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When giving goes global: ASU family invests in students studying media abroad

The Severson Cronkite Media Global Experience Fund is the largest gift granted to the Cronkite School for this purpose

Adelaida Severson and Adriana Gonzalez-Chavez smiling for a photo.

Above; ASU alum and donor Adelaida Severson (left) and Cronkite School graduate student Adriana Gonzalez-Chavez, who expects to graduate in May 2024 with a master’s degree in mass communication. Gonzalez-Chavez is among the many Cronkite School students who have benefitted from the Severson family’s gift, and she was part of the first-ever study abroad trip to Cuba in 2023. Courtesy photo

April 02, 2024

The dream of studying abroad and making connections globally while in college is often hindered by the substantial cost of traveling and living in a different country.

But thanks to the generosity of longtime Arizona State University supporters Adelaida V. and Barry S. Severson, many students at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication can study abroad without having to worry about the cost.

The Severson Cronkite Media Global Experience Fund is the largest gift granted to the Cronkite School to support students and encourage them to pursue their aspirations globally. 

Adelaida Severson, a two-time ASU graduate, and member of the Cronkite School’s Alumni Hall of Fame, created the fund with her husband, Barry Severson. The couple owns Bushtex Inc., a satellite communications company.

Adelaida Severson graduated from the Cronkite School with a master's degree in mass communication in 1995 and completed her PhD in public administration at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions in 2006. She completed her dissertation project for her PhD while studying abroad in Cuba.

Severson’s personal connection to journalism and experience studying abroad motivated her family to donate so other Cronkite students can pursue impactful stories and create positive global change through connection and storytelling. 

“There’s a whole world outside of your world that remains untapped,” Severson said. “If you have the opportunity, or if we can make that opportunity happen for somebody, that is our goal. You could have those tools in your back pocket. You’d be a better person, a better journalist, better writer, you’d have a better view of things that you can look at.”

The Severson family’s approach to their philanthropy is driven by what they refer to as the four "Rs" for student growth: resourcefulness, relationships, resilience and relevance. Those principles and the Cronkite School’s mission to support students motivated the Seversons to establish the Severson Cronkite Media Global Experience Fund, which helps mold students into professional journalists and communications professionals who lead with a global mindset.

“I’m such a proponent of curiosity, and in having people continue to be curious, no matter what,” she said. “Don’t have any fear of applying for something that could — if you listened to the folks that went — be life changing. Because it could be something that truly does change your life.”

Severson returned to Cuba last summer, this time with more than 20 Cronkite students and faculty. The trip, which was hosted by Cronkite Global Initiatives in partnership with Arizona State University’s Global Education Office and the Institute for Study Abroad, was the first international learning experience of its kind at the Cronkite School. The trip was made possible thanks to the Seversons’ gift.  

The trip allowed her to gain fresh insights and build newly formed connections with the students.

She encourages students to apply to study abroad, broaden their own horizons and challenge themselves to travel and connect with new cultures and languages. 

“I’ve been super impressed with the Cronkite students and not just academically, but how they carry themselves and how they think,” Severson said. “It just gives me and Barry more impetus to want to feed into that and keep that going.” 

In 2024, the Severson family’s generosity will continue to pave the way for Cronkite students to study abroad.

This summer, through the Severson Cronkite Media Global Experience Fund, more than 25 students will study and gain hands-on experience outside the U.S., including in Cuba, Argentina, Cannes and at the Summer Olympic Games in Paris. 

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