Ayşe Çiftçi named director of ASU’s new School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology

School trains counselors, psychologists to prevent, treat psychological issues while promoting well-being of individuals, families, groups and organizations within a diverse society

August 2, 2023

ASU Professor Ayşe Çiftçi transitioned to her role as the inaugural director of the School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology — one of three new schools launched in Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts — on July 1.

After a distinguished 16-year tenure at Purdue University, which included service as department head, Çiftçi joined the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts in August 2022. Portrait of ASU School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology Director Ayşe Çiftçi standing in front of blurred outdoor vegetation at ASU Tempe campus. Professor Ayşe Çiftçi began her role as director of ASU's School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, part of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, on July 1. Çiftçi joined the college a year ago as faculty head, after having served in a similar leadership role at Purdue University. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

“Since joining ASU, Ayşe has been collaborating with College of Integrative Sciences and Arts faculty, staff and other partners at ASU and in the community to add distinctive degrees and programs that will help prepare the next generation of counselors and counseling psychologists,” said College of Integrative Sciences and Arts Dean Joanna Grabski. “Given the U.S. mental health crisis and shortage of qualified professionals in this field, we are committed to leading positive change in this critical area. Our undergraduate majors in counseling and applied psychological science are some of the fastest growing in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, both at the Polytechnic campus and online.”

Çiftçi has authored more than 40 peer-reviewed publications, has co-led research funded by the National Science Foundation and frequently gives keynote lectures and presentations across the U.S. and internationally. Throughout her career as a leader and scholar, Çiftçi has been committed to identifying critical factors affecting the mental health of individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds and developing interventions that will help build more inclusive environments in educational and training settings.

Active in the American Psychological Association (APA), Çiftçi was awarded APA’s 2014 Presidential Citation, and she is an APA Fellow in Divisions 17 (counseling psychology) and 52 (international psychology).

Çiftçi earned a PhD in counseling psychology at the University of Memphis. She holds a Master of Science in psychological counseling and guidance and a Bachelor of Science in educational sciences, both from Middle East Technical University in Ankara, Turkey.

ASU News spoke with Çiftçi to find out more about her past work, some of her interests and her perspective on this new position.

Question: What excites you most about your new role and the elevation to school status of Counseling and Counseling Psychology the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts?

Answer: I am extremely excited about the possibilities and opportunities ahead of us as a new School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology. The new organizational structure will increase efficiency and will better align with that of other ASU schools. Our new structure will provide even more space and opportunities for innovative programs and collaboration within the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts and across ASU.

In our school we have academic programs that run the gamut from bachelor’s degrees to the PhD, so I see that as a unique strength. We are expanding our existing undergraduate degree options as well as our Master of Counseling programs.

The School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology aligns closely with the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts' emphasis on applied degrees and its career-connected learning focus. As a faculty, properly training counselors and psychologists has always meant building in clinical, hands-on experiences. We have a strong practicum opportunity in place at our Tempe campus with our Counselor Training Center, which provides counseling services to the community. Given our increasing presence at ASU Polytechnic campus, we are planning to expand our services and community connections in the East Valley.

I moved to ASU a year ago because of the university’s emphasis on innovation and the countless possibilities for Counseling and Counseling Psychology. I am very excited that we now have the organizational structure to do even more of that.

Q: If you had to give a short elevator pitch to a prospective student about why they should consider pursuing a degree from the School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology, what would you say?

A: It depends on how tall the building is! We are living in a world that is becoming increasingly complicated and challenging, particularly for marginalized communities. In the School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology we train counselors and psychologists to become culturally competent to work with diverse communities in a variety of mental health settings. Our faculty set us apart because of their commitment to students, scholarship and their connections with local, national and international communities. We also offer bachelor’s degrees that may lead to certifications and licensures — rare at the undergraduate level.

Q: The College of Integrative Sciences and Arts emphasizes career-connected learning. Tell us about your first job; what was the most important or most memorable lesson you learned?

A: After losing my father in my first year in college in Turkey, I decided to work to keep myself busy outside of school. It was at a rehabilitation center for children with behavioral and developmental disorders. I had planned to work there for a semester, but I ended up working there for four years.

Working with the children and their families, I learned to be patient and creative in trying different approaches and interventions. I learned to celebrate even small steps and minor progress with great joy. I also learned it’s OK to be patient with yourself and that you need to persist. You can’t just give up the first time something doesn’t work. Don’t be afraid of failing. That job also confirmed how important it is for me to be working with a community that I feel I can directly help and learn from — where we can problem-solve and innovate together.

Q: When or how did you realize you wanted to pursue this field in higher education?

A: In Turkey we have a national exam at the end of high school that determines college placement and major. I wanted to study psychology or journalism, and based on my scores, I was placed in a psychological counseling and guidance major in one of the top-two universities in the country. I knew counseling psychology was the right field for me as soon as I started taking courses because of its holistic approach to well-being.

I decided to stay in academe because I’ve always been a curious person. I love learning and changing as a result of new knowledge, producing new knowledge, contributing to knowledge. Universities are heaven for that! You cannot remain static.

Change is such a core concept in my life. You can’t be an immigrant without being open to new and different ways of learning and living. You can’t improve or develop without being open to change. This is why I moved to ASU: Change is not only possible at this university, it is valued.

Q:  Tell us more about some of the exciting degree programs and community partnerships in the approval and planning stages for the School of Counseling and Counseling Psychology?

A: We’re especially excited about our new school counseling program developed in partnership with Mesa Public Schools, the largest school district in Arizona. With the mental health crisis in schools, we were approached by the school district to develop ways to increase educational pathways for future school counselors. Our students in this concentration will receive the Master of Counseling degree in school counseling and will have internship opportunities in Mesa Public Schools.

We have also just launched a new undergraduate concentration in sports and performance counseling. We have several other exciting programs in development, including an online Master of Counseling degree program, an undergraduate concentration in counseling military members and veterans, and a graduate certificate in Spanish for mental health professionals, which is a great example of collaboration with faculty in the humanities in our School of Applied Sciences and Arts.

Q: What are some of the ways you recharge and take care of your mental health?

A: I am a runner. Since moving to Arizona, I am still trying to get back into the training cycle, but I ran two marathons after entering middle age and registered for my first marathon in Arizona. When I run, I disconnect from emails and phones, and it provides me with a space for reflection and balance. I also just love the experience of running outdoors.

I love to travel and get lost in the streets of a new place and communicate with people even if I may not speak the language. I try to travel every year to parts of the world I haven’t been before. I like to define myself as a cultural explorer. I always gain a new perspective about life and about the beautiful cultural diversity of this world, and these experiences impact the way I do my job every day.

Maureen Roen

Director of Communications, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


ASU community leaders honored with Phoenix Business Journal 40 Under 40 awards

August 2, 2023

Three rising leaders from the Arizona State University community have been chosen for the 2023 class of Phoenix Business Journal’s 40 Under 40 awards.

The three Sun Devil awardees, who were among 40 winners chosen from more than 300 nominations, are: Logo reading "40 under 40" Image courtesy Phoenix Business Journal Download Full Image

• Kyle Siegal, senior vice president and chief patent counsel for Skysong Innovations.

• Scott Nelson, senior associate athletic director and vice president of fundraising for Sun Devil Athletics with the ASU Foundation.

• Jeff Kunowski, associate director of innovation programs for the ASU’s Global Sport Institute and J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute.

The employees will be recognized by the media outlet for their community leadership, professional accomplishments and personal achievements during an in-person awards ceremony on Aug. 3.

About the honorees:

Portrait of

Kyle Siegal

Kyle Siegal, 38, joined Skysong Innovations, the nonprofit technology transfer organization for ASU, six years ago and oversees a team that protects ASU innovations, negotiates technology licensing deals and helps entrepreneurs advance new technology companies in the Valley.

His team helped ASU rank in the top 10 among U.S. universities granted U.S. patents in 2022 for the fifth consecutive year.

For the past five years, Siegal has served as a volunteer leader and mentor for the Association of University Technology Managers, receiving a volunteer service award in 2020. He is helping secure long-term food resources for West Thunderbird Community Care Center, which runs After the Bell, a low-cost after-school program. In recent years, he began volunteering at Future Stars AZ’s annual Hands On STEM Fair, which provides hands-on educational activities for youth.

“Kyle is integral in helping translate ASU's intellectual products and research into real-world impact,” Skysong Innovations CEO Augie Cheng said. “He is an invaluable asset to our team, to the university's researchers, and to the local economic and innovation ecosystem.”

 poses for a headshot wearing a gray blzer and plaid dress shirt

Scott Nelson

Scott Nelson, 39 at the time of nomination, oversees athletic fundraising and fundraisers for cultural affairs, educational outreach and student services. Scott also serves as the senior associate athletic director and executive director of Sun Devil Club.

During his ASU career, he and his team have closed $179 million in gifts and commitments, including Sun Devil Stadium Community Union 365, Papago Golf Course upgrades, establishment of Mullett Arena and endowed athletic scholarships.

Nelson has served on the sports business advisory board at W. P. Carey School of Business since 2018 where he assists with program and curriculum updates, mentorship programs, career development, and alumni outreach and engagement.

He serves as an advocate and member of the Arizona Alliance for Golf, which provides leadership, stewardship and support to the local golf industry.

“Scott has been a wonderful asset to athletics fundraising and an advocate for ASU,” ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig said. “Under his leadership, we have been able to raise money for mental health, nutrition, Title IX, support for all 26 sports and much more.”

Skysong Innovations and ASU Foundation are business units of ASU Enterprise Partners, a private, nonprofit parent company designed to create solutions and generate resources to extend ASU’s reach and advance its charter.

 poses for a headshot outside wearing a blue suit and white dress shirt

Jeff Kunowski

Jeff Kunowski, 34 at the time of the nomination, works directly with ventures looking to bring sport-related ventures to market. He oversees all sport-specific venture development and funding programs, manages the Global Sport Institute's external innovation partnerships, and mentors student and professional athletes as they pursue entrepreneurial endeavors.

In addition to his work at ASU, Jeff leads sport-specific strategy efforts for R/GA Ventures — the venture capital arm of R/GA, a global ad agency based in New York.

He earned a bachelor’s degree in integrative studies from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences in 2011, and started his first company, Illumin8 Outdoor Media, as a student after receiving a $10,000 grant from the Edson Entrepreneur Initiative. He was named Arizona’s 2014 Young Entrepreneur of the Year by the U.S. Small Business Administration Arizona District Office.

Kunowski returned to ASU in 2016 to mentor other startups and later proposed and built the sports innovation program within the Global Sport Institute and J. Orin Edson Entrepreneurship + Innovation Institute. He has provided nearly $400,000 in grant funding to early-stage entrepreneurs.

“Jeff gives us a strategic advantage. He has developed relationships and established partnerships globally that consistently put ASU in spaces where there are no other universities,” Global Sport Institute Director Scott Brooks said. “In addition to advancing ASU’s commitment to innovation in sport, Jeff leads (the institute's) business development and is a sought-after subject-matter expert.”

Michelle Stermole

Senior Director, Public Relations and Strategic Communications, ASU Enterprise Partners