ASU honors graduate accepted into Harvard Law School

May 26, 2023

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

Wyatt Appel, a Barrett, The Honors College student who graduated with degrees in business (law and global politics) from the W. P. Carey School of Business this May, has been accepted into Harvard Law School. Headshot of Wyatt Appel Wyatt Appel Download Full Image

Appel says his aim is to become a public interest attorney and wants to be involved in impact litigation and policy work concerning human rights and youth advocacy. His long-term goal includes operating an appellate litigation practice in Arizona. 

While in his final semester at Arizona State University, Appel worked on an OURS (Online Undergraduate Research Scholars) project studying the implications of Arizona law SB 1151, which lifts driver license suspensions for unpaid civil traffic fines.

Through his research with Tempe Municipal Court, Appel found that the number of unpaid fines increased after the implementation of SB 1551. These unpaid traffic fines were mostly sourced from residents in Phoenix metropolitan areas such as Chandler, Gilbert and Scottsdale, and a majority of those who failed to pay lived in areas that had a median household income of less than $65,000. 

On top of his OURS project, Appel was a TA for ASU lecturer Gregory Broberg’s justice studies courses in the School of Social Transformation. 

"I’m incredibly thankful to Dr. Broberg for the opportunity to engage in research that has meaningful, real-world implications for our community, and for the chance to support other students with such studies," Appel said. "It was tremendous preparation and inspiration for the kind of justice-oriented legal and policy-based work that I am hoping to take part in while at Harvard Law School and beyond."

Here, he talks a little more about his time at ASU.

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

Answer: During my time at ASU, I volunteered with an organization called the International Rescue Committee at their welcome center, a facility that provides humanitarian assistance — food, clothing, etc. — to people seeking asylum. Through my time serving meals there, I came to understand in part how the asylum process worked — in particular, how it falls short in delivering the support so many families need. It and other experiences like it are what propelled me to apply to law school.

Q: Why did you go to ASU?

A: Going to ASU was a chance to remain close to my family. I’m from Mesa, Arizona, with Tempe a pretty short drive away. ASU also held a lot of sentimental value for me — both of my parents graduated from there, and I grew up going to ASU games and other events on campus. I was able to receive a nice scholarship as well, so it just made a lot of sense.

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

A: Get involved. Whether that’s through volunteering, internships or working, immerse yourself in real-world experiences. Not only will they provide you with the practical skills you’ll need, but they’ll allow you to uncover what you’re truly passionate about.

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

A: Hayden Library was a favorite of mine. I used to grab a drink from the Starbucks at the (Memorial Union) and then find a quiet spot in the library to go through my work.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’ll be attending Harvard Law School to earn my JD. Eventually, I’m looking to become a public interest attorney. Specifically, I’d like to be involved in impact litigation and policy work concerning human rights and youth advocacy, working either for the government or a nonprofit organization like the ACLU. In the long run, I'm hoping to operate an appellate litigation practice focused on these issues in Arizona.

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

A: Educational inequality in Arizona. Through learning from my parents’ experiences as teachers and my own work as a Boys and Girls Club instructor, so many of our students in Arizona do not have access to the resources they need to succeed. Arizona consistently ranks among the bottom in the country for K–12 education, and the pandemic only made things worse. With funding for tutoring assistance for students that otherwise could not afford it, salary increases for teachers and other such initiatives, we could finally provide the investment to students and their families that they deserve.

Hailey Torborg

Communications and Marketing Coordinator, School of Social Transformation

ASU team wins Society of Actuaries international student research case study challenge

May 26, 2023

A team of four students from the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciencesactuarial science program at Arizona State University took first place in the Society of Actuaries Research Institute Student Research Case Study Challenge.

A team from ASU also won the highly competitive international challenge in 2020. Members of ASU's winning team at spring graduation (from left): Lainey Waldman, Neil Bhardwaja, Isabelle Welsh and Charlotte Cliatt. Download Full Image

The case study challenged student teams to act as consulting firms hired to design a social insurance program for the fictional country Storslysia, aimed at effectively managing its exposure to displacement risks arising from catastrophic climate-related events. The proposed coverage would aim to address voluntary, proactive relocation as well as involuntary displacement that may occur in the aftermath of severe occurrences such as tornadoes, hurricanes, and other similar disasters.

Students worked over the course of the nine-week competition to develop an innovative plan for the open-ended case study, representing realistic actuarial challenges. Each team submitted a 10-page report and finalists presented their recommendations to a panel of judges.

All members of the Relocation Station winning team graduated in May from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Neil Bhardwaja, Charlotte Cliatt and Isabelle Welsh all earned their master’s degrees in actuarial science through ASU’s Accelerated Masters degrees program, and Lainey Waldman earned her bachelor’s degree in actuarial science with a minor in economics as a student in Barrett, the Honors College.

The team was awarded a grant of $5,000 for Arizona State University, as well as cash awards of $500 for each student.

“The case study presents a realistic depiction of the challenges actuaries often encounter throughout their professional journeys. Unlike traditional classroom projects that follow predefined instructions, the SOA’s case study challenge requires students to approach problems in an innovative and comprehensive manner,” said Hongjuan Zhou, professor of practice and the faculty advisor to the team.

“This year’s challenge demands students to not only design social insurance program features but also evaluate and manage the associated risks. They must navigate imperfect data and select suitable actuarial models, utilizing given datasets to derive parameter values for their models. In cases where pertinent data is unavailable, students must make informed assumptions by referring to external resources and employing actuarial justifications. These technical skills honed through participation in case study competition prove invaluable for students embarking on their careers.”

Relocation Station’s solution to the case study challenge stood out due to their innovative program features and their remarkable proficiency in constructing intricate actuarial models.

“In addition to covering basic necessities and housing support as usually seen, the program offers childcare services and extra financial assistance for low-income families in the event of catastrophic incidents,” Zhou said. “Furthermore, with regards to voluntary relocation, the program incorporates a buyout feature that is offered by the government, aiming at acquiring the properties of residents in the risky regions. This strategic approach actively encourages residents to move from hazardous regions to safer areas.

“Second, the team performed a thorough analysis and employed solid actuarial modeling techniques. ... Their designed social insurance program effectively manages the societal displacement risk while enhancing safety and alleviating the economic burden faced by residents.”

Bhardwaja describes how the team was in investigation and discovery mode during the first few weeks of the competition.

“All of us read through academic and scholarly papers about natural catastrophes as well as similar government programs and initiatives that could assist with our task. ... There were so many little details to learn and understand along the way — how to define a hazard event like a flood, how to predict hurricane frequency and severity, how CO2 levels affect future catastrophes, and how population and migration patterns could be modeled," Bhardwaja said

“The most challenging aspect of the case study was certainly the timeframe,” Welsh said. “Despite having a long period of time to work on the project, with so many things to consider we were constantly wishing we had more time on our hands to spend working on the project.”

Waldman said that during the last two weeks of the case every member of the team spent anywhere from 40 to 60 hours per week doing analysis, writing and proofreading.

"I am so proud of the entire team for pushing through and remaining driven and inspired to do well on this project when it would have been much easier to quit," Waldman said. "It meant the world to know all that hard work paid off.”

The group was also appreciative of their faculty advisor’s guidance through the program.

“Dr. Zhou’s astuteness and supportive nature were invaluable throughout the process,” Waldman said. 

“This year’s case study involves a fascinating topic that is very relevant for current times, where the increasing frequency and severity of natural disasters are causing instability in people's lives,” Bhardwaja said. “Learning more about these topics was incredibly eye-opening and useful to our future careers and working together with my teammates to construct a full insurance program (that could feasibly be used in the real world) was a valuable experience.

“Alongside the high visibility the competition has, the SOA Case Study enables students to really develop their technical and business skills by thoroughly analyzing data, constructing models and forming big ideas. These skills are essential to the workplace and will give students a competitive edge when transitioning from college to work.”

Rhonda Olson

Manager of Marketing and Communication, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences