Dean's Medalist has passion for statistics and sports

May 3, 2022

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

Trent Lindstrom is the Dean’s Medalist for the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences. He is a third-year senior and will graduate this month with a Bachelor of Science in mathematics with a concentration in statistics, a minor in political science, and a certificate in sports, culture and ethics. Trent Lindstrom Download Full Image

Lindstrom is a Chandler, Arizona, native and during his early years of high school decided to study statistics.

“I have loved math for as long as I can remember, and I always wanted to pursue a degree in a math-related field,” he said.

Honored as a National Merit Scholar, Lindstrom chose to attend ASU because it offered him an opportunity to graduate from a university debt-free while living close to home. He boasts an impressive mathematics GPA of 4.14 while taking some of the most challenging senior-level mathematics courses, as well as a couple of graduate-level statistics courses. In the fall he plans to return to ASU to complete his master’s degree in statistics as part of ASU’s 4+1 program.

Lindstrom is a huge sports fan and is almost always watching some sporting event. 

“My weekends are typically spent watching sports from when I wake up until late in the evening,” he said.

It is no surprise that many of his ASU projects have been centered on sports. As a student in Barrett, The Honors College, Lindstrom completed his honors thesis titled “Data Analytics in College Sports: How Statistics Can Be Used To Predict Sun Devil Success.” He created a regression model to predict the result of Sun Devil football games.

Larry Schneider worked with Lindstrom on two different Barrett Honors contracts and his thesis project.

“I think that one quality that Trent has been able to use so successfully is his time management skills. He has an innate ability to know how to pace himself, so that he can complete exams and projects on time, while still challenging himself to go beyond what is expected for the assignment. This is a critical skill which had helped him excel at ASU and when he is working in private industry,” Schneider said.

Lindstrom has worked as a data analyst at the W. P. Carey School of Business' Technology Strategy and Operations department since he entered ASU as a first-year student in 2019. He assisted with data collection and analysis on a modeling project centered around different business school rankings, along with providing general IT support for faculty, staff and students, especially during the pandemic.

“I love statistics because it provides an opportunity to analyze the world around us in a consistent, quantitative fashion. Statistics can be used in almost every academic setting, workplace, or even just an individual’s daily life to optimize performance or just learn more about how something or someone works,” Lindstrom said.

Schneider points to Lindstrom's attention to detail as one of the reasons that he is such an excellent student and has been so successful at ASU.

"This skill along with his ability to ‘think outside the box’ will make him successful in any field, but particularly in a field as thought provoking and challenging as statistics," Schneider said.

We asked Lindstrom to share more about his journey as a Sun Devil.

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

Answer: My biggest piece of advice would be to always give yourself time off of schoolwork to focus on things you enjoy. Whether that be an hour or two each night to relax and decompress with a movie, or time on the weekend to spend with friends, it is very important to not allow school to consume your entire life.

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

A: Professor Laurence Schneider taught me the most important lesson at ASU, which was to pursue projects that I am passionate about while utilizing the skills I have learned. This helped me greatly in his class on regression, as well as giving me a platform for working on my honors thesis project.

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

A: I think most people misunderstand statistics because they do not have a good understanding of probability. The foundation of statistics is based on a sound idea of probability, and without that, it becomes very difficult to understand how to interpret the work of statisticians.

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

A: While $40 million would not solve the problem on its own, I would use it to tackle the issue of how we vote across the U.S. The pandemic provided an opportunity for many throughout the country to use mail-in voting for the first time, and I strongly believe that a push towards providing numerous different ways of voting and making it easier for everyone to access the ballot box will benefit the country in the long-run.

Q: Looking to the future, if you could wave a magic wand and see yourself in your dream job, what would that be and why?

A: My dream job would be working in the analytics department for a professional sports team in the U.S. I have been a huge sports fan my whole life, and the recent explosion of data in the sports world inspired me to become a statistics major. I hope to one day be able to combine my passions for statistics and sports into a career that allows me to apply what I have learned while obtaining my degree into the competitive world of professional sports.

Rhonda Olson

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


Passion for journalism led student to awards, degree from ASU

May 4, 2022

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

As a young journalist working on her high school newspaper, Kiera Riley felt trepidation about conducting interviews. Instead of letting fear get the best of her, she overcame that feeling by focusing on her interviewing and writing skills and in the process found a love of journalism. Photo of Kiera Riley Kiera Riley was attracted to Arizona State University by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. She is graduating with a bachelor's degree in journalism Download Full Image

She brought that passion to Arizona State University, where she became an award-winning writer who is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

“I started on my high school newspaper at Cactus Shadows High School. At first, I hated it. I had a lot of anxiety about interviews in particular,” said Riley, whose hometown is Cave Creek, Arizona.

“Ahead of my first interview for my first story, I remember being consumed by my nerves. But after I started talking with my source and asking questions, it all dissipated. I left feeling elated. I was so excited to put the interview to paper, to share a story. In every interview after that, I would still feel that nervousness, but it was more from excitement than dread. I fell in love with journalism,” she said.

She applied to several universities, but affordable tuition and the journalism school brought her to ASU. She received the Mayo Clinic Scholarship and the New American University Scholarship throughout her four years as a Sun Devil.

While a student, she worked as a part-time reporter for the Arizona Republic and Cronkite News, a research assistant for a member of the Barrett, The Honors College’s faculty and managing editor of ASU State Press Magazine.

In 2021, she received the Best Print Article/Student recognition from the Maggie Awards for a story she wrote for State Press Magazine on psychedelics, their potential emergence in American health care and the potential consequences of commodification. The following year, she won second place in the Hearst Feature Writing Competition for a Cronkite News story on the dubbing of the movie “Star Wars” in the Navajo language, Diné.

Riley plans to pursue a career in journalism.

“It’s a little up in the air as of right now. I’ve applied to a few internships and I’m waiting to hear back. For now, I’m ready to go wherever the job market takes me,” she said.

We asked Riley to reflect on her undergraduate experience at ASU. Here’s what she had to say.

Question: What would you consider an interesting moment, story or accomplishment in your ASU career?

Answer: One of my biggest moments was interviewing a source for a story about “Star Wars” being dubbed in the Navajo language Diné for Cronkite News. My source, James Junes, had voiced Han Solo in the dub. Before getting on the phone with him, I talked to other voice actors who saw little obstacles in recording their lines for the dub as they were fluent in Diné. I expected the same of Junes. But I learned as we started talking about the recording process that though Junes could speak Diné, he could not read it. The frustration he felt trying to record his lines almost led him to quit. But right at his breaking point, he had an epiphany about how important it was to see this project through, to help others engage with the Diné language, to keep it alive for generations to come. The interview we had was full of pain and triumph and vulnerability. It was one of the most defining moments and conversations I’ve had in my time in journalism.

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

A: My director at Cronkite News, Venita Hawthorne James, taught me the importance of the right details and the right descriptions to really engage a reader using language. I remember I was working on a story about social inequity in the cannabis industry and I visited a dispensary on assignment. I remember Venita advising me beforehand to really think about the five senses, what music is playing, what it smells like, what conversations are going on. When I stepped foot into the dispensary, I experienced the setting as opposed to just witnessing it. And my notes from the day showed me exactly how I should be assessing and describing whatever story I walk into.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I applied to 10 schools in every corner of the country. But every other school had tuition that would’ve put me deep into debt, all while providing journalism programs that didn’t hold a candle to the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

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

A: Venita Hawthorne James taught me the most about effective storytelling through the use of details as well as the steady and unwavering commitment to accuracy.

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

A: Enjoy it while it lasts!

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

A: I worked for State Press Magazine all four years. So I’d say my favorite spots are the downtown newsroom and the two newsrooms in Tempe, one in the Matthews Center basement and the other on the top floor of the Memorial Union.

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

A: Adequate access to both K–12 and higher education for all, though I doubt $40 million would cover that these days. But I think adequate funding for both the core classes and extracurricular activities is essential. I was so privileged to have the newspaper program I did at my high school, despite lacking funding nearly everywhere else. Without it, I would have never found my calling. 

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College