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Barrett Honors College recognizes five Outstanding Graduates at May 2020 virtual convocation

May 11, 2020

Every student in Barrett, the Honors College at Arizona State University is talented and special in their own way. In every class there are many accomplished students with skills in a vast array of disciplines. 

Each spring, Barrett Honors College recognizes Outstanding Graduates in several categories who are representative of the high achievement of all honors students. Five members of the May 2020 graduating class have been named Outstanding Graduates of Barrett Honors College and will be recognized in the virtual honors convocation on May 11.* Barrett Honors College sign Download Full Image

“The outstanding graduates represent excellence in the particular values of the ASU Charter: They are leaders, they are accomplished student scholars, and they are true university and community citizens,” said Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs.

These students have excelled in academics and research, as well as contributed significantly to their communities through research, leadership, volunteerism, public service and the arts.

ASU Alumni Association Outstanding Graduate Award: Justin Heywood

Heywood is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in political science and in civic and economic thought and leadership with a minor in Spanish and an overall GPA of 4.0. 

He ia a Tillman Scholar, a Lincoln Scholar and a Spirit of Service Scholar. He was a Fulbright Summer Institute awardee in Wales, and he was the University Student Government-Tempe director of civic engagement and an Army ROTC cadet. 

Heywood was an Arizona Senate page and page captain and served as a campaign intern for Sen. John McCain. He took part in the Inside-Out Arizona Department of Corrections program and in Talent Match at Barrett. He is the co-founder and president of BridgeASU and served as both a community assistant and teaching assistant at Barrett.

Outstanding Research Award: Rohini Nott

Nott is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in biology (biology and society) and business (public service and public policy) and an overall GPA of 4.0. 

She is a National Merit Scholar, a Helios Scholar at the Translational Genomics Consortium and a Flinn Scholar. She received the School of Life Sciences Outstanding Service Award and has served as patient advocate and clinic coordinator for the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) Community Initiative in downtown Phoenix. 

Her research experiences and contributions have been extraordinary. She has completed six different research experiences as a research intern between high school and her undergraduate studies, and she has published three scientific research papers, four encyclopedia entries and presented six times at national or regional research conferences. Her topic at many of those conferences is also the subject of her thesis on stapled peptide analogs and their use in cancer therapy.

Outstanding Creative Work Award: Adele Etheridge Woodson

Etheridge Woodson is graduating summa cum laude with a major in music and a certificate in arts entrepreneurship with an overall GPA of 3.93.

She is a composer at Mophonics Music and Sound in Los Angeles, engaging with full-time composers to score short-form films. 

During her time as an undergraduate honors student, she was the assistant stage manager of the Phoenix Symphony, installed an original electronic work using her own violin samples in the ASU Art Museum and had her first string quartet composition premiered at the Vienna Summer Music Festival in Austria. 

Her nominating professor said that Etheridge Woodson is “the most mature, intelligent and engaged student with whom I have worked, and has contributed greatly to the local music community as a positively empowered woman in the music business and as a film composer.”

Outstanding Service Award: Noah Appelhans

Appelhans is graduating summa cum laude with a double major in business (human resources) and business (public service and public policy). He will additionally receive two certificates, one in political economy and one in public administration and management. He is a President’s Scholar and has an overall GPA of 4.0. 

For four years, he was an operations assistant in the Morrison School of Agribusiness. He also served as the secretary of the student chapter of the Society for Human Resource Management and a Human Event teaching assistant. He was the head writing tutor at Barrett-Polytechnic for two years. 

In the summer of 2019, Appelhans won an HR Officer Internship at the Department of Defense National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency in Washington, D.C. He was nominated by six of his professors at ASU-Polytechnic, who said Appelhans “exemplifies academic excellence, leadership, a commitment to community and a love of learning and scholarship.”

Outstanding Leadership Award: Primrose Dzenga

Dzenga is graduating with bachelor’s degrees in global studies and creative writing and a master’s degree in political science. She is a Lincoln Scholar, a Garcia Scholar, a member of the Clinton Global Initiative University, a member of the Barrett Oral History project, and the recipient of a Zimbabwe National Arts Literary Award for her poetry and nonfiction writing. 

She founded and has directed for the last four years the Machikichori Citrus Reforestation Project in Zimbabwe, a 12,000-tree community orange orchard run by rural women in Wedza, Zimbabwe. She won a Barrett Global Explorers Grant this past summer to travel to three continents to conduct research on citrus farming techniques that will help in her emergence as a true global leader in international development.

* Due to the coronavirus pandemic and public health recommendations for social distancing, Barrett Honors College is holding its 2020 spring convocation in a virtual, online ceremony scheduled for 9 a.m. Monday, May 11. The format may be different, but our enthusiasm for celebration has never been more inspired and we encourage you to join us in honoring Barrett graduates. Find a link to the virtual honors convocation ceremony on the Barrett site.

Nicole Greason

Director of Marketing and Public Relations , Barrett, The Honors College


Graduate develops a passion for politics and civil discourse

May 8, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Like many first-year college students, Justin Heywood wasn’t sure what he wanted to major in. After scrolling through the hundreds of majors offered on Arizona State University’s website, he chose the first one that really drew him in: political science.  ASU Grad Justin Heywood Justin Heywood will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership. Download Full Image

“As a kid, I was always involved in politics,” said Heywood. “It wasn’t until probably my freshman year, second semester that I realized, ‘Wow, I chose right. This is exactly where I need to be.’ That experience came with the 2016 presidential inauguration.

The 2016 election was the first opportunity Heywood had to vote, and he was excited to be a part of democracy. He attended the presidential inauguration and the Women’s March, both of which opened his eyes to the work that needed to be done in politics — particularly as it related to bipartisanship and civil discourse. 

“When I went to the inauguration I saw people pushing, shoving, fighting, spitting on one another because of their political views. We heard stories about friends and family disconnecting or removing them from social media just because of their political views,” Heywood said. “I thought that was something that needed to change.”

Back on campus, Heywood helped start a student organization called Bridge ASU, which hopes to foster civil discussions with people you don’t agree with. 

“I think it’s vital; it’s critical that we engage in this type of discourse,” said Heywood. 

His passion for politics and eagerness to be more involved led him to an internship as an Arizona state senate page. He was quickly promoted to a senate page lead where he had the opportunity to train and teach students how to assist the senators. 

“It’s not the job description that’s really fascinating about this, but being able to understand and see politics happen firsthand, at a local level is an amazing opportunity,” said Heywood. 

As a sophomore, Heywood discovered the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and attended two of its Global Intensive Experiences: one in India and one in Israel and the West Bank. 

In 2019, when Heywood traveled to Israel and the West Bank, he had the opportunity to learn more about the deeply divided state by talking with former members of Israel's unicameral parliament and volunteering at a local kindergarten that taught Israeli, Muslim, Jewish and Palestinian students in the same classroom.  

“From all the news we see of Palestinians and Israelis and their clashes and violent protests, I think it was crucial to see that the hate that we see on the TV and hear about in society is really built-in and it's learned,” Heywood said. “These students played as any students would, unaware of the cultural ramifications that are surrounding them. It was really cool to be able to witness that firsthand and be able to help the students throughout that day and just have a chance to play with them.”

Heywood’s travels didn’t stop at India, Israel and the West Bank. Through a Fulbright Summer Institute Program, he was able to study in Wales to learn about national identity and nationhood. 

As far as after graduation, Heywood’s plans are unknown due to the COVID-19 crisis. He was selected as a Fulbright Scholar to teach English in South Korea, but with travel restrictions, this opportunity has been postponed and will start January 2021. In the meantime, Heywood is looking at working on a campaign or preparing for the general election by registering student voters. 

Heywood will graduate with bachelor’s degrees in political science and civic and economic thought and leadership. The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership caught up with him to ask him about his time at Arizona State University.

Question: Did you write a senior thesis? 

Answer: Yes, so I did write my senior thesis with Dr. Zachary German and Dr. Jakub Voboril within the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and what we really looked at was campus expressions. So, “Do students feel comfortable sharing their views in a classroom setting or do they self-censor themselves due to their perceptions of other students, due to professors or administrators at the school?” Particularly we looked at politically oriented majors and nonpolitically oriented majors and whether they feel more or less comfortable speaking on controversial, hot-button, political issues. We found, largely, within our sample of approximately 350 or so students that this largely was the case — political science majors did tend to feel more comfortable sharing their views in the classroom. We took a look at the common perception made by conservatives that conservatives and Republicans are censored in the classroom due to fears of other students and repercussions by faculty members. We found this largely to be the case with 92% of very conservative students saying that they were likely to self-censor or feel reluctant sharing their views in the classroom. So, very interesting findings and if you want to read more feel free to look at it on the Barrett Honors Repository. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I think getting students engaged and at the table is vitally important, and so if I had $40 million I would probably start some sort of student think tank or incubator for students to engage and learn important leadership skills but also find funding for students groups to be able to advocate for issues that they’re passionate about. I envision this as being a bipartisan movement — students on the left, students on the right, and anywhere in between could critically engage with issues and learn how to engage their communities in meaningful and important ways. So that’s probably what I’d do with my $40 million if I had the chance. And pay off my student loans, of course.      

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

A: I would say the most important lesson I learned from Dr. Michael Mokwa.  He’s a business professor in the School of Business — W. P. Carey — and I took a Tillman Leadership Scholar course with him across two semesters, three hours in the basement of the business administration building — which is kind of funny because we ended up liking “the catacombs” as we called it. I think he taught me a lot about leadership and how to develop and sustain teams when in a leadership role. I really use this in my role as president of Bridge ASU and really starting what we had from very little to know what we have being interviewed and stuff by, you know, popular news organizations and hosting — I think — really impactful events that many students enjoy. He taught me the most important lesson, and I really would have to thank him for all the leadership on that.       

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

A: I would say the most important piece of advice is understanding that you can actually make a difference in some of the issues that we confront in our daily lives and even outside of them. So, when you’re watching the news and you’re hearing about this protest or this issue that’s really drawing your attention, some students it’s really easy to passively listen to news outlets and just say, “Ah, that’s an issue for when I graduate, that’s an issue when I’m that lawyer, I’m that doctor that I really want to step in and confront that issue” but really, it’s something that can be changed and really dealt with in the college environment.

Honestly, college is the best place to find other students that have similar views or to even confront those that don’t have similar views and being able to understand both of them and be able to come together and join in a common cause.

Next issue that you find, that you’re really passionate about, make a difference! Start a club. Start a protest. Really just do anything you can to create change in your community. 

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


New podcast gives perspective on current crisis through works of literature

May 6, 2020

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Arizona State University professors Trevor Shelley and Luke Perez have begun a multipart discussion of Albert Camus' Nobel Prize-winning novel "The Plague" in the new podcast series Pandemic Dialogues

Written in the 1940s, Camus' novel reflects his view of medical disease as an analogue for understanding the decline of political order. In their podcast, Shelley and Perez discuss the ways in which the current crisis has led many people to look to literature as a way to understand how the fabric of our social world is woven. Pandemic Dialogues Podcast logo You can listen to the Pandemic Dialogues podcast on iTune, Spotify or PodBean. Download Full Image

“The whole idea emerged from a discussion I had with Luke when I mentioned I was thinking of swapping out one of the assigned texts in my CEL 100: Great Ideas on Ethics and Politics course to read Camus' 'The Plague,'” said Shelley, a postdoctoral scholar in the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. 

“I read it years ago in grad school and it stuck with me as a rich text that captures a variety of moral and intellectual challenges and different responses in the midst of crisis. It's a book for which the plague means many things — an actual bacterial epidemic, moral corruption, participation in political tyranny and the human condition at large,” Shelley said. “It seemed appropriate to visit it during our time of COVID-19 crisis to garner some literary and imaginative distance on our present circumstances to think through some of the immediate and larger questions we're facing.”

Looking for a way to reach a broader audience beyond just one class, the professors decided to do something they had never done before: start a podcast. Together (virtually), Shelley and Perez started reading the five-part book, setting up the multi-episode conversation of "The Plague."

“What attracted me to read Camus, and eventually start a podcast on it, is that Camus uses the idea of an entire town in quarantine to investigate how people handle the catastrophe,” said Perez, an assistant professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “Put another way, the plague in Camus' novel is a foil for studying human nature.” 

Produced in a way that allows listeners to follow along, the podcast looks at particular passages of the text that lead to larger questions in the areas of politics, philosophy, theology and economics. 

“If someone were to discover Camus today, next month or next year, he or she could still follow along with our podcast in what would be 'real time' for them,” said Perez. 

“We hope that the podcast encourages listeners to read this book and others mentioned, to engage with our comments and remarks so as to question — even challenge  what we say, and thus come up with their own interpretations,” said Shelley. 

You can listen to the Pandemic Dialogues podcast on iTunes, Spotify and PodBean.

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Dean’s Medalist plans to use political degrees for career in comedy

May 6, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Cormac Doebbeling always knew he was going to study political science.  Cormac Doebbeling Cormac will be graduating with his bachelor’s degrees in civic and economic thought and leadership and political science and is The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. Download Full Image

“When I was in the fifth grade I basically turned into the elementary version of Leslie Knope. I not only ran for class president but I took that job way too seriously. And that really kicked off a lifetime interest in the political process,” Doebbeling said. 

When his mom moved from their home in Indianapolis to take a job in Phoenix, Doebbeling had a choice to make: attend a university with the friends he grew up with or challenge himself by attending a university on the other side of the country. In the end, he was drawn to Arizona State University because of Barrett, The Honors College.  

As a first year student, Doebbeling met with Professor Paul Carrese who was in the process of establishing a new school; the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. After his first civic and economic thought and leadership course with Carrese, Cormac said, “I was hooked.” 

“There were maybe six students in my class and I was sitting right next to the professor on the first day of class. I did not anticipate that,” Doebbeling said. “But that course on American Grand Strategy was just so transformative for me. Dr. Carrese was able to challenge my worldview. He was able to get me to support my beliefs with evidence and to really apply an analytical perspective and sort of reflection towards my political thoughts that I never really had before. 

Global Intensive Experience in Israel and the West Bank with the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership.

Later Doebbeling participated in the school’s Global Intensive Experiences in both India, and Israel and the West Bank. He also studied in Spain, Cuba and Trinidad throughout his college career.

“It's incredibly ironic but the most enriching academic experiences I’ve had as a college student have almost always been outside the classroom,” Doebbeling said. “Most of these have been study abroad (programs) where I had the unique opportunity to talk to someone. That conversation and what they say was able to radically change my outlook on life.” 

Doebbeling will be graduating with his bachelor’s degrees in civic and economic thought and leadership and political science and is The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. The school caught up with him to ask about his time at Arizona State University.

Question: What are your plans after graduation?

Answer: When I tell most people that I am a political science major who is also getting a degree in civic and economic thought and leadership, they almost always assume that I'm going to go to law school, going to do a master's of public affairs or going to Capitol Hill as soon as I graduate. And I’m actually not doing any of these options. My plan is to attend DePaul University for a master’s in comedic screenwriting — a program in conjunction with Second City, an improv organization that is a farm-league for Saturday Night Live. It intersects perfectly with my undergraduate experiences. I'm very passionate about having a career in political satire. I think that some of the most insightful voices that human history has ever had were people who have been able to satirize problems in society and while their audience are laughing, they’re also realizing how messed up certain problems are. And they realize that they need to change what's wrong with society. This could be someone like Socrates or William Shakespeare but it could also be someone like Tina Fey or Seth Meyers. 

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

A: My advice to any ASU student is to get out of the country and to do study abroad as soon as you can. And once you get back from that study abroad, start planning how to get out of the country again, so you keep growing, learning and challenging yourself.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite study spot would be my office at the School Politics and Global Studies. These past three years I had the immense privilege of working as a marketing assistant for (the school). The great thing is that it’s located on the sixth floor of COOR Hall, which not only gives me access to my political science professors but also allows me to go over to the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership and talk to the faculty members there. Almost as soon as I was done with my work I’d be able to talk to my professors at SPGS and in SCETL. I cannot tell you how many times I just popped into the office of Dr. Zachary German to talk to him about politics or even my thesis.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Unfortunately, even $40 billion dollars probably wouldn’t put a dent in debt problems. But I'm really concerned about world hunger and how it affects children. I really encourage policymakers, both federal and at the state level, to put the interests of children above their own political interests. Even if it adds to the budget, even if you have to raise taxes a little bit, making sure that a kid is able to go to school and be full. To be focused on their education instead of focusing on their empty stomachs is really something in the best interest. With permanent free or reduced lunch, students are able to have a level playing field who get to see their full potential and are able to go out and achieve everything that they can achieve because they don't worry about something as crucial as what they’re going to eat that day.

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


Graduating transfer student finds her home at new program in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

April 29, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

The summer before her third year of college, Hannah Rose felt out of place. Rose decided to apply to Arizona State University, majoring in a new program: civic and economic thought and leadership. She would describe that application as the "best impulse decision of my life."  ASU graduate Hannah Rose Hannah Rose will graduate from the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership this May. Download Full Image

The Arizona native quickly found her place within the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, first by taking a Shakespeare course in Prescott, Arizona, and through a Global Intensive Experience in India. 

“Hannah and I bonded over our love of Shakespeare,” said Carol McNamara, associate director for public programs at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “She joined the school and devoted herself to the study of Shakespeare to understand the ideas that help her make sense of the human heart and soul.”

After graduation, Rose had intended on serving with the Peace Corps in Paraguay as a Youth Health and Wellness Promoter, however, due to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 crisis, she isn’t quite sure what her future looks like but she knows she wants to travel. 

“I hope to move to a Spanish speaking country where I can continue my journey of learning through experience by working on a permaculture farm, or perhaps a blossoming yoga studio, or maybe just a hostel.” 

She will be graduating with her bachelor’s degree in civic and economic thought and leadership. The school caught up with her to ask her about her time at Arizona State University.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Sometimes I get so excited and motivated by the train of discussion that I feel the need to speak up and be a part of the discussion, however, I observed that many times my input is purely out of excitement and not necessarily anything of substance to supplement the conversation. So, I started to practice active listening. Instead of planning out my next thought or how I could chime in, I tried to just soak up the arguments and take note of what was interesting or intriguing. Of course, I still participated in my classes but in purposefully taking a back seat, I have come to appreciate thought-provoking discussions even if I am not a voice in it. I do not need to hear the sound of my own voice to feel a part of the conversation or to learn something. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus? 

A: My favorite place on campus is the Sun Devil Fitness Complex. I made it a daily ritual to make time for myself just to move my body, give my mind a break and reset. Plus, after my gym me-time, I love to sit with my lunch on the small hill just east of the (complex). There, I can lie in the grass and use my skateboard as a little table out in front of me while I people watch. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would attempt to remedy the food waste problem of the world by connecting grocers, farmers and buyers with local food banks, “ugly food” shops and malnutrition prevention nonprofits in an attempt to feed more people and create less trash. I don’t know what $40 million could realistically do on a global scale but that’s what I would at least try to tackle. 

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

A: Professor Carol McNamara served an important role in my ASU and SCETL experience. She unapologetically lets the class the conversation flow, even if it means that will take her off schedule. As a Type A person like myself, this was a vitally important and meaningful lesson to learn. Repeatedly she illustrated to me how you don’t need to have everything planned in life. It is okay to go with the flow and just let pieces fall where they will. 

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

A: Don’t be so hard on yourself. Remember that everything is temporary. The stress of classes, internships or the foreboding fear of life post-graduation will all end. There are times that are incredibly difficult mentally, physically and emotionally, however, they will eventually conclude and times of relief, joy and self-satisfaction will follow. 

Jacey West

Communications program coordinator, School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership


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The College honors outstanding academic achievement with 2020 Dean’s Medals

April 28, 2020

On Monday, 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 2020 virtual convocation ceremony.

Each department and school within The College has selected an outstanding student who has 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 spring 2020 Dean’s Medalist awardees from around The College.

Jack Mann 

Dean’s Medal: Department of Economics
Major: Economics
Minor: Statistics

Mann is a student at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, a New American University Scholar and a National Merit Scholar who is passionate about economics and statistics. 

While at ASU, Mann researched projects including assisting in econometric research examining the effects of spatial and temporal disaggregation on the relationship between extreme weather and GDP in the United States.

“I could not think of a more ideal recipient for this award than John,” said Jose Mendez, chair of the awards committee for the Department of Economics. “Not only is he outstanding academically, he is also truly remarkable as an individual. I have never had a student that was so respectful and gracious. I feel privileged having had him in my class.”

During his college career, Mann worked at a number of places, including the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C., where he provided research and analysis to inform reports, and at ASU’s Office of University Initiatives, where he worked as a strategic research analyst. 

Cormac Doebbeling 


Dean’s Medal: School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership
Majors: Civic and economic thought and leadership, political science
Minors: Film and media production, Spanish

Throughout his time at ASU, Doebbeling stood out as a leader among his peers. As an early adopter of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Doebbeling was able to grow alongside a new program.

Doebbeling served as the secretary of ASU Young Democrats and is a member of ASU Students for Education Equity. Taking a substantial international approach to his education, Doebbeling participated in numerous Global Intensive Experiences including traveling to India, Israel and the West Bank, Trinidad, Spain and Cuba. His capstone project makes an interesting comparison between founding father George Washington and revolutionary founder Fidel Castro.

“Cormac Doebbling possesses a rare combination of intellectual breadth and depth,” said Paul Carrese, director and professor at the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership. “Whether it is international politics, grassroots political activism, political philosophy, film, theater or literature — Cormac is enthusiastic and knowledgeable. It has been a pleasure having him as part of our school’s founding generation of students.”

After graduating from ASU, he plans on completing his master’s degree in comedic writing at DePaul University in Chicago in order to pursue a career in political satire in television and film.

Shane Bechtel

Dean’s Medal: School of Earth and Space Exploration
Majors: Earth and space exploration (astrophysics), physics
Minor: Mathematics

Through his endless dedication and determination, Bechtel exemplifies the interdisciplinary spirit and community engagement the School of Earth and Space Exploration thrives for. During his time at ASU, Bechtel, a New American University Scholar and ASU/NASA Space Grant Scholar, participated in several research projects (including both Barrett and senior thesis projects), mentored incoming students and volunteered in support of STEM education.

“He has outperformed every other student in the class, including the graduate students by a substantial margin,” said Judd Bowman, a professor at the School of Earth and Space Exploration. “He is a joy to have in class. … While many students balk at working with raw untested data, Shane faced the challenge head on.”  

Bechtel wrote and contributed to many academic papers and gave several presentations on his research. For his senior thesis, Bechtel worked with research scientist Rolf Jansen to conduct an in-depth structural analysis of a small sample of intermediate redshift galaxies.

“He approached this new topic of research with enthusiasm and — more importantly — produced tangible results in a very short period of time, while juggling his many other commitments,” Jansen said. “Moreover, he implemented his code in a general ‘pipeline’ that will prove useful for related future research projects.”

Morgan Leland

Dean’s Medal: School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Major: Philosophy (morality, politics and law)

Leland, a Barrett student, stands out for her outstanding hard work, compelling and clear writing ability and her helpful class participation. 

Her honors thesis explores disability from a personal perspective and aims to dramatically shift the way we think about disabilities while recognizing that the stigmatization of disabilities affects other marginalized identities. Leland also studied abroad in Greece and Italy, and served as a study abroad diversity panelist.

Shawn E. Klein, philosophy faculty at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, said Leland is the kind of student who goes above and beyond to help her peers come to better understand content.

“What distinguishes Morgan is that she is an educator, that she is committed to the potential of higher education for producing broader social changes, and that she is personally devoted to changing the content of, social relations in, and standard operating procedure of academia,” Klein said.

Nicole Hinshaw

Dean’s Medal: Hugh Downs School of Human Communication
Majors: Communication, political science
Certificates: Cross-sector leadership, political entrepreneurship through internships: local to global and international studies

Throughout Hinshaw’s time at ASU, she has engaged in a wide variety of opportunities, including 11 different internships across the public, private and nonprofit sectors.

Hinshaw is a Barrett student and a two-time recipient of Hugh Downs School of Human Communication scholarships, awarded in 2018 and 2019. She also served as the 2018–19 Barrett Honors Fellow, working with Keith Brown, director and professor at the Melikian Center: Russian, Eurasian and East European Studies.

“It has been a great experience to be part of her ASU journey, and an inspiration to observe her clarity of purpose, her organizational skills and her poise and professionalism,” Brown said. “Besides her innovative and meticulous thesis work on the impact of Tempe Sister Cities youth exchange program, she also personified ASU's commitment to community engagement."

Hinshaw explored her interest in intercultural communication and international affairs while studying abroad in Ghana, Israel and the West Bank as well as nationally in Washington, D.C., with the McCain Institute’s Policy Design Program. 

In addition to internships, Hinshaw works as the communications coordinator for ASU Project Humanities and also served in leadership roles for the Next Generation Service Corps, the Global Leadership Development Program and the advisory board of ASU Global Guides.

Layne Philipson

Dean’s Medal: School of International Letters and Cultures
Major: Russian

Philipson is an outstanding student, employee and volunteer with an extraordinary talent for languages including Russian, English and Latin. She has a passion for foreign affairs, which she is using to make a difference in the world through public, government service.

“With an impeccable knowledge of Russian grammar, Philipson is an outstanding student who always understands what she is reading and is prepared to discuss her ideas,” said Hilde Hoogenboom, an associate professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures. 

Philipson is a finalist for the U.S. State Department’s highly competitive Critical Languages scholarship for advanced Russian study in Russia and is one of the first students from ASU who was offered a prestigious summer internship as a Russian Language Analyst with the National Security Agency in Fort Meade, Maryland.  

In the fall she will attend the University of Oxford to pursue her master’s degree in Russian and East European studies. Afterwards she plans on attending law school and hopes to work in the Department of Homeland Security to fight against human trafficking.

Holly Johnson

Dean’s Medal: Department of Physics
Major: Physics

Johnson is an accomplished student interested in applying physics to real-world problems, specifically when it comes to renewable energy. She is the co-author of three published papers and an award-winning presenter who has received the NASA Space Grant consecutively for the past few years.

Anna Zaniewski, an associate instructional professional in the Department of Physics, said Johnson’s outstanding productivity, skills and maturity were exemplified in her work.

“Holly demonstrates an ability to learn quickly, think independently and collaborate well. Her technical skills are impressive …” Zaniewski said. “She learns each new technique quickly and carefully. She takes detailed notes and is trusted with our most essential samples and research projects.”

In addition to her research, Johnson regularly volunteers and contributes to the development of other students through her position as a mentor in ASU’s Sundial Project. Johnson has been accepted into several prestigious graduate programs including Princeton.

Lorena Austin

Dean’s Medal: School of Transborder Studies
Major: Transborder Chicana/o & Latina/o studies (U.S. and Mexican regional immigration policy and economy)
Certificate: Cross-sector leadership

Austin is known for her diligence, persistence, community outreach, involvement and educational excellence. Through her life experiences in between high school and college, Austin realized that she wanted to dedicate her life to public service and building a better community. 

Austin served as the transfer chair for the Next Generation Service Corps scholarship where she connected and assisted potential transfer students by providing them with resources. As a transfer student herself, she was able to provide helpful insights that have helped many students succeed in transitioning to the university. 

Throughout her time at ASU, Austin successfully balanced schoolwork, community service and leadership roles while simultaneously working two to three jobs. Austin has also been a strong ambassador for the School of Transborder Studies by representing the unit in The College Welcome Assembly and being recognized as a Student Leader in The College.

“Lorena is vividly passionate about her current studies and future career in law. In the classroom, she is fully engaged and contributes to the learning of every student,” said Irasema Coronado, director and professor at the School of Transborder Studies.

Mackenzie Saunders

Dean’s Medal: School of Social Transformation
Majors: Justice studies, politics and the economy
Certificate: Socio-legal studies 

Saunders, a Barrett student, has actively shown her commitment to social innovation and fostering a more inclusive and just society by participating in campus residence life and leadership positions in political advocacy and nonprofit organizations.  

In her honors thesis, Saunders drew from her own experience as a walking paraplegic and aimed to expand access for ASU students with physical disabilities. By conducting an extensive inventory of nearly all buildings on the Tempe campus, she identified physical accessibility issues across campus.

“Mackenzie is a pathbreaker who rises above the small-mindedness of individuals and the restrictions of society,” said Annamaria Oliverio, a lecturer in the School of Social Transformation. “She elegantly transforms challenges into opportunities, not just for herself, but also others.”

Saunders works as a deputy campaign manager for the November 2020 and March 2021 elections for the Phoenix City Council and as Director of Operations for a Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit that advocates for disability rights.

Through an early decision, two-year deferral program that encourages students to gain professional experience before law school, Saunders was accepted to Harvard Law School. After earning her law degree she aspires to work in disability rights law to strengthen the ADA and eventually become a federal judge.

Hannah Berendzen

Dean’s Medal: T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics 
Major: Family and human development
Minor: Sociology

Since her freshman year, Berendzen demonstrated a high level of involvement in research, teaching, optional advanced coursework and leadership roles. 

She pursued advanced statistical methods courses, served as a research assistant on six research projects and worked as a grader or teacher’s assistant for four different courses. Through this work, she has a first-author manuscript in progress and presented at the National Conference on Family Relations.  

“Clearly, Hannah is a highly accomplished student. More importantly, however, interacting with her is a pleasure,” said Stacie Foster, director of undergraduate programs at the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics. “She is kind, compassionate towards others, and incredibly hard-working.”

Following graduation Berendzen plans to continue her education in family and human development by pursuing her PhD at ASU.

Xochitl Arlene Smola

Dean’s Medal: Department of Psychology 
Major: Psychology 
Minor: Statistics 

Smola is a first-generation college student whose early experiences inspired her to pursue a psychology degree at ASU with a focus on success and well-being of students and adolescents from underrepresented backgrounds.

“Xochitl Arlene Smola is an exemplary student who has overcome adversity and taken advantage of everything that ASU has to offer,” the Department of Psychology awards committee said in their nomination letter. “She represents us all well and is truly worthy of the Dean's Medal.”

She worked for multiple research programs including as a field manager for the Bridges Project at the REACH Institute during her freshman year, where she interviewed parents and adolescents, oversaw program interventions and supervised the field work of 30 of her peers. During her junior year, she worked in the Adolescent Stress and Emotion Lab, where she studied the Latino transition to college. Smola also represented ASU’s Department of Psychology in summer research training programs at the University of California, Los Angeles and University of Minnesota.  

Following graduation, Smola will attend graduate school for developmental psychology at one of the five programs that she was accepted into. She aspires to be a research professor in developmental psychology.

Delaney Bucker

Dean’s Medal: School of Life Sciences
Major: Biological sciences (biology and society) 
Minors: Spanish, civic and economic thought and leadership
Certificate: History and philosophy of science

In her time at ASU, Bucker explored a diverse span of activities and engaged in a variety of leadership positions, often forming connections and establishing partnerships across departments and academic disciplines at ASU and on a global level. Bucker, an ASU Tillman Scholar, successfully channeled her passion for community development, educational access and science communication with her skills in design-based research and curriculum-building.

Bucker co-founded the community initiative, ​INvision​, which seeks to excite low-opportunity background youth about higher education through partnering ASU’s diverse learning opportunities with Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Arizona. 

She studied abroad in the rural village of Tilonia, Rajasthan, India, where she developed an understanding of mental health in the rural context through participant observation, interviews and community engagement. 

In addition to her academic and research work, Bucker participated in athletic endeavors on the women’s triathlon team — swimming, biking and running her way to two consecutive NCAA National Championships.

Alyssa Burgueno

Dean’s Medal: School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences
Majors: Mathematics, physics
Certificate: Cryptology

Burgueno is a first-generation college student who is known for her creative, self-driven and collaborative nature. She performed several research projects on MRI imaging and on applications of p-adic number theory to quantum physics. 

In her honors thesis Burgueno continued her research on applications of p-adic number theory to quantum physics. Her research has been published and presented at conferences. In her work, Burgueno also initiated collaboration with researchers in Europe

Burgueno served as an officer of the school’s flagship program, Association of Women in Mathematics, various extracurricular activities as a tutor and a contributor to an online physics program for high school students.

Upon graduation she plans on continuing her studies and pursuing a PhD in mathematics modern particle physics. 

Micah McCreary

Dean’s Medal: Department of English
Majors: English (literature), French, political science 
Minor: Asian languages (Chinese)
Certificate: International studies

McCreary’s diverse set of interests pushed him to take on three majors, a minor and a certificate while working as a teaching assistant at Barrett and a research assistant and French tutor.

During his time at ASU, McCreary participated in both the International Chinese Language Program and the French Language and Culture in Lyon programs. He is the founder and president of ASU Cultural Attachés, hosting weekly meetings where American and international students practice languages and learn about other cultures. In addition, he serves as a chief ambassador of ASU Global Council of Diplomats and as the membership chair of ASU United Nations Association.

“As a student, Micah was prepared, attentive, respectful and participated regularly and thoughtfully,” said Stephanie R. deLusé, principal honors faculty fellow at Barrett. “His willingness to learn and inquiring mind served him well as he built on his strong foundation to become even more excellent as time unfolded.”

McCreary studied abroad several times, traveling to China and Taiwan to immerse himself in his study of the languages. McCreary was accepted to many prestigious law programs and will pursue his graduate degree at Harvard Law School in fall 2020.

Madeleine Howell

Dean’s Medal: School of Molecular Sciences
Major: Chemistry
Minors: Materials science and engineering, mathematics

Howell has been extensively involved in undergraduate research at ASU in the interfaces of materials chemistry and health and co-authored several peer-reviewed, published papers. Her accomplishments have been recognized with the Goldwater Scholarship, the highest recognition for undergraduate research in science in the nation. 

Howell excelled in her coursework and her research, receiving the ACS Divisions of Physical Chemistry and Inorganic Chemistry awards from the School of Molecular Sciences.

“It is remarkable for a student to earn one of these awards, and almost unheard of for a student to earn two,” the school of Molecular Sciences awards committee said in their nomination letter. “It is a testament to Ms. