ASU innovation in society graduate aims to ensure that the future is for everyone


ASU innovation in society graduate Ava Steckel poses by the bridge.
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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

For Idaho native Ava Steckel, having diverse passions is a strength. So when she attended Arizona State University, she has sought to pursue her different interests in new and creative ways, locally and globally. 

Steckel is a Barrett, The Honors College student graduating from ASU’s College of Global Futures this May with a Bachelor of Science in innovation in society, as well as a minor in Spanish linguistics and a certificate in cross-sector leadership. She has also been named the spring 2024 outstanding undergraduate for the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.

Her list of activities goes on. She is a Next Generation Service Corps scholar, has gone to multiple study abroad programs across Europe and Latin America, was an au pair in Italy one summer, is a member of the swim club and orchestra club while also making art and music in her free time. 

In 2023, Steckel went to Trinidad and Tobago on a fully-funded program with Barrett’s Global Intensive Experiences initiative and GlobalResolve for reef restoration work. This May, she will travel to Europe for a hazard management course with the Frasier Global Mentorship Program

She works at Broadreach as an international program instructor. She is certified to be a wilderness first responder and has led high school students’ groups in educational travel trips to Costa Rica in the summers. 

“I’ve always been intrigued by medicine (and health care), so it made me feel more empowered for both work-related emergencies and potential personal travel emergencies,” Steckel said. 

She was also a researcher for the project titled "Sanctuary Cities as Emerging Borders: Transnational Dynamics and Lived Experiences of Undocumented Mexicans in the United States," in collaboration with the Mexican Consulate in Phoenix. 

“My work pushed me to identify and address some of my own preconceived notions about modern immigration, the US legal system and nuances of identity,” Steckel said.

Currently, she works as an intern for the Salt River Project, an opportunity that was recommended to her from her thesis director Lauren Keeler, an assistant professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. 

When reflecting on the reason why she loves many of the things she does, it all comes down to her passion for connecting with people. 

“Whether it’s just a smile exchanged on the street, a new partnership, or a moment of laughter, I’m passionate about creating opportunities for true, relaxed connection in a world with such increased tension and frenzy,” Steckel said. 

After graduation, Steckel will be pursuing a Master of Science in Global Technology and Development

“I am particularly interested in working to create public policy to ensure that the future truly is for everyone,” she said. 

We spoke with the new graduate to learn more about her journey at ASU. 

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose ASU because I was looking for a large university with lots of opportunities. I was really attracted to the small college environment, with the resources of a big school. That’s ASU! Being in Barrett, the Next Generation Service Corps program and the College of Global Futures have all provided me with the opportunity to be a part of a small community while engaging with the university as a whole, and everything it has to offer.

Also at ASU, I’ve learned what community means. Community has never been more important than it has been during my time here, but before college I took community for granted. The true meaning of community is something that I’ve learned both in and outside of the classroom, and something that I’ve experienced while working both here and abroad. 

Q: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to pursue a Bachelor of Arts in innovation in society?

A: I actually initially applied to ASU as a political science major, but before school started my freshman year I called my admissions advisor to ask for some advice. Based on the interests that I shared with her, she suggested I try innovation in society. Three years later, I couldn’t be happier with my choice!

Q: How would you describe your academic journey pursuing innovation? 

A: I would characterize my journey in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society as exciting! I’ve felt like there are always new opportunities to take advantage of, or to learn about. From the Job S.H.A.R.E. program to the Frasier Global Mentorship Program, and interactions with faculty, staff and advisors, I have never had a lack of guidance and mentorship. 

And, my coursework has been amazing. FIS 111 (Welcome to the Future) with Dr. Jennifer Richter was the class that opened my eyes to what innovation really means, and made me excited about pursuing a future in the field. That course definitely characterized my academic journey, and I enjoyed learning more about knowledge systems with Dr. Kirk Jalbert in FIS 305 (Ways of Knowing) and futurecasting with Dr. Clark Miller in FIS 307

And, my classmates have been an important part of my academic journey. The connections and conversations that I’ve had with peers has greatly enriched my experience, and I am lucky to have learned so much from them. The people in the school are its strongest feature, and that includes my fellow students. 

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

A: My freshman year, I took a class with Professor Rashad Shabazz entitled Race Geographies in the U.S. His lectures: literally mind-blowing. The way he characterized and explained institutionalized racism was eye-opening, and I feel like I interact with my physical spaces a lot differently now. The content was surprising and shifted my perspective — especially learning about the places I’ve grown up around or moved to. That was definitely the most impactful class I’ve taken at ASU.

Dr. Richter taught me so much my freshman year about equity, the future and the value of meaningful engagement and questioning. 

My advisor, Elisha, has also taught me so much. She has been such an amazing mentor throughout my time here, and I so appreciate her patience, perspective, and desire to make a difference for her students. Elisha always keeps it real — thanks Elisha!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: It's generic, but for a reason: be a "yes" person! Unless you have a good reason to say no, say yes to everything — you never know where it’ll lead. And, always keep carrot sticks in your fridge. When everything feels stressful and you’re exhausted and grumpy, usually a vegetable will help. Or chocolate. 

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