Inflation, trading and government finances under the microscope this fall

Course offers ASU students an in-depth analysis of perennial questions about economics throughout history

July 12, 2022

This fall, Arizona State University students will have a chance to gain a deeper understanding of economics by diving into the history of economic thought — from the classical political economy of Adam Smith and John Stuart Mill to contemporary concerns about trade, economic growth and money.

In the process, they will notice that many of today’s concerns are echoed in the issues that led to the development of economic theories in the last 300 years.  Abstract illustration of various items that have to do with economics, such as cogs and bar graphs. Course in the fall of 2022 focuses on the history of economic thought

CEL 304/ECN 304 Classical to Modern Economic Thought, offered by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and cross-listed with the Economics Department at the W. P. Carey School of Business, is taught by Professor Ross Emmett, who is also the director of the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at ASU and currently the president of the History of Economics Society. 

We spoke with Emmett about what ASU students can expect from this course.

Question: What will students experience in this course?

Answer: I believe that students learn best when they read, write, discuss and then write again about the topic over weekly sequences. In this course, each week we will turn to new reading material about economic thought. Students will read and write about these texts at the start of each week, we then discuss the new topic, and they will be able to write extended papers on texts from key points in the history of the “clash” between economic thoughts — for example, J. M. Keynes’ lecture “The End of Laissez-Faire,” Walter Eucken’s “On the Theory of the Centrally Administered Economy” and Jim Buchanan’s “Public Finance and Public Choice.” By the time the students turn in those topic papers, we will begin the next set of readings and they will be ready to incorporate new ideas by setting them in conversation with what we have already read, written and discussed.

Ross Emmett

ASU Professor Ross Emmett

Q:  How will students be introduced to the history of economic thought?

A:  The course begins with the question of whether “laissez-faire” has ended, and then examines other points in the history of economic thought when economists believed laissez-faire was over – the Progressive Era at the end of the 1800s, the Russian Revolution in 1917, the Keynesian Revolution of the 1930s and the 1970s. In the course, students will have the opportunity to work out their own ideas about socialism, Keynesianism, classical liberalism, Marxism, economic development and the background to today’s debates over free trade, inflation, government finances, and the impact of individual economic activity on others and on the environment.

Q: Which skills will students in this course develop through readings, in-class discussions and projects?

A: They will learn how to think about economic ideas and to refine their ideas through interaction with each other in class. They may also learn how to approach ideas they may have never heard before or had always opposed, with an openness to figure out how those ideas worked. In class and in their writings, they will develop the ability to express more clearly their ideas about economics, and formulate or accept new ideas because they will be encouraged to evaluate them in their own writing and in open discussion with their classmates.

Q:  What skills will the course provide students for engagement in job searches and life?

A:  Economics is about choices — how we evaluate their benefits and costs, and the inevitability of having to make a choice that is seldom perfect. We operate with imperfect knowledge, have fewer choices than we wish we did, and yet still have to make a decision today. Engaging the scholars who tried to help us think about economic choices is essential to our lives and to the society in which we live.

Classical to Modern Economic Thought is available during Session C from 1:30 p.m. to 2:45 p.m.on Tuesdays and Thursdays at the Tempe campus, and enrollment is open

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Lessons learned in Israel and the West Bank

ASU students wrap up academic year with course on democracy, civil discourse, servant leadership amid rising tensions in Middle East

June 10, 2022

Israelis and Palestinians have spent 75 years immersed in a complex dispute about international law, sovereignty and human rights. How can 21st-century American students grapple with the divergent narratives on religious, cultural, historical and political tensions in this conflict? Moreover, how can this conflict involving the Middle East’s only liberal democracy help future professionals develop the knowledge and skills to lead through global challenges?

This was the focus of the Global Intensive Experience in Israel and the West Bank offered by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership to 14 Arizona State University students. From May 10–19, they explored the multifaceted challenges that face this strategic region and Israel as an important U.S. ally, met with Israeli and Palestinian representatives, practiced servant leadership and reflected on the common threads between the liberal democracies of Israel and the United States.  A young man looks at a map on the floor ASU student Avi Kapur at the wall that separates Israel and the West Bank. Download Full Image

“It was both fascinating and confusing to hear the different viewpoints of the people that our group spent time with,” said Avi Kapur, who is pursuing a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership at ASU. 

Kapur was among the students in this three-credit learning experience that is part of a series of courses in the school about liberal democracies around the world. This GIEGlobal Intensive Experiences course is an invitation to ASU students to assess their own views about democracy, conflict, civil disagreement and citizenship through a blend of readings, meetings with Israeli and Palestinian leaders and activists, and immersive experiences. 

"Our goal is to expose ASU students to — and invite them to engage with — global challenges related to civil dialogue and the workings of democratic institutions,” said ASU Clinical Assistant Professor Susan Carrese, who has led this GIE course since 2018. “By encountering political polarization and conflict in another liberal democracy, American students can gain insight into our own domestic challenges and become aware of the global conflicts that command the attention of thoughtful citizens."

During the 2022 GIE program, students deepened their understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as they visited key sites in Tel Aviv, Bethlehem and an Israeli settlement. Students practiced and promoted civil dialogue in conversation with a wide range of political and religious leaders. Before embarking on the plane and throughout their stay in Israel, ASU students were invited to learn about the liberal democratic order in  Israel and the specific challenges that everyone in the region faces when immersed in disputes of such magnitude. 

“That is one thing about Israel: We try hard to fit everything into a dichotomous narrative. The secular versus the religious, the young versus the old, Israel versus Palestine, but despite these classifications, the people we met and learned from revealed that it is much more complicated.”

— Clay Robinson, a junior at Barrett, The Honors College majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership

Beyond the readings, the cohort interviewed political representatives and nongovernmental organization leaders from opposing sides, including veterans of the Israeli Defense Force, Orthodox and liberal rabbis, the chief imam of al-Aqsa mosque, a Likud party (the major right-wing political party in Israel) politician and a Palestinian farmer, among others. The goal of the course is to remind students of the importance of attentively listening to all sides, carefully examining the arguments and working toward developing their own informed judgments. 

The importance of civil disagreement during polarizing times

Mark Habelt is pursuing a major in civic and economic thought and leadership. For him, an important takeaway from the course is a lesson on carefully considering different perspectives.

“I learned that the heart of democratic citizenship is about intentionally listening to those with whom you disagree in order to understand the basis of their viewpoints,” Habelt said. 

“Civil dialogue requires that we acknowledge that everyone comes from different religious, economic and familial political backgrounds and therefore has developed a complex worldview that is well-intentioned and thought through. In a plural society, it is never acceptable to vilify your political opponents without fully hearing out their thoughts on various issues and understanding the fundamental bases of their opinions,” Habelt added.

Confronting diverging narratives outside of the American political environment served its purpose. During the immersion part of the course, students had a chance to develop new takes on what it means to listen to opposing views. For Kaleigh Steele, a data science major and School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership minor, this had a profound meaning.

“Civil disagreement doesn’t require you to change your mind, but it does require you to examine your beliefs in light of what someone else says,” Steele said.

Before going to Israel, Steele had a much different interpretation of civil disagreement. 

“Prior to this trip, when I said someone should act civilly I really meant they should be polite. Civility was synonymous with common courtesy. So while I’d never really been pressed on the matter, I suppose civil disagreement means disagreeing without screaming or fighting. After this course, I would like to amend that. Civil disagreement is not simply allowing someone to speak and disagreeing in a polite manner; it includes genuinely considering someone’s point of view even if you disagree with them,” Steele said.

For Clay Robinson, a junior at Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University majoring in civic and economic thought and leadership, learning about the conflict in the Middle East was eye-opening.

“Part of civil disagreement in Israel in the West Bank begins with an understanding that the disagreement is not an ‘us versus them’ situation but a ‘this versus that,' but also 'this, don't forget that’ situation,” Robinson said. 

SCETL students eat at a cafe in Israel

During the trip, Arizona State University students learned about the multifaceted challenges that permeate the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, practiced servant leadership and explored cities in Israel and the West Bank.

Navigating opposing narratives

The discrepancy in narratives became evident during their immersion in Israel. On May 11, Shireen Abu Akleh, a 51-year-old Palestinian-American journalist working for Al Jazeera, was killed during a clash between Israeli forces and Palestinians in Jenin. Her funeral in East Jerusalem became the dramatic scene of a further violent clash between the two sides.

Kapur said he came to wonder "how a state could function properly without there being some accepted version of the facts."

“The dilemma reminded me of the disconnect in American politics between the right and left, yet it felt deeper and more pronounced in Israel,” he said. “The interpretation of police intervention during the processions also showed the difference in narratives.

“It’s hard to see any agreement on a set of facts from this event. Instead, each side picks out certain aspects of the incident and morphs them into their overall narrative. ... I learned that civil disagreement reflects both the cold, hard reality and the narratives pushed by opposing sides ... there are more than two sides in civil disagreement.”.

Serving while leading

Each year during this course, the cohort works on a project that inspires a deeper sense of reward that comes from leadership and community belonging. This year, students and faculty literally rolled up their sleeves for the common good. They volunteered at a Tel Aviv community garden and at the Tent of Nations farm in the West Bank. Growing food and planting trees reminded students to focus on hope and resilience.

Habelt saw the work they’ve done at the Tent of Nations as a demonstration of solidarity with the Palestinian farmer who was locked in a 32-year legal dispute over his right to the land his family purchased under the Ottoman empire. 

“The farmer explicitly aimed to become neither an enemy nor a victim of the Israeli state,” Habelt said, “but rather to live as an empowered global citizen with certain fundamental human rights that ought not to be taken away. He achieved this by fighting for his land rights through the Israeli court system and proactively drawing attention to his plight by founding a nonprofit. The farmer’s efforts toward setting an example of the benefits of peace and legal action, rather than reactionary violence, served as a powerful example of servant leadership."

Kapur spoke about the connection to resilience.

“One can go onto Amazon Prime and order nearly any item that is conceivable. Yet gardening, similar to servant leadership, is a slow and challenging process," he said. "One may be able to do everything ‘right,’ just for the perfect storm to ruin one’s crops. Thus, resilience is a necessary component of servant leadership. ... There is also a sense of pride in being a part of something bigger than ourselves, which is an important part of servant leadership because it displays the importance of humility.”.

The experience has prompted Kapur to examine, with gratitude, the benefits of physical labor and servant leadership.

“In our modern technological era, instant gratification is abundant,” he said. 

Thanks to the community service project, Habelt brought home a determination to embrace his community and act as a servant leader for the common good.

“Through our proactive hands-on service, discussions with community leaders and observations of historical figures, we learned how best to practice servant leadership in our own communities,” Habelt said.

Making sense of a complicated scenario

While the students’ understanding of the tensions between Israelis and Palestinians has deepened, their informed opinions became more complex.

Joe Pitts is pursuing a bachelor's degree in civic and economic thought and leadership and another Bachelor of Science in business. For him, the readings, conversations and guided study within Israel and the West Bank helped highlight the nuances in heated tensions. 

“This experience in Israel showed me that civil discussion could still take place despite severe political and societal division. I earned that constructive dialogue is most important in times of crisis — even though it can be harder to achieve," Pitts said.

Kapur believes that the experience showed that liberal democracies are fragile, especially those across diverse cultural and geographic contexts.

“If I came to Israel with a rigid view of their history and the conflicts they face, I think I would have lost out on internalizing the different stories we heard throughout our trip. ... I gained a deeper understanding of how difficult it can be to maintain a strong liberal democracy,” he said.

“Before this experience, I was involved in campus activism regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, presenting before student government and lobbying for certain protections for Jewish students," Robinson said. "Admittedly, my knowledge of the conflict was minimal, and I only received information from Jewish students. ... My perspective has changed after visiting Israel and the West Bank, especially regarding the two-state solution. My impression of the two-state solution relied on false assumptions and one I had not previously considered.”  

The most important lesson Robinson said he learned is that when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, nothing is as simple as it seems.

“That is one thing about Israel: We try hard to fit everything into a dichotomous narrative. The secular versus the religious, the young versus the old, Israel versus Palestine, but despite these classifications, the people we met and learned from revealed that it is much more complicated,” he said.

A new perspective on citizenship

“For Americans, it is incredibly easy to get caught up in our bubble that we forget a whole other world exists,” Robinson said. “In fact, most of us are even OK with being ignorant about the world because what does it matter what we do? There is something to be said about the fact that if we cannot even get our citizens interested in their community, why do we expect them to be the least bit interested in what is happening outside of the United States? However, being an American abroad feels like there is a responsibility, an obligation to the world.”

An important goal of the global intensive experience courses offered by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership is to help students develop a mature understanding of what it means to engage with citizens of other countries and cultures, to provide the type of international interaction that allows students to be conscientious, informed citizens of the U.S. and the world. It is an opportunity to become educated about different realities around the world, and to examine how Americans can relate to — and dialogue with — others.

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership’s Global Intensive Experiences courses are subsidized by the school for students earning either majors or minors in civic and economic thought and leadership. The next GIE will be a leadership and service course in Delhi and Rajasthan, India, in December 2022, with applications available in September through

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Overcoming the silo mentality with a multifaceted education

ASU grad blends STEM, classical liberal education and the arts to better serve underrepresented communities

May 23, 2022

Most individuals are interested in one area of study, try to master one skill, and – if they are lucky – strive to succeed in one career track. That is not the case with Ariana Afshari, an outstanding neurobiology researcher, a talented artist and a thoughtful thinker interested in philosophy, morality and ethics.

The spring 2022 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Life Sciences earned a biological sciences major and a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership — and interweaving science and the humanities was a planned decision. Portrait of ASU grad Ariana Afshari. Ariana Afshari is dedicated to breaking down barriers separating the scientific community, the humanities and the arts. Download Full Image

“I knew I would have an emphasis in STEM, and I looked for a complementary component that would make me a holistic learner in the future,” Afshari said. 

Afshari is a rare student.

“She is deeply interested in the natural sciences, but she is also interested in politics, the arts and the humanities,” said Professor of Practice Peter McNamara. “It was this latter group of interests that brought her to SCETLSchool of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.”

This summer, Afshari begins an impressive mission: to simultaneously do research in developmental neuroscience at Stanford Medical School and teach biology in the Bay Area through Teach for America at a school serving an underrepresented community, where 98% of students are Hispanic. After that, she will apply to medical school.

“My goal is to serve communities that look like me, that come from a background like me,” she said. 

“I grew up in a low-income Hispanic household. There is a lot that you can learn from serving those communities, but certain topics are difficult to teach. One thing is to learn about it; the other thing is to live it. And I believe that there are indescribable factors that equip me to serve these communities I come from. Hopefully, I can be in a community that resonates with my background growing up.”

Bridging science and humanities 

Afshari's plans to earn a multidisciplinary college education began in the spring of her first year at ASU, when she applied for the course Shakespeare's Leadership Lessons. The course, which is taught in Prescott, Arizona, solidified her interest in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as a complementary part of her career. 

“I was wary about a full immersion into Shakespeare, of reading the texts from beginning to end, acting them out, and not only to get the meaning of what the characters are saying but also grappling with what they are saying. But I walked in, and everyone was in the same boat and wanting to learn. We all walked away with something really valuable,” she said.

“I loved the experience. Learning in the pines, where you are vulnerable, where you get a raw experience of learning, is a lot different from learning in a traditional setting."

Ariana with her cohort of friends and professors during the Shakespeare's Leadership Lessons

Ariana Afshari (bottom row, third from right) in Prescott, Arizona, with the cohort of students in the course Shakespeare's Leadership Lessons.

Afshari then joined the cohort of students who traveled to New Delhi for the Global Intensive Experience: SCETL Leadership and Service in India, where they studied and discussed the history, culture and politics of India, and reflected on global leadership and citizenship.

But when the pandemic hit, it became evident that the scientific community and parts of the American civil society (and other societies around the world) were at odds, particularly on matters related to public health policies versus individual liberties. 

You can teach someone to be a good doctor, but you can’t teach a doctor to have empathy. The education offered at SCETL teaches you what other disciplines can’t teach you: how to be human aligned with your values.

– Ariana Afshari

As the global crisis unfolded, Afshari noticed an urgent need for cross-disciplinary conversations between health professionals, policymakers, professionals working tirelessly on the frontlines, professors, etc. 

Ariana Afshari in the center with professor Susan Carrese in India

Ariana Afshari (center) with Clinical Assistant Professor Susan Carrese in New Delhi during the GIE course SCETL Leadership and Service in India.

“I realized that we must develop interdisciplinary understanding and support about how each of these disciplines interacts with one another. That’s when it came to light what I was looking for at SCETL. I was trying to find something at the cusp of philosophy that I could bring to science,” she said.

This pivoting starts with each individual, she said.

“I see the interaction between disciplines as not even complementary, but necessary. It makes you better all around. It’s great to be specialized, but it’s even more important to be aware and prudent about how your discipline affects others.”

Afshari's School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership courses allowed her to exercise an important habit: questioning. The Socratic method utilized by School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership professors encourages students to participate in discussions and question what they are taught, which is something Afshari believes enables students to be more successful in their fields.

“I’m better in my STEM classes because of SCETL, but I’m also better in my SCETL classes because of my STEM major,” she said, adding that she had not “seen an education like this before. (In STEM classes), you’re never going to go to any of your classes and ask what this means. No one is going to ask why. In SCETL, that is the purpose."

SCETL allowed me to fulfill the mission that I was looking for and that I wasn’t getting at a single track at ASU,” she said. “In the broader discourse of the nation, you see everyone trying to prove they are right and prove authority. At SCETL, instead, the faculty brings (the discussion) back to questions of ‘What is authority?’ ‘Where do individual liberties come from?’ ‘Who actually has a say in policymaking, and whose authority matters?’ The pandemic brought to life issues that SCETL can contribute to, and the school created several conversations about science and its role.”

Ariana Afshari with her group of friends and professors in India

Ariana Afshari (bottom row, second from right) in New Delhi with her cohort of ASU students and professors for the Leadership and Service in India course.

The school’s emphasis on civil discourse, political thought and civic education was complementary to Afshari's dedication to serving her community.

“SCETL equipped me to be open-minded to discourse and to face future challenges when talking about important science topics. I can contribute to those conversations in a more fruitful way than many people would without this perspective,” she said.

“Getting an education in STEM has been extremely valuable because I want to build a career in science; it’s what I love to learn. But, at times, it can be really transactional. There isn’t a lot of human connection and conversation,” she said. “SCETL has an effective, evidence-based approach to teaching humanities in classrooms with fewer than 30 students, and professors who are your mentors, who are dedicated to guiding you, and topics such as morality, ethics, etc. SCETL teaches you humanities. You can teach someone to be a good doctor, but you can’t teach a doctor to have empathy. The education offered at SCETL teaches you what other disciplines can’t teach you: how to be human aligned with your values.”

SCETL allowed me to fulfill the mission that I was looking for and that I wasn’t getting at a single track at ASU.
– Ariana Afshari

In this process, Afshari was grateful for the strong relationships she developed with her mentors at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

“I’ve had classes at STEM where the syllabi say, ‘Do not ask me for recommendation letters.’ It’s disheartening as a student because the integrity you show in class is great, but you don’t get to develop a relationship," she said. "On the other hand, at SCETL, every professor makes it clear to you that they are there to support you, to love you, to see you do your best, and I’ve had the honor of meeting so many wonderful professors at SCETL. I credit a lot of my success to them.”

Her scientific skills were in fact an addition to SCETL’s learning environment.

“Ariana’s ability to think deeply about both the scientific process and the elements of politics, religious faith and institutions, and social forces revealed to all of us her exceptional talent and rare combination of intellectual and aesthetic gifts,” said Assistant Professor Karen Taliaferro. “She is thoughtful, creative, responsible, articulate and curious, able to read widely and deeply and write beautifully.” 

Painting encapsulates cross-sectionality between leading disciplines 

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Afshari threw herself into a new challenge. She painted a 60-by-40-inch mural for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership inspired by Raphael’s “The School of Athens.” Ariana's painting displays icons of several disciplines, including Plato, Aristotle, Abraham Lincoln, Mahatma Gandhi, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cesar Chavez, Frederick Douglas and Frida Kahlo.

The painting is on display at the school's library common room, on the sixth floor of Coor Hall on ASU's Tempe campus. The room is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday.

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


First cohort graduates from ASU's Master of Arts in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership program

Danny Wright, Anthony Maratea say the graduate program equipped them with the knowledge to further careers in education, public affairs

May 20, 2022

The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at Arizona State University announces its two first graduates of the Master of Arts in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership program, Danny Wright and Anthony Maratea, who defended their dissertations in April 2022.

Rooted in the study of classical texts and liberal education, the school's Master of Arts program launched in 2020 provides educators and leaders in both private and public sectors with the in-depth intellectual background to approach a range of 21st-century challenges. Portrait of ASU grad Anthony Maratea. "I had never expected that ASU, such a large university, would become my home to study liberal arts in a small learning environment," said Anthony Maratea, a teacher at Great Hearts Academy and a graduate of the Master of Arts in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership program. Download Full Image

“We congratulate Danny and Tony on all their hard work and wish them the best of success in their future endeavors,” said Professor Paul Carrese, director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “Our program offers a liberal arts curriculum in the heart of ASU by blending the rigorous study of fundamental ideas about humanity with civic thought and preparation for leadership."

Wright, who coupled a bachelor’s degree in political science at ASU with a career in the military, says he is grateful for the opportunity to complete his studies in political thought through this master's program. 

“This program was the perfect route to complete my education, and I now have a good grasp of political thought and discourse,” said Wright, who defended a dissertation on American civil-military relations with a reflection on Machiavelli’s writings. “It also offered me content on leadership as it refers to the military. I attended an entire course on Lincoln, for example, a leader who changed the way we think about freedom, justice, the country and the world. Courses such as that were exactly what I was looking for."

In the spirit of liberal and civic education, the program invites students to engage with works of classical political philosophy and ethics, foundational texts and documents in American political thought and constitutionalism, significant tracts in economics and history, and seminal works in literature.

Danny Wright

Danny Wright earned a bachelor's degree in political science at ASU and served in the military before applying for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership master's program.

Taught by nationally renowned scholars, the program combines liberal education, civic education in American principles and institutions, and the study of the art of statesmanship. Since it is grounded on humanity’s perennial questions, the program is an opportunity for professionals in all industries to strengthen critical thinking, pedagogical and leadership skills. 

I now have a good grasp of political thought and discourse.
– Danny Wright

Tony Maratea, a teacher at Great Hearts Academy, saw in the program a chance to deepen his understanding of classical education. He defended a dissertation about “Gorgias,” a Socratic dialogue written by Plato around 380 B.C.

“I was very excited to be amongst the first two graduates and set a high bar for this program,” Maratea said. “I’ve always wanted to continue my education, but I thought I would have to go to California or the East Coast to find a graduate degree in classical education. It is remarkable to find this program right here in Arizona that was perfect for me, a program that follows through on its commitment to take liberal education seriously. I had never expected that ASU, such a large university, would become my home to study liberal arts in a small learning environment.”

He was drawn to this program through the school's Annual Constitution Day Lecture in 2017.

“Then I heard that Professor Catherine Zuckert was coming to ASU to teach a course at (the school's) new (master's) program,” he said. “I’ve spent my career reading professor Zuckert’s books. I couldn’t believe that she would be right here at ASU, so I decided to apply for the program and got accepted.”

Students in the master's program examine texts written by a range of thinkers and writers, including Aristotle, Locke, Jane Austen, Montesquieu, James Madison, Lincoln, Cicero and Churchill, to name a few.

“Classical education is an invitation to be humble. These authors may help us form better responses to current challenges by inviting us to break down our thoughts and examine texts that are insightful still today," said Maratea, who teaches classical education.

"These texts were relevant in Ancient Greece and are still relevant today,” said Maratea, adding that he is glad he’s earned a master’s degree in something that he cares deeply about.

He plans on applying for either a doctorate degree in political philosophy or a master’s degree in education to continue his journey.

The program is an integrated, interdisciplinary course of study that is student-centered, employing the Socratic method of classroom dialogue and fostering a learning community oriented to the classical, holistic pursuit of knowledge.

“In the Socratic method, students are not passive recipients of knowledge as if you could transfer it from one line to another,” Carrese said. 

And now students across the country can attend this program because it has recently been approved to offer synchronous online seminars in addition to its in-person courses taught in Arizona during fall, spring and summer semesters, and in Philadelphia in the summer of 2023. Starting in fall 2022, students will be able to enroll in live online courses taught in fall, spring and summer semesters.

With several financial aid opportunities, students are able to reduce out-of-pocket costs through fellowships.

“(The school) has brought in impressive funding to help students go through this program,” Maratea said.

These funding options include the Lyceum Fellowships in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership, the Harry V. Jaffa Graduate Fellowships for students interested in political thought and American civic leadership, and the Cook Family Graduate Scholarships to classical teachers working at Great Hearts.

To learn more about ASU’s Master of Arts in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership, please contact the school's associate director of graduate studies, Trevor Shelley, at

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


ASU grad takes center stage in London

Bronwyn Elizabeth blends liberal education and passion for Shakespeare’s characters

May 13, 2022

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

Bronwyn Elizabeth can't wait to see what the future has in store for her. This summer, she moves to London to study classical drama at the world-renowned London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art (LAMDA), just a stone's throw away from Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre. There, she will intertwine two passions: Shakespeare and academic studies. After accumulating successful acting roles, an internship in New York, scholarships and a bachelor’s degree in civic and economic thought and leadership from Arizona State University, the spring 2022 graduate is taking her dreams and skills to the next level.  Portrait of ASU grad Bronwyn Elizabeth. Bronwyn Elizabeth earned a bachelor’s degree in civic and economic thought and leadership from Arizona State University this spring. Download Full Image

Bronwyn combines outstanding talent with an insatiable thirst for learning. Associate Professor Kent Wright, who has taught her over the years, said of Bronwyn, “I suspected from the first time I met Bronwyn — sitting in the front row of a CEL 100 class — that she was going to be the kind of student you learn a whole lot more from than you teach. Boy, was that ever right.”

During her tenure at ASU, the graduate of the Barrett, The Honors College at ASU received several accolades, including the Moeur Award, the President’s Scholarship and the Founders Scholarship.

The actress sat down with us to talk about where acting and her classical education from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) will take her. 

Question: What drew your attention to the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art graduate program?

Answer: I was a member of the core Southwest Shakespeare Company for a few years, and the company receives a grant through the city of Mesa, which allows it to hold great lectures. In my first year of college, I attended one of those lectures with the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art’s director, Rodney Cottier. Then I attended his lecture again the next year, and again this year. I kept falling in love with the ways that classical acting can be brought to life from an educational standpoint. Simultaneously, I really do love college. So that’s what drew me to the LAMDA program: the opportunity to combine theater and the academic environment.

The only way to do something right is to do it in a way that is fulfilling to you.
— Bronwyn Elizabeth, spring 2022 graduate of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership

Q: What does the program look like?

A: LAMDA has an incredibly rigorous academic program, but they don’t expect students to write a thesis in a traditional sense. It’s an intense year of studies. We will dive into movement work, Shakespeare’s first folio, his romances, the English kings, the Spanish golden age, Jacobean literature, as well as learn incredible technique programs, such as stage combat, flamenco dancing, accent work, vocal techniques, etc. It’s an academic approach to acting, and I can’t wait to start!

Playing Miranda, in Shakespeare's

Bronwyn Elizabeth as Miranda in Shakespeare's "The Tempest" for the Southwest Shakespeare Company.

Q: Is there a particular area that you're interested in studying?

A: I love Shakespeare. I’ve worked with the Southwest Shakespeare Company over the last two years and I was their Ophelia in “Hamlet” and Miranda in “The Tempest.” It was incredible to embody these women who were at the foundation of archetypes of women in history. I am confident that my grandmother has read the words that I’ve said in “Hamlet,” and it feels great to be connected to history and lose myself in it. I am fascinated by Shakespeare’s women and other tragic women, and I am lucky to be able to learn a lot more about them in London.

Q: How did you hear about SCETL?

A: I learned about SCETL through my older brother, Cormac. He earned a double major in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership. When I was applying to college, he advised me to apply to SCETL. We are both drawn to discussions and are very similar. He had such a good time at SCETL and he was confident that I would, too. And so I did. The very first class I took was Shakespeare’s Leadership Lessons: Performance and Politics in the Pines, even before my freshman year started. During that course, I read “The Tempest” and fell in love with SCETL. Since then, I haven’t had a single class at SCETL with over 50 students, and it was always the right choice.

Q: Do the smaller class sizes resonate with you?

A: Absolutely. The discussion-based learning environment is fantastic. But more importantly, it was the general feeling that I was a part of the trajectory of the class, rather than the type of environment where you just take notes. I took Professor Kent Wright’s CEL 100 course in my freshman year, then I took every single course he’s taught since then, every semester. He genuinely wants you to learn, instead of wanting to “bestow education” upon you.

I felt special as a student at SCETL because the passion I have for learning was met with the passion the professors have for teaching.
— Bronwyn Elizabeth

Q: How did the intersection between acting and philosophy develop throughout your college years?

A: Right off the bat, I was lucky to meet two professors who love learning: professors Carol McNamara and Kent Wright. They supported my passion for liberal education and acting, and they were instrumental in helping me get an internship with the Patrick Page Acting Studio in New York during the pandemic. They really believed in me and wanted to keep learning with me. And I am grateful for Frank Pina, my academic adviser. He helped make it work for me, was always straightforward and opened doors. When it came time to do my dissertation, Professor Wright sat down with me and said, “I would never stop you from doing a PowerPoint presentation, Bronwyn, but wouldn’t it be fun to do something fresh and new?” My general impression of SCETL is encapsulated in this open-ended question: “Wouldn’t it be fun … ?” They engaged with me on an artistic level through academia. So I just decided I wanted to keep doing this. I love how, during performances of Chekhov, Shakespeare and others, you have to be fully engaged in it, and with my SCETL education, I am able to have a full understanding of the historical context. That’s exactly what SCETL professors push students to do, so it became natural to externalize that onto performances.

Bronwyn Elizabeth as Ophelia, in "Hamlet."

Bronwyn Elizabeth as Ophelia in "Hamlet" for the Southwest Shakespeare Company. Photo courtesy of Devon C. Adams

Q: How do you benefit as a dramatic artist from your education at SCETL?

A: I have a great story about this. I recently spoke at a seminar about Miranda, a character I got introduced to during the Shakespeare in the Pines course, the first ASU class I’ve ever taken. I had a piece of introspection I gained at that course, which I lifted from back then. I introduced it during the seminar and my director turned to the audience and said, “Wow. This is what you pay for when you pay for an actor.” SCETL has had a direct contribution to my career as an actor. 

My general impression of SCETL is encapsulated in this open-ended question: "Wouldn’t it be fun … ?" They engaged with me on an artistic level through academia. So I just decided I wanted to keep doing this.
— Bronwyn Elizabeth

Q: Are you a different actor today from the one you would have been had you not studied classical liberal education?

A: Absolutely. The choice to pursue classical education as an actress versus a professional training as an actor is purposeful. There’s in-depth academic discussion. I would not have been academically prepared for the LAMDA program had I not done literature analysis throughout the ages and gained the ability to politically contextualize stories, for example. This knowledge is at the foundation of drama, and it is at the foundation of SCETL. It’s organic.

Q: Was that your original plan?

A: No. I came to ASU thinking that I would become a lawyer, but I missed acting, so I started auditioning for these roles. And at one point, I was acting and so in love with all of these characters, and Professor Carol McNamara said to me, “Bronwyn, no one will think less of you if you don’t go to law school. Do what you love!” And it feels so right.

Q: What makes SCETL special?

A: The professors and the relationships you build with them. It feels so communicative and equal. When I talk to professors Wright and McNamara, I learn so much from them, but I feel that they are truly interested in what I have to say. I felt special as a student at SCETL because the passion I have for learning was met with the passion they have for teaching.

Bronwyn (center)

Bronwyn Elizabeth (center) as Theodosia in a production of "The Snow," written by Finnegan Kruckemeyer, at the Lyceum Theatre at ASU.

Q: What would you say to an incoming SCETL student? 

A: The only way to do something right is to do it in a way that is fulfilling to you. If I had thought at age 18 that I would be pursuing a career in acting today, I would have been very wary. It’s not a stable career, and I had to make peace with it. But know that you are going to work hard wherever you go in life, so make sure you want to go there. SCETL is very malleable with the close relationships you can build with your professors and the wide variety of classes you can take. You can tailor your career based on the conversations you have at SCETL in an infinite number of ways, so seek out discussions that you want to have in this learning environment. Find the professors who are leading those discussions. Take classes with the professors who teach in a way that you like to learn, and realize that the school is so accommodating that you can tailor the rest of your educational journey in that direction.

Q: What is your career goal?

A: Looking at the roles I’ve played and where I am headed, I can say that I’ve had a dream come true almost daily over the last couple of years. I wake up every day and I can’t believe all that’s happening in my life, and can’t wait to see what happens next.

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Grad student blends career, education into all-encompassing life experience

Jonathon Hofer shares his takeaways from studying classical education in the 21st century

May 5, 2022

Beyond a degree, college education can play an important role in many students’ lives.

That becomes evident after talking to Jonathon Hofer, Mary College at ASU’s program coordinator and master’s degree candidate in the Master of Arts in Classical Liberal Education and Leadership program. Portrait of Jonathon Hofer. Jonathon Hofer, program coordinator at Mary College at ASU. Download Full Image

In his role, he coordinates a key partnership between Arizona State University and the University of Mary, allowing ASU students to take Catholic studies courses that fulfill ASU general studies degree requirements. And in spite of his busy schedule, Hofer found in the master’s program offered by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership to be the missing piece to living a full life. 

“This program awakens a depth of meaning and breathes new life,” he said. “It helps me to be a good husband, father and professor. It has a unifying thrust — it challenges me to question whether the whole of my life is a unified reality. The classical liberal education I’ve earned at ASU has given me a wider aperture through which to understand humanity.”

Hofer applied for the program after learning about the kind of experience students have, engaging with each other in Socratic seminars and thus creating a community of learners. In its foundation, the Master of Arts in classical liberal education and leadership program at ASU is three-pronged: It combines the study of the Great Books; civic education in American principles and institutions; and statesmanship for the 21st century. 

Classical education today

Classical education invites students to seek truth and guidance through the study of the great philosophers and authors in Western civilization, in order to become virtuous in all areas of their lives. In this master's program, students reflect on the past, with its rich heritage of liberal education. Informed by that heritage and inspired by its exemplars, they are prepared to take on the challenges of education, citizenship and statesmanship.

Courses include "Classic Texts in Political Philosophy and Justice," "Literary Leaders and Ethics" and "Character and Leadership."

But why study classical education today?

Classical education transforms the way one sees life,” Hofer said. “It adds depth of meaning to life. It helps you to see things connected and it encapsulates what education ought to do. It’s not just graduating with a degree so you can get a job. That is certainly important, and it’s a piece of it. But to stop there is a disservice. What liberal education at ASU does is it frees the mind to see yourself truly, to bring all aspects of life together in a meaningful way, and to transform who you are, what you do and how you see the world.” 

This program at ASU gives a seat at the table for faith and the Catholic academic tradition. This is truly profound. Many degree programs shy away from faith, but I have been simultaneously welcomed and challenged.

– Jonathon Hofer 

In this program, Hofer and his colleagues reflect upon texts ranging from Cicero and Plutarch to Shakespeare and Lincoln, from Aristotle and Montesquieu to Jane Austen and James Madison, and from Locke to Churchill, all in pursuit of a liberal and civic education in America's constitutional democracy.

“The ideas we are engaging in are worthwhile not because someone said they are, but because they speak to our human experience,” Hofer said.

After defending his dissertation in the fall of 2022, Hofer plans to continue the work he is doing at Mary College at ASU.

“The partnership between an innovation-driven university and a private, Catholic university is unique and provides incredible opportunities for students. I am excited to blend what I’m doing at the Mary College and what I’m studying at SCETL and to offer that back to students,” he said.

Giving faith a seat at the table

Jonathon Hofer (center) during a trip to Rome with his students

Hofer (center) in Rome with his students.

While the program focuses on classical liberal education, Hofer reiterates that his colleagues and professors welcomed his interest in the writings of Thomas Aquinas and Thomistic studies.

“This program at ASU gives a seat at the table for faith and the Catholic academic tradition. This is truly profound. Many degree programs shy away from faith, but I have been simultaneously welcomed and challenged,” Hofer said. 

“I have been welcomed to bring in my Thomistic background. To me, the integration of faith and reason is possible, important and it communicates a fundamental truth about what it means to be human and how we engage with the world. At the same time, by reading authors like Nietzsche and Rousseau, I am challenged to think in ways that I haven’t before. At a university, we don’t need to be scared of ideas,” he said.

One way the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership makes it possible for professionals and scholars to complete the master’s program is by providing them with financial aid opportunities to help reduce out-of-pocket costs. These include the Lyceum Fellowships, the Cook Family Graduate Fellowships available to classical teachers working at GreatHearts, as well as Student Success Awards for students achieving high standards of academic excellence.

The MA has also been approved by the James Madison Memorial Foundation for the recipients of its prestigious award for excellence in K–12 civics education, as the degree offers the requisite courses in constitutionalism, American political thought and civics that interest awardees.

The program offers research assistantships that include stipends, tuition awards and possible benefits. Prospective students are encouraged to check the program’s website for updates about additional funding opportunities.

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


School of Life Sciences Dean's Medalist brings together art, science, history

May 4, 2022

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

Ariana Afshari epitomizes a modern renaissance student — a scientist, researcher, philosopher, historian and artist.  ASU SOLS student Ariana Afshari awarded Deans Medal Ariana Afshari is a scientist, philosopher and artist, and graduates this spring with her Bachelor’s of Science in biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior), and a minor in civic and economic thought leadership. Photo courtesy of Ariana Afshari.

A biological sciences major in the School of Life Sciences focusing on neurobiology, physiology and behavior, she also minored in civic and economic thought leadership. Then, during the height of the pandemic in August 2020, Afshari decided to push her boundaries even further and explore an entirely new discipline — she started painting

Art opened a window to new techniques to analyze and express history, science, politics and philosophy — combining her passions and bringing them to 3D life.   

One of her paintings now hangs in the School of Civic and Economic Thought Leadership Coors Texts Reading Room, which has become one of Afshari’s favorite study spots on campus. 

“It has a quaint design with chess, antique lighting, and is an intimate spot to catch up with friends, enjoy the classic literature they feature on their shelves, or focus on your studies,” she said.

The painting, a 60-by-40-inch canvas mural, is inspired by “The School of Athens” by the Italian Renaissance artist Raphael. Standing tall in the precise mathematical architecture alongside Plato and Aristotle are other prominent figures, including Abraham Lincoln, Gandhi, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Cesar Chavez, Frederick Douglas and Frida Kahlo

In light of her many accomplishments, this multifaceted scholar and artist has been selected as this semester’s Dean’s Medalist by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. 

This prestigious honor recognizes graduating students who have demonstrated outstanding academic excellence during their time at ASU. In addition to her artistic talents, Afshari contributed to research in developmental neurobiology, mathematical neuro-oncology, and neurosurgery. 

She also served as the director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, where she illustrated and published an interactive children’s guide to COVID-19. 

After graduation she plans to participate in developmental neuroscience research at Stanford Medical School and teach biology with Teach for America. 

We had the chance to ask Afshari a few questions about her time at ASU. 

Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

Question: What was the moment when you realized you wanted to study neuroscience? 

Answer: Neuroscience itself is an incredibly versatile field of study, which is what makes it so rewarding for students who like to bounce between disciplines in academic and research spaces. For me, my “aha” moment was through a long-time exposure to what neurobiology looks like in-practice — learning the mechanics of neuron firing in the classroom, to applying that biology in a lab I worked in at Mayo Clinic studying mathematical neuro-oncology, to scrubbing into neurosurgeries with patients with the clinical phenotypes I had, in textbooks and at the workplace, studied. This is how I ultimately knew I loved studying the brain, in every domain: at school, in research, and in the clinic.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was raised just south of ASU in the Valley, so there was always an incentive to stay close to friends and family, and my four-year-old baby sister in particular. However, I was extremely fortunate enough to receive a scholarship that covered my tuition and housing for all four years. I knew I would be able to get a really full ASU experience and pursue opportunities tailored to my professional goals with that degree of financial aid, which was the primary contributor to my decision to go to ASU.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU that changed your perspective?

A: I learned at ASU the sheer importance of asking: “Can you make a spot for me?” or “Can I have _____ opportunity?” Arizona State University is the kind of university that has endless avenues for students to explore internships and research experience, but what’s not advertised is how many opportunities you can create for yourself. I became well-accustomed to advocating for myself and asking professors and faculty to make room for me or to put me in contact with someone who can make my dream position possible. Learning the power of self-advocacy is what made my ASU experience transformative, when I realized the ceiling was not the sky.  

Q: What is a life-changing lesson you learned from a professor while at ASU? Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: The director of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Dr. Paul Carrese, served as a mentor for me throughout my academic journey at ASU, who always advocated for my success, but it remains that one of the life lessons he conversationally shared with me stands out. I came to him asking how I can balance furthering my career while also seeking personal happiness. He responded by telling me the story he used to read to his children about how a colony of mice worked strenuously every summer season to gather enough food to survive, while one mouse would adventure — collecting sun rays, colors and words. By the time the mice had to use their food supply in the cold months, it ran out, and the mouse who sought intangible experiences was able to distract them with his stories to survive the winter. This taught me the importance of chasing experiences, not accolades, and finding meaning and mentorship, not money and prestige so that I, too, have something of substance to get me through the “winters” of life. 

Q: Were you able to participate in any internships or research experiences while at ASU?

A: I was lucky enough to participate in many internships and research experiences while at ASU. I got the chance to be a part of a lab studying developmental neurobiology here at ASU during the academic school years and eventually became involved in a second lab studying mathematical neurosurgery at Mayo Clinic. Through these research experiences, I was able to both contribute to multiple scientific manuscripts and present my work at local and national conferences. I also served as the director of health and wellness for the Undergraduate Student Government and was honored as a Spirit of Service Scholar. In addition, I consistently worked with Teach for America to assist 2nd and 3rd grade classrooms through their IGNITE fellowship and participated in a year-long internship at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. 

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

A: If I could offer advice to current students, I would tell them to seek two things in all their academic pursuits: real challenge and true inspiration. They should take the time to find what communities or fields of study make them feel inspired and begin building a toolbox of opportunities and experiences that make the most sense for their interests and their narrative. I think it’s a valuable skill to be prudent and intentional with what you dedicate your time to, so that you, not only do them well, but you take away something valuable for your own story. 

Dominique Perkins

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Life Sciences


ASU grad attributes success to scholarship funding

Alexander Almeida is a spring 2022 Dean’s Medalist

May 3, 2022

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

Alexander Almeida will graduate summa cum laude this spring from Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University with degrees in economics and mathematics. As an outstanding member of the Sun Devil community, he has had many opportunities to learn, grow and serve those in need. Portrait of ASU grad Alexander Almeida. Photo courtesy Alexander Almeida Download Full Image

During his time at ASU, he studied abroad in India and Argentina, and interned at the Federal Reserve doing economic research. He helped direct an environmentally focused portfolio of over $1 million for ASU Enterprise Partners and worked with the Gammage Scholars to help families in the Phoenix Valley succeed.

For these reasons and others, Almeida was selected as the spring 2022 Dean’s Medalist for the Department of Economics at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

But Almeida doesn’t take his Sun Devil experience for granted. He credits support from donors in helping fund his educational journey. 

“The reason that I was able to pursue my degree was the incredible generosity of the sponsors of the Business School Scholarship, Earl and Ellen Davis Scholarship, Gammage Scholarship, IGNITE Fellowship, National Hispanic Scholarship, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's Founders' Scholarship, Spanish Summer Program Scholarship, as well as the Jonathan and Helen Wexler Family, along with the support of my friends and family,” he said.

Now, Almeida is prepared to utilize his skills to solve societal problems. He plans to do economic research for the next two years as a research fellow at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business, where he hopes to earn a graduate degree in economics to continue studying the role that financial markets play in human and environmental betterment.

Learn more about Almeida’s Sun Devil story.

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

A: After my first year at ASU, I underwent an unexpected surgery to remove a bone cyst from my spine as I was taking summer classes. On the day of the surgery, I even turned in a problem set for my linear algebra class. 

I was simultaneously confronted with my mortality and choices about my major, my career and the legacy that I wanted to leave. I decided to study mathematics and economics to try to make the world a better place. 

Q: Did you encounter any challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: I came to ASU from Illinois knowing only a few people, so adapting to the environment here was a fun challenge. Through dorming at Barrett, clubs and classes, I have made many lifelong friends and relationships. I also convinced my sister, now a sophomore, to join me at ASU.

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

A: It is really challenging to narrow down the breadth of guidance that I have received into a singular moment. I do want to recognize that my interests in research have been nurtured by gifted academics Drs. Ross Emmett, Chad Stecher, Michael Hanemann and Christos Makridis. 

In economics, I am indebted to Drs. Edward Schlee, Edward Prescott, Bart Hobijn and Rajnish Mehra for their mentorship in pursuing a career in the field, and from the mathematics faculty, I have received valuable guidance from Dr. Donald Jones. 

The leadership at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership as well the administrators at Barrett have also contributed to my success. 

Q: What's something that you've learned during your time at ASU – in the classroom or otherwise – that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: I traveled to India to study abroad with the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. My cohort worked with a group of rural night schools affiliated with the Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan. I had the chance to talk with some of the students at a night school, and when I asked the students about their aspirations, they responded that all they wanted was to attend school all day. It changed my perspective on education and empowered me to fight for students here in Maricopa County that face systemic barriers to their success. 

I had the privilege of teaching children who had sought asylum from countries across the world with RISE Tutoring, and when the pandemic compounded barriers for disadvantaged students in Phoenix, I helped to organize with the Gammage Scholars, a community-based campaign to empower families in getting digitally connected.

Lauren Whitby

Digital Marketing Manager, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


SCETL, economics double major aims high

Jonah McCoy is going on to pursue PhD from University of Houston, credits academic rigor for his achievements

April 28, 2022

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

Jonah McCoy is not shy about his academic achievements and career goals. Jonah McCoy ASU graduate Jonah McCoy is a double major in civic and economic thought and leadership and in economics. He aims at winning prestigious Leo Strauss Award. Download Full Image

I seek to become a peer with my mentors,” he said.

The Arizona State University graduate — an early adopter of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership (SCETL) program — is confident about his future. In the fall of 2022, Jonah will start his PhD in political philosophy at the University of Houston, a well-deserved recognition of his academic skills.

“Jonah's talent and commitment to the life of the mind were immediately apparent to all of us in those early days of SCETL, when Jonah was one of our first majors,” said Assistant Professor Karen Taliaferro, adding, “I have come to see how exceptional he is not only in his intelligence but in his determination and perseverance. Beyond this, he is a fundamentally kindhearted person.”

Born in Fresno, California, Jonah moved with his family to Nogales, Arizona, when he was in second grade. He says he knew at an early age that he would follow an academic career, and in 2017 he joined ASU’s Barrett, The Honors College as an economics major, but his path took a slight turn in the fall of that year.

Question: How did you learn about SCETL?

Answer: I walked by a flyer on campus promoting the Civic Discourse Project lecture series on “Free Speech and Intellectual Diversity,” and I started attending the events. Then in the following summer, I enrolled in SCETL’s Summer Leadership Seminar “Shakespeare's Leadership Lessons” in Sedona, and it was delightful. That week, I met phenomenal people, including Cameron Vega and Robert Bartlemay, among others. That experience pushed me to enroll in CEL 100 with Professor Karen Taliaferro, who became a prominent figure in my life. Then came a course on religion with Professor Paul Carrese, and when I realized I was getting a major in civic and economic thought and leadership. One realizes one is in the right place. Things happen for a reason.

Jonah McCoy reads aloud from "Henry V." during the summer of 2018 course in Sedona

Jonah McCoy reads aloud from Shakespeare's "Henry V" during the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership's summer 2018 course in Sedona, Arizona.

Q: Which course was your favorite?

A: I can’t say there was a SCETL course that wasn’t phenomenal.

Q: What makes SCETL so special?

A: It’s a community of like-minded individuals. We are all interested in these important topics in a department that encourages free and open debate. We are free to disagree and discuss everything. At SCETL, I have never met slouchers. Every student at the school is a mover and shaker. Everyone goes on to do big things, to become student body presidents, top-level students participating in big projects that matter, and so on. Ultimately, it’s the quality of students. SCETL doesn’t attract mediocrity. They are all bright, genuinely phenomenal individuals, and do amazing things. SCETL people think big and have big dreams. It comes from the faculty. They are all intentionally here to provide an education, not just a degree.

Q: How did your peers push you forward?

A: At SCETL, one can’t be intellectually complacent because one is surrounded by great thinkers. The debates we engage with at the school challenge you, and you will be called out if you say nonsensical claims. This community of thinkers encourages you to substantiate yourself.

Q: Did you ever think you would pursue a career in classical education?

A: My understanding at the time was that classical education was in full retreat across the country when I came in. And today I am who I am, and I am going where I am going because of SCETL’s faculty. I will receive a doctorate degree fully funded from the University of Houston, and I am grateful to Professor Michael Zuckert, who identified in me the potential to do it. He found a place that is amicable to me and went out of his way to help find a good fit for me.

Q: What is your goal?

A: I want to teach at a place like SCETL. It’s the only thing I see myself doing: teaching at a place like this, surrounding myself with pupils and seeking truth through dialogue and inquiry.

Q: What would you say to an incoming SCETL student?

A: Embrace this small, phenomenal community. Go to the events, become the spirit of it. Making connections with your peers is one of the most important parts of this education. It’s a fantastic cohort.

Q: What is your favorite part about SCETL?

A: The faculty. If SCETL didn’t believe in the education it offers, it could not be what it is, and students would not go as far as they go.

Q: What is the biggest takeaway from your experience as a SCETL major?

A: The absolute beauty of political philosophy, which led me to become a Tocqueville scholar.

Q: What is your bedside-table favorite Tocqueville book?

A:The Ancient Regime.” It’s his most important book, in my opinion.

Q: What comes after your doctorate degree?

A: That’s easy. The Leo Strauss Award from the American Political Philosophy Association for my dissertation. I am interested in breaking trends and going off to do something new with bold ideas.

Marcia Paterman Brookey

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


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

April 26, 2022

On May 11, 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 spring 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 spring 2022.

MORE: Read about some of ASU's other spring graduates.

Gregory Abbott

Portrait of ASU student Gregory Abbot.

Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Major: Civic and economic thought and leadership
Minor: History

Abbott is a Barrett, The Honors College student with a passion for history and education.

During his time at ASU, Abbott played a pivotal role in founding the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Student Assembly. He has been engaged in numerous research projects, working with faculty and students on the Arizona Constitution Project as well as topics including religion, conflict and immigration.

After graduation, Abbott will participate in a fellowship program at the University of Notre Dame that involves coursework and experience in the high school classroom. He aspires to teach high school social studies.

Ariana Afshari

Portrait of ASU student Ariana Afshari.

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences
Major: Biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior)
Minor: Civic and economic thought and leadership

During her time at ASU, Afshari was deeply involved in scientific research, spending time studying developmental neurobiology, mathematical neuro-oncology and neurosurgery. Her contributions to these projects resulted in the co-authorship of at least four scientific manuscripts.

Afshari served as the director of health and wellness for the undergraduate student government, where she successfully implemented a program that offers free menstrual products on campus. In this capacity, she also illustrated and published an interactive COVID-19 guide for children in Arizona as vaccinations became available. 

Afshari’s artistic talents are also exhibited on the Tempe campus in the form of a painting commissioned by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership that hangs permanently in Coor Hall.

After graduation, Afshari will participate in research at Stanford Medical School and will teach biology with Teach for America. She hopes to inspire the next generation of scientists by reciprocating the compassionate mentorship that guided her throughout her academic journey.

Erin Alexander

Portrait of ASU student Erin Alexander.

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Major: Earth and space exploration
Minor: Biochemistry
Certificate: Field geology

Alexander is a Barrett student who has left a memorable impression on her peers, professors and numerous School of Earth and Space Exploration faculty. 

During her time at ASU, Alexander worked in Everett Shock’s lab evaluating spatial and temporal variability in hot spring chemistry by synthesizing 20 years of data. Her efforts to bring new mapping and data management methods to the group’s Yellowstone National Park research have proven inspiring, and several graduate students in the group have benefited from her contributions.

Alexander also participated in the NASA Space Grant Internship, where she created a map geodatabase and generated 3D models of regions of Yellowstone for geochemical modeling.

After graduation, she will pursue a graduate program to learn more about the interaction between the geomorphology of landscapes and the geochemistry of hydrothermal systems.

Alexander Almeida

Portrait of ASU student Alexander Almeida.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics
Majors: Economics, mathematics

Almeida is a Barrett student graduating summa cum laude this spring. During his time at ASU, he served as a peer tutor and teaching assistant and completed multiple research assistantships in the Department of Economics. He has been recognized as a student leader by the School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences and is a member of Phi Beta Kappa.

Almeida studied abroad in India and Argentina, and interned at the Federal Reserve doing economic research. He helped direct an environmentally focused portfolio of over $1 million for ASU Enterprise Partners. In his free time, he works with the Gammage Scholars on community-based projects that have been featured in the State Press and tutors local students with RISE Tutoring. 

Almeida will continue doing economic research for the next two years as a research fellow at Stanford University's Graduate School of Business. He aspires to earn a graduate degree in economics to continue studying the role that financial markets play in human and environmental betterment.

Cora Baron

Portrait of ASU student Cora Baron.

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology
Major: Psychology

Baron, a Barrett student, has a strong interest in understanding how people’s decisions and behaviors are informed by the environment that they are a part of.

During her time at ASU, she assisted in research on issues of social exclusion, social cognition as it relates to advice-giving, cross-sectional research about sexual consent behaviors and the adolescent stress on Latino youth. She served as a research assistant at the Evolution, Ecology, and Social Behavior Lab. She investigated the processes of social exclusion, explored how different situational pressures lead to different behavioral responses, and analyzed how individuals' environments influence how they define diversity.

Outside of the lab, she volunteered as a crisis counselor at Crisis Text Line, served as a coordinator for the GLSEN Phoenix chapter and was an attendant care provider at Arion Care Solutions.

After graduating, Baron plans on furthering her education at the University of California, Santa Barbara in the fall to pursue her PhD in social psychology.

Melia Beccard

Portrait of ASU student Melia Beccard.

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation
Majors: Asian Pacific American studies, psychology
Minor: Social welfare

Beccard is an honors student who is passionate about her work on Korean adoptees, with a focus on helping to create better policies for Asian transracial adoptees and their families.

She has worked as an undergraduate research assistant in two labs — the Yoo Research Lab, where she worked to understand more about literature on the racial and ethnic identity of Asian Americans, and the Perception, Ecological Action, Robotics and Learning Lab, where she analyzed how sensory touch and time perception are correlated. She is also an executive director and tutor for the Refugee Integration, Stability and Education (RISE) organization, where she oversees and manages four tutoring sites.

After graduation, Beccard plans to move to Washington to pursue a master’s degree in social work at the University of Washington.

John Byrd

Portrait of ASU student John Byrd.

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

Byrd is a Barrett student interested in exploring physics education and student misconceptions in the mathematics of physics.

At ASU, he assisted in the construction of electrodes for neural stimulation at the Neural Microsystems Laboratory and helped Associate Professor David Meltzer to analyze the results of over 8,000 diagnostic surveys to better understand the confusion that afflicts students in physics courses. 

Byrd has worked as a tutor for Coconino Community College and an undergraduate learning assistant for the Department of Physics, where he developed and led structured review sessions for students outside of class.

After graduation, he plans to pursue a PhD in physics at Michigan State University with an emphasis on physics education research.

Theresa DeConcini

Portrait of ASU student Theresa DeConcini.

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies
Major: Global studies 
Minor: Spanish

DeConcini, a Barrett student, is a Virginia native who lived in Tucson, Arizona, who has an interest in environmental equity.

During her time at ASU, DeConcini completed an internship with the office of U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly, where she assisted with constituent communication, casework and research. She has been appointed a Barrett Fellow with ASU’s Office of Gender-Based Violence and has been a content creator and legal board member for the Foreign Policy Youth Collaborative. 

DeConcini is pursuing her master’s in sustainability at ASU in the fall. After she completes the two-year program, she hopes to take a few years off to travel and work, and eventually return to school.

Zane Encinas

Portrait of ASU student Zane Encinas.

Dean’s Medal: Department of English
Majors: Philosophy, English, sustainability
Minor: Sociology
Certificates: Environmental humanities, environmental education, social science research methods

Encinas, a Barrett student, has a passion for exploring the capabilities of interdisciplinary studies to generate new solutions to systemic issues.

Encinas has taken on numerous research and internship opportunities. One is theirEncinas uses they/their pronouns. current position as a research apprentice for the Arizona Youth Identity Project, where they work to gain a better understanding of how young adults in Arizona conceptualize Americanism and how recent social changes affect their understanding of their belonging and national identity.

Encinas has left a lasting impact at ASU as they founded the student organization Climbing Vines. In addition, they have been awarded the Pitchfork Award for Emerging Student Leader due to their various leadership roles as vice president of The Faithful City, director of operations of the Sustainability Alliance, president and recruitment officer for the Honor Society for Sustainability and co-chair of the Sustainability Advocacy and Advisory Board.

Aaron Flores

Portrait of ASU student Aaron Flores.

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences
Major: Chemistry

Flores is a first-generation student who has an interest in forensic analysis and quantum computational chemistry.

Since transferring to ASU from community college, Flores has served as a student researcher in the Anbar/METAL supergroup. As an advanced researcher, he contributes to research involving isotopic analysis for trace metals in bullets for forensic investigation. He also wrote grant applications to the American Academy of Forensic Science and gave a presentation at the 2022 Winter Conference on plasma spectrochemisty.

After graduation, Flores aspires to get a PhD in computational chemistry and pursue a career in field service engineering.

Amy Harvey

Portrait of ASU student Amy Harvey.

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Majors: Geographic information science, anthropology
Minor: Art history

Harvey is a first-generation student who has an interest in archeology, spatial analysis and data management.

Harvey’s knowledge of tools such as Python programming, Geographically Weighted Regressions and the complexities of the open source have allowed her to conduct exceptional research. This research includes creating a new ceramics database, thus introducing a new source for use in other archaeological research.

Her post-graduation plans entail taking some time to gain work experience in GIS and cultural resource management, and then pursuing a master’s degree in digital archaeology.

Joshua Herald

Portrait of ASU student Joshua Herald.

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Major: Religious studies (religion, culture and public life)

Herald is a U.S. Navy veteran currently working as a foreign service specialist for the U.S. State Department that has returned to further his education through ASU Online. 

Herald, driven by his academic interest in religion, American politics and culture, has conducted undergraduate research that evaluates Pastor Greg Locke’s public theology. He then relates that to the empirical research on Christian Nationalism by sociologists Andrew L. Whitehead and Samuel L. Perry.

After graduation, he plans to pursue graduate education in religious studies with the long-term goal of teaching the subject.

Francisco Hernandez

Portrait of ASU student Francisco Hernandez.

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics
Majors: Sociology, Spanish
Certificate: Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (TESOL)

Hernandez is a first-generation student and father who sought to advance his education through ASU Online.

Hernandez served as the president of the ASU chapter of Alpha Kappa Delta, a sociology honors society. He helped revive the society as he rallied faculty to reinstate it, with the chapter now growing to over 40 student members.

After graduation, Hernandez plans to earn a master’s degree in education for TESOL. His long-term goal is to directly impact the lives of those that come to the U.S. in search of better opportunities.

Christopher Hernandez Salinas

Portrait of ASU student Christopher Hernandez Salinas.

Dean’s Medal: School of Transborder Studies
Majors: Biomedical science, global health, transborder Chicano/a and Latino/a studies 
Minors: Health innovation
Certificates: Human rights, interdisciplinary health humanities

Hernandez Salinas, a Barrett student, is motivated to combine his passions for medicine and community involvement.

During his time at ASU, Hernandez Salinas took on five internships, two major volunteer opportunities and has assisted with research at the Genes, Environment and Youth Development laboratory. He worked more than 500 hours volunteering at Phoenix Allies for Community Health, where he assisted with clinical flow and COVID-19 vaccine distribution.

After graduation, he will attend the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona. He plans to complete a master’s degree and work with marginalized communities to address health inequities through nonprofit work, health policy and health equity research.

Ellianna Lederman

Portrait of ASU student Ellianna Lederman.

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Major: Global health
Certificates: Public administration and public management

Lederman is a Barrett student who has a passion for global health and merging academia and public service.

Since her freshman year, she has been the co-president of the Global Health Student Association. In addition, she has played a significant role as a COVID-19 case investigator for ASU’s Student Outbreak Response Team and had research positions at both the Children in the Law Laboratory and the COVID-19 and Racial Health Disparities Lab.

After graduation, she will continue her education at the Colorado School of Public Health, where she will pursue a master's degree in public health in health systems, management and policy.

Trent Lindstrom

Portrait of ASU student Trent Lindstrom.

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Major: Mathematics (statistics)

Lindstrom, a Barrett student, has a passion for statistical science, organization and data analytics.

Lindstrom’s goal for his honors thesis project was to use statistics to be able to predict what makes collegiate sports teams successful. As a result, he created a model that predicts the results of Pac-12 college football games.

He also held a student worker position at the W. P. Carey School of Business. As a data analyst, he assisted on a modeling project meant to help predict what factors go into the ranking of the business school across a variety of degrees and publications.

After graduation, he will continue his Sun Devil journey and return to ASU to complete an accelerated master's degree in statistics.

Daniel O’Hara

Portrait of ASU student Daniel O’Hara.

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures
Major: Asian languages (Chinese)

O’Hara is a midshipman of the ASU Naval Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and a scholar of the Chinese Language Flagship Program a proficiency-driven undergraduate language training program funded by the Department of Defense.

When he first came to ASU, O'Hara was driven by his passion for language and cultural studies. Despite his schedule as a midshipman, O’Hara still excelled academically. By his third year at ASU, he had already attained a solid advanced mid- to high-level of proficiency in his Chinese skills. 

After graduation, he aims to become a foreign area officer in the Navy and contribute to regional and global security. 

Freddy Soto

Portrait of ASU student Freddy Soto.

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Major: Communication
Minors: Public service and public policy, justice studies
Certificate: Civil communication

Soto entered ASU as a first-generation college student. He is a Barrett student, a legislative intern and served as a page for the Arizona House of Representatives. As an intern with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), he advocated for legislation such as affordable housing incentives to help Arizonans in need.  

Soto volunteers as a basketball coach for the city of Tempe, working with kids at summer camp and as a tutor for the Refugee, Integration, Stability and Education (RISE) organization.

Alek Bustamante Valdez

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