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Army ROTC students seize opportunities to grow

August 28, 2023

ASU cadets graduated from training, immersed themselves in other rewarding endeavors over the summer

Most students take a break from the books to do other things as soon as the spring semester ends, but for some Army ROTC cadets at ASU, this summer was about continued learning to prep for what’s next.

Juniors going into senior year with Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Army ROTC Battalion must attend Cadet Summer Training (CST), a demanding 38-day experience at Fort Knox, Kentucky, that tests cadets both physically and mentally. CST is an outcome-driven, complex problem-solving experience that evaluates cadets on their leadership attributes and competencies such as character, presence, intellectual capacity, leading by example, developing others and getting results.

This year, several ASU cadets graduated from CST and also immersed themselves in other rewarding endeavors.

“My summer was absolutely fantastic, from the friends I got to share these experiences with to the actual training itself,” said Jose Gonzalez, an Obama Scholar pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business (financial planning) from the W. P. Carey School of Business. “Not only did I get to learn the day-to-day administrative portion of the job, but I had the opportunity to train with U.S. Army Special Forces combat dive team in waterborne operations.”

After CST at Fort Knox, Gonzalez moved on to Cadet Troop Leadership Training, or CTLT, down the road at Fort Campbell with the famed 101st Airborne Division. Known as the “Screaming Eagles,” the division is known for its role during the World War II D-Day landings in France, heroic fighting in Vietnam, and for having legendary guitarist Jimi Hendrix as a former member.

“My experience this summer showed me that there is a vast amount of communities for everyone,” Phoenix native Gonzalez said. “There is no better fulfillment in this world than selfless service.”

For Cadet Ruby Torres, summer was a mix of military and civilian experience. Torres also graduated from CST this summer before heading to a unique civilian internship.

“CST was physically and mentally demanding,” Torres said. “But I was glad to complete it.”

Torres, also from Phoenix, was reviewing a list of internship opportunities advertised by the Army ROTC program when she saw an interesting one with WEVV-TV in Indiana. Torres was an enlisted Army soldier before coming to ASU, working in public affairs, the military’s public information function.

“Since I already had a bit of public affairs experience, the broadcasting internship caught my eye, so I decided to apply,” Torres said. “Luckily, I was selected and had the opportunity to go out to their offices in Evansville (in Indiana). I learned a little bit of what every department does.”

She spent the first few days with the station’s creative services teams, seeing how graphic designers and videographers collaborate in making promos and editing videos for commercials. Torres also learned about station advertisement sales, how news teams cover and package stories, and how the production team and master control operations orchestrate everything. 

“Overall, I had an intense but great summer ‘break,’” Torres said. “I had the opportunity to work with great people and learn new skills that will definitely apply in my education and professional career.”

In 2022, the Army awarded Torres a two-year scholarship to complete a bachelor’s degree to then return to active duty commissioned as a second lieutenant. Torres is pursuing a liberal studies degree with a minor in military leadership. After graduation she wants to enter the Army Adjutant General Corps, and later command a public affairs unit.

Guam native Hayden Shedd is looking forward to a career in Army engineering or military intelligence after being commissioned and graduating from ASU in 2024. He also completed CST this summer, and then flew across the Atlantic for his next mission.

“CST was a rewarding experience, got me out of my comfort zone, and made me learn a lot about my leadership style,” Shedd said.

After CST, Shedd traveled to Vilseck, a U.S. Army post in Germany’s southern state of Bavaria. There, he did CTLT with the 2nd Cavalry Regiment Sapper Platoon. Sappers primarily work with demolitions to clear routes and reduce obstacles in support of maneuvering ground forces.

While in Vilseck, Shedd spent time with the unit’s non-commissioned officer mentors, or NCOs, and learned from them.

“They taught me the importance of servant leadership and to lead with care,” Shedd said. “I also learned that to be successful, you need to place trust in NCOs and to understand that you are not alone.”

Shedd also witnessed how commissioned officers fit into the unit, including the day-to-day role of new lieutenants.

“I am grateful for the opportunity, it showed me the real side of what my future career is going to look like,” he said. “Lastly, the people were awesome. The Army is a ‘people business,’ and spending time with great, hard-working individuals made the experience that much better.”

Shedd is also pursuing a degree in business with an emphasis in financial planning, and graduates in spring 2024. He transitioned to ASU during the peak of the pandemic in 2020, joining Army ROTC soon after. It was his best option to grow and help finance school, a move he does not regret.

“I joined ROTC to challenge myself and be a better version of what I can be,” Shedd said. “Had I not taken this route, I feel I would not be as fulfilled as I am today.

“It’s not easy, but overcoming hard things is what we will always remember in our personal lives and what we ought to do as the people of this country.”

Top photo: ASU Army ROTC Cadet Jose Gonzalez sits in a U.S. Army AH-64 Apache helicopter. Photo courtesy Jose Gonzalez

Jerry Gonzalez

Assistant Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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The College recognizes academic excellence with spring 2023 Dean's Medalists

May 2, 2023

On May 11 and 12, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest-achieving students from the humanities, natural sciences and social sciences at the spring 2023 convocation ceremonies.

Each semester, departments and schools within The College select outstanding students who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to academic excellence during their time at ASU. These students will be awarded a prestigious Dean’s Medal in honor of their scholastic achievements.

Meet the outstanding Dean’s Medalist awardees from The College for spring 2023:

Ruth Beadle

Headshot of Ruth Beadle

Dean’s Medal: Department of English

Major: Creative writing

Minors: Mathematics, art history, French

Beadle represents the Department of English as a creative writing major; a triple minor in mathematics, art history and French; and a student at Barrett, The Honors College.

Through her research, she worked to spotlight young adults struggling with grief, first in her honors thesis on productive vs. unproductive coping measures of adolescents with complicated grief, and second, through a short story about young adults going through grief.

Beadle is a two-time undergraduate fiction short story honorary mention recipient of ASU’s Swarthout Award, which she received in 2021 and 2022. While at ASU, she served as a teaching assistant, writing tutor and member of the women’s club water polo team.

Beadle hopes to expand the conversation around grief in adolescents and show young adults how to cope productively and in a realistic manner.

Claire Blaske

Headshot of Claire Baske

Dean's Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration

Major: Earth and space exploration (astrophysics)

Minor: Geological sciences

Blaske is a Barrett student from Michigan passionate about building an inclusive community by mentoring first-year students from diverse backgrounds. 

She was an ASU/NASA Space Grant intern and assisted with the ASU-led Psyche Mission. She has presented various projects at scientific conferences and even won an award for her presentation at the Lunar and Planetary Science Conference.

A 2022 Barry M. Goldwater National Scholarship recipient, Blaske published two papers on planetary research.

She was the founder and president of the SESE Undergraduate Student Council, the founder and president of the Sun Devil Curling Club and a Coyotes Curling Club committee member.

Madison Bove

Headshot of Madison Bove.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Military Sciences

Major: Chemistry

Minor: Military leadership

Certificate: International studies

A Barrett student, Bove received her degree in chemistry and a minor in military leadership and is a member of ASU’s Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC).

Bove has maintained a 4.0 GPA throughout her time at ASU. She is ranked among the top 3% of 3,700 cadets nationally and leads 39 cadets as a company commander.

Bove received scholarships from ASU, the U.S. Army ROTC and the National Society of Collegiate Scholars and was presented with the Reserve Officers Association JROTC Award in recognition of her outstanding achievements and exceptional leadership.

She was also part of the on-campus running club Road Crew and Run Devils. 

Bove prepares to commission into the U.S. Army as an officer after graduation.

Simonne Campos

Headshot of Simonne Campos.

Dean's Medal: School of Transborder Studies

Major: Transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies (media and expressive culture)

Minor: Justice studies

Campos came to ASU as a transfer student to further her education in Chicano and Latino studies.

While completing her degree, Campos held several leadership positions on campus. As a storytelling chair at Changemaker Central, she used storytelling and other narrative forms to promote awareness and catalyze social change. She also worked as an event coordinator with the health and fitness company CHAARG.

Campos has worked as a research aide on several projects, including the LA ADU Housing Program Evaluation project with Associate Professor Francisco Lara-Valencia, where she was instrumental in transcribing interviews in English and Spanish and coding data to identify relevant themes related to housing-insecure people in Los Angeles.

Her passion for storytelling and theater inspired Campos to audition for “Safe at Home,” a production exploring larger political and human rights issues using baseball as a framework.

Eva Chen

Headshot of Eva Chen.

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences

Major: Biochemistry

A Barrett student, Chen excelled as a researcher and self-starter while pursuing her degree in biochemistry at ASU.

Chen was an undergraduate researcher in Associate Professor Nicholas Stephanopoulos’ bionanotechnology lab, where she focused on synthesizing peptides with multiple functionalities and worked hard to figure out new synthetic routes and strategies. 

She also worked as a grading TA for a biochemistry lab and a reading volunteer, helping to promote interest in reading among elementary school students.

Chen’s dedication and work ethic have prepared her for the rigors of a top-tier graduate program. She has been accepted into the ASU biochemistry PhD program for fall 2023.

Anna Gutmann

Headshot of Anna Gutmann.

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

Major: Philosophy (morality, politics and law)

An Ohio native, Gutmann set her business aside five years ago and became licensed to foster children in Ohio while pursuing her degree online. She demonstrated a graduate-level understanding of philosophy concepts during her time at ASU.

Gutmann strives to make a positive difference in the world, displayed in her work at a youth shelter and as an emergency foster parent. She also provides free dog training for those who have dogs with behavioral issues or those with medical conditions who benefit from the assistance of service dogs.

Now that she’s wrapping up her degree, she’s in the process of searching for a new job.

Haley Hummel

Portrait of Haley Hummel.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology

Majors: Psychology (psychological science), global health

Minor: Spanish

The Arizona native and Barrett student accomplished a lot, double majoring in psychology and global health while pursuing a minor in Spanish.

Hummel worked in various research labs and mentored students through Psi Chi and diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging initiatives in the Department of Psychology. As a research assistant with the Arizona Twin Project, she helped examine the genetic and environmental factors contributing to childhood development.

She also worked in labs that examined the influences of COVID-19 on child and adolescent mental health.

Hummel is a member of Phi Beta Kappa and was a mentor to help motivate interest in psychological science and promote college enrollment for underrepresented high school students.

After graduation, she is considering pursuing a PhD in psychology.

Angelique Jose

Portrait of Angelique Jose.

Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies

Majors: American Indian studies, justice studies

A Tucson, Arizona, native, Jose came to ASU with a plan to pursue philosophy. When given a chance to explore other areas of interest, she learned about her passion to help the Native American community. She is graduating in May with a double major in American Indian studies and justice studies.

While completing her degree, Jose interned for the attorney general's office of the Tohono O’odham Nation, where she learned about the justice system and assisted in child welfare cases. She also interned for the city of Gilbert, where she helped plan Native American events in the community.

After she graduates, she hopes to find a way to represent her community in whatever she does, whether that is providing work in the judicial system, helping with mental health services or other career paths.

Isabelle Kinney

Portrait of Isabelle Kinney.

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies

Majors: Political science, French, religious studies

Minor: Russian

Certificates: International studies; Russia and Eastern European studies; religion, conflict and peace

Kinney represents the School of Politics and Global Studies as an honors student and triple major in political science, French and religious studies, while also pursuing a minor in Russian.

A hardworking and dedicated student, she amassed over 200 course credits in her four years at ASU, completed multiple independent research projects and has been nationally recognized for that work.

Kinney worked as a fellow for the Melikian Center for Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies and the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, where she contributed to research on several projects focused on language and religion. She also interned for the U.S. State Department working on Green Climate Fund projects in Central and South Asian countries.

She was a Pi Sigma Alpha and Phi Beta Kappa member and received scholarships in political science and religious studies.

Corbin Kohtz

Portrait of Corbin Kohtz.

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication

Majors: Communication, political science

Minor: English (literature)

A Barrett student, Kohtz graduated with degrees in communication and political science and a minor in English literature.

While completing his degree, Kohtz held two leadership positions with the Association of Human Communication, where he promoted community development and career readiness by assisting with events and social gatherings. He also supported his peers as a student worker for ASU's Career and Professional Development Services department.

Kohtz was a member of The College Ambassadors, where he shared his Sun Devil story with high school students interested in joining The College and introduced them to university life.

In the community, he worked as an English Learners instructional assistant at Moon Valley High School in Phoenix.

After graduation, Kohtz will work with Teach for America during the summer and then begin his PhD in the fall.

Alicia Lewis

Headshot of Alicia Lewis.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics

Major: Economics

Lewis is an ASU Online student graduating with a degree in economics.

While completing her degree, she joined College of Health Solutions Associate Professor and Department of Economics faculty affiliate Ellen Green on a National Institutes of Health project, exploring and designing health care policy to improve the allocation of deceased-donor kidneys.

According to Professor Green, Lewis is an “exemplar of our best students in ASU’s online program” and her accomplishments are “even more noteworthy as she is an amazing mother to two beautiful twins.”

Lewis’ hard work and perseverance led her to attain her goal of attending graduate school. She has been accepted into several prestigious economics PhD programs.

Freddie McAlister

Headshot of Freddie McAlister.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Naval Science

Major: Aerospace engineering (astronautics)

Minor: Military leadership

McAlister pursued a degree in aerospace engineering as a student contracted by the U.S. Navy.

During his time in school, McAlister served in many high-ranking positions in the ASU Naval Reserve as a squad leader, platoon commander and assistant administrator. He attended a summer training program in Washington, where he learned about supply chains, the chain of command and trained and flew in an EA-18G aircraft.

He also competed with the university’s men’s club water polo team, the Sun Devil Battle Bot competition and the Sun Devil Rocketry Club.

McAlister is on his way to earning a commission as a Student Naval Aviator in the U.S. Navy.

N’kiedra Nisbett

Portrait of N'kiedra Nisbett.

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures

Majors: Spanish, organizational leadership

An international online student from the Federation of Saint Kitts and Nevis, Nisbett pursued a concurrent degree in Spanish and organizational leadership.

While completing her degree, she represented the School of International Letters and Cultures in the Our New Gold Festival, an international storytelling festival exploring the Spanish Golden Age and how exceptional art and literature from that era can inform current social issues.

Her academic excellence placed her on the Dean’s List in both Spanish and organizational leadership for several semesters.

After graduation, Nisbett wants to work as a Spanish translator in her country’s foreign affairs department and eventually start her own translation business.

Madeleine Oricchio

Portrait of Madeleine Oricchio.

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change

Major: Anthropology

Minor: Global studies

Graduating with honors in anthropology and a minor in global studies, Oricchio represents the School of Human Evolution and Social Change as its Dean’s Medalist.

Oricchio spent her time at ASU as a research apprentice in several labs examining fossils of mammals found at various African sites. She also served as an undergraduate representative for the diversity, equity and inclusion committee in the school.

In the community, she served as an engagement volunteer and a substitute teacher.

After graduation, Oricchio will pursue graduate school to continue studying fossil primates.

Max Pezzelle

Headshot of Max Pezzelle.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics

Major: Physics

Minor: Mathematics

A Barrett student, Pezzelle pursued a degree in physics, focusing on theoretical physics and answering questions about the natural world.

During his time in school, he researched the technical concept of “double copy,” which touches on the relationships between gauge theories and gravity. For that research, Pezzelle received the Department of Physics Research Award.

Associate Professor Damien Easson said he was amazed at Pezzelle’s understanding of complex topics as an undergraduate student and will “no doubt go on to accomplish significant achievements in theoretical physics in graduate school and beyond.”

Outside the classroom, he was a member of the ASU Society of Physics Students and Cosmology Initiative Journal Club and Seminar.

Pezzelle will pursue his doctoral degree in physics at another university in the fall and hopes to eventually become a professor.

Joseph Pitts

Headshot of Joseph Pitts.

Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Majors: Civic economic thought and leadership, management

Pitts is a Barrett student and New American University Scholar who double-majored in civic and economic thought and leadership and management.

During his time at ASU, he researched current social issues, including the rise of divorce, remarriage and cohabitation in the U.S., and broader trends toward social disintegration.

Pitts also has served in a variety of roles for several political campaigns, including Congresswoman Debbie Lesko, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and former U.S. Sen. John McCain.

After graduation, Pitts will work for the American Enterprise Institute in their education policy section.

Jenna Ramsey

Portrait of Jenna Ramsey.

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Major: Sociology

Minors: Anthropology, family and human development, religious studies

Ramsey came to ASU as a New American University scholar and graduated with a degree in sociology and minors in family and human development, religious studies and anthropology. 

She worked on the ASU SIBS Project that helps facilitate after-school programs for students at Mesa elementary schools. She also worked as a research assistant for a project centered on mental illness in the workplace.

