Communication grad and comedian starts stand-up club at ASU

April 28, 2023

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

For Arizona State University students who aspire to be the next Dave Chappelle or Ali Wong, there's a club here for you. ASU senior Luke Rowland performs his stand-up act at a comedy club. Download Full Image

Senior Luke Rowland, a communication major at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication, created Sun Devil Stand Up in the fall of 2022 to help aspiring comedians learn the basics of stand-up comedy and apply it to their joke writing.  

Rowland started the club after discovering that ASU already had sketch and improv comedy clubs on campus, such as Farce Side, Tempe Late Night and Barren Mind, but not one that specialized in the art form of stand-up comedy. 

"This club is more of an open gym for comics to get multiple reps practicing their acts among friendly fellow students of comedy before performing said acts before the fellow student body," he said. 

Sun Devil Stand Up is open to all students, and its members are majoring in such diverse areas as communication, sustainability, mathematics, civil engineering, information technology, film, history and psychology. 

Rowland credits his communication classes for preparing him to become a comedian by giving him a foundation of understanding how to successfully interact with the audience in funny ways.  

"More specifically, my public speaking class, interpersonal communication class and relational communication class taught me the 'fundamentals of basketball' equivalent to stand-up comedy, because what is stand-up if not using interpersonal communication to speak in public about my relationships?" he said.

Sun Devil Stand Up has collaborated with multiple other student organizations in a variety of fun and funny ways, says Rowland. 

"We visit other ASU clubs 'on their turf' and learn the skills they have to offer in exchange for our comedians performing some light-hearted jokes via a little travel microphone," said Rowland.

Sun Devil Stand Up member Cosmos Quigley, a film major, performs for the ASU Jugger Club.

"When we met with the ASU Meditation Club, they taught us a breathing technique that can calm down pre-show nerves. When we collaborated with the Jugger Club on a Sun Devil Fitness Club field, they taught us how to play the sport, while we told them jokes during the water breaks. We also went to a poetry open mic at a tea lounge in downtown Phoenix with ASU’s poetry club that was on the same street as a comedy open mic in a hipster cafe.

"Stand-up is an art form that can adapt to any situation, and Sun Devil Stand Up practices this skill of adaptability by collaborating with any kind of club on campus."   

The club's faculty advisor, Hugh Downs School Artistic Director Jennifer Linde — who taught Rowland in COM 442: Identity, Performance, and Human Communication — says communication classes helped him hone his craft. 

"Luke also works with club members on writing jokes and presenting them to an audience. They are getting experience doing audience analysis and speaking in public," Linde said.

Linde noted that several performance studies students have done stand-up comedy during and after being students at ASU. 

"Luke’s classmates chose him to perform at the end-of-the-semester student showcase at the Empty Space theater in the Hugh Downs School," Linde said. "He used comedy to narrate the experience of his grandfather’s death and did an amazing job of weaving grief, laughter and love all into one narrative. His use of humor is that good."

Rowland describes his type of comedy as "poetically existential optimism" and says he likes saying punchlines that make the audience think before they can laugh.

"My humor may be dark; my setups might paint a picture of a half-empty glass. But the punchline will be that the glass is overflowing because I turned the glass upside down. Even if it was half full, the second that it’s upside down it becomes an overflowing glass ... because of gravity. Duh."

Rowland has been performing at comedy open mics all around the Valley of the Sun for over a year now, including at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy in Phoenix, ImprovMania in Chandler and at the Phoenix Center of the Arts.

"I have also performed stand-up comedy in my hometown of Baltimore, Maryland," he said.

Rowland believes comedy clubs are still popular and that attendance has only increased since the pandemic.

"People are sick and tired of staying inside looking at their screens all day," he said. "With all the remote work, an overabundance of streaming services and a 24/7 news cycle that is only becoming sadder, people need a reason to get out, socialize and smile about their lives every once in a while. In the immortal words of stand-up legend Robin Williams, 'Comedy can be a cathartic way to deal with personal trauma.' After 2020, I think everybody is at least a little traumatized."

As for the future of Sun Devil Stand Up, Rowland says it will continue after he graduates this spring.

"We just re-registered in Sun Devil Sync, and we are hosting elections this week to figure out the next generation of leadership for the club next year. I’m excited to see what new heights this comedic community can grow to reach."

As for his plans after graduation, Rowland says he will be doing stand-up comedy full time in the Phoenix area, as well as continuing his career as a comedy writer with the sketch comedy production company Patent Pending.

"I will host open mic shows at various locations in the Valley, that can hopefully create a multi-medium creativity collective, but not a cult. More culture, fewer cults, that’s the end goal." 

Ba dum tss. 

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


ASU grad amplifies underrepresented voices in engineering

April 28, 2023

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

Fantasi Nicole brings a unique perspective to engineering, and she has spent her academic career amplifying other underrepresented voices in her field. Fantasi Nicole ASU doctoral degree graduate Fantasi Nicole explored the struggles of Black women pursuing engineering doctoral degrees in her dissertation while making a difference in her community through outreach and service. Download Full Image

“Being a Black womxn in engineering is important because we have different perspectives of what constitutes problems, solutions and improvements than others. These perspectives can lend to solving problems that others did not know existed,” she says. “It is important for the advancement of society for it to be inclusive and equitable of the Black womxn and others who occupy engineering spaces.”

She chose to study at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University for her doctorate because she wanted to engage in research that “married social justice, racial and gendered equity and engineering to produce transformative change.”

Her dissertation, “Murder, Liberation and Art in the Engineering Ivory,” focuses on Black women's “reflections on their spirit-murdering experiences in engineering doctoral programs through arts-based and Black feminist methodologies.”

“Spirit-murdering” is a term that represents the enduring impacts of personal, psychological and spiritual harm inflicted particularly on Black students. For her dissertation, Nicole sought out practices and policies that contribute to spirit-murdering experiences of Black women who are pursuing or have completed engineering doctoral degrees. 

Nicole explores their experiences and intellectual contributions in her dissertation through the composite character Marvilous Marie, named after her mother and grandmother. Her story is that of a Black woman who experienced the drive to be an inspiration to her community by earning a doctoral degree. However, in her pursuit of this goal, she encountered many programmatic and social barriers to success that also impacted her physical, mental and emotional health.

This story also mirrors Nicole’s own academic journey. She recalls being told she wouldn’t survive engineering as a first-year undergraduate student with a 1.92 GPA. Since then, Nicole has overcome adversity to empower herself and her “homegirls,” women from similar backgrounds she stands up for.

Nicole’s advisor, Assistant Professor Brooke Coley, has been part of her healing journey as well as a great inspiration to expand her critical thinking skills and make an impact. 

Her goal is to inform ways to disrupt harmful practices and reimagine policies to enable a healing and supportive environment for all who experience spirit-murdering while pursuing advanced degrees in engineering. As higher education institutions strive to improve diversity and inclusivity, Nicole believes telling Black women’s lived experiences as doctoral students is an important contribution to the conversation.

Nicole has found many ways to make a difference outside of her doctoral work. She helped her academic community as a teaching assistant for an engineering education systems and design seminar course and inspired the next generation of engineers as a counselor and mentor for the ENGagED research experience for undergraduates.

As a member of the Beta Mu Sigma Alumnae Chapter of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority Inc., Nicole regularly volunteers for activities, including feminine hygiene drives, feeding the homeless, an annual youth symposium and Swim 1922, a campaign in partnership with USA Swimming to teach water safety and swimming. She also serves as the co-advisor of the Beta Pi Collegiate Chapter on the ASU campus.

Graduating from ASU is the latest achievement in a long line of Nicole’s academic successes. She has now earned a bachelor’s degree, two master’s degrees and a doctoral degree in engineering and engineering education fields at four different universities. She has also worked in industry at TK Elevator, Ford Motor Company and Honeywell

She plans to continue working with Honeywell as a project engineer while working on her entrepreneurial endeavors as a plus-size model, podcast host, public speaker, consultant and media personality. 

“I aspire to help transform engineering by cultivating communities of equity-minded, social-justice-oriented and critically innovative engineers who create products and services to better the lives of others,” she says.

Engineering has taught Nicole many things, perhaps the most important being that she can do anything she sets her mind to.

“Here I am, four degrees later and speaking at my PhD hooding ceremony,” she says. “Obtaining this degree has been an inspiration for many of my family and friends. I am a first-generation college student who is a Black womxn from the country in Mississippi. If I can make it, so can they.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2023 class here.

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering