Commencement marks milestone for outstanding students

May 6, 2010

Take a look at some of the outstanding graduates

More than 10,000 students graduated from Arizona State University May 12 and 13, a record number that reflects the increasing demand for higher education. Download Full Image

The number of spring graduates jumped by 1,000 a year over the past five years, as ASU’s enrollment has increased and the demand for an educated work force persists.

The main commencement ceremony for about 7,500 undergraduates took place May 13 in Wells Fargo Arena. Graduate students received their degrees in a separate commencement ceremony May 12.

Graduates include about 750 engineers, 160 lawyers, 150 nurses, 1,100 teachers, 170 journalists, 1,400 business undergraduates and almost 600 MBAs.

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences boasts more than 3,000 graduates, with the most popular majors being communication, psychology and political science. The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts graduated 800, including 160 artists, 150 architects and landscape architects, 140 musicians and 80 theatre and film grads.

About 650 graduated from the College of Public Programs, 600 from the School of Letters and Sciences, 250 from the College of Technology and Innovation and 400 from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences.

ASU President Michael Crow was the commencement speaker at each ceremony. 

Convocations for individual colleges will be held throughout the ASU campuses through May 15. A schedule is available at

Sarah">"> Auffret, sauffret">">
ASU Media Relations

Students exemplify excellence amongst their peers

EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is a collection of this year's outstanding ASU graduates.

• Former Master Sergeant Anne">">Anne Cook decided to go back to school so she could do more for her community; now, less than two years later, she's graduating with a Bachelor of Interdisciplinary Studies and 4.0 GPA.

• Before joining ASU, Robert">">Robert Brecht was unsure of his academic path or where he was going to work, but he had one clear interest – to experience first-hand the disparities in quality of life around the world.

• Scholarship support and mentoring during her four years at ASU have made all the difference for Stacey">">Stacey Shomenta Esham, who is graduating with a desire to pay it forward. The odds were stacked against her at the start.

• Resourcefulness, determination and a resilient spirit have helped Catrina">">Catrina Boppart arrive at her goal, a bachelor’s degree in sociology with cum laude honors. No one would have predicted she'd get this far.

• After 30 years in the health care industry, Blair">">Blair Moses decided to take on a new challenge: law school. Not only did she keep pace with her younger classmates, she graduates this spring with a job lined up at a big law firm.

• At home in the Philippines, Sheila">">Sheila Besario prosecutes defendants in rape and domestic violence cases. But at ASU, Besario has earned an LL.M. in biotechnology and genomics at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

• After visiting Uganda last spring, Heidi">">Heidi TenPas decided to learn ways in which she could make food accessible, yet sustainable. She will be graduating this spring, but her journey will not stop.

• At a young age, Courtney">">Courtney Cross knew she loved helping children with disabilities. This May she will receive her bachelor’s degree in special education and launch a career that will enable her to do what she loves on a daily basis.

• Confronted with the possibility of having to drop out of school and leave the United States, Helme">">Helme Castro worked harder than ever to keep his college education on track.

• A full course load, internships, intramurals, student clubs, mentoring and being involved in research programs has kept engineering student Christine">">Christine Parsons very busy for the past four years.

• When Margaret">">Margaret Dunn decided to return to ASU two years ago, she was fulfilling a 25-year-old promise. What she found was a life's passion.

• When Angela">">Angela Ortiz-Nieves graduates with her doctorate in applied mathematics, she will receive a degree that takes the average student seven years to complete, and she will have done it in six – as a wife and a mother to three young children, including twins who were born prematurely, one with a congenital disorder.

• With a perfect 4.0 grade point average and plans to focus on analog circuitry design in wireless communications, Aram">">Aram Akhavan is well on his way to where he wants to go.

• Growing up in Southern California, Chelsey">">Chelsey Spicer was a foster child for part of the time, and by the time she reached 18 years old, had lived in 58 different houses and experienced some abuse along the way – but she was determined to graduate.

• Oh, the places you’ll go! More than just words of encouragement from that famous riddler of words, Dr. Seuss, it’s a reality for global studies graduate David">">David Berger.

• Thirty years after she was compelled to drop out of high school, Andrea">">Andrea Garfinkel-Castro walked through the doors of a community college, a single mother of three school-aged children, uncertain but determined to create a future for herself and her family.

• Born in Bangladesh, Rumana">">Rumana Islam dreamed of pursuing higher education as key to her success in life, but visions of her future were abruptly ambushed when her family was in a head-on car collision.

• She has had plenty of support along the way, but ultimately Hae">">Hae Rim Jin’s success is a result of her own hard work, intellectual curiosity and commitment to making a positive impact on society, especially the criminal justice system.

• The courage and dreams of Semere">">Semere Kesete, born in the African state of Eritrea, launched him from a harsh desert prison to a master’s degree in social justice and human rights at Arizona State University.

• As a walk-on athlete on the ASU women’s track and field team, Lissa">">Lissa Regets set a javelin record in her sophomore year, and as a business student she has maintained a high GPA and has been named W. P. Carey’s spring 2010 Turken Family Outstanding Graduating Senior.

Xanthia">">Xanthia Walker, who is receiving a Master of Fine Arts degree in youth theatre from the Herberger Institute School of Theatre and Film, has distinguished herself not only academically, but by her commitment to meeting the needs of the community.

• From learning Chinese to playing semi-professional baseball to singing in the Newman Center choir to civil rights activism, Mario">">Mario Zamora is earning a degree in biomedical engineering, but will go down whatever path his passion takes him.

• When Victoria">">Victoria Villalba graduates this spring she will collect two diplomas and a special achievement award: the the Spring 2010 Jose Ronstadt Outstanding Undergraduate Award.

• When Alice">">Alice Ling, a mechanical engineering major, started to get more involved in campus activities, she discovered she had a real passion for helping people.

• History major Ali">">Ali Rund thought she knew everything about Tempe, the city where she has lived all her life. Yet, when Rund took on an internship at a local museum, she found a wealth of new historical information – and the reason why her history degree is so important today.

Lisa Robbins

Editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Scientist by day, moonlighting musician after hours

May 6, 2010

Music versus science. Right brain against left brain. Creativity versus logic. ASU Professor Ed Garnero lived the first 35 years of his life thinking that the two were in battle with each other until he discovered that his day-job skill of analyzing seismic waves could be transferred to the musical realm. This seismic wave-studying, electric bass guitar-toting scientist and his band The Groove Noodles played together for the first time at their CD release party May 8.

Before The Groove Noodles there was just a young Ed, torn between science and music. Growing up in a very artistic environment, he was exposed to music and art at a young age. A self-taught electric bass guitarist, he was soon running down the street to play in the neighborhood garage band. His passion carried him into college, and it was the money he earned playing gigs on the weekends that paid his tuition. Although he enjoyed both music and school, he was jealous of his musician friends who got to play their instruments all week (and did not have to go to school), but he was also envious of his schoolmates who only studied and did not have to perform on weekends to earn money. Download Full Image

Years later, after receiving tenure in the School of Earth and Space Exploration in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Garnero realized he was forgetting to live, that the music was gone from his life. He discovered that his need for self-expression could be fulfilled by transferring a skill from his day job to the musical realm. With his Sadowsky electric bass in hand, Garnero started musically experimenting and exploring project tunes.

“Scientists are organizers – we take in information and look at it and see patterns. When I stopped fighting it, I could learn music and see many more patterns in the music,” explains Garnero. “There is a direct correlation between science and music – waves and vibration define music, as well as phenomena in our natural world, like earthquakes, tsunamis, and the like.”

The software music producers use relies on wave analysis, and it is earthquake waveforms that Garnero and other seismologists look at on a daily basis. He transferred this skill to the recording studio and produced The Groove Noodles’ first CD Me Oui.

“The band was a kind of funny after thought,” says Garnero, adding, “and because of that the CD is a bit eclectic. I never had a destination in mind while I was playing alone.”

The music is pleasingly eclectic, but so is the composition of the band itself with its funky horns, soulful singers, and rock-solid rhythm section.

“Many of the musicians that recorded on the CD have not met,” says Garnero. “I used many of the same tools I use in seismology to digitally edit us all together, collecting the performances from afar, and then emailing parts around.”

Garnero assembled a 10-piece band that included casual players and professional musicians including sax player Gary Regina (Prescott, Ariz.), guitarist David Bell (Richmond, Calif.), keyboardist Tim Campbell (Antioch, Calif.), drummer Jim Watson (Venice, Calif.), and even one guy from France.

“At the American Geophysical Union conference I met this geodynamicist France, Nico Coltice, and got to know him a bit more on Facebook,” explains Garnero. “I sent him an MP3 and he sent back a sax part.”

Authentic Responses

Many people find that self-expression comes easiest when they can let go and be spontaneous – and for The Groove Noodles it’s no different. The band’s sound is fresh because it’s not practiced or planned – it’s a response, it’s an expression.

“Our music is created by us authentically responding to each other. This isn’t just one person pasting individual parts together to make a nice sounding musical quilt,” explains Garnero. “My goal is to capture people responding to stuff around them. I encourage the musicians respond to the track and play what they play.”

Creating in this manner takes people with big ears and even bigger hearts who have the technical proficiency to express themselves with an instrument.

“The name of the band has real meaning to us and represents what we do,” says Garnero. “Noodling is the equivalent of ‘music doodling’ but for us, the groove needs to come first, then the melodic noodling part.”

The song “Me Oui” embodies what the band is all about: musicians listening to and responding to each other and it began with Garnero asking Coltice to say something in French and record it.

“He didn’t write just a sentence or two, or even a paragraph – he wrote an entire French rap, which ended up as part of the title track,” says Garnero. “I then asked one of our French-speaking post doctoral students, Audrey, to help me come up with things to rhyme with “Me Oui.” She calls me back and leaves a message in French, and that’s now the chorus of the song. I love how it came together randomly by having people add to it.”

Like many of the album’s other songs, “Me Oui” pushed all of the artists out of their element, including vocalist Sarah Keller. Keller was one of Garnero’s former Geology 101 students who volunteered to sing extra credit songs. Four years later she’s with The Groove Noodles – singing the chorus of “Me Oui” and she does not even speak French.

The album, which consists of 12 songs, has funky grooves beneath soul and rhythm and blues that is inspired by hitmakers Stevie Wonder, Earth Wind and Fire, and various jam bands and Motown artists. It was recorded over a period of two years in studios in Phoenix, Los Angeles, and the Bay Area under the label “Be Good 2 Your Earhole.”

In addition to the main CD “Me Oui” there is an extra three song CD called “More.” The main CD has three covers, the rest originals. The extra CD is three covers that have a very old soul/funk feel.

“The musicians are really excited for the gig – they’ve been hearing about each other, hearing each other, and playing along with recordings of each other for a couple years,” says Garnero. “It’s probably like an internet relationship, and Saturday is finally the big date!”

The released recording is soon to be available locally and online. For more information on the Groove Noodles or to listen to samples of the CD, go to the band’s website at:">">

Nikki Cassis

marketing and communications director, School of Earth and Space Exploration