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ASU grad writes toward healing for bereaved adolescents

Graduating ASU student Ruth Beadle / Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

Graduating ASU student Ruth Beadle wrote her honors thesis exploring portrayals of grief in young adult literature. Photo by Meghan Finnerty/ASU

April 28, 2023

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

Arizona State University student Ruth Beadle believes that you can’t learn using just half of your brain.

The Dean’s Medalist in English is graduating this spring not only with a BA in English (creative writing), but with minors in such disparate disciplines as mathematics, art history and French. Not surprisingly, Beadle is a proponent of a holistic approach to learning — not a right-brain-versus-left-brain one.

A two-time honorary-mention awardee for ASU’s competitive Glendon and Kathryn Swarthout Awards in Writing, Beadle applies her whole-brain creativity to solving complex problems. Since 2017, Beadle, originally from Tucson, has volunteered as a grief support leader working with children and young adults in various settings throughout Arizona, including at the New Song Center for Grieving Children and at Tu Nidito.

It was in her ENG 471 course, taught by Professor James Blasingame, that Beadle realized the power of literature to change young lives — and wondered if that extended those experiencing grief.

“I was blown away by how much reading books with protagonists that face the same challenges helps young adults,” she said.

She decided to work with Blasingame on her Barrett, The Honors College thesis about grief in young adult literature.

“First, I did a literature review of psychological articles about complicated grief (generally defined as prolonged, delayed or absent grief) in young adults,” Beadle explained. “I was surprised to find that there is a lack in psychological research on complicated grief (in) adolescents. A lot of the research is adapted from adults, even though adolescents face their own unique challenges.

“I created a rubric to analyze young adult novels on their effectiveness at depicting and labeling productive vs. unproductive coping mechanisms. I then analyzed (young adult novel) “All My Rage” by Saaba Tahir using my rubric. Finally, I wrote a short story based upon gaps I found within the psychological research.”

Beadle worked with Assistant Professor of English Jenny Irish, a creative writer, on her short story. She explained that she intentionally created a messy situation for her protagonist.

“I wanted there to be space for characters to go through unproductive methods of coping,” she said. “Young adult novels are ways for adolescents to trial different actions and see the consequences without experiencing them.

“Writing the short story was exciting, because I got to experience the facts and figures of the research and begin to understand how complex situations are around bereaved kids.”

Beadle talked a bit more about how she used an interdisciplinary approach to problem-solving during her ASU journey.

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

Answer: I have always loved reading, even as a kid. My dad would take my sister and I to the library, and I couldn’t get through enough books. I wasn’t sure when I came to ASU if I wanted to pursue a degree in engineering or in English. During The Human EventThe Human Event is Barrett Honors College's signature course, an intensive, interdisciplinary seminar focusing on key social and intellectual currents in the development of humanity. my freshman year, I really struggled with analytical writing and got a lot of help from my professor, teaching assistants and the Writing Center. The more I worked on writing, the more I enjoyed the process and the questions that I could explore with writing. I decided to change my major to English because I loved what I was talking about and wanted to explore the ideas further.

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

A: I think that taking math and computer science classes completely opened my eyes to the similarities to English. Growing up, you are often considered “left-” or “right-brained,” and the subjects are seen as night and day. However, I found the methods I had for writing proofs and for drafting programs were the same as what I use when writing an essay. It blew my mind that I was using the same skills for two classes that are completely different.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the engineering program, because I entered as a mechanical engineering major. Barrett, The Honors College was also appealing because I liked that the honors contracts helped you interact personally with professors. I also wanted to remain in-state due to scholarships.

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

A: (Lisa) Barca taught me a lot about resilience and being compassionate. She offered a lot of opportunities within the classroom where you could improve your grade by showing that you learned from the last essay if you wanted to put in the work. When I felt overwhelmed, we had a lot of conversations about ways to reach out for help and to face stressful situations. I also appreciated how she always put students’ personal well-being before academics and always prioritized students having the environment to turn in their best work.

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

A: Join things you are interested in! There are so many organizations and groups on campus that offer you ways to explore your passions and to learn more about things you would like to know about. Even clubs that are for fun and not about academics can offer a lot of joy and support in your experience.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I have three different spots where I go, depending on how close they are to my classes. The first is the first floor of Engineering Center G that has a lot of seats and whiteboards. I also really like the (School of International Letters and Cultures) lounge on the first floor of Durham Hall that has amazing small study spaces and comfortable chairs. The final space is the library in the Design Building. It is always really quiet there, so it is great for when I really need to concentrate.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am going to get a post-bac in a teaching certificate, but I am still working on all of the details.

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

A: I would work on solving global warming, because it affects so many other problems like hunger, droughts and inequality. Global warming is terrifying because it is such a large problem that doesn’t have a clear solution, so I would like to use my money to search for smaller technological, renewable and urban solutions.

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