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ASU master’s grad follows passion for storytelling

December 01, 2022

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

In May 2021, Lisa Diethelm graduated from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and mass communication and a certificate in philosophy, rhetoric and literature. But her Sun Devil story didn’t end there.

After contemplating her career path upon graduation, Diethelm decided to pursue a different kind of storytelling with a master’s degree in English from ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

“I still loved stories, but I didn’t think I wanted to be a reporter anymore. One of my professors from my certificate classes, Julie Amparano, recommended that I apply to the English master’s degree program at New College,” she said. “After meeting with Annika Mann and doing more research, I felt that it was the right path to take.”

As part of her master’s program, Diethelm completed a capstone project on the life and work of Sarah Winnemucca, a Paiute author, activist and educator. For the extent of her program, Diethelm analyzed Winnemucca’s memoir to understand how she conveyed her relationship with white American women she met or taught with throughout her life.

“Her memoir has been studied by scholars before because her rhetoric is beautifully powerful, and her story is an important reminder of American history. I was originally drawn to her because I admired how much I learned about Native American traditions and the dark past of the United States by just reading one chapter of her memoir. I wanted to know more, and researched her and her life for most of my program,” she said.

Today, Diethelm is utilizing her foundation in journalism and her English degree to serve ASU students in University Academic Success Programs.

“My background in journalism pushes me to look for every story and every connection. When I am analyzing a text during my master’s degree, I look for the who, when, where, why and how. Stories are very similar; it all just depends on the context and what people are trying to accomplish,” she said. “These skills help me in my career today because I am learning how to apply these skills beyond my education. I am working with students every day, and I hear their stories with their classes and education, and I have to decide how to best reach their needs with the information at hand.”

This fall, Diethelm graduated from New College with a master’s degree in English. Here, she shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Q: Were there any opportunities you participated in at New College that had a big impact on your experience? 

A: Canyon Voices – the magazine holds a special place in my heart. I loved working as an editor for the magazine because I got to read and look over the work of people across the country and sometimes across the world. I had worked with and studied magazines for journalism, so this class also let me work with something I had not before. I learned so much about the different ways people could be creative, and I have loved that I can celebrate people’s art. I am also grateful for Canyon Voices because if I had not met Professor Amparano, I’m not sure where I would be right now, but I don’t think I would be as happy as I am with what I have accomplished. 

Q: Which professors taught you the most important lessons while at ASU?

A: From the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass CommunicationPeter Madrid, Sean Holstege and Maureen West always pushed me to do my best and constantly supported my ideas while I studied journalism. Steve Crane from Cronkite News also taught me a lot. Even though we have only ever connected remotely, and that when we were working together it was the hardest summer of my life, he also pushed me to accomplish my goals, even though I did not know they were beyond the newsroom just yet. I originally thought I would get a master’s in journalism, and he encouraged me to really think about it.

At New College, Professor Amparano taught me about the beauty of working with other people and their art; Professor Mann showed me that nothing is impossible, especially when you work hard; and Michael Stancliff taught me that you can always look at other perspectives, whether in literature or in the world. I have met a lot of amazing people while at ASU, and I will never forget how this experience has shaped me.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My advice would be to not be afraid of change. Globally and nationally we’ve experienced a lot of change very recently, and it’s affected a lot of our lives in different ways. I think becoming accustomed to that change, embracing it and trying to find your path no matter what happens is sometimes the only thing you can do, but it’s also the greatest thing you can do at the same time. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to keep working at the West campus Writing Center … I’m excited to get to know everyone on campus as an ASU employee and continue working on our different workshops that we can offer at the writing center and working across all four campuses with the rest of the University Academic Success Programs team. I see myself earning my doctorate hopefully in English and hopefully from ASU. I think New College has really opened up that opportunity for me because I’m able to talk to a lot of people now about what different PhD programs there are. 

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