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3 ASU leaders honored with Phoenix Business Journal 40 Under 40 Awards

June 28, 2022

Three emerging leaders from the Arizona State University community were chosen for the 2022 class of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 Awards.

Ashlee Atkins, diversity manager for ASU Enterprise Partners, Jacqueline Smith, vice president of presidential advancement for the ASU Foundation, and Adam Deguire, vice president of government affairs at in the Office of Government and Community Engagement at ASU, were among the 40 winners selected from about 350 nominations.

The employees will be recognized by the media outlet for their community leadership, professional accomplishments and personal achievements during a virtual ceremony on Aug. 4.

About the honorees:

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Ashlee Atkins

Atkins, 36, joined ASU Enterprise Partners in January 2021 to oversee design and implementation of diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives, education and partnerships. ASU Enterprise Partners is a private, nonprofit organization designed to create solutions and generate resources to extend ASU’s reach and advance its charter.

She established an employee diversity dashboard that tracks the company’s employee demographics, developed strategies to diversify the organization’s workforce and assisted with an audit to ensure equity in salaries and promotions across the organization. She leads the justice, equity, diversity and inclusion (JEDI) advisory committee, which implemented a diversity awareness month series and two forums to increase learning and discussion around race and ethnicity: JEDTalks and Conversations for Change. She was awarded an inaugural Martin Luther King Jr. Keeping the Dream Alive Award in 2022 by the city of Chandler for helping the city move forward culturally.

“Ashlee has implemented meaningful ways for employees to learn about different cultures and find ways to work better together,” said Gina Miller, ASU Enterprise Partners chief People officer.

Atkins is one of the program managers and existing mentors for the Young Professionals CoNext mentorship and leadership program, which builds relationships between college students and young Black professionals. She serves as the president of the Greater Phoenix Urban League Young Professionals.

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Jacqueline Smith

Smith, 38, joined the ASU Foundation in January 2020, where she collaborates with philanthropic organizations and university leaders on transformational philanthropy goals. Smith began her career in 2009 at ASU as an inaugural innovation fellow, advancing her career to associate vice president and executive director of university initiatives. She designed, launched and oversaw initiatives for social embeddedness, global engagement and university transformation. Smith cultivated a partnership between ASU and the Mastercard Foundation, which began with a leadership-scholarship program for 120 underprivileged students from 20 African nations. Building off that first grant, she has helped raise $100 million from that foundation alone.

“Jacqueline is very committed to ASU and aligning organizational investors with ASU’s charter on a global scale,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “She’s orchestrating moonshot projects that would have a significant societal impact.”

Smith has taught ASU courses in civic leadership, cross sector collaboration, university design and higher education law. When Smith isn’t advancing higher education at ASU, she serves as a publicly elected board member for the Maricopa County Community Colleges Governing Board. She also serves on the board of SeeMore Impact Labs, where she helps the nonprofit’s leadership develop a community-focused strategy that leverages tools and courses to improve high school graduation rates and enhance college access and completion.

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Adam Deguire

Deguire, 38, was appointed vice president of government affairs at ASU in December after serving as interim vice president for six months. He oversees engagement with elected officials and policymakers at the federal, state, county, municipal and tribal levels. Deguire directs ASU’s public policy agenda, monitors political issues that could impact the university and higher education, and oversees engagement with organizations, nonprofits and community partners.

He has managed numerous successful political campaigns, including the nation’s first Latina governor in New Mexico in 2010. By age 29, he was one of the youngest chiefs of staff on Capitol Hill, managing a multimillion-dollar budget, running two offices 2,000 miles apart and leading a staff that was mostly older than him. In 2017 he earned the American Association of Political Consultants “40 under 40” rising star award for his career accomplishments.  

Deguire is an Eagle Scout and is board chairman of the Phoenix East Valley Partnership. He serves as a Big Brother mentor for the Big Brothers Big Sisters organization and was a Flinn-Brown Fellow for the Arizona Center for Civic Leadership.

"Adam is committed to helping ASU serve the many communities of which we are a part,” said Jim O’Brien, senior vice president of university affairs and chief of staff to ASU President Michael Crow. “He brings a very thoughtful and steady approach to helping advance and grow ASU’s relationships with Arizona’s elected officials and civic leaders. We’re fortunate to have Adam as part of the ASU team.”

Michelle Stermole

Director of communications , ASU Enterprise Partners

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ASU welcomes world champion triathlete Chris Hammer

June 28, 2022

Sun Devil is first paratriathlete to earn standard USA Triathlon elite license

Imagine a four-to-five-hour daily fitness regimen. Wake up at 5 a.m., hit the bike for about two hours, then immediately head out for a run, followed by intensive core and strength training.

By this point, it’s about 9 a.m. and Chris Hammer is still not done exercising for the day.

At lunch time, he’ll hit the Mona Plummer Aquatic Center on Arizona State University's Tempe campus for his daily 60-plus-minute swim. Some days are less intense and focus more on recovery, but this is a day in the life of a professional triathlete. 

Hammer, project coordinator for the Academic Enterprise Enrollment team, is new to ASU and to training in the desert, but he is no stranger to competing at elite levels in both sports and academic arenas.

Hammer grew up in Troy, Michigan, where he played baseball, hockey and ran track as an all-star runner. He then went on to become a five-time NCAA All-American, running cross-country and track for Grand Valley State University in Allendale, Michigan. 

As far as his academic accolades, Hammer earned a PhD in sport psychology and an MBA from the University of Utah, as well as a master's degree in sport administration from Eastern Washington University. 

