Military prepared new graduate for advanced nursing practice program

April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

Discipline, honor, respect and devotion are just a few of the skills and traits Christopher Stone picked up while serving as a petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard. They are attributes that served him well as he transitioned from military life back to student life to pursue a civilian career in health care. Chris Stone smiles at the camera. He is wearing a white nurse practitioner coat with a black stethoscope around his neck. Christopher Stone is capping off an exceptional academic career at ASU with plans to become a nurse practitioner post-graduation. Download Full Image

“The Coast Guard honed in those principles, and I think those have carried over in the medical profession and into nursing,” Stone said.

In May, Stone will achieve the highest nursing degree when he graduates from Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation’s advanced nursing practice (family nurse practitioner), DNP program. In addition to the doctorate degree, he will also be earning the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate, topping off an exceptional academic career.

It’s a major milestone for anybody but especially for Stone, a native Phoenician, who came to ASU through a less traditional route.

“I think everything happens for a reason. When I went to NAU for my undergraduate degree, my intent was to go into health care, and then when I graduated in 2007, I wasn’t ready to settle down into a profession so I got my EMT and joined the Coast Guard,” said Stone.

He spent six years in the Coast Guard and performed a number of duties, most of them related to search-and-rescue and medical services. After leaving the military, he went to a private college to get a nursing degree and then worked as an operating room nurse for a few years before making the decision to return to school to become a nurse practitioner. 

“I feel like nursing for me was a natural evolution. It has so many professional opportunities, so many doors and a high ceiling,” he said.

There are a number of people who helped, supported and motivated him both personally and academically during his time at ASU. First and foremost Stone mentioned his wife, who he said “deserves a doctorate in dealing with me for the last couple of years.” 

The couple has a 4-year-old daughter, and she is his motivation.

“I want to leave this world a better place for her; I want to be a good example and a good dad,” he said.

On the academic side of things, Stone mentioned the team at Pat Tillman Veterans Center, who he said were amazing at helping him transition to the university and secure financial aid to help pay for tuition through the Yellow Ribbon program.

“I actually wish I had more time to get involved because they have so many things to offer and I just didn’t have time to take advantage of everything,” said Stone.

Below he shares more about his time at ASU and the professors who impacted him the most.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: My “aha” moment when I realized that I wanted to be a nursing professional occurred over time and was not one specific moment. However, while I served in the Coast Guard as a search-and-rescue member, I remember helping patients and “dropping them off” with the paramedics or hospital staff. I would always want to follow up or know more about the process. I was curious to know if we genuinely helped our patients, what we could do to improve the process, or how to help prevent certain situations from happening again. This curiosity naturally led me down the path of nursing and health care.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: There were several reasons why I chose ASU including that it was a doctoral program in Phoenix, I’m born and raised in Phoenix, and my wife and daughter are here. Also, the level of education provided through Edson College’s program was the most appealing when comparing it to other programs available. 

As I already mentioned, the fact that I’m a veteran and the great resource that is the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. Finally — and this ended up being critical — Edson College places DNP students in their clinical settings to earn those required hours and has really great community relationships in Phoenix and surrounding areas. I know it's been hard for my peers (elsewhere) to find clinical rotations.

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

A: All of the faculty have been amazing, and through the different steps of the DNP process everyone has shown us different perspectives and different ways of thinking, which has been amazing.

One who naturally stands out is Diane Nunez, the director of the DNP program; she has been amazing. She’s the one who told me about the Emergency Nurse Practitioner Graduate Certificate and has been my mentor even though she’s not in my specialty. She also connected me with the AHECS Scholar Program and was my clinical contact. She really encourages all of us in the program, but she’s been huge as far as my journey in the DNP program.

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

A: I would focus on improving community health and access to health care through innovative, sustainable and preventative strategies. My vision for improving community health is to educate and empower community members to participate in their health. For example, I would model a plan of care that centered around behavior change and health beliefs using wearable technologies and real-time feedback systems. This patient involvement would empower patients and sustain positive and proactive changes. 

My vision for improving access to health care is through community engagement, community service and preventative health strategies. For example, the use of mobile integrated health (MIH) with interprofessional teams can enhance the ability of health care engagement. MIH teams could be tailored to mission needs based on their communities while providing patient/community-focused care. 

Both strategies for improving health and access to health care are one and the same. They are centered around building better relationships with patients and their communities through innovation, collaboration and sustainability.

Amanda Goodman

Senior communications specialist, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


ASU graduate aims to demystify AI through children's book

April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

How do we understand the story of artificial intelligence? Student Kacy Hatfield Kacy Hatfield Download Full Image

Kacy Hatfield is a student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts who aims to make the story of AI accessible to all – and is doing so by writing a children’s book. Kacy is graduating this May with a degree in digital culture, and is an undergraduate researcher for the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics.

