ASU senior finds passion for international relations, diplomacy through cultural upbringing

October 20, 2022

Now in her last semester of college at Arizona State University, Lauren Pukalo is reflecting on her passions, deeply influenced by her background and upbringing as a first-generation Cuban American. 

Growing up with a strong knowledge of her heritage gave Pukalo a sense of pride.  Portrait of ASU student Lauren Pukalo. Lauren Pukalo Download Full Image

“As one of the first women in my family to attend college, I see how my family’s experience can help serve me in continuing to empathize with others while pushing to make a difference in our world,” she said. 

Pukalo has utilized her political science major to gain a valuable perspective on people and culture, useful for diplomacy and international relations. 

With a will for change, she has spent the majority of her academic career conducting research and gaining hands-on experience across the borders of the world. 

Through the ASU World Innovators Program, Pukalo virtually worked with Jerlie Requerme, a Supreme Court Justice in the Mindanao region of the Philippines, on a project that addressed the digital divide that primarily affects Indigenous communities while simultaneously seeking efficiency and transparency in the judicial branch. 

Pukalo said she learned about the challenges that can come from bureaucracy, wanting to change the status quo and working to leave something better than you found it during her internship. 

“It gave me the confidence to hone my authenticity and take initiative,” Pukalo said, as she reflects on her involvement in the ASU World Innovators Program. 

Through the program, she also had the pleasure of assisting the Australian-American Leadership Dialogue in Washington, D.C., where she learned the values of communication, dedication and teamwork despite cross-cultural differences. 

Pukalo’s initiative to partake in many career-building opportunities led her to her current position working as a Diplomacy Podcast Intern with the Leadership, Diplomacy and National Security Lab.

As an analytical person, Pukalo revealed that the internship challenges her to work on communication and marketing skills. She enjoys integrating her science orientation with her creative side to improve all aspects of the podcast, including coverage material and gauging a diagnostic understanding of the listeners. 

“I honestly cannot speak highly enough of the faculty and the lab,” Pukalo said. 

“I’ve learned so much from the faculty; they truly care about the students and are willing to help by providing opportunities and resources. All in all, the experience has really helped influence my path and future career.” 

Pukalo gives thanks to ASU for providing her with a world-class education where she encountered nurturing professors that contributed to her learning and curiosity about key issues in the world. 

Student Journalist, School of Politics and Global Studies


ASU Herberger Institute student leads youth philanthropy group

October 20, 2022

Note: This article is a part of the ASU Foundation's ongoing work to celebrate Black Philanthropy at ASU.

At the age of 21, Atllas Hopkins, the founder of SEED Philanthropy, is on a mission to positively impact his community and share the importance of giving back to his peers. Portrait of ASU student Atllas Hopkins, wearing a blue sweatshirt and smiling in an outdoor setting. Atllas Hopkins is on a mission to positively impact his community and share the importance of giving back to his peers. Download Full Image

SEED Philanthropy, an all-Black youth philanthropy group, was created for young Black students looking to support their communities in meaningful ways. On its opening night, SEED raised $24,000 thanks to donations from members of the community.

Hopkins is currently a senior at Arizona State University, majoring in architectural studies at the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, with a minor in business.

Here, Hopkins describes what inspired him to establish SEED Philanthropy and what it’s like to be a student philanthropist.

Question: When did you first realize it was important to give back?

Answer: The importance of giving back was always a value that was instilled in me by my family. Since I can remember, we would always give out turkeys for Thanksgiving to the homeless. As I matured and saw injustices within the world and my own community, I felt a calling to use my influence, power and potential to change those issues. Giving back was a part of how I was raised and stems from my personal life experiences.

Q: What is SEED Philanthropy?

A: SEED stands for Students Engaged in Ethical Donations. We do a slew of community service, volunteer work and host community events. We mainly do a lot of fundraising and grant-giving to other student-led or student-based nonprofits throughout the Valley. We have only been around for a year and a half. 

Q: What causes does SEED Philanthropy support?

A: Our primary focus is youth development. We want to invest in our community, and we recognize that the best way to do that is through the young people in the community. You can impact a kid and leave an imprint on them about giving back and what it means to give back. Eventually, he will grow up with a philanthropic mindset. He’ll teach someone, and that person will teach someone. It's a trickle-down effect. 

Q: How did you raise $24,000 on your opening night?

A: We managed to raise $24,000 on our opening night due to the sheer belief and overwhelming support from our community. We hosted an event announcing our official launch where we invited family members, business partners and other people linked to our cause and gave a formal introduction about who we are and our end goal. At the end of the night, we had a section in our program asking for donations, and immediately people were basically throwing money our way. It was a truly powerful experience and reminded us how much potential we have to impact our community and the amount of faith we have from the people supporting us.

Q: Your organization is tailored specifically for Black youth to participate in philanthropy. Why is that an important cause for you?

A: It’s an important cause for youth in general, but it’s really important for us because when I started SEED, it was a catalyst for the George Floyd situation in the summer of 2020. As Black people in the community, we are a marginalized race for the most part. It’s important to come together and build camaraderie amongst each other to build those extra connections, whether it's through business or community. We need to band together and achieve a common goal for the betterment of our people. 

Q: How do you balance student life with your philanthropic work?

A: It isn't easy. What helps keep me in order is the simple understanding that I have responsibilities as a student and the founder of SEED Philanthropy. I have things to do day in and day out, and there are people who rely on me to accomplish these things. It can be a struggle balancing everything, but one of the main things that helps me is understanding that there is a deeper purpose behind all I do.

Q: What is the impact of your organization that you have seen so far?

A: With our first grant cycle, where we gave out our first significant donations, two of the nonprofits that we granted money to, it was the first grant that they had received. Before us, they had received no extra funding besides what they had built off their own resources. We had a promotional video where you could see them talking and tearing up about it. Five thousand dollars is a lot of money for a local nonprofit. Outside of that, we are currently in the midst of our back-to-school drive. Last year we did a back-to-school supply drive, raised over 500 school supplies and supplied over 15 classrooms with school supplies. This year, we are doing a hygiene drive for the Boys Hope, Girls Hope Foundation and the Wilson School District. So far, we are only in our second week of the hygiene drive and already have over 600 hygiene supplies. Being able to give back in tangible ways has greatly impacted me.

Q: Where do you see SEED Philanthropy in five years? 

A: In five to 10 years, I see us having at least one chapter outside of Arizona. Above expansion, I hope we are still around, we’re still prominent and still able to make an impact. With an organization like this, it's tough to teach philanthropy to college students my age who may live in a world of glamour and showing off and aren't familiar with giving to others without expecting anything back. I want to see SEED have longevity and stick around.

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

A: I would spend that on the housing crisis. One of my main motivations for doing architecture is I want to fix the structure around affordable housing. I would love to invest in shelters and reimagine the idea of affordable community housing.

Written by Roxanne Banuelos.