know during that module,” Pressendo said.  

She shared that the interesting interactions she had through that course and beyond have allowed her to find connectivity and fulfillment within the ASU community. 

“That lesson instilled in me how each person has something to offer,” she said.

With her passion for mental health, if Pressendo was given $40 million to solve a problem, she would help make quality mental healthcare more accessible. 

“I think everybody deserves access to counseling and similar resources without the barrier of cost,” she said. 

She hopes for mental health to one day be seen as equally important to physical health.

Outside of her studies, Pressendo remained involved in her sorority, Delta Gamma, throughout her time at ASU. 

“Being a part of such a supportive, driven group of women is something I will forever be grateful for,” she said. 

She credits her sorority for helping her grow into the person she is today, and finds inspiration from seeing her sisters accomplish their goals.  

Pressendo’s advice to those still in college is to find what is best for you and your own journey. 

“Surround yourself with people who want the best for you and learn how to set your boundaries,” she said. “Once I found how I best operated, I found it much easier to balance the responsibilities of being a student, sorority member and friend.”    

Upon graduating, Pressendo plans to work and focus on applying to graduate schools to receive a masters in counseling.

“I am very excited to get professional training on how to best help other people navigate the trials and tribulations of life.”

Pressendo received the New American University Provost’s Award, Sun Devil Standard Award, ASU Living and Learning Award, and ASU Alumni Association Legacy Scholarship.

Macey Sierka

Student assistant, ASU Alumni Association