Impacts of COVID-19 pandemic help shape College of Health Solutions grad’s future

April 28, 2023

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

Among the many lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic, one stood out for College of Health Solutions graduate Aryana Gonzales. College of Health Solutions graduate Aryana Gonzales Aryana Gonzales is graduating with a Master of Science in health care delivery from the College of Health Solutions. Download Full Image

Actually it just reinforced a fact that Gonzales already suspected to be true. Conditions such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic have a disparate impact on marginalized groups.

Gonzales, from Nogales, Arizona, wanted to find out why, which helped her decide on pursuing a Master of Science in health care delivery.

“My program is an interdisciplinary field that addresses the complex needs of our current health care system in the U.S.,” Gonzales said. ”I became more curious about how our social determinants impact our overall health and future health outcomes.”

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

Answer: One lesson that changed my perspective is that our laws reflect our values. I find myself thinking about what constituents' values are when a legislator is proposing a bill and if these are true reflections. I used to believe that our states were united, but we all have our own beliefs and are incredibly individualistic, and this has helped me understand why there is currently a divide in our country.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU due to its contributions to research and curious minds who want to better understand and aid the world for the better. 

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

A: The professor that taught me the most important lesson was my capstone faculty mentor, Dr. Elizabeth Kizer. She taught me that we need to connect with others and find our support system where we can, as well as — even though we might both be from a rural town — we can make it anywhere just like anyone else. 

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

A: Don't be afraid to ask questions. The world is a very confusing place, and wanting to know more and the reasons why have helped me see the world differently. Continue thinking outside the box! We complete systematic change together.  

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot to study is the TA/graduate student workspace in Health South (on the Downtown Phoenix campus) on the fourth floor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am currently researching accelerated nursing and physician assistant programs. I am ready to bring my lessons to care for the population that should be at the center of the health care system: the patients.

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

A: I would do anything I can to ensure housing for all. The amount of heat-related deaths in Maricopa County is continuously increasing every year, along with housing prices. I would try to build as many cooling resilience hubs containing community gardens around the Valley as the first step.

Weldon B. Johnson

Communications Specialist, College of Health Solutions

Finding architectural inspiration in nature

Outstanding graduate looks forward to applying biomimicry experience to architecture career

April 28, 2023

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

Lisa Knemeyer Skiles has already found success in her career. She is a well-respected architect and serves as an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas. A headshot of Lisa Skiles smiling at the camera. Lisa Knemeyer Skiles, a well-respected architect and an adjunct instructor at the University of Arkansas, earned her master's degree in biomimicry through ASU Online. She said she was particularly appreciative of the ability to continue as a working professional while pursuing her studies. Download Full Image

She is also a lifelong learner. A few years ago, she decided to go back to school for a master’s degree. Skiles sought a program that could connect sustainability concepts to her undergraduate degrees and professional experience in business and architecture while still allowing her the flexibility to continue working full time. Biomimicry as a field of study crossed her path during her search for a graduate program, as did Arizona State University. Between the innovative subject matter, relevance to her background and the accessibility of a fully online program, it was the perfect fit. 

Skiles said that aside from the degree itself, ASU’s strong academic reputation and well-vetted online offerings influenced her decision to enroll. She was particularly appreciative of the ability to continue as a working professional while pursuing her studies. 

“I was a bit surprised that this was a field I knew little about compared to some other sustainability topics,” said Skiles. “Part of my ‘aha’ moment with choosing this program was the opportunity to cultivate a new type of knowledge within myself. I continue to be thankful for the realization that the biomimicry field was a great fit with my interests and skills.”

After receiving her Master of Science in biomimicry from the School of Complex Adaptive Systems within the College of Global Futures and ASU Online, Skiles looks forward to incorporating her biomimicry education into her architectural practice and into the university courses she teaches.

Read on to learn more about her experiences as an online graduate student.

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

Answer: Two things. The first is I was surprised by the depth of connection I developed with classmates despite geographical distance. As a participant in an online community, this new perspective is one I hope to continue to cultivate as I expect to stay in touch with many classmates beyond graduation. I could not have predicted this outcome. As an immediate example, I reached out to a recent graduate and former classmate to serve on my capstone project advisory committee, a required element for the practicum course. I have enjoyed those meetings — highly productive given our shared biomimicry studies, past team experience and mutual architectural training.

The second is a change of perspective in my understanding of biological patterns and our own connection with nature. I have not only learned how to sustainably apply biomimicry thinking to address human challenges, but also deepened my abilities to promote authentic stewardship of our planet.

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

A: This is a hard question. Each of my professors had a unique contribution to my experience, and each was important to the overall process. I would start with Dayna Baumeister, professor of practice and senior Global Futures scholar. Her tone of possibility and positivity are interwoven with the overarching lesson to be a part of and engage with nature to solve important challenges facing our planet. The other most important lesson relates to my first class, Biology Taught Functionally, taught by Professor Karen Allen. Here I first learned of the possibility of functional innovation based on emulating nature’s genius. I learned of deep biological principles to form the foundation of this methodology. I gained confidence in understanding biological patterns even as a nonbiologist. I now have the confidence to work on an interdisciplinary team of designers and biologists.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Power studying at my computer was a journey supported by living in the Ozark Mountains. It is amazing that I could pursue this education long distance and maintain the ability to easily step outside and into my own biome. Beyond screen time, my favorite spot to power study is in nature! For example, one of my electives was Biomimicry iSites in which we nature journaled, learning specific techniques, to deepen our own analytical and observation skills of patterns found in nature.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school? 

A: Enjoy the journey of learning and engage deeply. Connect with classmates and take care of those relationships as a part of your time with ASU.

Dana Peters

Communications specialist , College of Global Futures