In addition to her research experience, she served on the executive council for the Sanford School Undergraduate Student Association.

After graduation, Ramsey will pursue a doctoral degree in sociology.

Tashieka Russell

Portrait of Tashieka Russell.

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation

Major: African and African American studies

Russell came to ASU as an online student after 21 years in the United States Army to finish her education and pursue a degree in African American studies.

Inspired by stories of her grandmother and mother’s civil rights activism, Russell wanted to educate herself on African American history and work to one day share that knowledge.

She did not let being an online student deter her from capitalizing on all the experiences ASU offers. Russell studied abroad in Amsterdam, where she learned about the global slave trade.

Upon graduation, Russell plans to attend graduate school and pursue a degree in museum studies.

Brandon Sarrasin

Portrait of Brandon Sarrasin.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Aerospace Studies

Major: Aeronautics (aerospace engineering)

Minor: Military leadership

Sarrasin is graduating with a degree in aerospace engineering.

As a cadet in the Air Force Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, Sarrasin led training for cadets as a point-of-contact squadron commander and a cadet vice wing commander. He also received the Military Order of the World Wars Award, given for overall improvement in both military and scholastic grades.

During his time at ASU he interned at AFWERX, an innovation arm of the Air Force that connects technology developers in diverse industries with airmen and guardians. There he worked with engineers to develop flight tests for an electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft.

Sarrasin served as both the chapter and regional president of the Silver Wings, a military-affiliated college club focused on professional development and community service.

After graduation, he will be commissioned into the U.S. Air Force.

Marcus Stafford

Portrait of Marcus Stafford.

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning

Majors: Anthropology, geographic information science, geography, history

As an online student, Stafford represents the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning as a quadruple major in anthropology, geographic information science, geography and history.

He returned to ASU after completing a business degree in 2021.

While completing his degrees, Stafford worked in the Teotihuacan Research Laboratory, where he matched and analyzed site records from original excavations in the 1970s and translated and cataloged site information.

After graduation, Stafford will pursue his master’s degree in applied geospatial information systems and technology.

Lainey Waldman

Portrait of Lainey Waldman.

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Science

Major: Actuarial science

Minor: Economics

A Barrett student, Waldman is a Nevada native who came to ASU to pursue a degree in actuarial science and a minor in economics.

In the ASU community, she mentored first-year Barrett students and served as vice president for the Gramma Iota Sigma Kappa chapter, organizing events to facilitate connections and development.

While completing her degree, Waldman worked with Tutors Across America and as an actuarial intern at Humana and Cigna with their financial teams.

After graduation, she hopes to continue to learn more about the insurance industry and expand her actuarial knowledge.

Sarah Weiss

Portrait of Sarah Weiss.

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences

Major: Biological sciences (genetics, cell and developmental biology)

Minor: Studio art

A National Merit Scholar and Barrett student, Weiss is graduating with a degree in biological sciences with an emphasis on genetics, cell and developmental biology.

Weiss was a member of Assistant Professor Susanne Pfeifer’s lab, where she characterized rates and patterns of recombination across the primate clade. She was also active in the School of Life Sciences Undergraduate Research program.

As an artist, Weiss had her work featured in a metal sculpture show at the Mirabella Art Show and led a group of six in a welding class that created a 13-foot-tall art installation titled “Hope in the Face of Climate Change” for ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination.

She was a member of the ASU Cycling Club and a youth cycling coach.

Stephen Perez

Marketing and Communications Coordinator , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Holding history

April 13, 2023

ASU Army ROTC helps Chandler woman honor the memory of her uncle and a very special 48-star flag

Denise Riggs never met her late uncle, Carl Lay. But she feels closer to him than a lot of her other relatives.

For more than six decades, she has been piecing together his life and mysterious death. And thanks to Arizona State University's Army ROTC, she’s finally getting some closure.

“As I little girl, I never knew much about my Uncle Carl,” said Riggs, a retired clerk from Chandler, Arizona. “It wasn’t talked about much, but I could hear people saying small things here and there.”

Pfc. Carl Shelby Lay was 17 years old when he was killed in action during the Korean War. The news of his death, coupled with how his family was told, compounded their grief.

A confusing series of Defense Department telegrams starting on July 25, 1953, informed Lay’s parents, Earl and Mildred, that their son was wounded in combat on July 16. A second telegram on July 28 stated that Carl “was in a hospital and would soon be on his way home.” The third telegram, which arrived on July 31, informed them their son had died of wounds in Korea on July 16. Then they heard nothing for a few weeks and were left in the lurch.

Frustrated, Mildred had cabled her son’s hospital and his commanding officer. She also queried the American Red Cross. She received no answers. It was only after Arizona Republic reporter Virgil Meibert intervened on their behalf that the Lays finally heard from the Defense Department on Aug. 17, 1953. The Army later explained that their confusion arose because “all three messages were started on their way by different events, which all happened on the same day.”

However, it was Meibert, not the Army or Washington officials, who confirmed the grim news to Earl Lay that his son was dead. Carl’s remains were returned to Arizona in late October.

Graveside services were conducted by the American Legion a few days after the return of Carl’s body. Lay also received seven service medals, including a Purple HeartThe Lay family refused all of Carl Lay's service medals because of their grief and the way the Army handled the news of his death.. A flag with 48 starsCarl Lay’s U.S. flag represented the 48 states at the time — Alaska and Hawaii did not enter statehood until 1959. was presented to his parents at the end of the service. It was fitting for a soldier’s funeral, but Lay’s final resting place at Phoenix’s Greenwood Memorial Lawn Cemetery had no headstone or marker.

“I don’t know if that’s because the military would not pay for one or if my grandparents refused,” Riggs said. “They were angry and crushed. They were from a generation that didn’t talk about sad subjects.”   

The Lays silently suffered for decades and rarely spoke of their son’s passing. They did keep a framed 8x10 high school photo of Carl on the side of their furnace. Riggs, who was born three years after Carl’s death, kept asking about the young man in the photo when she was a child. She only received cryptic or clipped answers. Sometimes her questions elicited tears, so she stopped asking.

If Riggs wanted answers, then she’d have to find them on her own.

The 'Forgotten War'

The Korean War, which was depicted in the popular TV show “M*A*S*H,” was called “the Forgotten War” by the New York Times. Its coverage was censored, and the conflict was bookended and overshadowed by World War II and the Vietnam War. But ask any military historian and they'll tell you that all wars are bloody; the Korean War was no exception.

It was a series of battles over a series of hills in horrible fighting situations. Summers were hot and humid while the winters were bitter cold. Seoul changed hands so many times between South and North Korea it became almost a deserted ruin. Soldiers were killed in ambushes with bayonets and knives, machine-gunned down, attacked by mortars and at times they resorted to hand-to-hand combat. There were approximately 33,700 battle deaths and more than 103,000 soldiers wounded in Korea, according to the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs.

When Riggs turned 18, she grew more curious and bolder. She was pen pals with a great-uncle, Howard Lay, who lived in Russell, Kansas. After a few niceties, he finally revealed to her in a March 29, 1975, letter that his nephew had died in hand-to-hand combat.

“You are the first person to know that,” he wrote. “He (Carl) died a real soldier’s death.”

Through additional research, Riggs discovered her uncle was killed at the battle of Christmas Hill during the waning days of the Korean War. The armistice, which split North and South Korea at the 38th parallel, was signed July 27, 1953 — 11 days after Carl’s death.

Through Howard Lay's letter, Riggs finally received an answer regarding her uncle’s death. But she never got closure. Too many details were still missing, and many blanks needed to be filled in. She wanted to not only know how he died, but how he lived. She pried some information out of her mother, Vina, Carl’s younger sister.

Carl Lay was born on Sept. 19, 1935, in Phoenix. As a young boy and teen, he was described as rambunctious, inquisitive and exceptionally bright. He was in high school and driving a truck for Arizona Fence Builders when he enlisted with the Army’s 45th infantry division in September 1952. Carl was barely 17, an act that required his parents’ approval. They gave it to him but were reluctant. They later regretted the decision. 

When Carl’s 76-year-old mother Mildred passed away in 1993, Riggs inherited a few items: a military photo of Carl plus four U.S. flags, one of which was stored in plastic. The one in plastic was thought to be Carl’s; the others belonged to various family members who served in the military and died of natural causes. Riggs asked her mother if she wanted the items. Riggs was told no and kept them.

For three decades, Riggs tried to identify which flag was her uncle’s because she wanted it stored in a case. She did not touch them out of respect to her uncle, his service and her family. She also knew there were protocols in place on how to handle and fold a U.S. flag. Riggs contacted various organizations she thought could help. Phone calls were either not returned or she was referred to another organization. A few months ago, Riggs vented her frustration to her friend, Chris Costa, while out on a walk.

Costa, a former health care manager and textbook contributor, had been a friend since 1987. She had even taken care of Carl's father after he fell and broke his hip. Costa took in the information and at the end of their walk said, “Give me a week.” 

A teaching moment

It didn’t take long for inspiration to strike. Costa’s nephew, Steven, was a member of the ASU Army ROTC and the Army's Officer Candidate School. He often recounted for her how his ROTC and OCS experiences enhanced and later shaped his military performance. She picked up the phone and dialed ASU.

Costa spoke to Liza Steele, a military science coordinator at ASU, during the winter break. 

“We’ve received a lot of calls for a color guard, but not to unfold and fold a flag for a Korean War veteran,” Steele said. “So, this was definitely the first one.”

Steele relayed the information to Army Lt. Col. Erich Schneider, who thought it could be a teaching moment for his cadets.

“We really do want to give back to the community because we’re a service-based organization,” said Schneider, who is a professor of military science. “Volunteerism is important to us. When we first heard about this story, we saw it as a great opportunity to give back to and offer some closure to a lady who had been wanting it for decades.”

The flag, Schneider says, is not only a symbol of freedom, but a symbol of service. In Carl Lay’s case, Schneider says his service represents the ultimate sacrifice made to our country.

“It’s very important that our family, friends and country recognize people like Carl Lay,” Schneider said. “The ultimate sacrifice is not gone or forgotten … it’s always remembered.”

The ceremony

On March 24, Carl Lay’s sacrifice was properly remembered in a conference room on the third floor of the Social Sciences Building where the Department of Military Science is housed on the Tempe campus. Seven Army ROTC cadets performed a flag-folding ceremony for the four banners in Riggs’ possession.

At 11:42 a.m., Army ROTC cadet Austin Nixon coordinated and led the ceremony. Nixon, a business major in the W. P. Carey School of Business, said his team spent four weeks studying and researching the history of flag folding in preparation for the big day.

“It was a lot of pressure to bring closure to a family of a fallen comrade of ours,” said Nixon, whose great grandfather, grandfather and father all served in the military. “This is a great honor for us.”

That’s why Army ROTC Cadet Zachary Ray wanted to participate. Ray's grandfather was a Korean War veteran.

“Most of us here don’t have military experience, so it helps us to understand the gravity of the decisions we make and how important this training is for us,” said Ray, who is a civil engineering major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “We take this seriously and understand it. This was a super neat experience.”

The simple ceremony turned out to be suspenseful. Nixon’s team counted the stars one by one on the first three flags — each had 50. The dozen bystanders in the room wondered if the next flag was going to be Carl Lay’s — or if the ceremony was going to be a bust.

When the fourth and final flag was unfurled, Nixon was certain they were holding a piece of history.

“As soon as I opened that fourth flag, it dawned on me the stitching was different, the star alignment was different,” he said. “We got it in the end.”

Moments later the item was placed in a personalized display case Costa bought for Riggs.

Riggs also received something in the end as well — closure.

“It’s final now,” she said a few days after the ceremony. “I wake up in the morning, walk into the living room and see Carl’s folded flag and smile.

“'There you are!' I say to him. 'We’ve found you!'"

Top photo: Denise Riggs poses for a photo with her uncle's U.S. casket flag at the Social Sciences Building on the Tempe campus on March 24. The ASU ROTC helped her identify the flag, which was from the Korean War, and properly fold the flag for storage. Photo by Samantha Chow/ASU

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The College recognizes academic excellence with fall 2022 Dean's Medalists

December 9, 2022

On Dec. 14, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will recognize its highest-achieving students from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities at the fall 2022 convocation.

Each semester, departments and schools within The College select outstanding students who have demonstrated a steadfast commitment to academic excellence during their time at ASU. These students will be awarded a prestigious Dean’s Medal in honor of their scholastic achievements.

Meet the outstanding Dean’s Medalist awardees from The College for fall 2022:

 Portrait of Catalina Alvarez Flores

Catalina Alvarez Flores

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Majors: Anthropology, family and human development

Alvarez is a first-generation Indigenous student from the Pascua Yaqui Tribe with research and career interests in cultural resource management and community involvement.

Through her research, volunteerism and mentorship, Alvarez gave much of her time to not only the Sun Devil community but the local community as well. Serving as a lead chair and committee member for all four campuses, she has led Native American Heritage Month and Indigenous Culture Week for the past three years. Alvarez also held clean-up and educational events around "A" Mountain and its history, served on the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee for the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, assisted with assembly of the Corsi-Rosenthal Air Filtration Box Project in early 2022, served as a mentor to incoming first-year students through the Student Preparedness Initiative Readiness Inspired by Tradition (SPIRIT) program and currently is both a volunteer and archival assistant at the School of Human Evolutation and Social Change Center for Archaeology and Society.

Catalina has left a lasting impact on ASU with her advocacy through co-founding a student land recognition committee to recognize the land ASU resides on while working with ASU faculty, staff and officials on how we can further support Indigenous students through providing support services, resources and assistance to increase retention for on-ground and online students. 

After graduation, she hopes to utilize the skills obtained through her experiences to pursue her goal of starting a career in her tribe’s Tribal Historic Preservation Office.

 Portrait of Eric Baker

Eric Baker

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Majors: Geography, urban planning
Certificate: Geographic information science

Baker represents the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning as an outstanding dual-major student with passion for mapping, planning, land development and real estate. 

While at ASU, he held an internship at McArthur Land Company as a real estate geographic information systems (GIS) mapping intern and was a real estate sales associate who conducted research and used ESRI ArcMap software to create maps and update the land ownership database for the company. Currently, Baker is a GIS analyst for Works Consulting, where he works with many government agencies with GIS-related needs, including data entry and development.

Apart from excelling in his studies, Baker managed to also obtain his real estate license while at ASU. 

 Portrait of Austin Bartunek

Austin Bartunek

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics
Major: Physics
Minor: Mathematics

In pursuing his degree at ASU, Bartunek appeared six consecutive times on The College’s Dean’s List for outstanding academic performance. 

In his PHY 334: Advanced Laboratory I course, he showed a dedication to learning and improvement by improving his grades on lab reports throughout the semester.

Bartunek has experience in coding with Python, MATLAB and Fortran. He has conducted research on computational nano-optics, including numerically simulating entangled two-level atoms driven within resonant optical cavities.

 Portrait of Sage Binder

Sage Binder

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Major: Mathematics
Minor: Philosophy

Binder came to ASU as a transfer student to further his education in mathematics and philosophy. In addition to mathematics, he has strong career interests in computing.

While pursuing his undergraduate degree at ASU, Binder has taken many graduate-level courses in graph theory and combinatorics, as well as a graduate seminar course on recent results in the theory of sparse graphs. He has blended his interests in computing and philosophy by tackling coursework that includes symbolic logic, analytic philosophy, philosophy of science and epistemology

In collaboration with ASU's President’s Professor Matthias Kawski, he has completed a research project in which he investigated visualizing Ricci flows on surfaces of revolution. Once the research was finished, Binder submitted the results to the refereed journal “The Electronic Journal of Mathematics and Technology.”

 Portrait of Enzo Carrascal Marquez

Enzo Carrascal Marquez

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Major: Geological sciences

Carrascal came to ASU as a transfer student from the National University of Engineering in Peru. Here he has expanded his deep passion for geology. 

During his time at ASU, Carrascal served as an undergraduate research aide working alongside Professor Dan Shim. He assisted in mineral synthesis of iron-rich silicate samples through multi-anvil press experiments. 

He also worked as a teaching assistant for Assistant Research Professor Duane DeVecchio’s dynamic earth course, where he guided students through concepts in geology, chemistry and planetary sciences.

 Portrait of Rachel Collman

Rachel Collman

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Major: Family and human development

Collman chose to study family and human development in order to help children and their families overcome obstacles. She received her degree through ASU Online.

During her time at ASU, she worked as a teaching assistant for Clinical Assistant Professor Stacie Foster. This role helped her gain confidence in her ability to serve others.

Balancing school with everything else in life was difficult at times, but Collman made it through with high grades and increased confidence.

She is in the process of applying to graduate school to continue her education.

Portrait of Annie Cooper 

Annie Cooper

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology
Major: Psychology

Annie is a Barrett, The Honors College student with research and career interests in parental involvement in adolescent relationships.

While at ASU, she has immersed herself in serving many times as a research assistant, assisting in studies ranging from cognitive changes following combined hormone replacement therapy at ASU’s Memory and Attention Control Lab to the development and health of romantic relationships in adolescents at the Healthy Experiences and Relationships Across Transitions (HEART) Lab. 

She also worked as a research project interviewer for Schlesinger Group. Cooper is also founder and president of Currents Collective, where she spearheads social media branding across web and digital platforms.

After graduating, Cooper intends on going to graduate school for behavioral neuroscience and hopes to continue conducting research on relationships, mental health and addiction. 

 Portrait of Holly Hemesath

Holly Hemesath

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences
Majors: Biochemistry, mathematics

Hemesath is a Barrett student who discovered her passion for coding in her first year at ASU.

She served as a lab aide in the computational biochemistry laboratory of Professor Matthias Heyden. Hemesath worked with programming languages including C, Java, Python and BASH to script, code and examine mathematics and physics of molecular simulations.

After graduation, she hopes to gain experience in biotech labs as a lab technician and later pursue a career in academia and research.

 Portrait of Lane Hiser

Lane Hiser

Dean’s Medal: Department of English, Department of Military Science
Major: English literature
Minor: Military leadership

Hiser sought to continue his education in English literature while serving as an officer in the United States Army. At graduation, he will be receiving the Dean’s Medal for two departments: English and military science.

In the ROTC program, Hiser has served on the color guard team as a first sergeant in the unit’s Charlie company. During Cadet Summer Training at Fort Knox in Kentucky, Hiser represented the ASU ROTC unit while ranking fifth in his platoon out of 40 cadets from across the country.

After ASU, Hiser plans to make a career out of the Army as an officer in the Field Artillery Branch. Upon retiring from the military, Hiser hopes to write a novel and teach English to share his love for writing and literature with others.

Portrait of Jake Hunter

Jake Hunter

Dean’s Medal: Department of Naval Science
Major: Engineering management

Hunter is a New Jersey native who served as an enlisted Marine for five years before arriving at ASU.

During his time at ASU, Hunter served as the battalion sergeant major for the spring 2021 semester, overseeing administrative duties and supervising military ceremonies for the 100-member student organization. He also trained and mentored Marine-option midshipmen preparing for Officer Candidate School, a requirement for all prospective U.S. Marine second lieutenants. In addition, Hunter set the standard for midshipmen and enlisted Marines within the Navy ROTC program at ASU.

After graduating, Hunter will be commissioned as a second lieutenant in the United States Marine Corps. He will be assigned to The Basic School in Quantico, Virginia, followed by flight training in Pensacola, Florida. 

 Portrait of Amanda Lombard

Amanda Lombard

Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Majors: Civic and economic thought and leadership, public service and public policy

Lombard is a Barrett student with career and personal interests in legal studies. In addition to her two majors, she was heavily involved in the ASU community.

Some of her accomplishments include serving as both a justice and chief justice on the ASU Undergraduate Student Government Supreme Court, becoming a member of the Omega Phi Alpha National Service Sorority where she was chair of marketing and traditions, and receiving an ASU Changemaker Central Civic Engagement Grant. 

Lombard was also an extern for the Arizona Supreme Court, where she completed legal research to prepare for oral arguments and other court proceedings.

 Portrait of Thomas Pozsonyi

Thomas Pozsonyi

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics, School of International Letters and Cultures
Majors: Russian, economics, mathematics

Pozsonyi is a triple major interested in the applications of economic theory, mathematics and finance.

During his time at ASU, he was an equity analyst intern for investment management firm Alpha Squared Capital, where he utilized company reports and press releases to assess company financial health. He later was a health consulting intern for asset management company Mercer, where he analyzed health care claims, projected health care plan renewal costs, and prepared client deliverables based on data and current economic conditions.

In addition to his internships, Pozsonyi worked as an economics tutor through the W. P. Carey Economics Tutoring Center and conducted research on regulatory impact in cities across the U.S. through ASU's Center for the Study of Economic Liberty.

Pozsonyi has secured a full-time position at Mercer, where he will continue to work as a health consulting analyst.

 Portrait of Gabrielle Romero

Gabrielle Romero

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation
Majors: Justice studies,  Asian Pacific American studies

Romero, a double major in justice studies and Asian Pacific American studies, is passionate about public policy, community outreach, civic engagement, public service and nonprofit organizations.

She served as president of the Hawaii and Pacific Islander Club at ASU, where she collaborated with AAPI organizations and advocated for diversity. She also performed research for the Asian Pacific American Studies program, where she documented 25 years of the program at ASU and collected oral histories of community members, students and faculty. Finally, she served as a fellow for the Arizona Asian American Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander organization, where she developed and facilitated workshops on identity, bias, climate justice and more. 

She hopes to one day work for a nonprofit organization that serves the AAPI community as well as the undocumented population in Arizona. 

 Portrait of Nathaniel Ross

Nathaniel Ross

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences, School of Politics and Global Studies
Majors: Applied quantitative science, biological sciences, political sciences, history
Minor: Dance

Ross is a Barrett student and fourth-generation Arizonan with interests in biology, politics and law.

Since arriving at ASU, he has worked in a genetics lab, managed social media outreach for the Luminosity Lab, assisted in research for a book project on the history of autism, supported the ASU Biodesign Institute Clinical Testing Laboratory in its transition into a COVID-19 clinical testing lab and served as a supreme court justice for ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government.

Ross served as a campaign staffer for a local candidate, interned as a policy analyst at Creosote Partners, analyzed data for the Chicago Justice Project, was a disabilities intern for the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions, served as a Human Rights Fellow for the Republic of Armenia and even ran for a seat on the Mesa City Council.

 Portrait of Nichole Smallcanyon

Nichole Smallcanyon

Dean’s Medal: American Indian Studies
Major: American Indian Studies

Smallcanyon transferred to ASU after receiving an associate degree in arts from the Maricopa County Community College system. 

In her coursework at ASU, she demonstrated a sincere concern for Indigenous social justice, a dedication to her studies and growth, and a passion for helping youth in her community. She is currently learning the Navajo language.

Smallcanyon is focused on continuing to find ways to support American Indian communities. Her goal is to obtain a position that allows her to use her knowledge and passion for American Indian studies to assist in tribal community development. 

 Portrait of Nicole Webb

Nicole Webb

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Majors: Communication, justice studies
Minor: Family and human development
Certificate: Cross-sector leadership

Webb has combined her interests and training in communication and social justice to support her community during her time at ASU.

She worked with several ASU clubs and organizations, such as the Movement for Violence Prevention, All Walks Project and Changemaker Central Days of Service. 

Webb is a long-standing member of the Association of Human Communication in the Hugh Downs School. There she organized and hosted several events, including the annual Human Communication Career Day, and she currently serves as the association’s president. 

 Portrait of Mayumi Webb

Mayumi Webb

Dean’s Medal: Department of Aerospace Studies
Major: Computer science
Minor: Military leadership

Webb is an Air Force ROTC cadet who has applied her education to support her roles in the military.

She was recently promoted to the national advisory consultant role for the Arnold Air Society and Silver Wings, where she maintains technical oversight of various processes and builds relationships with members, alumni and service communities. She previously served as the national webmaster for the society.

Webb was the Spring 2022 Cadet Wing Vice Commander. In this role and in others, her leadership has been key to developing and mentoring other cadets.

 Portrait of Rachel Welshans

Rachel Welshans

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Major: History
Minor: Anthropology

Welshans transferred to ASU after receiving an associate degree in liberal arts at Pima Community College. A Tucson, Arizona, resident, she completed her bachelor’s degree through ASU Online.

As an online student, she participated in the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars program, which allowed her to perform archival research at the Arizona Historical Society and at ASU’s Hayden Library. There she fell in love with public history and specifically her research on the Bisbee Deportation of 1917, which forced roughly 1,200 striking miners of mostly Mexican descent or who were immigrants to leave on a train to New Mexico at gunpoint.

Welshans currently works as an administrative assistant at the Tucson Police Department. She looks forward to taking a break from her studies before applying to graduate school and hopefully expanding her research for future publication – her experience at ASU has proven she has the passion and writing ability to do so.

Lauren Whitby contributed to this story.

Alek Bustamante Valdez

Marketing assistant , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

A military man embraces a life of the mind

December 2, 2022

Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Although Lane Hiser intends to make a career in the military, he’s keeping his options open. This Arizona State University student is rounding out his experiences in the physical, precise world of Army ROTC with a walk on the “softer” side: a degree in the humanities. ASU graduate Lane Hiser, who stands smiling and wearing his military uniform. "I would say I owe my academic success to the teachings of my military lifestyle regarding hard work," said graduating ASU student Lane Hiser. "I also think I will owe future success to my literature background because I have learned new creative ways of thinking, read books about different cultures to understand people and have developed an analytical process applicable to military strategy." Download Full Image

Hiser, who is originally from Frederick, Colorado, is graduating from Arizona State University this fall with a 4.13 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in military leadership. He was also selected as The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Department of English, an honor bestowed on the most outstanding graduate in the unit.

It’s clear that Hiser got here by dotting all the “I”s and crossing all the “T”s. “At ASU, Hiser has played an active role in the ASU community by playing intramurals, working on campus and participating in ASU ROTC events. As a student, Hiser has been on the Dean's list for all four semesters,” wrote the Dean's Medalist selection committee in its justification.

Hiser funded his studies with a Green to Gold Hip-Pocket Scholarship from the Army ROTC, which he earned in a rigorous and competitive scholarship application process. He credits the leadership experience he gained in the Army and in ROTC with spurring his interest in teaching and mentoring. “I love training, teaching, and leading anyone and everyone, especially cadets/soldiers,” he said.

Upon retiring from the military, Hiser said that he would like to write a novel and teach English to share his love for writing and literature with others. We sat down with Hiser to learn a bit more about his ASU experience before he’s off to his next post: officer’s school.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field?

Answer: Long story short … I wanted to be a writer and have always loved words. Unfortunately for me, there are so many talented writers at ASU that I was not one of those selected into the creative writing focus. As a result, I switched over to the literature side of the English degree. My first semester of the degree, I had 24 books to read in four months. Despite the stress of reading and the work that comes with it, I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of absorbing knowledge while reading. I was never a big reader growing up, but something inside me clicked — now reading four books at once — and everything about literature became so interesting. I fell in love with the writers, the words, the stories, everything.

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

A: In my ENG 332 Jewish Writers and The Cold War class, I had a bit of a revelation. This class was unbelievably inspiring. The writers we talked about can only be defined as geniuses. The revelation came in the word these writers often used: “intellectuals.” Intellectuals, as presented by these writers, were the upper echelon of thinkers who did not conform and sought excellence. I found a bit of a home in this word and found myself striving to think like an intellectual might.

Q: What’s it like to switch between such a physical, practical discipline — the military — with the intellectual and creative discipline required for your English literature degree? Is there a disconnect?

A: There is definitely some disconnect between the two, but they also translate nicely. The military is a very structured and precise organization. Leaving that lifestyle does not always go well for some as life outside the military can be very chaotic and unfocused. Being in ROTC helped because there was still a small trace of that disciplined structure even though academics are the main focus instead of military operations. That being said, the military does rely on intellect and creativity, but it is in a different way.

Where English lit focuses more on the imagination and analyzing of thematic purpose in literature, the military is more about creative problem-solving and focused decision-making in planning. I will say, having a military background did help me to focus and push myself in my studies. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day of school; gym at 6 a.m.; classes throughout the day; work before, after or weekends; I did homework whenever I had free time; and I was typically always asleep by 10:30 p.m. It might sound crazy to some, but the routine is normal and crucial to service members.

I would say I owe my academic success to the teachings of my military lifestyle regarding hard work. I also think I will owe future success to my literature background because I have learned new creative ways of thinking, read books about different cultures to understand people and have developed an analytical process applicable to military strategy. The English department and its professors have benefited my experience greatly.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because my family moved to Arizona. I had not seen them more than one week every year due to being in the military for four years. The ROTC program at ASU is also one of the most elite in the nation, ranking in the top eight of all programs. Additionally, ASU is one of the biggest, most well-known schools in the country, and I still cannot really believe that I am about to be an alumnus of this amazing university.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I would be remiss if I didn't mention two professors here. First, (Assistant Professor of English) Brian Goodman is one of the most interesting professors I have ever had. His passion and expertise were so refreshing and inspiring to experience. He brought out a love for reading in me and made everyone feel comfortable in sharing their observations no matter what they were. I would also like to mention (Professor of English) James Blasingame. After the military, I want to teach English, and he made learning so fun. His love for teaching was beautiful to be a part of, and I hope to bring that energy to my classroom. Both of them taught me that it is okay to think differently than those around you because your way of thinking is unique to you.

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

A: The best thing I can say is just to relax and try to breathe. School can be hard, and life does not always make it easier. When things get hard, just take a step back and breathe. You can do this; just be the best possible version of yourself, and give it your all.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I kind of studied all over actually. I typically wrote essays at home, but sometimes I would end up in the library to write. As for reading, pretty much anywhere outdoors where there weren’t too many people at one time. The Secret Garden is nice, but so is the beautiful scenery inside the Farmer Education Building. Just watch out for mosquitoes!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. I will go to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to my basic officer leader course for the field artillery branch. I plan to make a career in the Army and serve for as long as I can. While serving, I plan to pursue my master’s degree in hopes of bettering myself to one day teach English in high school or potentially at a college.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: There are so many issues in our world that need our attention, but if I had $40 million, I would put it all toward saving animals on the brink of extinction. The reality of that mostly means saving their habitats — from the humid, beautiful rainforests to the cold landscapes of the arctic. The good news is that saving them likely means the world is being saved, too. So, I think it is a good place to start because of the positive effects it could have on everything else in the world.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


ASU Army ROTC program awarded 2021 General Douglas MacArthur Award

March 18, 2022

Arizona State University’s Army ROTC program was recently recognized as one of the top Army ROTC programs nationwide with the 2021 General Douglas MacArthur Award.

Presented annually by the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation, the award recognizes the top eight Army ROTC programs among 274 programs nationwide.  ASU Army ROTC graduating cadets seated in a row, wearing ceremonial regalia at the 2019 Spring Commissioning Ceremony. Graduating cadets at ASU's 2019 Spring Commissioning Ceremony. Download Full Image

“This honor from the General Douglas MacArthur Foundation represents a huge team accomplishment for the cadre and staff that support the program at Arizona State University daily, but more importantly, for the phenomenal cadets that fill the ranks of the Sun Devil Battalion,” said Col. Mark Olsen of the 5th Army ROTC Brigade.

ASU’s Army ROTC program was selected for a combination of achievement in commissioning mission, cadets' performance during Cadet Summer Training and retention rates. In their last fiscal year, the Sun Devil Battalion added 50 commissioned officers, with program enrollment increasing by 17% in the last academic year. 

“ASU’s Army ROTC has now been recognized as not only one of the largest, but among the very best training programs for producing our nation’s next generation of Army officers,” said Paul LePore, associate dean in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

“To be recognized as one of the top eight ROTC programs in the country is a testament to the hard work and commitment put forward by our Sun Devil cadets along with the outstanding learning and training environment established by the cadre officers and enlisted men and women that lead ASU’s Sun Devil Battalion.”

The program continues to expand its reach through new universitywide collaborations including the Tactical Athlete Seminar, a three-day program on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus that trains cadet coaches to lead physical training programs in partnership with ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

“The 86-year-old partnership established between Arizona State University and the Army ROTC program is enduring, thriving and all around exceptional. Not only does this exceptional program continue to exceed their assigned mission year after year, they do so with the quality that we demand to succeed on the global stage,” Olsen said.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU Army ROTC, College of Health Solutions partner to provide specialized cadet training program

February 8, 2022

Last month, Arizona State University’s Army ROTC and the College of Health Solutions joined forces to hold the second-ever semi-annual Tactical Athlete Seminar, a three-day program on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus to train cadet coaches to lead physical training programs at ASU and Grand Canyon University.

Through the program, over 20 ROTC cadets gained tactical proficiency in a number of areas, including foundational movement, coach-to-coach mentor training and recovery nutrition. ASU professors and subject matter experts taught cadets how to develop a physical training plan that will allow them to improve their performance on the Army Combat Fitness Test.  ASU ROTC students lifting weights. Jray Sotiangco (left) and Sean Valentine (right) during the Tactical Athlete Seminar on Jan. 4. Photo courtesy ASU Army ROTC Download Full Image

This is the beginning of a new partnership between ASU’s Army ROTC and the College of Health Solutions to accelerate the university’s cadet physical fitness program

“This program will lay a strong foundation in combat readiness for cadets as they progress in their military careers and lead as officers in their future units,” said Capt. Tim Martin, assistant professor in the Department of Military Sciences. “We have already seen tremendous improvement in cadets’ (Army Combat Fitness Test) scores from fall semester and look to build on that moving forward this spring.”

Three faculty members from the College of Health Solutions led and designed the programming: Lecturer Rachel Larson, Senior Lecturer Joe Marsit and Assistant Professor Floris Wardenaar.

Larson instructed cadets on fitness during the seminar, focusing on assessment, mobility and strength, resistance training and exercise programming.

“The seminar is important not only for our students within the College of Health Solutions but also the ROTC students. Our seminar educates and equips leaders within the ROTC program with the proper knowledge to assist their underclassmen and fellow cadets with training to meet fitness standards. With more knowledge on proper fitness preparation, training can occur in a safe and productive manner,” Larson said. “With the new occupational opportunities within the military for strength and conditioning professionals, our students will be better equipped to apply and be selected for these positions.”

People lifting weights

Grand Canyon University students Viviana Mora (left) and Nicole Hartley (right) during the Tactical Athlete Seminar on Jan. 4. Photo courtesy ASU Army ROTC

Larson added that the response from participants has been overwhelmingly positive, and the faculty will continue to improve the programming to meet student needs.

“It has been an honor to work with such a great group of individuals. These cadets are able to gain the valuable experience they need to succeed,” she said. “All of the faculty involved have been very engaged and dedicated to the education of our Sun Devil Battalion. We have worked to refine the seminar and have offered two (weeklong) courses already."

One of the seminar participants was Crystal Pittman, a senior working toward a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with a minor in military leadership, who is the cadet command sergeant major for ASU’s Sun Devil Battalion. Having served in the Army for 10 years, Pittman said she enjoyed the hands-on experience provided through the seminar and is eager to utilize the skills she learned in her future career.

“The tactical athlete seminar gave me tools to better myself as an athlete and a soldier, and to also be able to coach other cadets and develop them,” Pittman said. “This program gives you foundational information that you can take with you and develop into a stronger, faster, more agile soldier and athlete, which in turn will make you more resilient and perform better.”

Moving forward, those involved hope to continue the momentum of the seminar, conducting it regularly at the beginning of each academic semester.

The next Tactical Athlete Seminar will take place in fall 2022. Students interested in participating should contact Joe Marsit and join the Athletics and Tactical Performance Affinity Network in the College of Health Solutions.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Sun Devil Battalion wins regional Ranger Challenge Competition, places 5th overall

December 2, 2021

This fall, Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Battalion participated in the Ranger Challenge Competition, a two-round varsity sport where Army ROTC teams from across the country compete in events that test mental and physical toughness. The team placed first in the regional round and fifth in the overall competition.

“I am extremely proud of the way the team came together and executed. From the beginning this team had a mindset that they would go to this event and win, and they went out and did it,” said Capt. Tyler Alavekios, an assistant professor in the Department of Military Sciences. “Nearly all the members had never competed before, so no one really knew what to expect from the event. The win validated the focus and effort our team has put into not only training the team but into how we train cadets.” The Sun Devil Ranger Challenge team poses with the battalion guidon after being named winners of the regional Ranger Challenge Competition. Photo courtesy of ASU Department of Military Sciences Download Full Image

The challenges the cadets participated in included basic rifle marksmanship, an Army physical fitness test, a written navigation test, day and night orienteering and a grenade assault course. Each team that participates is awarded points based on how well they perform in each event. 

The first round of the Ranger Challenge took place at Fort Bliss in Texas from Oct. 22–23. The Sun Devil Battalion was one of eight teams competing from Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. In this round, the Sun Devil Battalion placed first and was one of two teams from the region to move on to the second and final round. This was the first regional competition win for the team since 2009.

The final round was held at Camp Gruber in Oklahoma from Nov. 5–7. There, the Sun Devil Battalion placed fifth among 10 teams from Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, New Mexico, Oklahoma, Texas, Utah and Wyoming. 

The Sun Devil Battalion’s Ranger Challenge team was made up of seven students from ASU and four from Grand Canyon University.

“In less than a week, the team quickly developed trust, confidence and cohesion to excel during their competition during physical and marksmanship events,” said Lt. Col. Erich Schneider, a professor in the Department of Military Sciences for ASU and GCU Army ROTC. 

Jack Frus, a third-year student double-majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership, and political science, with minors in history and military leadership, was part of the Sun Devil Battalion’s Ranger Challenge team and has previously participated in the Ranger Challenge. 

Jack Frus (left) and Dane McCall hold the Task Force Jicarilla Ranger Challenge Competition trophy. Photo courtesy ASU Department of Military Sciences

He said this year's competition was more than just a physical and mental challenge for him.

“Participating in the Ranger Challenge allowed me more time to hone in on my skills as a soldier and put them to the test. It also allowed me to build better camaraderie and trust with my fellow cadets,” Frus said. “My favorite part of the Ranger Challenge was the shared experience between myself and the other cadets in the challenge. We built strong bonds through intense training and rigorous competitions. In stressful situations, trusting one another is the key to success when under extreme pressure.”

Frus, who hopes to serve in the Army Special Forces and eventually hold a leadership position within the government, said participating in the Ranger Challenge has helped prepare him for his future.

“The Ranger Challenge also gave me a better understanding of basic soldiering skills that will aid me in my career,” he said. “I would recommend the Ranger Challenge to anyone who wants to serve in a combat-arms role in the Army, or even for anyone who wants to challenge themselves in a new way.”

The goals of the Ranger Challenge center on developing leaders while fostering teamwork, a sentiment that is similarly at the heart of ASU’s Army ROTC program.

“By having cadets participate in the Ranger Challenge, we increase our ability to generate quality leaders of character for our university, community, state and nation,” Schneider said. “I am confident that our cadets built trust and confidence in one another that will serve as the foundation for many more competitive teams to come in the future of the Sun Devil Battalion.” 

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

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New Army ROTC initiative connects past with future

May 17, 2021

Program will provide mentorship for ASU cadets

A new program at Arizona State University will carry the name of a legendary Arizona figure and ASU’s first Alumni Association president with the goal of mentoring tomorrow’s leaders by connecting them with those who came before.  

The Department of Military Science recently established the ASU Army ROTC James McClintock Hall of Fame and inducted its first two alumni members during the battalion’s commissioning ceremony held at Tempe Diablo Stadium May 5.

“This was a project that was important to me, important to our former senior noncommissioned officer Master Sgt. Cunningham and important to Mrs. Robbins, who really did all the work to make this happen,” said Col. James Sink, professor of military science and Army ROTC commander, during the ceremony. “The reason it is important to us — it’s because I saw it not only as a way to honor people who’ve had a huge impact on this ROTC program but also to reconnect our program, our cadets, to officers like the ones you’re about to meet, former officers Col. James Barker and Lt. Col. Dallas Eubanks.”

Lisa Robbins, Army ROTC business operations specialist, has worked for seven years at linking the university’s military history with ROTC. One link to honor this history is by holding commissioning ceremonies for their cadets at Old Main, which is where the original Corps of Cadets held military formations in the 1880s. But they wanted to do more.

“Two years ago we started working on the hall of fame,” said Robbins, who grew up in an Army family. “We wanted to honor individuals who went above and beyond to advance the Army ROTC program at ASU. By starting this program we hope to establish a tradition of mentorship.”

Robbins' father, retired Lt. Col. Jerry Lape served his final military assignment as the executive officer for ASU Army ROTC. Her brother graduated from the program in 1985. With these program connections, in addition to her nine years working for the department, Robbins is enthused about what the hall of fame can mean for the unit.

“I look forward to seeing it grow over the coming years,” Robbins said. “We look to establish a link between the program’s history and the future. It will allow a connection between past graduates and people who have had great impact on the program to mentor our current and future cadets as they go forward into a life of service.”  

The first two inductees attended ASU in the late 1980s.

Barker was commissioned as an armor officer from ASU in 1988. He spent 26 years in the Army at various places in the U.S., Korea and Germany. Barker served in combat as a battalion task force scout platoon leader during operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm in Iraq in the early 1990s, where he earned the Silver Star for “gallantry in action.” He returned to the region in recent years as part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After being inducted to the hall of fame, Barker addressed the cadets.

