ASU grad combines public policy, mass media for a political future

May 4, 2022

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

Graduating this May from Arizona State University with a double major in communications and political science, Maggie Sullivan plans to combine both degrees in order to succeed in her future endeavors as a politician.  Download Full Image

After gaining a strong interest in the coursework, Sullivan decided to add political science as a major on top of communications as it allowed her to better understand how mass media affects public policy.

Sullivan knew she made the right decision coming to ASU as she sat in a lecture hall for a political science course during her second semester. 

“I was sitting next to four friends I had made in the class and the entire class was having a healthy debate over a controversial topic in Arizona politics,” Sullivan said.

“It was an amazing feeling when I realized how diverse my university was and how intellectual my classmates were. Arizona State University provided courses that allowed me to understand many different viewpoints and cultivate relationships with intellectual people,” she said. 

Alongside her education, Sullivan completed several hands-on experiences during her time at ASU that will help prepare her for the professional workplace. 

Sullivan had the opportunity to work as a Senate Page during the 2020 and 2021 Arizona legislative sessions. This role allowed her to get involved with the Arizona State Capitol where she assisted members, staff and the public in all aspects of the legislative process. 

It was during this opportunity that Sullivan gained a leadership position as the Office Liaison for the Senate Page Program and became responsible for the Request to Speak system for every Senate committee. Here, she delegated 15 interns regarding all processes required to serve the Senate. 

“In this position, I benefited so much from my supervisor, Jenna Lyon, who became a mentor to me. Jenna aided me in discovering my passion for politics and how to work in a professional environment,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan had the chance to return to the Arizona State Senate during the 2022 legislative session as a research intern for the Education Committee. She shared that she has tremendously grown during this process and it has shown her that she has a very strong interest in public policy. 

“As a research intern, I presented bills in committee, drafted legislation and official documents, and networked with Senators, staff and stakeholders. This internship has prepared me to exceed since I have obtained incredible professional skills, writing and researching skills, and I have created relationships that will help me further my career,” Sullivan said. 

Sullivan gives credit to the School of Politics and Global Studies for her successes in her education and access to professional opportunities. She believes the school helped pave the way for her to get involved in Arizona politics and only strengthened her desire to study public policy. 

With a Bachelor of Arts in communications and political science, Sullivan will be graduating summa cum laude and is a recipient of the Moeur Award, given to undergraduates with the highest academic standing in their college, for The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Sullivan says she is lucky to have spent the past three years as a Sun Devil and is thrilled to continue her career in public policy and eventually attend law school.

Question: What is a lesson you can take away from your time spent at ASU? 

Answer: A lesson that I can take away from my time spent at Arizona State University is to always get involved whenever you can! I jumped at every opportunity and joined classes that I seemed interested in. A college experience is meant to allow you to try new things and branch out of your comfort zone. If you told me three years ago that I would meet friends that would become family, make memories that would last a lifetime, and work at the Arizona State Senate, I would be shocked! All of my amazing experiences that happened at Arizona State University are due to my willingness to try new things! 

Q: What advice would you give to those who are coming to ASU in the fall? 

A: Try anything and everything! You are only at Arizona State University for four years and you must make the most of every opportunity. Go up to that random person in the dining hall, take that class you never thought you would have time for, attend those events, apply for the internship and try everything! 

Student Journalist, School of Politics and Global Studies


NSF CAREER award supports research to improve student mental health

ASU Assistant Professor Katelyn Cooper selected for prestigious award

May 4, 2022

Assistant Professor Katelyn Cooper, a biology education researcher in Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences, has recently been awarded a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) award from the National Science Foundation.

The prestigious CAREER program identifies the nation’s most promising young faculty members who demonstrate outstanding research, excellence in teaching, and the effective integration of both.   Portrait of ASU SOLS Assistant Professor Katey Cooper. Kately Cooper is a biology education researcher whose work seeks to understand the relationship between biology learning environments and undergraduate and graduate student mental health. Download Full Image

"Being a recipient of the CAREER award on her first submission is a testament to both the quality of her research ideas and her strong research record,” said Sara Brownell, fellow School of Life Sciences professor and director of the Research for Inclusive STEM Education (RISE) Center. “Even as an early career researcher, she is emerging as one of the top biology education researchers in the country and the RISE Center is extremely proud of her successes."

Cooper’s lab focuses on understanding the relationship between biology learning environments and undergraduate and graduate student mental health. The award will support a five-year research program to identify factors of student research experiences that positively and negatively impact mental health, and to develop tools and resources to support students throughout their research experiences. 

“Dr. Cooper exemplifies our commitment to life-changing research and to excellence in teaching and mentoring,” said Jennifer Fewell, interim director of the School of Life Sciences. “It is wonderful to see her important work continue with support by the NSF CAREER award.”

Depression rates among both undergraduate and graduate science students continues to rise, and participation in academic research experiences is a previously under-examined factor impacting student mental health. 

“This CAREER award is going to allow us to study what aspects of research alleviate and exacerbate students’ depressive symptoms, why this is, and what can be done by both students and mentors to protect mental health,” Cooper said. 

Most researchers and educators agree that hands-on immersive research is one of the most lucrative experiences students can engage in. Engaging in research equips students with problem-solving, professional development and communication skills. However, science is also a highly competitive field, infamously characterized by repeated failure, which can lead to doubt and negative self-talk. 

“My research group has found that there are wonderful aspects of research, such as establishing positive relationships with lab mates and feeling like you belong in the scientific community, and those aspects can be really protective against depressive symptoms,” Cooper said. “But research can also cause you to feel really isolated, experience harsh criticism and doubt what you’re capable of, which in turn can exacerbate depressive symptoms.”

A better understanding of the correlation between these experiences and student mental health will allow institutions to structure research experiences that maximize student mental health, while also equipping students with the tools and resources to better navigate common challenges and stumbling blocks in science. 

The project is split into two major components — a national study of undergraduate and graduate researchers and their experiences with depression in the context of research. Data gathered during the study will then be used to develop single-session interventions designed to help students develop effective coping strategies for challenges commonly encountered in research. 

Similar interventions have proved highly successful in K–12 students, and Cooper is excited to explore their potential to assist in higher education as well. These sessions will be combined with recommendations for mentors about how to support students and open conversations to further help students who find themselves struggling. 

“It’s very encouraging that research experiences can be structured to maximize student mental health,” Cooper said.

She explained that even simple adjustments such as adding more structure, increasing face-to-face time or assigning additional mentors can be really effective in dampening depressive symptoms. 

“This is something I’m really passionate about,” she said.

Funds from the award will also support new programs to further integrate research and teaching. Cooper will develop and teach course-based undergraduate research experiences (CUREs) that build on the work conducted in the overall project. These CUREs in biology education will be available to ASU Online students, providing hands-on research opportunities for many students who have never been involved in such projects. 

“My excitement is two-fold: I’m excited to engage students in mental health research at scale, and I’m really excited to engage our online students who bring such diverse, important perspectives to this work,” Cooper said. 

“I’m extremely grateful that this CAREER award is going to allow me to continue to do that, because I think that it’s really going to strengthen the quality of the research that we’re doing on undergraduate and graduate mental health in biology.”

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences