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Students connect at Ignite storytelling event

Sun Devils shared about their passions, ideas and personal stories at Changemaker Central-hosted event


Group of ASU students standing on a stage.

From left: ASU students Cohen Jeffries, Darrell Cheng, Ava Steckel, Harsh Vaishya, Ava Steckel and Vidhura Kumar at the ASU Ignite event. Photo by Ashish Rajapuram/ASU Student Life

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December 05, 2023

The end of the semester is always a good time for a little self-reflection.

With that in mind, Arizona State University’s Changemaker Central recently invited Sun Devils to share rapid-fire, five-minute presentations about their passions, ideas and personal stories through the inspiring storytelling event Ignite.

Recurring each semester, Ignite encourages student speakers to step outside of their comfort zones and present their personal stories to the ASU community. Hosted by Changemaker Central, a community of like-minded students who are leading social change at ASU, the event gives each speaker just a small window of time to speak on a topic of their choice.

This year’s event kicked off at ASU’s Tempe campus with a land acknowledgement and an energizing performance by Andaaz, the official competitive Bollywood-fusion dance team at ASU. Shortly after, six Sun Devils took the stage to share their unique perspectives.

“Ignite is an open storytelling event and does not have a competitive aspect to it — it is about vulnerability and courage in sharing your story, so they are all winners!” said Alma Barnett, associate director of student connection and community for Changemaker Central.

Cohen Jeffries, a sophomore in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering studying biomedical engineering with a focus on biomedical devices, was the first to present, sharing a story about discovering personal strengths.

Harsh Vaishya, a first-year student studying computer science, was second to speak. Vaishya presented on the topic “From adversity to aspiration,” detailing his experience as an international student.

Next up was Ava Steckel, a third-year student in the College of Global Futures studying innovation in society with a minor in Spanish linguistics and working toward an accelerated master's degree in global technology development. Steckel presented on the topic “Being there.”

“When was the last time you were uncomfortable? Today? Last week? A month ago?” Steckel asked the audience. “Like everyone, I've been uncomfortable before. Actually, a lot, obviously. Often these experiences have coincided with times that I've wished to be somewhere else, and that's OK.”

Continuing the theme of being present in life, Mckenzie Woodhead, a junior in Barrett, The Honors College at ASU who is studying economics with an emphasis in politics within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and minoring in sustainability, presented on the topic “Reframing mindfulness as magic in the mundane.”

“I would like to share my favorite thing about the world with you today, which is being mindful,” Woodhead said. “I'm talking about a specific way we can reframe it and bring it into our lives.”

Vidhura Kumar, a first-year student at the W. P. Carey School of Business studying business entrepreneurship, presented on the topic “The ASU freshman experience.” Kumar shared how he’s discovering and creating a new community of friends and detailed his experience at the university thus far.

Last up was Darrell Cheng, a senior in the College of Global Futures studying sustainability with a focus on energy science materials and technology. Cheng presented on the topic “Chronosonder,” a word that encourages reflection on the fact that every person in the past has lived a fully autonomous life.

All six students spoke from the heart about their personal experiences, hoping to ignite the curiosity and imaginations of those in attendance.

The event concluded with a catered reception, during which attendees mingled with the student speakers and spoke more about their topics.

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