ASU students, staff and faculty named Catalyst Awardees

Glass awards on a table.

In the spirit of the ASU Charter, individuals, groups and programs are leading efforts to ensure a greater sense of belonging across Arizona State University. They are advocates and organizers, from first-year students to tenured faculty, who have set a standard for inclusive practices.

At the annual Catalyst Awards ceremony, seven accomplished recipients were named awardees for fostering diversity and inclusion. Eight additional recipients were selected for the inaugural Catalyst Grants, which financially support and amplify projects, programs and events that intend to facilitate an inclusive environment.

Nominations are received from the Sun Devil community for four categories: excellence in inclusion; innovation; initiative; and impact on community. The awardees are then chosen by members of the Committee for Campus Inclusion, which is composed of students, faculty and staff from across the university. The committee is embedded within the office of Inclusive Excellence to nourish a positive campus experience through celebration, programming and the promotion of resources.

According to Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost, the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Committee for Campus Inclusion have undergone significant growth with the addition of staff positioned to advance a dynamic ecosystem of affinity groups, associations, centers and initiatives. “Since 1996, the Committee for Campus Inclusion has honored the collaborative work of individuals and groups who have a vital role in creating lasting impacts on the educational environment,” Gonzales said.

Among the awardees, Multicultural Communities of Excellence (West) is one of four spaces at each of the metropolitan Phoenix campuses providing a sense of community and support for students of color and other historically underrepresented identities. According to Seda Shahin, a student ambassador and undergraduate within the W. P. Carey School of Business, these locations have created value for the university by supporting faculty in their passions, encouraging students to find peers and mentors to celebrate their culture with, and creating a platform for everyone to be heard. “Multicultural Communities of Excellence is more than a space,” Shahin said. “We have a fundamental responsibility to help students find their passion and lifelong mission.”

Through the Authors on Tour Series, a new initiative originating from the West location, the space has increased student-faculty interactions by inviting authors at the university to engage in a casual setting with students. According to Shahin, a supported faculty in this space will lead to better-supported students in the classroom, resulting in a well-rounded, better university.

Awarded as a member of faculty, Susan Holechek is an assistant teaching professor and the director for the School of Life Sciences undergraduate research. According to Romele Rivera, an undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Holechek cultivates an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. While primarily in a teaching role, Holechek’s reach extends outside her professional capacity as a lecturer, assuming a personal role as an advisor and mentor for all students, including those not within her employ. 

“She has gone above and beyond to assist her students in whatever capacity she is able. For instance, she has been an advocate for underrepresented students in the science population by promoting program, grant and research opportunities to those not just within her lab,” said Rivera. “Many of her students that have been involved in these programs have brought back highly competitive awards — awards that would not have been viable if Dr. Holechek did not serve as an advocate for those under her care.”

One of Holechek's notable contributions toward a more inclusive environment is her care for the online student population. She recognized that research and academic opportunities are limited for the online student population and came to realize how each online student is capable of a more dynamic experience. Through her work she has built a Research Immersion program that has been a mainstay since its inception. The goal of this program is to provide online students a full research immersion opportunity, where they learn various techniques and skills tailored for digital learning methods.

Through this program, students have gone on to obtain Research Experiences for Undergraduates and professional degrees, crediting the immersion program for their upward motivation in pursuit of a career. “I’ve been afforded the confidence and training to say that I am a student of value and it is because of her that I was able to realize this,” said Rivera.

Cassandra Aska, deputy vice president and dean of students, serves as the university chair for the Committee for Campus Inclusion. She said it’s an honor to recognize students and colleagues for the outstanding ways they are supporting one another.

“The endeavor of evolving ourselves is perpetual,” Aska said. “The nominees, regardless of earning an award or not, cultivate dialogue, connection and innovation. In their own way, raising awareness on varying important topics that educate and advance a greater sense of self and connection within the community. We are a better university because of these contributions.” 

Congratulations to all awardees, grant recipients and nominees. The 2023 recipients are listed below in order of category. 

Catalyst Awardees

  • Jessica Salow, assistant archivist, ASU Library.

  • Susan Holechek, assistant teaching professor, School of Life Sciences.

  • Maureen McCoy, associate teaching professor, College of Health Solutions.

  • Daniel Jackson, PhD candidate, School of Life Sciences.

  • Crestcencia Ortiz-Barnett, graduate teaching assistant, School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

  • Marta Tecedor, assistant professor, School of International Letters and Cultures; Hunter Langenhorst, graduate teaching assistant.

  • Multicultural Communities of Excellence (West).

Catalyst Grantees

  • College of Health Solutions, Racial Social Justice Book Club.

  • GUIDE (Growing Understanding to Increase Diversity in Education).

  • Amplified Voices.

  • Advancing Trauma-Informed Practices in Higher Education.

  • The Collective for Research Equity and Diversity Presents: Supporting BIPOC and Queer Doctoral Students.

  • (Re)Constructive Latinx Immigrant Narratives.

  • CISA Black History Month Town Hall.

  • Black History Month at Barrett.

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