ASU Foundation names 2023 senior fellow to increase diversity, inclusion in philanthropy

January 27, 2023

Kenja Hassan has been named the 2023 senior fellow of the Arizona State University Foundation for A New American University, a role created to increase diversity and inclusion opportunities in philanthropy while also expanding university leadership and faculty involvement.

“Following the inauguration of the position, and the success that came with it, we are happy to announce the naming of Kenja Hassan as this year’s senior fellow with the ASU Foundation,” said Suzanne Rinker, vice president of enterprise development at the ASU Foundation. “It is exciting to see the progress from last year continue, and the foundation is looking forward to aiding in her objectives for the role.” Kenja Hassan poses with her arms crossed for a headshot Kenja Hassan. Photo credit: Claudia Johnstone

Hassan began her relationship with ASU in 1997 as a graduate student and became a full-time employee in 2001. Today, she serves as the assistant vice president of cultural relations in the Office of Government and Community Engagement. Hassan is the second senior fellow at the ASU Foundation.

“I am very excited — a little bit nervous — I don’t have a strong background in fundraising or philanthropy, so this is a learning opportunity for me,” Hassan said. “I was really inspired by my experience working with the foundation on Black Philanthropy Month last year. I experienced a lot of genuine caring from the foundation, and if the experience had not been so positive, I am not sure I would be here today.”

After previous work with the foundation, Hassan hopes to utilize the groundwork laid last year by the inaugural senior fellow as a springboard to move forward in strengthening the connection between the foundation and leadership members of the university.

“A good amount of what I want to do with my term this year is to institutionalize things Kimberly Scott got started last year, particularly Black Philanthropy Month,” Hassan said, referring to the inaugural senior fellow. “The other is to help the foundation continue the momentum for inclusive philanthropy, and one avenue to do that is to explore other heritage months and other heritage-based programming at ASU to coincide with philanthropic activities”

Hassan plans to expand on the work Scott did with the introduction of Black Philanthropy Month and wants to highlight programs that are specific to different cultural and historical groups. Her focus is on using the fellowship as an opportunity to bring attention to other existing heritage celebrations while expanding attendance and contributions in support of those programs.

Hassan will focus on expanding support for and awareness of the LIFT Initiative. LIFT (Listen, Invest, Facilitate, Teach) was conceived as a universitywide effort to implement 25 action items designed to increase growth and opportunities for Black faculty, staff and students at ASU.

“A primary part of my effort will be to help institutionalize fundraising efforts for the LIFT Initiative. There are 25 different action items within this initiative, and some of them are in need of financial support. My hope is that over the course of this year, I can help the foundation understand the different components of LIFT and how the foundation can fundraise for these action items in the future,” Hassan said.

Hassan is working with Christine Buzinde, the provost fellow for LIFT, to create a stronger network between the foundation and the executives behind the LIFT action items. She feels that a healthy relationship between the two is essential in properly executing the goals of the LIFT projects.

Additionally, Hassan wants to alter the narrative surrounding philanthropy in the ASU community toward inclusivity and cultivate a mindset that encourages everyone to give back. Part of this goal is to evolve what it means to be a philanthropist and work toward finding creative ways of participating in giving beyond monetary donations.

“For over a decade, I have been a part of an Arizona-based effort to increase people of color participating in philanthropic giving at the Arizona Community Foundation. There are people that consider themselves givers but not philanthropists because they are not donating $500,000, but they are giving $500 or $50 or even just $5,” Hassan said.

Hassan’s goal is to help everyone feel welcome to give back to their community, and this fellowship is a platform for her to grow the meaning of philanthropy.

Written by Richard Canas

‘It’s not about starting the race, but finishing it’: Second-time ASU grad on finding your own path

January 27, 2023

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

Ten years ago, Danni Baquing began pursuing a bachelor’s degree in political science with the intention of going to law school. Fast-forward to 2023 and Baquing’s plan for her life and career has changed, but her motivation to get there hasn’t.   Danni Baquing smiling and posing with ASU degree wearing graduation gown and stole in an outdoor setting with maroon and gold balloons behind her. Last month, Danni Baquing graduated from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in psychology — her second bachelor’s degree from ASU. Download Full Image

Last month, Baquing graduated from Arizona State University’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences with a bachelor’s degree in psychology — her second bachelor’s degree from ASU.

Baquing completed her first bachelor’s degree in political science from the School of Politics and Global Studies in 2021, but she decided to return to ASU to pursue her passion.

“Psychology and the study of what makes people tick has always been something I was interested in. As the oldest of three girls, I found that even at a young age, I wanted to help and understand why people get angry, sad or happy,” she said. “Whenever there was conflict, I found myself always wanting to be the one to fix it. … I knew then that psychology was my true calling.”

Baquing, who resides in California and was born in the Philippines, completed both of her degrees through ASU Online, which gave her the freedom to work and attend school full time.

“I chose ASU because ASU is No. 1 in innovation — a personality trait that resonated with me. Professionally speaking, I’ve taken pride in thinking outside the box to improve otherwise outdated processes,” she said. “Additionally, it was nice to see that even though I was an online student, my professors pushed for success and set their courses up to enable me to really see that my desire to practice as a licensed psychiatrist in the future is right for me.”

Here, Baquing shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Question: What’s something you learned while at New College — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: While at New College, a stats class was a requirement to fulfill the degree. … As I went through the course, I began to see why stats was necessary to at least understand, if not practice for data validation and seeking truth. Stats isn’t just about numbers; it’s about giving evidence-based data on different factors that may or may not affect daily life.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? If yes, how did you overcome them?

A: In 2018, I experienced a layoff, which left me unemployed for about a month. A month may not seem like a long time, but when bills pile up, it becomes very desperate and anxiety-ridden. I had to withdraw from the two classes I had signed up for at ASU back then. So, when 2020 and 2021 came around, I was prepared to contribute to whatever financial aid wouldn’t cover. I am not alone when I say this, but I was also trying to navigate life during lockdown and starting a new job remotely and virtually being trained. 

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: My professors were great, and I really feel like they prepared courses that would help me in the future. However, I feel that Professor Shelby Ryan taught me the most important lesson — look at data with a scientist’s eye and mind. Question the evidence and do your own research. Think critically and run your own statistics research so that you can’t fall to false statistics meant to sway the uninformed.

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

A: Everyone has their own life path. It doesn’t matter if it takes you the regular three, four or, if you’re like me, over 10 years to finish a degree — as long as you finish it and you’re proud of how much effort you put forth and can pat yourself on the back because you also did it on top of a full-time 40-hour workweek and doing everyday life on top of a full-time school schedule. I am a firm believer that it’s not about starting the race but finishing it.

Q: What message or advice would you share for future first-year students?

A: The message I would give to future first-year students is to be open-minded and inquisitive. Join a club or two and immerse yourself in the ASU culture. Learn wholeheartedly, even if it means switching up your major because you had a late “aha” moment and even if it takes you a year longer to finish. But most importantly, be present and live life the way that makes you happy.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plan after graduation is to pursue a dual master's/PhD program in psychology with an emphasis on clinical psychology so that I am set up for what I want to do in the future, which is to become a licensed psychologist. I have already done research and a PhD is required to practice in California, and I think I am most likely going to stay in California.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences