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College to celebrate graduates with liberal arts and sciences degrees

May 11, 2011

An estimated 3,289 Arizona State University students are set to graduate this week with degrees from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. To be awarded are 2,918 bachelor’s degrees, 265 master’s degrees and 106 doctoral or terminal degrees.

Two separate convocation ceremonies to accommodate the large number of graduating students and their guests will be held May 13 in Wells Fargo Arena on ASU’s Tempe campus. The “maroon” ceremony begins at 8 a.m. and the “gold” ceremony begins at 12:30 p.m. During convocation students process to the front of the arena and have their names read and projected on the overheard screens as they walk across the stage, congratulated by deans and the chairs and directors of the college’s schools, departments and programs.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is ASU’s core academic unit, offering degrees in the humanities, social sciences, natural sciences and life sciences. It is ASU’s largest and most diverse college with nearly 94,000 alumni worldwide.

“The college is structured to help students identify and focus their dreams and aspirations,” said Quentin Wheeler, university vice president and dean of the college. “Our goal is to equip our students with knowledge and skills for a lifetime of success. Although we are continually innovating and adapting as a college, the liberal arts remain the best foundation for successful careers and deeply rewarding personal and professional lives.”

This semester, the top 10 undergraduate majors in the college – by the numbers – are psychology (391), communication (381), political sciences (294), biological sciences (238), family and human development (171), sociology (166), English (159), history (125), justice studies (107) and biochemistry (105).

Among the largest number of degrees to be awarded at the graduate level are communication disorders, English, geography, urban planning and family and human development. At the doctorate level, they are: psychology, physics and history.

Featured speaker

The convocation featured speaker at both ceremonies is Matthew C. Whitaker, an associate professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He is the founding director of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at ASU and an affiliate faculty member of African and African American Studies in the School of Social Transformation.

A native of Phoenix, Whitaker concentrates his research in American history, African American History, the African Diaspora, civil and human rights, sports history, popular culture and the American West. He has a doctorate in history from Michigan State University. His master’s degree in history as well as bachelor’s degrees in history and sociology, are from ASU.

Whitaker is owner and CEO of a consulting firm that specializes in diversity and human relations. He also is vice president of the African Policy Institute. This widely published author and editor is the recipient of many community and academic awards, including the 2009 “Promoting Inclusiveness Award” from the city of Glendale.

Whitaker will be recognized at the ceremonies as this year’s recipient of the college’s Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award. The award is given annually to a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference-making and campus citizenship that was demonstrated by former college dean Gary Krahenbuhl.

Students, faculty, staff to be recognized

During the ceremonies, the achievements of several graduates, faculty members and staff will be mentioned. Among those to be recognized are:

Indra Ekmanis, earning a bachelor’s degree in global studies from the School of Politics and Global Studies. She is receiving the college’s Impact Award, which reflects the college’s commitment to learning, leadership and service beyond the classroom and is given to a student who has made a significant impact on and contribution to life in the college and the broader community.

Michael Ammar, earning a bachelor’s degree in biology from the School of Life Sciences. He is receiving the Excellence Award, which is given to a student who has demonstrated overall academic excellence, which includes academic achievement, research and scholarship.

Heather Koch, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology; Samuel Philbrick, earning a bachelor’s degree in English; Rene Tellez, earning bachelor’s degrees in microbiology and biochemistry; and Martha Wetzel, earning a bachelor’s degree in global health. They each will receive an Outstanding Graduate Award from the ASU Alumni Association.

Andrew Edwards, an advisor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. He is receiving the 2011 Excellence in Advising Award. Nominated by students, this award recognizes excellence in undergraduate academic advising through a demonstrated commitment to teaching students the meaning and purpose of their education, while connecting them with information and resources to help achieve their goals.

Amber Wutich, an assistant professor in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change. She is receiving the Zebulon Pearce Distinguished Teaching Award, which was established by the Pearce Family in memory of Zebulon Pearce, who graduated from Territorial Normal School at Tempe (now ASU) with teacher’s credentials in 1899. This award recognizes quality teaching in the college by a tenured or tenure-track faculty member.

Christine Pruis, a lecturer in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry. She is receiving the Outstanding Lecturer Award, which acknowledges excellence in instruction by a non-tenured faculty member.

College ROTC units to present colors

In addition to Dean Wheeler, other members of the college administration who are participating in the convocation ceremonies include: Sid Bacon, dean of natural sciences; Linda Lederman, dean of social sciences; Neal Lester, dean of humanities; Robert Page, dean of life sciences; Cheryl Conrad, associate dean for research in natural sciences; Paul LePore, associate dean of student and academic programs; Gerry Corey, senior assistant dean for student and academic programs; Teresa Bales, assistant dean of budget and financial services; and Barbara Colby, assistant dean of academic affairs.

The Master of Ceremonies is Michael Dorman, a professor in the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. Reading the names of the graduates as they walk across the stage will be Barbara Lafford, professor, School of International Letters and Cultures; Peter Lafford, associate research professional, University Technology Office; Helene Ossipov, associate professor, School of International Letters and Cultures; and Andrew Ross, head of learning support services, School of International Letters and Cultures. The soloist is Jonathan Weyant, a graduate student in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts at ASU.

Also, honor guards from military science (Army ROTC) and aerospace studies (Air Force ROTC) – two academic units in the college – will present the colors at the ceremonies.

Additional information about the college convocation is online at