“Those of us in uniform, we are in the people business,” Barker said. “It’s the people that make the equipment function, that give us the opportunities to train with it, that maintain it with us and for us, and help us to employ it in combat if necessary.

“Leadership truly is about empowering your subordinates, it’s about empowering them with the responsibility and authority to do their job, and then it’s about holding them accountable — expecting them to know and do that job.”

Eubanks is the current Army ROTC recruiting operations officer at ASU. After commissioning at ASU in 1987, he went on to serve 21 years in the Army as a field artillery and fire support officer. He served in operations Desert Shield, Desert Storm and Iraqi Freedom, and Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia. Eubanks was also inducted in the U.S. Army ROTC National Hall of Fame in 2016.

“When I returned to ASU in 2015 to work for the Department of Military Science, it was surreal being back where it all began,” Eubanks said. “It’s an honor to help recruit and mentor future Sun Devil Battalion alums, and I’m lucky to have come full circle and be back here at ASU.

“As for being inducted into the hall of fame, I’m so humbled with the recognition, thankful to my family for their support along the way, and thankful to the noncommissioned officers and soldiers I served with throughout my 21 years of active duty.”

As the first two inductees, Barker and Eubanks are now responsible for working with the ROTC commander to develop by-laws and procedures for selecting future former cadets to the hall of fame, with the intent of organizing an induction every year around homecoming weekend. 

“This year is the beginning of a new tradition to honor deserving classmates and future generations of Sun Devil lieutenants with future induction into this hall of fame,” Eubanks said.

McClintock was part of the first Territorial Normal School at Tempe graduating class. The school later became ASU. McClintock was also part of Theodore Roosevelt’s Rough Riders and fought in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, where he was seriously wounded. McClintock continued his military service after being elected colonel of the First Arizona Infantry. He went on to volunteer in several organizations, including serving as first president of the Normal School Alumni Association,  Rough Riders Association, and as the first commander for the Spanish War Veterans for the Department of Arizona. He was an educator, historian and community leader.

Top photo: Lt. Col. Dallas Eubanks (left) and Col. James Barker, both retired, stand at attention while being inducted into the ASU Army ROTC James McClintock Hall of Fame, during the unit's commissioning ceremony at Tempe Diablo Stadium, May 5. Photo by Lisa Robbins/ASU Army ROTC  

Jerry Gonzalez

Assistant Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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October 30, 2019

Tradition points to ASU’s commitment to all who serve, national defense

Arizona State University has a long history of supporting those in uniform, but the stance became university tradition in 2011 after the first Salute to Service was held to celebrate active duty military members and veterans.

This year Salute to Service runs from Nov. 1–11 with events scheduled across all ASU Phoenix-area campuses. Event organizers invite the campus community and the public to get involved.  

The event theme — “Salute to Service through service” — points to a broadening of the idea of service beyond the military, said Steve Borden, director of ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

“Few actions in life are more honorable than dedicating your life to serving others,” said Borden, a retired U.S. Navy captain and co-chair of the Salute to Service committee. “Whether you served in uniform as a member of the military, as a first responder or as a civilian dedicating your life to public service or helping those in need at home or abroad, it is all these selfless endeavors that we strive to recognize during Salute to Service.” 

RELATED: 6 ASU veterans share the keys to their success in college

ASU contributes in the veteran, service and national defense space through robust academic and support programs, and other far-reaching initiatives. To gain perspective on the range of the university’s military focus and achievements, here are 10 unique ASU facts:

1. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center supports more than 9,200 military-affiliated ASU students.

In the past five years, enrollment of student veterans and other military-affiliated students using GI Bill and/or Department of Defense tuition assistance benefits has more than doubled. Per capita, ASU boasts more military-affiliated students than most other universities, ahead of schools traditionally known for military friendliness, such as Syracuse, Texas A&M and Colorado State.

2. ASU faculty includes more than 150 members who have served in the U.S. military.

Over 460 military veterans work at ASU, including 151 in the faculty and 312 who are university staff.

3. The first and only university Public Service Academy in the nation to date resides at ASU.

The Public Service Academy, a unit of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, prepares students for careers in public service through a challenging program that provides unique education and service opportunities with the goal of building character-driven leaders. Established in 2014, the academy graduated its first student cohort in May 2019. 

4. Every year ASU researchers work on vital defense projects.

In fiscal year 2019, ASU researchers submitted $186 million in proposals to the Department of Defense, received more than $50 million in award obligations and reached more than $36 million in DOD-funded research expenditures. 

5. ASU researchers are helping the U.S. Army discover how best to use pollen to trace origins of explosives and other materials.

With support from a Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant awarded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory through its Army Research Office, faculty with ASU’s Center for Spatial Reasoning and Policy Analytics are using forensic palynology to improve the U.S. government’s ability to identify where and when weapons of mass destruction are moving.  

6. ASU is home to one of the oldest Army ROTC programs in the nation.

Army ROTC was established at ASU in 1935, followed by Air Force ROTC in 1948, and Navy and Marine Corps ROTC in 2010.  The ROTC programs combined host over 450 students. Upon graduation, students are commissioned as officers in their respective service branches. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences houses and supports all the ROTC programs.

7. Through the Melikian Center, ASU offers world-class language training for ROTC cadets.

ASU’s Melikian Center Critical Languages Institute offers intensive training in Armenian, Russian, Bosnian and 12 other Eastern European languages. The center also supports ROTC-specific training through Project Go, a summer program in Persian, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek.

8. Education industry publications consistently recognize ASU for its veteran programs. Current accolades include:

  • The Military Times Group Best for Vets 2019
  • Viqtory Military Media “Military Friendly” Silver Award 2019-2020
  • College Factual #10 Top Colleges for Veterans
  • U.S. News & World Report #2 Best Online Programs for Veterans, #3 Best Online MBA Program for Veterans

9. ASU leverages the experience of top military leaders through its Flag Officer Council.

Created in 2014, the council provides advice and perspective to the university including ASU President Michael Crow, faculty and staff on matters of national significance. The council consists of retired military generals and admirals who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. They are leaders who have worked in the highest levels of government at home and abroad, combating terrorism, responding to national disasters and defending the homeland. They are experts in complex decision-making, leadership, strategic planning, business development and many other fields.

10. The Veterans ASU Alumni Chapter serves as a focal point for veteran graduates.  Many alums have distinguished themselves through military and public service, including: 

  • Allan McArtor: ’71 MSE, former Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, chairman and CEO of Airbus Group and former administrator of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Barbara Barrett: ’72 BS, ’75 MP., ’78 JD, current Secretary of the Air Force.
  • Barry Bruner: ’80 BS, retired Navy rear admiral, commanded Submarine Group 10, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia.
  • Daniel Yoo: ’84 BS, Marine Corps major general, currently commanding U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
  • John Goodman: ’71 BS, retired Marine lieutenant general, commanded Marine Forces Pacific and served as director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance.
  • John Kenyon: ’85 BS, retired Coast Guard captain, former commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Activities Europe.
  • Margaret Woodward: ’82 BS, retired Air Force major general, commanded air forces during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.
  • Mark “Marshal” Dillon: ’83 BS, retired Air Force major general, former vice commander of Pacific Air Forces Command, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
  • Pat Tillman: ’97 BS, former Army corporal, star ASU and Arizona Cardinals football player.
  • Phillip Breedlove: ’91 MS, retired Air Force four-star general, former commander, Supreme Allied Command, Europe, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.
  • Ronald “Ron” Shoopman: ’72 BS, retired Air Force brigadier general, president of Southern Arizona Leadership Council and member of the Arizona Board of Regents.
  • Ryan Cleckner: ’08 BS, former Army Ranger sniper, veterans activist and vice president at Remington Outdoor Company.
  • Todd Canterbury: ’92 BS, Air Force brigadier general, current commander 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
  • Vern “Rusty” Findley: ’76 BS,  retired Air Force lieutenant general, former vice commander Air Force Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base Illinois.
  • Victor Petrenko: ’83 BS, Army brigadier general, former deputy commanding general and chief of staff for U.S. Army Accessions Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

For more details about ASU’s military programs, download the “Arizona State University: A leader in national defense” brochure.

Peggy Coulombe of the ASU Office of University Provost contributed to this article.

Jerry Gonzalez

Assistant Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications