ASU confers degrees upon more than 1,300 Watts College graduates at spring convocation

Newest alumni encouraged to dedicate themselves to serving others

May 12, 2022

Festive shouts from families and friends reverberated throughout Desert Financial Arena on May 10 as Arizona State University conferred degrees from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions upon more than 1,300 graduates at the college’s spring 2022 convocation.

The college celebrated the conferring of 814 bachelor’s degrees, 490 master’s degrees and 11 doctoral degrees during the convocation on ASU’s Tempe campus. Cynthia Lietz, dean, Watts College, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, ASU, convocation, spring 2022 Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Dean Cynthia Lietz (left) reaches to shake the hand of a graduate at the college's spring 2022 convocation at Desert Financial Arena on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Amber Victoria Singer/ASU Download Full Image

The in-person ceremony at Desert Financial Arena was the second of its kind since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. About 900 graduates attended. Graduates from 2020 and 2021 whose convocations were virtual also were invited to participate along with their spring 2022 counterparts.

Graduates applauded enthusiastically as those receiving degrees from each of the college’s schools and Interdisciplinary Programs were announced, including the School of Community Resources and Development, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the School of Public Affairs and the School of Social Work.

Watts College Dean and President’s Professor Cynthia Lietz challenged the graduates to use their education and experiences to fulfill the college’s mission of building more vibrant and healthy communities – a call to action with seemingly extra weight, given current world events.

“It is easy to get discouraged by things like the ongoing implications related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, by a growing attack on the ideals of democracy as seen both nationally and internationally through the unprovoked war in Ukraine and by acts of discrimination and violence that are both personal and systemic,” Lietz said. “With that said, I can say with great confidence that the graduates of this college are in dramatic contrast to all the things that we fear. You help us reimagine what it could mean to infuse values such as respect, civility and dignity into our private and public discourse. You also remind us that higher doses of things like empathy, resilience and courage are needed to respond effectively to the challenges that we face today.”

Lietz said Watts College’s graduates are not reluctant to take on these considerable concerns.

“Instead, you face the very things that discourage us, that worry us. You face them head on, with an unwavering commitment to one simple goal: to make the world a better place,” she said.

College's outstanding graduates honored

Chandra Crudup, associate dean of Inclusive Design for Equity and Access, paid tribute to the college’s six outstanding graduates for spring 2022: Natasha Davis of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Nikhil Dholaria of the School of Public Affairs; Xuecong Fan of the Hainan University-Arizona State University International Tourism College; Albert Murrieta of the School of Social Work; Sandra Perez of Interdisciplinary Programs; and Tanner Smith of the School of Community Resources and Development.

As each outstanding graduate was honored, Lietz included particular experiences, often-difficult obstacles and noteworthy achievements that each of them shared with many fellow graduates. These included excelling in Barrett, The Honors College; working one or more jobs while undertaking studies; participating in multiple internships and public service projects; being online students; or the first in their families to receive a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

Lietz also asked those in attendance to applaud the veterans or active military members among the graduates, noting that the Watts College has the highest percentage of students who are veterans or who are active in the U.S. military, of any college at ASU.

Before the convocation, several graduates arriving at the arena reflected on the meaning of the day.

Elijah Cabrera is about to enter the U.S. Army, saying he looked forward to this week’s ceremonies commissioning him as a second lieutenant following the completion of ASU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The Los Angeles resident said ROTC and his studies, which led to a Bachelor of Science in public service and public policy, taught him the value of time management.

“You really do learn how to manage your life,” he said, “balancing ROTC, school, job.”

Aaron Lotten’s Bachelor of Social Work is just one step in his career path. The Powell, Wyoming, resident said he will start work on his Master of Social Work next week.

“I’m inspired by my colleagues and I’m ambitious for the future,” he said.

Deanna Ringlero of the Gila River Indian Community in central Arizona, who earned a Bachelor of Science in nonprofit leadership and management, recalled an important lesson from an internship she undertook this year.

“I learned I was more resilient than I thought,” she said.

Ringlero said she will pursue a master’s degree in human and family development in hopes to become an executive with the Boys and Girls Club in her community.

Madyson Spahn of Washington, Illinois, who earned a Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice, had advice for students still in school.

“Show up in class and be engaging,” said Spahn, who will pursue a master’s degree in counseling. “You get out what you put in.”

Dawson Chute of Orange County, California, said that with his Bachelor of Science in public policy and public service, he plans a career in the foreign service.

“There I can help people of different cultures, different politics and all walks of life. The Watts College exemplifies that. Here you have everyone from everywhere,” he said.

Student speaker reminds grads of day's importance

Just before the convocation concluded, student speaker Ivan Quintana told fellow graduates that while the day was one to celebrate, it also offered him a chance to reflect on the duties one owes to society. He mentioned Esperanza, the main character in Sandra Cisneros’s novel, “The House of Mango Street.”

“She makes a wish as a child to be able to leave her impoverished neighborhood, to be able to go to college and become a great writer. This meant that she had to leave the only home that she knew, and leave her community,” Quintana said. “We all have made a wish to achieve our dreams and goals, and that often means we get to leave while others stay behind. But just like her, we must realize that we cannot forget who we are, where we come from and that the reason, as Esperanza puts it: ‘I march so far away … (is) to come back for the ones I left behind, for the ones that cannot get out.’”

Quintana received two bachelor's degrees, one in criminology and criminal justice and the other in public service and public policy. He concluded with a wish for the graduates, one he said is similar to Esperanza’s, evoking the Watts College motto: “Be the Solution.”

“I wish for all of you to embrace the joys that you will experience tonight, celebrating this huge milestone with your loved ones,” he said. “Engrave the memories and feelings into your hearts, because the joy and light we get to experience tonight, is what we want others to be able to enjoy. This is why we endeavor to be part of the solution.”

The entire convocation ceremony can be viewed on ASU Live.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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Arizona energy providers, state universities join forces to pursue a carbon-neutral economy

May 12, 2022

Unique coalition aims to develop a clean hydrogen ecosystem to help cut carbon dioxide emissions in the state

Four Arizona energy providers and the state’s three public universities are forming a new, interdisciplinary coalition with the goal of attaining a carbon neutral economy in Arizona.

Faced with the complexity of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions across economic sectors, and the urgency to respond to the climate crisis, this coalition will combine its expertise to launch a new center to begin working immediately on strategies and solutions.

Leading professionals from Arizona Public Service, Salt River Project, Tucson Electric Power and Southwest Gas, as well as from Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University, will play a crucial leadership role in helping Arizona explore options and strategic pathways that move the state toward a carbon-neutral and thriving economy.

To begin, the coalition established a new ASU-based center called the “Center for an Arizona Carbon-Neutral Economy,” housed within the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory on the ASU Tempe campus. Among its first undertakings, the center will pursue the creation of a regional clean hydrogen hub.

“ASU’s Global Futures Laboratory exists precisely to take on the challenge of creating a future of opportunity,” said Peter Schlosser, vice president and vice provost of the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Futures Laboratory at ASU. “We welcome the establishment of this new center, and we are eager to work with the brightest minds from Arizona’s leading energy companies and our sister universities to explore the most effective ways to develop a sustainable and thriving carbon neutral economy.”

“The need to address the causes and impacts of climate change has never been more important. By partnering with Arizona’s universities and peer utilities, this statewide hub will help advance hydrogen as a clean-energy solution with tremendous potential to accelerate decarbonization,” said Jeff Guldner, Arizona Public Service chairman, president and CEO. “It also will further Arizona’s reputation as a national leader in the clean energy transition while creating economic opportunities for our state and its people.” 

“NAU has a long legacy of leadership and commitment to sustainability, and this new partnership creates incredible opportunities for our students, faculty and staff to help tackle the important work of creating a carbon-neutral future for Arizona,” said Jason Wilder, NAU vice president for research. "We’re thrilled to be able to help design a cleaner economy that will sustain Arizona into the future and to train the workforce that will be essential to bring these innovations into practice.”

Hydrogen can fuel chemical reactions that release clean energy and produce only water – H2O, not CO2. That means much of the energy used to create pure hydrogen can be essentially “stored” in the gas itself and used to provide carbon-free energy or feedstock on demand. Tapping this potential could help reduce carbon emissions in many sectors of the economy.

In late October 2021, the U.S. Congress passed the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which the president signed in mid-November 2021. The law establishes program guidance and funding to create regional clean hydrogen hubs, which the coalition will seek. The clean hydrogen hub, while still being fully defined, will include hydrogen producers, consumers and a connected infrastructure so that supply and demand are in sync and appropriately buffered with storage.

“The development of a regional clean hydrogen hub could provide critical support for our ongoing transition to a cleaner, cleaner grid,” said Susan Gray, president and CEO of Tucson Electric Power and its parent company, UNS Energy. “We’re looking forward to working together to turn this vision into real, sustainable growth for Arizona’s economy.”

A successful regional clean hydrogen hub would help address difficult-to-reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the state, as well as grow Arizona’s economy, attract new businesses and create high-quality jobs. When fully operational, a new hub would help support a reliable and resilient electric grid, provide clean energy for the electric, transportation and industrial sectors, and potentially create economic development opportunities in communities that are adversely impacted by the closure of fossil-fueled plants.

Involving these communities in the process is a critical component of the coalition’s work. By engaging a wide range of diverse stakeholders, the group will develop a shared strategy to create a new hydrogen ecosystem and industry in Arizona. Stakeholders will be part of a collaborative network that directly involves communities, tribes, businesses, universities, government agencies, nonprofit organizations and other interested parties in the process.

“This challenge is bigger than any one company or industry. SRP appreciates the support and vision of this diverse set of partners willing to roll up their sleeves, work together and find solutions to become a low-net-carbon Arizona,” said Mike Hummel, CEO and general manager of Salt River Project.

Southwest Gas is committed to helping our customers and the communities we serve achieve emissions reductions goals. Advancing hydrogen technology and increasing availability of hydrogen to the market is strategically important to achieving our clean energy goals. With existing infrastructure that can be used to transport this powerful clean fuel, Southwest Gas is excited to work with this coalition and stakeholders to lead efforts to bring a regional hydrogen hub to our state,” said Laura Nelson, vice president of sustainability and public policy for Southwest Gas.

“Arizona has tremendous potential to lower greenhouse gas emissions by producing clean-burning hydrogen using solar energy,” Sen. Mark Kelly said. “I look forward to working with the coalition to increase hydrogen production in our state.”

Collectively defining the vision, governance and organizational structure for the hub requires a deeper dive into a myriad of assets and resources available in the state, and this effort is already underway.

“The University of Arizona is dedicated to a future for Arizona that is both economically and environmentally resilient. The new coalition as well as the Center for an Arizona Carbon-Neutral Economy will help create and secure that future,” said Elizabeth “Betsy” Cantwell, UArizona senior vice president for research and innovation. “We are thrilled to partner with our fellow state universities and local utilities to leverage the power of our place in a living laboratory and create scalable infrastructure for a clean, resilient Arizona.”

Arizona is one of the nation's sunniest states, with significant available undeveloped land and abundant clean energy resources. It has the largest nuclear power plant in the nation, energy providers that have committed to reduce carbon dioxide emissions, world-class innovative universities, an established and growing industry base, and a healthy environment for innovation and startups.

These resources, along with the region’s highly skilled workforce, can be used in producing, moving, storing and using hydrogen. While Arizona is currently a net energy importer, these assets could help the state become an energy exporter, bolstering its economy and helping others’ efforts to achieve their clean energy goals.

“Today’s partnership will pave the way towards a carbon-neutral economy by 2050, creating the jobs of the future and fueling innovation and sustainable energy sources throughout our state,” Arizona senior Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said.

Top photo courtesy Arizona State University.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations , ASU Knowledge Enterprise