Onetime college dropout forges education career, wins elections

Tamika L’Ecluse says she entered public arena to give voice to the voiceless

June 30, 2023

All public affairs students study public affairs. Many seek public-sector jobs after graduation. A few step into the political arena.

Tamika L’Ecluse, an Arizona State University alum who graduated from Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is one of those few. Tamika L'Ecluse leaning against a wall with her arms crossed and smiling with greenery behind her. Tamika L'Ecluse Download Full Image

Sacramento, California, resident L’Ecluse earned an online Bachelor of Science in public service and public policy in May from the School of Public Affairs. It was the latest stop on a path that began with wanting to better her own life and continued with working to effect change for others.

In fact, L’Ecluse plans to run for reelection in November 2024 to the American River Flood Control District board, with hopes of a future seat on the Sacramento City Council.

From education to public policy and leadership

Growing up, improving one’s situation in life was an aspiration L'Ecluse's mother was never quite able to achieve.

L’Ecluse recalls her mother struggled constantly, seemingly always taking classes, trying to enroll in a four-year university, “to be able to buy a house, all those American dream things,” L’Ecluse said. “And she never got there.”

But she, too, encountered financial obstacles. After graduating from high school, L'Ecluse had the opportunity to attend community college for what seems to be — by today's standards — an affordable $19 per credit.

L’Ecluse said more financial aid would have been available had she been starting college today. But at the time, there was none, not even to pay $19 a credit.

Things appeared to start looking up when a friend’s mother paid for her first semester’s tuition.

“But when I had my car stolen, I dropped out. I saw this pattern that I saw my mom in,” she said. “It was really hard. I decided to just work. I had two, three jobs at a time, in a lot of bars and restaurants. I had my own apartment and car, but something inside me said I wanted something more.”

L’Ecluse tried community college again, studying early childhood education and thinking about a career as a sign language interpreter for children. She received a teaching certificate and spent 20 years as a Montessori school teacher. She married and had children who attended public schools, which piqued her interest in public education. She began to take a stronger interest in public policy. Voters elected her to a seat on a local school board.

“I was really interested in public policy from a community level,” she said. “Neighborhood cleanup, no more liquor stores, more fresh food stores and child care opportunities. Our kids didn’t have the access to the kind of school where I taught. I looked at local policy here in Sacramento that I could influence.”

She managed a local Urban League program to open an intake center for families who she said needed a whole-community approach: housing, food, jobs and child care.

“Those issues opened my eyes to how community development and public policy shaped the lives of my neighbors and people I really cared about,” L’Ecluse said.

She signed up for online classes that didn’t exist when she attended community college the first time. While L'Ecluse was working on a paper in a sociology class, Minneapolis resident George Floyd, a Black man, died at the hands of local police officers.

“All I could think about was people dying in our streets, and I needed to do something about that. So, I dropped that class with the understanding I wouldn’t get to transfer to a four-year university, but had enough credits to get my Associate of Arts degree in social and behavioral health.”

L’Ecluse, now 44, had pursued that degree for more than 20 years, she said, but it didn’t feel as if it was enough. She learned about the ASU Online bachelor’s degree programs and, with encouragement from her husband, enrolled and received financial assistance. Her focus changed from education to public policy.

“I knew I would not go back to teaching,” she said.

She was elected to the regional flood control board, where she said she learned the communities in which she grew up became flooded more often than more affluent neighborhoods.

“I joined the board to give a voice for those people who did not have one,” she said. “When a major weather event reaches communities, the most vulnerable and under-resourced neighborhoods are least resilient and take longer to recover. Investing more resources in these communities makes a safer city for everyone.

“I’m really thankful that I’ve had these last two and a half or three years to hone in on what kind of leader I want to be, how I want to show up for my community, my constituents and myself,” she said. “I think it has taught me that giving myself the grace and time to figure out what I wanted to be next doesn’t have to be scary, because there is something that can fit you, your availability, your capacity, your challenges.“

Read on to learn more about L’Ecluse’s ASU journey.

Note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: One reason I chose ASU was because I had a friend who graduated from there a couple of years earlier. She loved her experience, and it gave her the flexibility to graduate with two degrees while working and raising her son.

When COVID impacted the U.S. and civil unrest grew, I found myself looking to fill a void that haunted me for decades. After I earned my associate degree in May 2020, I started exploring hybrid or online bachelor’s programs since most schools and universities were closed in California. I was ready to try and fill the void. I remembered my friend’s experience at ASU, and I thought the worst that could happen is I’d simply apply somewhere else if I didn’t get in. To my surprise, not only was I accepted, but most of my community college credits also transferred. ASU made enrollment and finding the right program easy for me.

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

A: I don’t think any single professor taught me the most important lesson, but I took their feedback, suggestions and encouragement seriously. That feedback and guidance gave me more confidence in my writing and navigating group dynamics. Many taught me not to be so hard on myself and do my best.

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

A: I learned that ethics on a global scale is more complicated than I thought. My major required multiple ethics courses and diving deeper into ethical dilemmas, many (of) which aren’t black-and-white problems with simple solutions. Some dilemmas challenged and changed some of my perspectives.

My perspective changed about my ability to read and produce a lot of material within a few weeks. I had to be very organized, focused on my time and take copious notes. I also used tools (ASU offers) such as success coaching and writing lab resources. I couldn’t have kept up without relying on these tools.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to someone considering running for public office?

A: My best advice would be to be your authentic, fabulous self, because you are enough. Ask for help. Take care of your body and soul. Fill yourself with nourishment and positivity, and surround yourself with good people, as often as possible.

Q: What do you like to do in your spare time?

A: In my spare time, I like to make pottery and take photos. I tend to keep very busy, and these activities force me to slow down, be intentional and focus on the moment.

Q: What is your life motto in one sentence?

A: When you give them roots, they find their wings.

When I was a teacher, I started Roots to Wings, a consulting business, to help schools with curriculum development, licensing and teacher/parent training in positive discipline for ages 3 to 12. Often, I think I am still finding and grounding my roots. With every accomplishment or major challenge overcome, I see an opportunity to soar higher. I believe roots to wings is a lifelong journey.

The School of Public Affairs is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Putting microelectronics to the test

ASU Professor Sule Ozev teams with NXP Semiconductors, Advantest on new course

June 30, 2023

Spurred by the CHIPS and Science Act and a thriving microelectronics ecosystem in the state supported by Arizona State University, the semiconductor manufacturing renaissance in the U.S. is sparking a rapidly growing need for semiconductor test engineers.

Test engineers ensure that semiconductor chips operate properly under a variety of conditions by examining them for defects and out-of-tolerance process deviations. A group of people looks at test circuitry on a table in a lab ASU electrical engineering Professor Sule Ozev (left) shows test circuitry developed for the EEE 522 Radio Frequency Test class to Raghu Maddali (second from left), a senior director of test engineering at NXP Semiconductors; Paul Hirsch (second from right), an Advantest global senior account manager; and Duane Brown, an Advantest application engineering manager. Photo courtesy Paul Hirsch/Advantest Download Full Image

While a chip may seem to function well for most of its uses, it takes only a missed operating condition in testing to cause a small number of users to experience significant failures in electronic systems.

“During testing, all defects, including the stealthy ones, need to be detected,” said Sule Ozev, a professor of electrical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. “A test engineer’s job is to work like a detective and find the correct test patterns, similar to interrogating a suspect, so that all possible defects are activated during testing to ensure that no defective part is shipped to the customer.”

To help meet the increasing demand for semiconductor test engineers, microelectronics testing equipment company Advantest and chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors approached ASU to address their need for training in the field.

“ASU, which has one of the most renowned engineering schools in the country, is right in our backyard and a natural collaborator to further develop engineering talent,” said Raghu Maddali, a senior director of test engineering at NXP.

This resulted in EEE 522 Radio Frequency Test, a graduate-level electrical engineering class open to undergraduate students and developed by Ozev in collaboration with Advantest and NXP, which debuted in the spring 2023 semester, with nine students enrolled.

Testing the limits of semiconductor education

Inspiration for the class emerged from a lack of semiconductor test engineering courses, especially those in the area of mixed-signal and radio frequency, or RF, communications chips. Ozev said ASU is one of only a handful of colleges in the U.S. offering such a course.

She focuses the class specifically on mixed-signal and RF chips to help students thoroughly understand RF testing and streamline industry processes. Mixed-signal chips are those that include both analog and digital circuits in their design.

“Mixed-signal and RF testing is generally quite ad hoc in industry,” Ozev said. “Each new product requires its own approach to testing. This domain can benefit greatly from a systemic approach to testing and evaluation of test quality.”

In addition to classroom time under Ozev’s instruction, the course gives students hands-on lab experience in microelectronics testing under the supervision of NXP and Advantest test engineers. The course also uses equipment donated by Advantest and installed at ASU’s MacroTechnology Works facility.

Paul Hirsch, a senior global account manager and representative from Advantest involved in the course’s development, praised ASU’s efforts to bring the course to life.

“The process of working with ASU was remarkable,” Hirsch said. “We felt that all ASU team members were open and positive in their interactions with NXP and Advantest. They rapidly understood the benefit of our collaboration and did their best to open the doors for us.”

Ferhat Can Ataman, an electrical engineering graduate student at ASU, took the course to advance his knowledge in millimeter-wave radar research. He sought to understand how RF semiconductor testing is performed to improve the accuracy of his radar calibration.

“This class’s laboratory gave me an opportunity to gain practical experience,” Ataman said. “I gained experience with industry-standard test tools and real-world RF testing scenarios.”

He said the class taught him about the importance of integrating testing methods when designing a semiconductor chip, including built-in self-test technology, or BIST. This technology is integrated into the design of chips and detects when the chips malfunction, similar to a car’s check engine light.

Ataman found the experience valuable and now understands how testing large batches of chips is conducted in industry settings.

“If a student is working on RF technology, they definitely need to take this course,” he said. “The course is aligned with what is important in industry, from cost to accuracy of testing. This course fills the gap between theory and real-world application.”

Charting a future semiconductor testing course

ASU plans to offer the course with the collaboration of Advantest and NXP each year in the fall and spring semesters. Hirsch is enthusiastic about continuing Advantest’s efforts with ASU to further semiconductor education.

“The expansion of the semiconductor industry across the U.S. will only increase the need for a strong partnership between our universities and industry,” he said. “ASU, Advantest and NXP are providing a good example.”

Ozev has already seen two of the class’s students accepted for internships in analog and RF testing. The course’s next offering in the fall 2023 semester will increase the available seats to 20.

Ishaan Bassi, Ozev’s doctoral student who has worked at Advantest for six months, will teach the fall 2023 class. Ozev will then teach regularly in subsequent fall semesters, while industry collaborators will offer the course each year in the spring semester.

Future plans also include developing another electronics testing course designed to be taken after EEE 522 Radio Frequency Test, which would teach students more complex testing procedures, such as how to debug problems with chips and design a device interface board — a printed circuit board that connects the tester equipment to the chip being tested.

“This course will provide our graduates an edge when looking for jobs after graduation because they will already have skills that companies spend about six months training employees in,” Ozev said. “Furthermore, because they are exposed to ideas on new and systemic ways to test devices, they can help transform testing approaches in their companies.”

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering