image title

Dreams of becoming a Sun Devil finally come true for adult learner

August 4, 2023

Life experience benefits Ysenia Palma and the people she plans to help

Editor's note: ASU News is highlighting some of its notable incoming students for fall 2023.

At 47, Ysenia Palma will be attending her first semester at Arizona State University this fall — and to her, the timing is perfect.

PalmaA previously published version of this story referred to Palma by her former name, Ysenia Mora. endured an abusive marriage for 25 years, staying in shelters with her son, and finally healed enough to break free.

Now, she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in pyschology, with plans to become a licensed professional counselor to support other women facing similar struggles. 

"I can help others because I have the empathy and the understanding,” Palma said. "My goal is to serve and inspire women."

Palma is transferring from Estrella Mountain Community College to study psychology in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. The third-year student will commute from Youngtown, Arizona, to Barrett, The Honors College at ASU's West campus

Here, she talks about her decision to come to ASU.

Woman standing behind lectern

Question: When did you first start thinking about going to ASU? 

Answer: It’s been a dream of mine since I was very young. Of course, there was so much going on in my home life, but it was an idea that I was thinking about for many years. 

It was something I had put in the back of my mind — stuffed way down in the bottom of my heart, and now it is happening. Receiving scholarships is making it possible to pursue my dream and earn my degree at ASU.

Q: Speaking of scholarships, you were a part of the ASU Nina Mason Pulliam Legacy Scholars program. What did that mean to you? 

A: I felt like, well, people really see the potential in me; and they want to help me. They believe in me, they believe in my dream and they believe in what I want to do.

It's an amazing feeling to have the backing of others.

Q: Why ASU?

A: That was the goal. I've always had a love for Arizona, honestly, even as hot as it is right now. I would never even think about moving. Arizona is my home. So of course I would be going to ASU. It just felt right. I didn't know when I would go, but that was what was in my heart. 

Q: How did you feel when you learned you were going to ASU? 

A: This gets me emotional. I thought, "My dream of actually going to ASU is possible."

I was pretty much like I am right now — speechless. It was something that was really going to happen in my life — it was actually coming to pass.

Q: When you graduate, how will you use your ASU degree?

A: Specifically, I want to work with women who are survivors of domestic violence, domestic abuse. I recently had an internship at the New Life Center, which is a domestic violence shelter.

That experience confirmed that I want to work with this population of people — women and children that are coming out of these situations.

Q: What are you excited about experiencing during your first semester at ASU?

A: Oh, the first word that popped into my mind right now is community. I'm really excited about being a part of Barrett. And I feel like that's a community within the larger community.

I'm excited about the whole experience — making connections with other students and learning. I'm excited about just being there. I think I'm going to cry when I walk into class on the first day of school.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Dolores Tropiano

Reporter , ASU News

image title

Incoming student plans to build a future — and cars — with ASU

August 4, 2023

Barrett student says she has a desire to learn, study ... and do cool stuff with car engines

Editor's note: ASU News is highlighting some of its notable incoming students for fall 2023.

Claire Gunderson boasts a multitude of passions and skills. She tinkers with cars and can weld. She’s an artist who's taken hundreds of landscape photos. She is service-oriented and often volunteers in her community. And she’s smart.

Gunderson is a National Indigenous Recognition ScholarGunderson is an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Jemez and Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico. and graduated high school with a 3.81 GPA. The New Mexico native is a first-year student at Arizona State University and a Barrett, The Honors College scholar who will study mechanical engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

Gunderson contemplated the University of Denver, Emory University in Atlanta and Washington University in St. Louis, but chose ASU because of “the boundless opportunities” — including the hope of eventually becoming a member of Fulton’s Formula SAE program.

“ASU has so much to offer with their mechanical engineering program, automotive engineering program and Native American support services on campus, more so than other universities,” said Gunderson, who will also obtain a certificate in cross-sector leadership as a member of the Next Generation Service Corp.

“It was the perfect fit and I instantly felt ASU was the right college for me.”

ASU News spoke to Gunderson on the eve of her arrival at ASU’s Tempe campus.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: As soon as I stepped foot on the ASU campus, I knew it was the college for me. It was the perfect campus bustling with energy and life. There are so many opportunities that come with choosing a college like ASU and I am excited to explore all of it.

Q: What drew you to your major?

A: I always knew I wanted to do something that was very hands-on and engaging. Since I was a little girl I have been working on all the different projects that my dad has come up with, whether that be helping him build his trucks or helping out in the yard.

Q: What are you most excited to experience your first semester?

A: I am excited to have new experiences meeting friends and engaging in all that ASU has to offer.

Q: What do you like to brag about to friends about ASU?

A: ASU is the best, who wouldn’t want to go?! I have already received so much support with scheduling classes, housing and orientations to help adjust to ASU.

Q: What talents and skills are you bringing to the ASU community?

A: I bring new ideas and my desire to learn and thrive in the engineering world.

Q: What do you hope to accomplish during your college years?

A: I hope to learn and succeed in whatever I decide to study. I want to create supportive and lifetime friendships. I also plan to take every opportunity I am given.

Q: What’s one interesting fact about yourself that only your friends know?

A: One interesting fact that not many people know about me is that I enjoy taking landscape photos and took seven years of photography classes.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem in our world, what would you choose?

A: I think one problem I would solve would be homelessness. Hopefully from there, crime rates would go down and cities would be safer.

Top photo: Incoming first-year mechanical engineering student Claire Gunderson has always had a passion for working on cars. That drive brought her from Albuquerque, New Mexico, to ASU, where she’ll join the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and Barrett, The Honors College. She is a National Indigenous Recognition Scholar and is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma and the Jemez and Laguna Pueblo of New Mexico. Gunderson poses in Gilbert with a family friend’s 1965 Ford Mustang. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Reporter , ASU News