After graduation, she will pursue a master's degree and has been invited to participate in the Machine Intelligence Group at Draper Labs

She shared more about her college journey below. 

Question: Tell us a bit about your experience at ASU and how you came to study digital culture.

Answer: I actually came to ASU as a biochemistry major; I love chemistry and math, but the career path wasn't exactly what I wanted. I then explored career and creative job opportunities where I found digital culture and in just three days I was hooked and made the switch. And there is still so much of what I love in studying AI, and I get to integrate my love for chemistry and math into that. 

I actually hadn't even heard of machine learning until spring 2021, and after my professor introduced it to us, I asked her for book recommendations. From then on, I was obsessed with AI.

Q: What inspired you to pursue undergraduate research? 

A: Well, I actually did my honors thesis shortly after I learned about AI and machine learning. I decided that I wanted to pursue it, even though I really didn’t know much about the subject, and I pitched it to several professors I wanted to work with, who all were very supportive. I defended my thesis almost exactly a year after I had first learned about machine learning, and I just had such an amazing time working on my thesis that I wanted to continue doing research. 

I then found the Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics, which had an undergraduate research opportunity on responsible AI. I met with Research Program Manager Erica O’Neil over Zoom, and I thought it would be the perfect continuation of my work. It’s amazing to keep doing research on this, not just to learn but to ultimately come away with more questions. 

Q: You're working on a really fascinating project, in which you’re developing a children’s book on AI. Can you share more on this project? 

A: The premise is an illustrated children’s book that tells the story of an algorithm named Pip — like the command in Python Programming Language — and Pip has to classify seashells on the beach. How Pip classifies them starts out in very simple terms, and as waves wash up on the shore, more advanced terminology is revealed. There’s also a character named Epoch — another term in Python — as well as a character that represents the human in the loop. All of them are placed very strategically to represent what would take place if a machine learning algorithm were to be integrated in this area. 

Image of a book cover for Your Pal, PipThe goal is to help people feel less scared about machine learning. I often see AI described as a black box; something that that people can't see into, and can't understand. But I think the test of a good machine learning algorithm – and a good programmer — is to translate that black box into something that is easily understood.

Part of the reason I love machine learning is because even if I dedicate my entire life to studying AI, I will never have a fully comprehensive grasp of it, because it's just always expanding and advancing so fast. I think that's key in why people feel uncertainty about machine learning, especially when the Hollywood narrative of AI is the humanoid robot that is going to take over. The thing is, these technologies are amoral, not immoral. 

My goal as a researcher is to start mitigating skepticism around the subject of machine learning through this book. And this starts with younger people, but the book is also meant to be used by people of all ages. 

Q: How has your time in the responsible AI research group related back to your work? 

A: I love being in this research group. It's actually my second semester; last semester I did a project on the risks and mitigations of AI-powered autonomous spacecraft, which is another one of my interests. It’s so awesome to be part of a group of people that have such different backgrounds and different approaches to AI. There are so many interdisciplinary perspectives and topics brought up in discussion. 

I think that in terms of responsible AI – and a lot of people may disagree with me on this – it is integral for a programmer to also be able to see the ethical implications of whatever they're employing into the world. There’s often the argument that we should wait five years before evaluating those possible impacts; when I am working on programming, I'm immediately thinking about how it may affect the real world and be used. 

Machine learning is like a mirror - it's going to reflect whatever we give it, and humans are not perfect. This is why I think the conversations on ethics have to go hand in hand with the research itself, and it's really interesting to see how it comes about on all different fronts.

Q: What comes next for you in your career and future?

A: That’s the age-old question, isn’t it? I always have a list of problems that I can research! This may be a nerdy confession, but I love doing research even in my free time. I hope to direct that energy into the pursuit of a master's degree and possibly even a PhD. I have also been invited to join the Machine Intelligence Group at Draper Labs in summer 2023 as an undergraduate engineer, which is a very exciting opportunity. 

The amazing thing about this field is it's always changing, and in some regard, I will always feel like a student. And because the study of AI is so new, I feel like taking the ethical and programming approach at the same time would be a lot easier to integrate than something that's already established. I hope to keep these skills as best practices in the future. 

There is a lot of skepticism around AI and machine learning, and often I hear people say that it’s too complicated or complex. Everybody has the capability to understand AI, and it's not as scary as it seems. Even though it's been tremendously skewed for entertainment, which makes it easier to vilify, there are so many benefits to using machine learning, and we can employ it in the right ways to augment our human experience and not hinder it.

Karina Fitzgerald

Communications program coordinator , Lincoln Center for Applied Ethics