With the return of the school year comes the 2022–23 class of Lincoln Scholars.
The Arizona State University Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics encourages students from all disciplines to engage in ethical issues through its Lincoln Scholars seminars. The program awards scholarships to students who participate in a one-credit seminar that features community and ASU faculty speakers, along with interactive discussions and activities.
“We provide space for students to take on ethical topics by bringing in faculty from other fields to share their knowledge and engage students on important concepts like personal data privacy, the future of higher education and topics close to the mission of our center, like humane technology and ethical innovation,” said Sean Kenney, who founded the Lincoln Scholars program and serves as the education program manager.
Joining the program this year is Brianna Iannone, a budding entrepreneur and a junior at the W. P. Carey School of Business.
Iannone is pursuing a degree in business management as well as a certificate in American Sign Language, while also serving as a Girl Scout troop leader. She reinstated the Alpha Phi Omega Eta Eta Chapter at ASU in 2021, where she is serving her second term as president, and also recently took on the role of president for the W. P. Carey Dean's Advisory Council. Additionally, she received a Gold Award for her service as a Girl Scout, recognizing her work in creating adaptive and sensory toy libraries.
Question: Tell us about yourself and your background.
Answer: Currently, I’m studying business management, and I'm hoping to earn a certificate in ASLAmerican Sign Language, but that is a work in progress. I want to be a social entrepreneur, and I want to open an adaptive toy business for people with different abilities. I try to be very active on campus and in my community. I did look into Greek life but decided it was not for me, so I founded a service fraternity called Alpha Phi Omega, and I currently serve as president. I am very active on the W. P. Carey Dean’s Advisory Council; this year I'm serving as president. My goal is to make sure that we are being as accessible as possible at W. P. Carey.
I am a lifelong Girl Scout and troop leader. I volunteer to mentor other girls and young women in Girl Scouts and those earning a Gold Award, and I enjoy teaching archery and other outdoor skills. Girl Scouts has given me a lot of opportunities and has really helped to set me up for success. It has led me to start Campus Girl Scouts at ASU this year, and I hope to give more women the opportunity to have that sense of sisterhood around them and give more women the opportunity to mentor young women and girls.
A lot of the things I do involve volunteering. I love to be around people, and I just want to spend my time on earth making the world a better place.
Q: Could you share more about how your passion for accessibility developed?
A: Of course. I myself live with multiple learning disabilities, so I have experienced the negative feedback you get from having learning disabilities, even with teachers and professors, which is really sad. Personally, I am a fighter, but I know we have a lot of students out there with disabilities, and a lot of them feel silenced or not good enough. A lot of people like me do not even get the opportunity to go to college due to a lack of resources for learning disabilities and accessibility issues, so I really do fight for accessibility inclusion.
I want everyone to feel like they have a place. I haven't always felt like I had a place or someone to lean on at school, so I’ve made and found myself a sense of community, but I want to give everyone the opportunity to do the same. So accessibility is really close to my heart because I know what it's like to be discriminated against, and I know what it’s like to feel alone.
I really put a lot of stress on looking for solutions, and I think my business idea will help many families in the educational environment. For example, I earned a Gold Award for starting an adaptive and sensory toy library. I saw the difference in cost between regular toys and adaptive toys, where adaptive toys are three to six times the standard price because of a $3 wire. A lot of parents can't afford that, but the kids got so much out of the toys. So I really just want to give more access to learning materials for people, make things more accessible, and I really want to spend my time on earth doing that.
Q: Your background as a Girl Scout has really impacted the way that you're taking charge. It really is about teaching young girls important life skills and community. Has this had an impact on you?
A: Yeah, I do attribute my advocacy, sense of service and my risk-taking to Girl Scouts. Living with learning disabilities, for a lot of people, is not just the learning challenge but also self-esteem. Self-esteem becomes a huge issue, and Girl Scouts has really given me a way to foster having a positive outlook and character. I got to try so many things in Scouts. So even if you might not be good at one thing, they guide you in another direction. It’s really given me a sense of self. That's why I'm a troop leader now. I want to give more girls the opportunity to be with each other and develop that sense of self. I love to be around them, and they are so much fun.
Q: With all the important responsibilities you’ve already taken on, tell us why you applied for the Lincoln Scholars Program? How did you come across it and decide this was something you wanted to do?
A: I've always been taught that we are responsible for leaving the world a better place. I was so intrigued by Lincoln Scholars Program, because what better way to make the world a better place than meeting and working with students from diverse backgrounds of interests, various majors and, of course, different mindsets. It’s going to be awesome to talk and work with them to find real-world solutions to these huge issues and, of course, it brings up so many opportunities for creative collaboration. I’m super excited.
Q: You’ve already touched on this topic, but could you talk a little more about what you’re hoping to achieve in the next year as a Lincoln Scholar?
A: Yes, of course. I’m looking forward to working with other students on these real-world problems and solutions. I love to see how people think things out and how they plan. Taking those different viewpoints and ways of thinking into consideration is so important when you are looking for solutions and trying to find a different angle. I also really do think that this will give a kick-start to my business, so I can actually start working on accessibility.
Having a lot of other students around me with the common interest of just trying to make this world a better place really helps out. I’ve read about Lincoln Scholars, and I see students that are very intelligent, driven, smart and they all just have a little thing about wanting to make a difference. I think that's so beautiful and amazing.
I’m excited to meet others in my ASU community that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, since I'm a business major and some of them are engineers, some of them are medical students. There is a lot of opportunity to expand.
Most of all, I’m looking forward to being part of the ethics discussion. It allows me to become aware of personal biases and help strengthen my ethical decision-making, and to also see how other people experience life and what they go through on a daily basis, because I think that's very impactful on how we interact with everyone.
Q: The last couple of years have been difficult for everyone, especially for advocates and for people who are looking to make a difference. Has that affected you as well, and the way you approach these situations?
A: It does. I was a COVID-19 graduate in 2020, when all graduations were canceled, and I remember it being really hard. The first year at ASU was just really stressful, having to adapt online. My heart really goes out the professors at ASU, because not only was it stressful on this side, I can't imagine being on the other side and trying to figure out how to put people in Zoom rooms and all that.
It was lonely my first year at ASU, and I didn’t feel like I had anyone around me. My parents pushed me to get involved with helping other people again, to put myself out there and find different avenues for connecting. I continued with Girl Scouts, and we did Zoom events. We did a lot of conversational things – now the girls love talking on Zoom, and they earned a badge for it. Even just doing crafts alone but together over Zoom was so important. It probably didn’t seem like it at the time, but it was important to me that I was still helping people, even just taking supplies to health care workers – our troop made 200 bags for them, so that was really awesome.
That was also the year that I decided I needed to get involved at ASU. I looked into Greek life and felt it wasn’t for me, but I did get involved in the W. P. Carey Dean’s Advisory Council, and that’s what made me excited to work on projects again and see how other people think.
Throughout COVID-19, it's been a lot of learning about flexibility and thinking, “OK, if this is not going to work, how am I going to find a different angle? How are we going to fix this?”
Q: Thank you so much for sharing your inspiring story with us today. Is there anything you would like to say in closing?
A: I am just excited to continue to make a difference, not only in my ASU community, but throughout the community as a whole. I'm super excited to be around students who have different viewpoints and get to see how they think and the things that they truly are passionate about. I’m really hoping to make a big push at W. P. Carey for accessibility and using the Lincoln Scholars program to push more accessibility at ASU as a whole, and hopefully get my business a little kick-start. I’m just so thankful to be given this opportunity and I’m super excited.
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