"Growing up, hockey was my favorite sport, being from Michigan, but I was comparably a much better runner," he said. "I loved to compete, so as I raced, the more I fell in love with it and knew it was something I wanted to do for as long as I could, which in my mind at the time was to run in college."

Hammer was born without his left hand and an underdeveloped left arm, but his parents never let this be an excuse; not in sports and certainly not in life. Sports were so ingrained in his life that he didn’t even know what the Paralympics were until he was recruited. 

“I was expected to compete in exactly the same sports at the same level as anyone else, and I was expected to do it as well,” he said. “I really never gave it any consideration. I had no idea that Paralympics or parasport or adapted sport, whatever you wanna call it, even existed. I just played in the regular sport all growing up.” 

His dad always told him, “If something's worth doing, it's worth doing right.” This became Hammer’s inspiration and motto to compete professionally as a world-class athlete.

“If I'm going to make the sacrifices to be an athlete, I'm not going to go halfway with it,” he said. “I'm going to do everything I can to be as good as I can be. That's something that I've lived by my whole life.” 

Man wearing a swim camp and goggles on his forehead in a swimming pool next to a lane marker.

Chris Hammer, project coordinator with ASU’s Academic Enterprise Enrollment, warms up using a kick board for a hard swim workout, on June 23, at the Arrowhead Pool in Chandler, Arizona. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

In 2011, Hammer’s athletic career took off at the Parapan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, where he won a gold medal representing the United States in para track. Just one year later, he made the final in the 1,500 meter and competed in the marathon at the 2012 Paralympic Games in London.

Following the London Games, Hammer transitioned to the sport of triathlon. In his nearly 10 years as a triathlete, Hammer has competed in 34 international paratriathlon events, resulting in 25 podium finishes, 11 of which were in first place. He finished on the podium at four world championships and was named world champion in 2021 at the World Triathlon para championship. 

While amassing these athletic achievements, Hammer was also teaching sports psychology and coaching NCAA triathlon at Davis & Elkins College, a liberal arts college in Elkins, West Virginia, when the USA Triathlon began to heavily recruit him.

They asked him several times to move to Colorado Springs to train at Team USA’s Olympic and Paralympic Training Center. He never moved to Colorado, but he did compete in triathlons at the 2016 Rio Paralympic Games and the 2021 Tokyo Paralympic Games, where he finished fourth in both games.

“I was six seconds off of the podium; I was just so close,” he recalled. Hammer constantly asked himself what he could do differently. He knew he’d given his all in each race, that he was as fast as he possibly could be by this stage in his career and for a pro athlete his age, but USA Triathlon still courted him, and this time, they asked Hammer to move to Arizona.

Enter Project Podium, a USA Triathlon men's elite development program based at ASU. The decision for Hammer to move to Arizona to train wasn’t without sacrifice. It meant his wife, Amy, would be leaving behind her friends and a job she loved. But Amy knew this opportunity would allow Hammer to attain another athletic career milestone.

Hammer moved to Phoenix metro area in January to begin training with the Project Podium team and start his new position in ASU's Academic Enterprise Enrollment unit. Amy and their two daughters, Peyton and Brooklyn, will move later this summer. 

“I was approached by Rocky Harris, CEO of USA Triathlon with the idea of having Chris join our team as he prepared for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris,” said Kent Hopkins, vice president for academic enterprise enrollment. “Once I met Chris and learned about his academic and career credentials I knew he would be an incredible asset to the work of Academic Enterprise Enrollment. We look forward to the impact he will make during his time at ASU and will be cheering him on in Paris in 2024.”

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Chris Hammer, project coordinator with ASU’s Academic Enterprise Enrollment, takes a quick break from his swim workout on June 23. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Project Podium Head Coach Parker Spencer said that Hammer is one of the team’s most successful athletes, making him the first paratriathlete to earn a standard USA Triathlon elite license. 

“When Chris decided he needed a new training environment to prepare him for the 2024 Paris Paralympic Games, our staff at USA Triathlon felt Project Podium might be the perfect fit for him to further his athletic development,” Spencer said.

In his new role at ASU, Hammer will lead a research study in partnership with the Pat Tillman Veterans Center to measure the impact of implementing a mindfulness-based intervention to enhance well-being among student veteran populations.

According to Jeff Guimarin, executive director of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, this work is crucial to supporting veteran learners transition from military service to the civilian world at ASU, as well as civilian life in general.  

“Anything we can do to help with that process will increase their chances of finding a successful career. And to figure out what we need to do to help, we need to better understand the complexities associated with this demographic,” he said. “So far, we've discovered there isn't a lot of academic research done in this area. As a result, we think Dr. Hammer can make some great strides towards supporting our student veterans."

Hammer’s work at ASU and his spot on the Project Podium roster have allowed him to marry his career passions. As a professional paratriathlete, he’s competed and trained alongside many veterans, who he says inspire him every day. 

“They might have had a traumatic injury, and they bounce back to this incredible life,” he said. “But I also know a lot of people aren't so lucky and they're dealing with a lot of things, and I hope this research can, in a small way, help them.”

What’s not so small is Hammer’s preparation for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris. 

“It really is an honor to represent your country, and it's an honor to be a part of something so much bigger than yourself,” he said.

Top photo: Chris Hammer, project coordinator with ASU’s Academic Enterprise Enrollment, prepares for the 2024 Paralympic Games in Paris on June 23, at the Arrowhead Pool in Chandler, Arizona. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Krista Hinz

Copy Writer , ASU Media Relations