Veteran local government administrator to mentor ASU students as Harrell-Hutchinson Visiting Urban Management Professional

Robert O’Neill Jr. is former executive director of association of managers; was longtime city, county executive in Virginia

November 17, 2022

Arizona State University students planning for careers running cities, towns or counties will be able to spend a year learning how it’s done from a veteran local government executive starting in January.

Robert J. O’Neill Jr., former executive director of the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), will share his many years of experience in those roles with public affairs students in 2023 as the first Harrell-Hutchinson Visiting Urban Management Professional. Portrait of 2023 Harrell-Hutchinson Visiting Professional of Urban Management, Robert O'Neill. Robert J. O'Neill Jr., former executive director of the International City/County Management Association, will share his many years of experience in those roles with ASU public affairs students in 2023 as the first Harrell-Hutchinson Visiting Urban Management Professional. Photo courtesy Robert J. O'Neill Jr. Download Full Image

O’Neill’s position is named for two former Arizona city managers, Lloyd Harrell of Chandler and Mike Hutchinson of Mesa. O’Neill begins his time mentoring ASU students Jan. 1 in a position that will involve in-person visits, Zoom lectures, speeches, discussions and consultations, said Shannon Portillo, professor and director of the School of Public Affairs. The school is based in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Portillo said she is particularly happy that O’Neill will be mentoring ASU students, as she has known him since she was in graduate school at the University of Kansas, when they co-wrote one of her first publications.

“In addition to his long list of career accomplishments, Bob has a long history of serving as a mentor to new professionals in local government,” said Portillo, herself a former county commissioner in Kansas who began her position at ASU in October. “We are excited for our students and community to connect with him over the next year.”

O’Neill was ICMA executive director from 2002 to 2016. More recently, he served as executive-in-residence and fellow for the Joseph P. Riley Jr. Center for Livable Communities at the College of Charleston in South Carolina. He also served as president of the National Academy of Public Administration and held city and county manager positions in Virginia in the 1980s and 1990s before taking a four-month temporary assignment as counselor to the director of the federal Office of Management and Budget in 2001.

'Local government is where policy meets the people'

O’Neill mentioned three things he plans to do when working with ASU students in the coming year.

First, he wants to encourage students to fortify their commitment to public service, because that commitment will be important in managing local government in the near future more than at any time in the nation’s history.

“The reality of it is that local government is where policy meets the people. So that’s what makes it so important. You can have big, broad philosophical conversations about national policy, but at the end of the day, it’s what happens in your own local community that impacts you the most.”

At the federal and state levels, “it’s the policy or the legislation that is the product,” O’Neill said, but in local government, it’s how policy affects each person, family, neighborhood and community.

Second, O’Neill said he wants to encourage students “to be the kind of change agents in their communities to make them better places to live for everyone.” And last, he said, “I want to help them as they make their career choices going forward. Sometimes it’s hard to navigate those choices.”

O’Neill’s year as a visiting professional is supported by a gift from Harrell, who served six years as Chandler city manager after holding similar positions in Texas and Missouri communities, his wife, Nancy, and Hutchinson, who served five years as Mesa city manager, concluding a 28-year career with the city. Harrell served as a School of Public Affairs faculty associate for more than a decade; Hutchinson is executive vice president of East Valley Partnership.

Role model, mentor, 'a great year of learning'

Harrell said he is excited and proud that O’Neill agreed to be the first visiting professional.

“He has had an extraordinary public management career, capped off by leading the premier city-county management professional organization in the country,” Harrell said. “He undoubtedly will be a distinguished role model and mentor for the ASU students.”

Hutchinson agreed, saying O’Neill’s presence will mean a great year of learning for students.

“We are indeed fortunate to have someone of Bob O’Neill’s stature as our initial visiting professional,” Hutchinson said. “Bob has had a stellar career as a practitioner and teacher and will bring a wealth of practical experience and advice to his lectures.”

O’Neill’s Master of Public Administration degree is from Syracuse University in New York. His Bachelor of Arts degree in political science is from Old Dominion University in Virginia. Old Dominion also conferred upon him an honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Lastly, he is a graduate of the Executive Program from the University of Virginia’s Colgate Darden Graduate School of Business.

O’Neill said he intends to share two thoughts with students that he wished were shared with him at the start of his career:

  • Don’t ever think you can’t make a difference. When O’Neill was starting out in local government, the expectation was that you “kept your head down, your mouth shut and you learned something.” Today, students going into the field are much better prepared to get more involved, he said.
  • Don’t think of your career linearly; a straight line from department head to assistant city manager to city manager, for example. “There are lots of ways to serve the public, and you have to think more broadly where those contributions can be. Housing, social services, financial management — there are different directions that can lead someone to the top position," he said.
Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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ASU senior awarded prestigious Rhodes Scholarship

November 16, 2022

Nathaniel Ross is the 1st ASU student awarded an American Rhodes Scholarship in more than 20 years

Arizona State University senior Nathaniel Ross has been awarded the coveted Rhodes Scholarship to pursue postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford, the American Secretary of the Rhodes Trust recently announced.  

Ross is one of only 32 American Rhodes recipients for the 2023 application cycle and one of only three students representing public universities. He is the first ASU student awarded an AmericanTwo ASU candidates in recent years were awarded Rhodes Scholarships in the Zimbabwean constituency. Rhodes Scholarship in more than 20 years.

Rhodes Scholar Nathaniel Ross standing in front of ASU building

ASU senior Nathaniel Ross has been awarded the Rhodes Scholarship for postgraduate studies at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.

“I am incredibly grateful to have been selected,” Ross said. “The finalists in my district were all so incredibly kind and impressive in their own right. Being selected among them was an absolute honor. I am beyond excited to be part of the Rhodes community and study at Oxford next year.”

Rhodes Scholarships provide all expenses for two or three years of postgraduate study at the University of Oxford. It is the oldest international postgraduate award in existence, and many consider it to be among the most prestigious. The scholarships were created in 1902 by the will of mining magnate Cecil Rhodes and are now supported by a cohort of philanthropies and benefactors.

At Oxford, Ross will study comparative social policy, after which he will attend law school and specialize in disability law. His long-term objective is to shape disability policy as an attorney-advisor for a national disability advocacy organization, federal agency or global non-governmental organization.

“Arizona State University empowers elite scholars who want to have a meaningful social impact,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Nathaniel Ross is a uniquely gifted thinker capable of simultaneously synthesizing ideas across diverse subjects and applying his knowledge to improve the lives of others. As such, Nathaniel embodies our highest aspirations as a national service university.”

Ross acknowledges the role his time at ASU has played in his success.

“I don't believe there is a single Rhodes scholar that accomplished the feat without a community of support, and I am no exception,” he said.

Ross also acknowledges the immense opportunity the Rhodes Scholarship presents.

“As part of the Rhodes community, I know I can have an even greater impact on the issues I care about," he said. "The fraction of Rhodes scholars who are disabled, attend a state school or are first-generation university students is rather small. After my selection, I hope to encourage other people from similar backgrounds to apply for nationally competitive scholarships.”

The application process for the Rhodes Scholarship is arduous, and competition is intense. In his will, Cecil Rhodes stipulated several criteria for the selection of scholars, most of which are still applied today.

“The first and most obvious criterion is ‘scholarly attainment,’” said Kyle Mox, associate dean for national scholarships and ASU representative for the Rhodes Scholarship. “To be competitive, an applicant must have posted near-perfect grades while completing an exceptionally challenging curriculum.”

Ross clearly fits the bill. In 2019, he was selected as a Flinn Scholar, and he will graduate ASU with honors from Barrett, The Honors College in December with bachelor’s degrees in biological sciences, political science, applied quantitative science and history. In May 2023, he will receive a Master of Science in biology and society. To date, he has achieved no grade lower than an A in any course.

But, per Rhodes’s stipulations, Rhodes Scholars are not “mere bookworms” — they must also demonstrate devotion to enacting lasting social impact and be committed to making a strong difference for good in the world.

“We often refer to this quality as ‘fighting the world’s fight,’” Mox said, adding that, “Rhodes Scholars must show extraordinary leadership potential.”

Ross’s achievements in civic engagement and as an activist have already been well recognized. In 2021, he was selected as a Udall Scholar for his commitment to environmental and disability activism, and in spring 2022, he was selected as the national finalist for the Truman Scholarship in recognition of his devotion to public service.

As a committed disability rights activist, Ross founded EosFighter Connection, a nationwide support network for youth who suffer from eosinophilic and other disorders. He also is politically active, having interned with progressive lobbying firm Creosote Partners. Recently, he launched a bid for a seat on the Mesa City Council and became the youngest candidate to ever make the ballot, falling just 200 votes shy of qualifying for the general election.

Rhodes Scholars are chosen in a two-stage process. First, applicants must be endorsed by their college or university. For the 2023 cycle, the applications of six ASU students and recent graduates were endorsed by a faculty committee on the basis of their academic records, leadership and service activities, previous awards and honors, and letters of recommendation.

Nationally, more than 2,500 students began the application process. Of that number, 840 were endorsed by 244 different colleges and universities. Selection committees in 16 districts then invite the strongest applicants to appear before them for interview. Each district interviews at least 14 finalists over the course of two days. Once again, this year, the interviews were conducted virtually. At the conclusion of the interviews, each district immediately announces two recipients.

Ross said the announcement of his selection came as a shock.

“I honestly was not sure if I heard my name correctly. I kept waiting for the selection committee to say my name again in order to confirm I really was a winner,” he said. “Even days later, I don't think I have even begun to process what this means for my future. All I could think about was the years of work that went into this moment. Although applications only opened up this summer, the process of becoming a Rhodes Scholar often begins during freshman year or even earlier.”

Initially offered only to male applicants from British Commonwealth countries, the program has become far more inclusive over the years, first admitting women in 1977. In recent years, the number of scholarships awarded globally has risen to more than 100 and now includes more than 20 different constituencies that encompass 64 countries, including Australia, Canada, China, Germany, Israel and in Southern Africa. In recent years, two ASU candidates were awarded Rhodes Scholarships in the Zimbabwean constituency: Ngoni Mugwisi in 2017 and Shantel Marekera in 2019.

The largest single constituency is the United States, which is allotted 32 scholarships per year. Historically, the bulk of Rhodes Scholarships are awarded to highly selective private institutions: In the 2023 cycle, six graduates of Harvard and five graduates of Yale received Rhodes Scholarships, and 19 of the 32 awards were netted by either Ivy League universities or U.S. service academies.

The value of the Rhodes Scholarship varies depending on the academic field and the degree. The Rhodes Trust pays all college and university fees, provides a stipend to cover necessary expenses while in residence in Oxford as well as during vacations, and transportation to and from England. The total value of the Scholarship averages approximately $75,000 per year.

Now that the process is finished, Ross will begin planning for his journey to England and his studies at Oxford.

“I have never been to the U.K., and now I will spend the next two to three years of my life studying at the top university in the world. For the first time in my life, moving to another country is a reality for me. I have realized that this homegrown East Valley boy is going to have to buy his first real winter coat to survive the U.K. winters!”

Since the inception of the Rhodes Scholarship in 1904, six ASU graduates have been awarded the American Rhodes, with the most recent being music education major Philip Mann in 2001. Mann went on to study and teach music at Oxford and won the annual competition to become principal conductor of the Oxford University Philharmonia. In 2010, he was named music director and conductor of the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, and in April 2022, joined the faculty of the University of Maryland-Baltimore County as an assistant professor of music and conductor of the UMBC Symphony.

The American Rhodes Scholarship is available to U.S. citizens between the ages of 18 and 24. Current ASU students or recent graduates who wish to be nominated by ASU should contact the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement.

Story submitted by the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarships Advisement.

3 exceptional alumni to be honored during ASU Homecoming game

The honorees are outstanding members of the ASU community who have consistently contributed their time, energy and expertise

November 16, 2022

The Arizona State University Alumni Association will honor three exceptional alumni leaders during the Nov. 19 Homecoming football game against the Oregon State Beavers.

The honorees are outstanding members of the ASU community who have consistently contributed their time, energy and expertise to help ASU continue to grow in its role as The New American University.  Woman wearing a baseball mitt on a baseball field, walking toward a baseball player in uniform. Kristine Kassel, '91 BS, founder of the Tempe-based Benefits by Design health insurance and employee benefits agency, will be awarded the Past Chair’s Award for her service as ASU Alumni Board of Directors chair during fiscal year 2021–22. Download Full Image

Chuck Inderieden, '87 BS, and Chuck Goodmiller, ‘90 BS, co-managing partners of the Henry+Horne CPA firm, will each be awarded the Alumni Service Award for their long-standing support of the Sun Devil 100 program since its inception in 2015.

Krisine Kassel, ‘91 BS, founder of the Tempe-based Benefits by Design health insurance and employee benefits agency, will be awarded the Past Chair’s Award for her service as ASU Alumni Board of Directors chair during fiscal year 2021–22. 

Inderieden and Goodmiller both graduated from ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business with a Bachelor of Science in accounting; Inderieden earned his degree in 1987, while Goodmiller received his diploma in 1990. Their CPA firm, Henry+Horne, with offices in Tempe, Scottsdale and Casa Grande, is a Top 200 nationally ranked business that has been providing professional services since 1957. 

For many years, Henry+Horne has performed accounting services for the ASU Alumni Association’s Sun Devil 100 program. The Sun Devil 100 is an annual ASU business awards program that celebrates the achievements of alumni who own or lead organizations that exemplify innovation, growth and the entrepreneurial spirit.

In addition to leading their business, both Inderieden and Goodmiller actively volunteer within the community. Inderieden has been a member of the Arizona Cactus-Pine Girl Scout Council Financial Committee and served on the Boys & Girls Clubs of Phoenix Executive Council. Goodmiller has served as a board member of the Banner Casa Grande Medical Center and Banner Casa Grande Hospital Foundation, and he serves as board treasurer of the Casa Grande Rotary Scholarship Foundation.  

Past Chair's Award

Kristine Kassel, a true Sun Devil and an exemplary alumna, was chair of the ASU Alumni Board of Directors during fiscal year 2021–22, an exciting, growth-filled year for the ASU Alumni Association. Kassel’s strong direction helped enhance the services offered to all alumni. 

During her tenure, the Alumni Association benefited from Kassel’s expertise and enthusiasm, her role as representative of the Alumni Association and status as a multi-year Sun Devil 100 recipient. Kassel’s organizational acumen and strong advocacy helped the Alumni Association build a stronger ASU community and advance the university.

While chair, Kassel made the ASU Alumni Association scholarship programs a priority, growing the number of students through the Medallion Scholarship program. The ASU Alumni Chapter organization also expanded under her leadership, as did programming in virtual, hybrid and in-person formats. 

For additional information about the ASU Alumni Association’s celebration of Homecoming week, visit the ASU Alumni Association Homecoming website.

Laurie Merrill

Marketing Copy Writer , ASU Alumni Association

4 outstanding ASU alumni honored as The College Leaders of 2022

November 16, 2022

On Nov. 18, four outstanding alumni from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University will be recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments with an induction into The College Leaders. 

Since 1997, The College Leaders program has recognized over 75 outstanding alumni from across The College’s natural sciences, social sciences and humanities divisions for their achievements in business, research and community service.  Collage of portraits of ASU alums (from left) Steven Gillen, Seth Dobrin, Madeleine Goldman and Jennifer Kaplan. Alumni of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (from left) Steven Gillen, Seth Dobrin, Madeleine Goldman and Jennifer Kaplan will be recognized and celebrated for their accomplishments with an induction into The College Leaders on Nov. 18. Download Full Image

This year’s leaders, Seth Dobrin, Steven Gillen, Madeleine Goldman and Jennifer Kaplan, will join a distinguished group of individuals who showcase extraordinary leadership skills while driving positive change locally and internationally. The College will also be recognizing 137-plus outstanding students from across the divisions. 

“This year’s leaders have applied their knowledge from their time at ASU to address the real-world challenges of today in the fields of science, business, technology, foreign relations and more,” said Patrick Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “They are great examples to our students of how their studies at The College laid a foundation for diverse and impactful career paths.”

Seth Dobrin

Seth Dobrin received multiple degrees from ASU, including a BS in microbiology in 1996 and a PhD in molecular and cellular biology in 2004. 

Portrait of

Seth Dobrin

“I originally wanted to be a naval architect, and then an environmental lawyer. But I loved the biology classes I was taking so much, I dropped law and wanted to be a physician. And now I am none of those,” says Dobrin.

Instead, he works in artificial intelligence and technology and is the president of the Responsible AI Institute, CEO of Trustwise and founder of Qantm AI. Before his current roles, he was director of digital strategies at Monsanto and global chief AI officer at IBM.

Dobrin’s unique combination of experience and technical expertise allowed him to carve out a human-centered approach in the artificial intelligence field. He has become a prominent voice in the world of AI and has been featured in major international outlets such as Inc. Magazine, Protocol, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes and The National.

He credits ASU and his professors with teaching him the critical thinking skills and knowledge that have stuck with him throughout his career.

“ASU taught me how to think, how to learn and how to grow. I would not be where I am today were it not for ASU, particularly the professors and my peers. My professors taught me that serendipity is one of the most important parts of science and that the rigor of the scientific method is critical. My peers taught me the value of networks and relationships and that I don’t know everything, and I don’t need to know everything.”

Steven Gillen

Steven Gillen received three Bachelor of Arts degrees in political science, history and Russian in 1993. He first focused his studies on Russian and Soviet politics and history with an interest in U.S. policy during the Cold War; however, following the end of the war and the Soviet Union, he shifted his interest to Eastern Europe as a whole.

Portrait of

Steven Gillen

Today, Gillen is a foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State. He serves as deputy special presidential envoy for hostage affairs, and before that, served as deputy assistant secretary of state in the department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. 

Gillen credits his undergraduate study of political science at ASU with preparing him for his specialty track as a political officer in the foreign service. While at ASU, he gained an understanding of U.S. foreign policy in broad, historical terms, as well as various systems of government around the world.

“My study of Russian as well as Serbo-Croatian and Macedonian at ASU made me more competitive in the foreign service’s selection process and later during the process by which foreign service officers are chosen for their overseas assignments. My study of history at ASU formed my essential understanding of the very societies in which I later served — especially Belarus, in the former Soviet Union, and Bosnia and Herzegovina, in the former Yugoslavia,” said Gillen.

Madeleine Goldman

Madeleine Goldman graduated from ASU in 1992 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. In 1996, she dove into the marketing and advertising field by starting a career at Caesars Entertainment and eventually acquired the role of corporate director of brand marketing at the casino-entertainment company. Currently, she is the president of Madweek Marketing. 

Portrait of

Madeleine Goldman

Business aside, Goldman is also a writer. She enjoys writing romance novels, set in the glamorous world of advertising. Before coming back to the West Coast from Florida, Goldman served on the board of directors at the South Florida Writers Association as well as on Brandeis National Committee.

“My favorite aspect of writing a novel is the process of creating a world that never existed before — a whole universe of people with their own flaws, attributes and challenges,” says Goldman.

Reflecting on her career, the writer and marketing consultant advises others to follow their calling and to stay ambitious toward dreams that might seem unattainable.

“I’ve always believed that if you have a calling and know, unequivocally, that it is your calling, you must listen, commit to it, give it your best effort and dream big. As long as I have the means and ability to write, I will do it forever.”

Jennifer Kaplan

Jennifer Kaplan is a 1996 ASU graduate. She received her BA in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. In 2010, she founded Evolve Public Relations and Marketing, which offers comprehensive services such as public relations, branding, business and media consultation, strategic planning and event planning. 

Portrait of

Jennifer Kaplan

“I feel challenged every single day by the new and changing experiences and the zig-zags that present themselves,” she said.

Kaplan has received numerous awards, including this year's Inaugural Hugh Downs School of Human Communication Alumni of the Year Award, Phoenix Business Journal’s “40 Under 40” Award and recognition among “The Most Influential Women in Arizona Business” by AZ Business Magazine. 

She mentioned that ASU helped her align her passion for being a connector with a career path she later followed.

“ASU helped me tremendously in where I am today — I feel like I grew up at ASU. I was given opportunities to thrive and focus on the things I love — all aspects of communication. I took interpersonal, intercultural, nonverbal and more. It helped me hone my communication skills and learn what was necessary to take my desire to be a connector and find a way to do it in real life as a profession. It’s a dream come true.”


Alek Bustamante Valdez

Marketing assistant, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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ASU welcomes more than 4K Earned Admission students

November 16, 2022

For Shannon Lauritsen, a 33-year-old hair stylist in Nashville, Tennessee, going to college was a lifelong dream. But for her, like others, the traditional high-school-to-college path was challenging. 

“I struggled to focus and succeed in high school,” Lauritsen says. “I even had a guidance counselor laugh at my desire to apply to college. After high school, I attempted a few semesters in community college, which proved even more challenging for me at the time. It significantly impacted my GPA.”

woman's portrait in kitchen

Shannon Lauritsen

Determined to move forward, Lauritsen went on to learn a trade and opened her own business. But she never gave up on her goal of going to college. In 2020, she applied to Arizona State University but didn’t get admitted due to her academic transcript. However, the university provided her with another path forward. She was directed to ASU’s innovative college pathway Earned Admissions

“Earned Admissions was such a gift,” she says. “It allowed me to prove to myself that I was ready for this challenge, without the pressure that comes with loans and a full-time course load. Now I’m part of the Barrett Honors College, and I am so proud of what ASU has helped me achieve.” 

Lauritsen blazed a new path into an ASU degree program — and she’s now joined by more than 4,000 other Sun Devils on the Earned Admissions pathway.

Creating new pathways into college

For many learners, the traditional pathway to college is broken. 84% of U.S. high school students want to go on to higher education, but only 66% of them go to college. Of those who enroll in college, 40% never finish — leaving many learners with student loans and no degree. A 2022 National Student Clearinghouse Research Center report found that more than 39 million Americans have some college experience but no credentials, leaving them at risk of being left out of the 21st century economy. 

“Traditional higher education in the U.S. creates force fields that keep people out," said Maria Anguiano, executive vice president of ASU Learning Enterprise. "Too many learners fall off the traditional path, with no way to get back onto a college pathway.

"At ASU, we are challenging the status quo and lowering the force fields that keep people from pursuing their learning goals. The 4,000 people that have been admitted into ASU through our Earned Admissions pathway proves that people need more flexibility and options in gaining admission into a research university"

The Earned Admissions pathway is powered by ASU’s Universal Learner Courses (ULCs). These courses are first-year ASU college courses offered online and open to everyone. ULCs enable learners to test the college waters by earning college credit for a fraction of the cost: $25 to register and $400 only if they are satisfied with their grade. Once learners complete their required ULC courses with a 2.75 GPA or higher, Earned Admission gives them the opportunity to gain admission into ASU or transfer their credits to any institution that accepts ASU credits. 

After serving more than 15 years as a high school leader, Kimberly Merritt, vice president of ASU’s Learning Enterprise, knows the shortcomings of the traditional college path firsthand.

“I saw the system fail learners time and time again,” Merritt says. “ASU is creating new pathways to higher education that meet learners where they are in life. With 4,000 success stories and counting, our Earned Admissions program is proving to be a new model with the potential to create enormous opportunities for economic and social mobility.” 

Earning admission, finding success

The Earned Admissions college pathway has provided more than 4,000 students — and growing — with access to the nation’s most innovative degree programs. The early data demonstrates that they are thriving at ASU.

“Our academic community believes that our world-class undergraduate degrees should be available to learners who demonstrate the ability to succeed in university-level coursework,” says Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost at ASU. “Each person’s educational journey is unique. It depends on personal circumstances and goals that often make it challenging to fit within one prescribed path to a degree.

"Universal Learner Courses are one example of an ASU approach that honors that reality and empowers more learners to make progress toward their goals. We proudly welcome the new students who earned their spot at ASU by succeeding in these ASU courses.”

“Earned Admissions has been a game changer for me,” Lauritsen says. "It’s given me so much confidence and opened up new possibilities for the future. Regardless of the path you take at the end of a Universal Learner Course, you will learn something new and grow in interesting ways.

"My Earned Admission journey was a wonderful experience — I hope more students join me.”

Written by James Knutila, ASU Learning Enterprise.

Top photo from Pexels.

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Stacy Leeds named as new dean of ASU Law

November 10, 2022

Leeds will become the 2nd woman to serve as dean at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law

The search for the next dean of Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law was extensive. It started more than a year ago and took search committee members all around the country. 

In the end, the candidate they chose was already part of ASU’s academic community — Stacy Leeds. The experienced leader and renowned legal scholar joined ASU in 2021, as Foundation Professor of Law and Leadership at ASU, where she teaches in the Indian Legal Program. Her new post starts Feb. 1, 2023.

“The advisory committee conducted a national search and considered multiple applications from impressive, well-qualified candidates,” said Ruth McGregor, retired chief justice for the Arizona Supreme Court and an ASU Law graduate, who chaired the committee. 

“Professor Leeds stood out for the combination of skills, vision and experience she brings, and for her excitement about meeting the challenges faced by and the opportunities available to the dean of ASU’s law school,” McGregor said. 

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is one of the nation’s preeminent law schools, focused on offering students a personalized legal education. It is ranked No. 1 in Arizona since 2010 and No. 30 nationally by U.S. News & World Report

Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost at ASU, said that Leeds had an illustrious career and very unique experience. 

“Her depth of experience in corporate engagement and public service to the nation, tribal nations and communities, as well as higher education leadership, is uncommon,” Gonzales said. “And this will be her second law school deanship — a rare accomplishment.”

Leeds and leadership 

Prior to coming to ASU, Leeds was the first Indigenous woman in the U.S. to become a law school dean. She led the University of Arkansas School of Law serving as dean and vice chancellor for economic development. She holds law degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the University of Tulsa, a business degree from the University of Tennessee and an undergraduate degree in history from Washington University in St. Louis.

Leeds is an elected member of the American Law Institute and recipient of the American Bar Association's Spirit of Excellence Award. 

She replaces Dean Douglas Sylvester, who transformed ASU Law and brought its rankings to historic heights. 

Wellness plans for today and beyond

Leeds hopes to build on the successful work of her predecessors.

“My vision is to amplify our current strengths of excellence, access and innovation,” said Leeds, “but also prioritize wellness in all respects.” 

“This necessarily means creating an environment where all voices are heard and each law student is supported in their needs as a whole person,” she said.

Leeds understands the high stress levels often associated with the law school experience and the legal profession as a whole.

“Focusing on the whole person means making sure students have access to all the tools they need to succeed in life. This means a commitment not just to excellence in legal education, but also fostering paths to financial, physical, mental and spiritual wellness,” Leeds said.

Accessible legal education

Leeds also wants to make ASU Law accessible and more flexible for students. Law schools have maintained a traditional method of classroom teaching, but the American Bar Association has recently amended accreditation standards to law schools to deliver one-third of their degrees online. 

“Online platforms are still a relatively new phenomenon in the J.D. curriculum at law schools nationally,” Leeds said. “In order to offer students’ maximum flexibility to tailor their law school experience to their needs, online opportunities must rapidly evolve. As we continue to innovate, we’ll pledge to maintain the level of excellence everyone has come to expect from ASU.”

Inclusive excellence

Leeds is a citizen of the Cherokee Nation and has lived much of her life within the Muscogee (Creek) and Cherokee reservations in Oklahoma, where she served as a Cherokee Nation Supreme Court justice.

One of the draws to ASU was the university’s widespread commitment to inclusive excellence.

“ASU has long embraced meaningful access to education as a threshold to individual and community empowerment.” Leeds said. “It goes beyond an expectation that students from all backgrounds and life experiences should have a sense of belonging here. Imagine an institution that takes primary responsibility for student growth and success – that’s ASU.”

Leeds attributes her success to the impact of several mentors as she began her own path in the legal profession and takes seriously her responsibility to open doors for all law students, regardless of their background or dreams for their future. 

She sees her role in expanding those educational opportunities as paramount to continuing to honor the legacy of the college’s namesake, Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, the groundbreaking jurist who dedicated her life to public service and the rule of law. 

Leeds will carry this spirit of justice and inclusiveness to her new role, where she will have the honor of serving as the first Willard H. Pedrick Dean’s Chair. 

According to Kellye Testy, president and CEO of the Law School Admission Council, “Stacy brings an impressive set of leadership competencies that will help advance legal education’s role in justice and democracy. Congrats to ASU. I cannot wait to see the accomplishments she will lead.”

Reporter , ASU News

ASU professor receives federal funding for technology to grow domestic critical minerals supply chain

Funding is part of Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) program seeking to develop sustainable supply of minerals

November 8, 2022

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has just announced $39 million in funding for 16 projects across 12 states to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition. The selected projects, led by universities, national laboratories and the private sector, aim to develop commercially scalable technologies that will enable greater domestic supplies of copper, nickel, lithium, cobalt, rare earth and other critical elements.

One of these projects is “Mining Red Mud Waste for Carbon Dioxide Capture and Storage and Critical Element Recovery," or RMCCS-CER. It is led by Xin Zhang, chemical engineer of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) in Richland, Washington, and has ASU Professor Alexandra Navrotsky and Washington State University Assistant Professor Xiaofeng Guo, a PhD from Navrotsky’s group, as co-PIs. Portrait of ASU Regents Professor Alexandra Navrotsky. Alexandra Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe, professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, and affiliated faculty member at the School of Earth and Space Exploration at Arizona State University. Photo by Mary Zhu Download Full Image

The funding is part of the ARPA-E Mining Innovations for Negative Emissions Resource Recovery (MINER) program, which aims to develop market-ready technologies that will increase domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy transition.

Red mud is a common industrial waste rich in useful elements, including rare earth elements. Fundamental knowledge is essential to optimize the extraction and separation of rare earths from this potentially valuable resource.

The objective of this project is to use supercritical carbon dioxide to recover critical elements (CEs), especially rare earth elements, from aluminum production wastes (red mud) while also capturing some of the carbon dioxide in stable carbonates. Project success will help lower the carbon footprint of the future economy and will displace the highly toxic acid-leaching process that is currently state of the art.

“We will develop a database and measure thermodynamic properties of rare earth compounds and solutions needed to understand rare earth extraction from red mud,” explained Navrotsky.

The critical role of rare earth elements (REEs) in high-tech industries has created a surge in demand that is quickly outstripping known global supply and has triggered a worldwide scramble to discover new sources. The Biden-Harris administration has remained focused on strengthening the critical materials supply chain as rare earth elements are necessary to manufacture several clean energy technologies — from electric vehicle batteries to wind turbines and solar panels.

President Biden has underscored the importance of deploying energy sources that reduce carbon pollution, lower costs for families and businesses, and ultimately mitigate the impacts of climate change.

Professor Tijana Rajh, director of the School of Molecular Sciences, said, “This is an important project that will directly impact development of scalable technologies for enhancing domestic supplies of critical elements required for the clean energy and future decarbonization of the U.S. economy. These kinds of investment are precisely what we need to try to minimize impacts of climate change.”

Navrotsky is the director and mastermind of the Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe and professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy at Arizona State University. 

The Navrotsky Eyring Center for Materials of the Universe unites cosmology, astrophysics, astronomy, planetary science and exploration, and mineralogy and petrology with materials science and engineering, chemistry, physics and biology to address grand questions of the complex chemistries and evolution of planets. The center strives to attract and inspire scientists across all science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields to explore alien and extreme conditions and environments with the expectation of discovering new, useful materials and understanding the formation and evolution of planets.

The center also aims to contribute to materials solutions for decarbonization, sustainable and clean energy, and critical materials needed for technologically important applications.

Navrotsky’s many accolades include the Urey Medal from the European Association of Geochemistry, the Roebling Medal from the Mineralogical Society of America, the Harry H. Hess Medal from the American Geophysical Union and the Benjamin Franklin Medal in Earth Science. She is a member of the National Academy of Sciences and the American Philosophical Society and an Alfred P. Sloan Fellow. She has served as vice president and president of the Mineralogical Society of America. In 2020, Navrotsky was ranked No. 25 globally in materials science in "Updated science-wide author database of standardized citation indicators," published in PLOS Biology. She was also made a Distinguished Life Member of the American Ceramic Society and won the European Materials Research Society Jan Czochralski Award in 2021.  

Her career has been remarkable, not only for its scholarship, but most significantly for the influence she has had on the earth sciences and the cross-disciplinary efforts she has made to bring together the approaches, tools and philosophy of research in geochemistry, mineralogy, materials sciences and chemistry. She is also known for her devotion to her students and coworkers, the positive research environment she nurtures and her generous spirit. Lastly, Navrotsky has made extremely significant contributions to the education and training of the next generations of scientists, with a special emphasis on underrepresented groups. Scholars that do this effectively are few and far between.

Jenny Green

Clinical associate professor, School of Molecular Sciences


ASU mourns loss of Nobel-winning economist Edward Prescott

November 7, 2022

Edward C. Prescott, Regents Professor in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University, died on Nov. 6, at age 81.

Prescott was one of the most influential economists in the world. He was a Guggenheim Fellow, a fellow of the Econometric Society and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. In 2002, he received the Nemmers Prize in Economics, and in 2004, he was awarded a Nobel Prize. Headshot of Edward Prescott Edward C. Prescott, Regents' Professor and W. P. Carey Chair in Economics. Download Full Image

As a professor and the W. P. Carey Chair in Economics, he was a beloved and respected member of the W. P. Carey School community for 20 years.

Prescott was born on Dec. 26, 1940, in Glens Falls, New York. He earned his bachelor’s degree from Swarthmore College in Pennsylvania, advanced to Case Western Reserve University in Ohio for his master’s degree and completed his PhD in economics at Carnegie Mellon University in 1967.

Prescott joined ASU in 2003 after previously serving on the faculties of the University of Pennsylvania, Carnegie Mellon, University of Chicago and University of Minnesota. He also held appointments as a visiting professor at Northwestern University, New York University, University of California – Santa Barbara, La Universidad Michoacana de San Nicolás de Hidalgo in Mexico, Australian National University and the Norwegian School of Economics. Since 2009, he also served as the director of the Center for the Advanced Study in Economic Efficiency at the W. P. Carey School. Beyond academia, Prescott served as a senior advisor at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis since 1981.

His research is foundational to the field — and our modern understanding — of macroeconomics. He and frequent co-author Finn Kydland were honored with the 2004 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences “for their contributions to dynamic macroeconomics: the time consistency of economic policy and the driving forces behind business cycles.” The two are considered the architects of real business-cycle (RBC) theory, which argues that a substantial part of business-cycle fluctuations is the result of an optimal response of the economy to policy changes that affect its productivity.

The theory has had remarkable successes when confronted with empirical data. It broadly replicates the essential features of the business cycle and plays a central role in modern dynamic macroeconomics. The impact of Prescott’s work is clear from the five honorary professorships and doctorates he was awarded during his life, as well as multiple fellowships and his election to the National Academy of Sciences.

"Professor Edward Prescott's passing is a huge loss for the W. P. Carey School of Business community,” said Ohad Kadan, dean of the W. P. Carey School. “His contributions to economics research were foundational, and his work transformed macroeconomic policy. His passion for economics has made a lasting impact on the field, and his tremendous presence and incisive insights will be greatly missed."

Prescott was known for sharing his tremendous knowledge with the W. P. Carey School community.

“Whether it was a grad student honored to meet a Nobel laureate or another distinguished professor wanting to dissect a new theory, Ed was always generous with his time and brilliant mind. We will miss him greatly,” said Alejandro Manelli, chair of the Department of Economics.

Emily Beach

Communications Manager, W. P. Carey School of Business

(602) 543-3296

New ASU program offers high school students who join military a seamless entry into university at end of service

Veteran's Commitment Plan eliminates post-military obstacles in advance

November 7, 2022

Arizona State University’s Enrollment Solutions Lab has announced a new program that enables Arizona high school seniors who plan to join the military after graduation the option of attending ASU immediately upon completion of their military service contract.

The Veteran’s Commitment Plan is intended to ease the friction of going to college after military service. Typically, veterans who are released from duty and want to go to college have to reconnect with their high school to get transcripts, test scores and other items in order to apply for college admission. The Veteran’s Commitment Plan would eliminate those steps by helping students prepare for their post-military college education while still in high school. A man in a graduation gown with a Navy military stole smiles and gives a thumbs up to the crowd Download Full Image

“ASU takes pride in being a military-friendly school and meeting our learners where they are throughout their academic journey,” said Matt Lopez, associate vice president for Academic Enterprise Enrollment and executive director of Admission Services. “Graduating high school students with a drive to serve our nation shouldn’t feel they need to choose between earning a college degree or joining the armed forces.”

Here is how the plan works: An Arizona high school student who plans to join the military immediately after graduating high school would apply to ASU. If they meet admission requirements, they are automatically admitted. Then they would defer their enrollment for as long as their service contract was in effect — and if a student voluntarily extends their service contract with the military, they are still eligible for the program. As they near the end of their service, ASU will be in communication to help prepare them for their next steps, and they will be put in touch with ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center — the university’s unit that supports student veterans with benefits, paperwork and veteran fellowship. Once they are honorably or medically discharged from the military, they can join ASU at the start of the following semester.

Participants in the Veteran’s Commitment Plan are also eligible for ASU’s New American University merit scholarship. This award is offered in varying amounts based on GPA, test scores and other academic criteria. Additionally, students can begin taking ASU courses through ASU Online while still on active duty. Students graduating from high school in spring 2023 will be the first cohort eligible for the Veteran’s Commitment Plan. 

“Through ASU’s Veteran’s Commitment, we make it easy for Arizona’s admitted high school graduates who choose to become service members to pursue and fulfill their educational goals,” Lopez said. “Veterans are a vital part of Arizona and the ASU community, and the Veteran’s Commitment will hold a spot for students when they complete their service.”

For more information and details, visit

Still serving: Army Ranger to anthropologist, veteran PhD student aims to help others

November 3, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of our Salute to Service coverage, Nov. 1–11. Learn about the schedule of events.

On Sept. 11, 2001, a group of new Army recruits were at basic training in Fort Benning, Georgia, on the rifle range when the drill sergeants started to huddle around. It was obvious they were agitated, and then came the rumors, stories, truths and lockdowns, Michael Baumgarten recalled.   Michael Baumgarten Michael Baumgarten (pictured here in Iraq in 2007) served eight and a half years in the 1st Ranger Battalion of the United States Army. Photo courtesy Michael Baumgarten Download Full Image

He was a new recruit when terrorists crashed two airplanes into the World Trade Center, a plane into the Pentagon and another plane into a field in western Pennsylvania. 

Baumgarten had enlisted in the delayed-entry program for the U.S. Army while still in high school. After basic training, he went to airborne school, then qualified and became a U.S. Army Ranger.  

He served eight and half years in the 1st Ranger Battalion. He was deployed to combat 10 times — five to Iraq and five to Afghanistan.  

“You learn a lot about human behavior — about your own, about the changes you have as a war ages, and you do too,” said Baumgarten, now a second-year PhD student of cultural anthropology at Arizona State University's School of Human Evolution and Social Change. “You learn about loss, you learn about grief and a really wide range of human emotion from triumph to tragedy. But you do this in a really compressed amount of time.” 

He spent his last couple of years in the Army as part of an instructor team for the Navy Seals in San Diego. In 2013, Baumgarten felt a calling outside of the Army and wanted to have other experiences in life. He enrolled in junior college in San Diego. 

Baumgarten’s focus from school shifted when he received a call from a friend and Navy SEAL, Ray Mendoza. Mendoza had an idea for a new docuseries and wanted Baumgarten to work with him. The show,  “The War Fighters,” aired on the History Channel. Baumgarten shared his personal experiences in the episode “Objective Brenton.” 

“I’m really proud of this work,” Baumgarten said. “We interviewed veterans who talked about their experiences with combat and even suicide. We wanted to cover all of these fights and guys losing their friends in places that no one would otherwise read or talk about.” 

After a few years of television work, Baumgarten returned to school and finished his bachelor's degree at California State University, Northridge. During his senior year, Baumgarten participated in The Warrior-Scholar Project

The Warrior-Scholar Project runs boot camps throughout the summer across 25 college campuses in the United States, including Harvard, Cornell and Princeton. The one- and two-week camps are a type of college-preparatory course and offer introductions in humanities, STEM, business and entrepreneurship. This summer, Baumgarten volunteered his time as a fellow in the program. He wants veterans and active-service members to know that everyone belongs in college.

“If there are veterans that are reading this, know that there are programs out there like the Warrior-Scholar Project,” Baumgarten said. “Even if you are currently an undergraduate student at ASU, it's never too late to participate.” 

Researching PTSD and suicides in veterans 

Michael Baumgarten with his family

Michael Baumgarten at Hunter Army Airfield in Savannah, Georgia, with his parents. Photo courtesy Michael Baumgarten

During his undergraduate years, Baumgarten happened to read about the work Sarah Mathew, associate professor at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, was doing regarding warfare

“Sarah’s work is the reason why I am here,” Baumgarten said. “What I study is very similar to Mathew’s and a postdoc of her’s, Matt Zefferman, who is also a veteran. They may have done some of the first cross-cultural post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) research at her field site in Kenya.”  

Mathew is Baumgarten’s advisor. Baumgarten is focusing his research on PTSD and military veteran suicide across all branches of the military. 

“Michael is ideally positioned to conduct this study, with his deep personal and professional connections with and commitment to his fellow service members and the wider veteran community,” Mathew said.

“Before coming to grad school, he co-produced a docuseries for the History Channel, 'The Warfighters,' which featured intimate first-person narratives of U.S. Special Forces missions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Getting service members to open up about difficult experiences is not something everyone can do — which is a hurdle for research just as it is for filmmaking.”

Baumgarten wants to build larger data sets about how different groups of people experience and deal with war. And he wants to get additional data behind why Marines are the smallest unit in the military but suffer the most losses from suicide, according to reseach published in 2020.  

“I try to look at the military the same way anthropology has looked at pretty much every other group of humans on the planet,” Baumgarten said. “I try to use evolutionary anthropology methods to ask some of these bigger questions about our own evolution within the behavior of war. What role does culture play in this?” 

Baumgarten said it’s important to continue to research why the United States' experience of fighting in wars is different compared with other cultures around the world. 

“Based on Sarah’s work, there seems to be cultural variability in some PTSD symptoms and suicides,” Baumgarten said. “Turkana are a bit less depressed overall, and they are in this constant state of warfare. So, the U.S. experience is different, right? We’re more depressed, and our wars are fought somewhere else, right? We’re not sitting in Phoenix and worrying about, say, Denver coming to raid us. So now you have this diversity in experience and context.” 

Baumgarten welcomes any veterans who would like to talk about his research, experiences or the Warrior-Scholar Project to reach out to him through email

“I have been quite struck by Michael's humility,” Mathew said. “That level of humility is not cultivated much in the academy. ... The ethos of not drawing attention to oneself, but rather drawing attention to one's team or mission — it seems burned into Michael.”  

Nicole Pomerantz

Communications specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change