Peer mentors help New College freshmen find their feet


August 18, 2015

Editor's note: As ASU gears up for the start of classes this week, our reporters are spotlighting scenes around its campuses. To read more, click here.

Transitioning from high school to college can be tricky. Nobody knows that better than the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences peer mentors. students sitting in ballroom Confetti litters the floor at the New College Welcome Assembly for new students at La Sala Ballroom at ASU West campus on Aug. 18. Download Full Image

At the start of each fall semester, they see to it that incoming New College freshmen know where to go, whom to contact and what to do in the event that they are faced with an unfamiliar situation, which they inevitably will be.

On Tuesday morning, the peer mentors donned their gray and black Henleys and got to work at the New College Welcome Assembly on ASU’s West campus, guiding students in activities like ice-breaker games – sharing what they did over summer vacation, what their favorite TV show is and whether they prefer an iPhone or an Android (iPhone appears to have won by a small margin).

Students also took part in the New College tradition of stamping their handprints on a canvas labeled with their graduating year. The tradition began in 2012, with the class of 2016; the canvases from each year since then hang proudly in the New College offices at West campus.

Though ice-breakers and traditions add a fun element to the assembly, its main purpose is to ensure students are well-prepared to tackle their first year as a Sun Devil. ASU News was on hand to glean some first-year advice from peer mentors, staff and even an assistant dean. See what they had to say below.

Utilize available resources

The main thing Jenna Graham wants New College freshmen to know is this: Make use of the resources at your disposal.

“The Student Success staff and the New College peer mentors are here to help you. Don’t hesitate to contact any one of us when you need to. Life happens and we’re here to help,” says Graham, a transition and retention specialist for Student Success at ASU West.

Have an open mind

Kelly Spencer, lead peer mentor, tells freshmen, “Don’t be afraid to dive into new experiences, even when they’re outside of your comfort zone.”

College is a fresh start

Sometimes students can be bogged down by past academic or personal blunders. But Drew Koch, a first-year experience program coordinator for Student Success, says it’s best to put that all behind them and focus on starting anew.

“You don’t need to be defined by your past,” he says.

Master time management

Peer mentor Wilma Jackson can’t express how important it is to manage your time well, especially as a freshmen. According to her, getting into the habit early is of utmost importance.

Get involved

This bit of advice from Anne Suzuki, assistant dean of enrollment services, is short and sweet but impactful. Being involved in your campus community can go a long way toward enriching your college experience, she says – and even your life beyond that.

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

New technology provides clear landing for ASU Polytechnic students


August 18, 2015

Editor's note: As ASU gears up for the start of classes this week, our reporters are spotlighting scenes around its campuses. To read more, click here.

ASU’s Polytechnic campus is known for its cutting-edge technology. On Tuesday workers were installing a piece of machinery that’s so advanced even the feds in Washington aren’t ready for it. installation of simulation station Brian Donnelly of Advanced Technologies Operational Management Systems puts the final touches on the installation of a new simulation station at ASU's Polytechnic campus on Aug. 18. Download Full Image

It’s an air-traffic-control simulation station that could update a system that hasn’t changed since Jimmy Carter occupied the White House. And if everything works, it will make travel much safer and ease the stress of air-traffic controllers.

“It’s so cutting-edge that it’s bleeding edge,” said Mary Niemczyk, chair of ASU’s Aviation Programs at the Polytechnic campus. “And we’re the only university that has it.”

Brian Donnelly of Advanced Technologies Operational Management Systems (ATOMS), based in Mays Landing, New Jersey, was overseeing the final installation of the eight stations on Tuesday. They will include NextGen software, an air-traffic-control system that aims to revolutionize the industry.

Donnelly said once students complete the Air Traffic Management undergraduate degree program at Poly, they’ll be well prepared to enter a specialized field in aviation.

“This software has been aligned to meet the needs of what ASU wants and what the Federal Aviation Administration requires,” Donnelly said. “Once they complete this program, this will allow a student to be ready for the FAA.”

Donnelly added that industry technology has not been changed since the 1970s and many air-traffic controllers still work with pen and paper, specifically using a Flight Progress Strip as a quick way to annotate an “operation.” The limitations with these strips, he said, are that controllers often have to keep their heads down and focus on checking off information rather than visually scanning the airfield for potential hazards.

“I’ve seen so many close calls in my career all because the controller’s head was down during an operation, checking off the information on the strip,” said Donnelly, a former FAA controller.

Ironically, Phoenix’s Sky Harbor is the only major airport in the country that doesn’t use the strips, which are costly. On the average, more than 4,000 strips are consumed daily at major airports, at a cost of approximately $150,000 a year per airport, Donnelly said.

“If the FAA upgraded their systems, it would pay for itself in just a few years in strip costs alone,” Donnelly said. “But there are too many layers with the FAA to get it done and too many companies who want a piece of the pie. All we want to do is make it better for flight controllers.”

Donnelly declined to share the cost of the new simulators.

According to Steven Daniel-Hamberg, a student worker who graduated with ASU’s Air Traffic Management Program last December, flight controllers have it pretty good. The median salary for an air-traffic controller is approximately $113,500 a year with mandatory retirement at 56 and an excellent pension package and upgraded Social Security supplements. However, competition for jobs is fierce. Daniel-Hamberg said last year approximately 28,000 people applied for 1,200 open jobs. He is one of the 28,000 hopefuls awaiting word from the FAA.

“I want someplace busy like Chicago or Atlanta,” he said. “I enjoy a good challenge and want to be busy.”

While Donnelly expects the FAA will continue to drag its feet for a few more years, ASU has decided to move forward. It is currently the only university that will train students on these simulators, which will commence in spring 2016 after instructors become familiar with the software and its capabilities.

The program should help ASU’s future air-traffic controllers be ready for a competitive field – whether they’re using NextGen or strips of paper.

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176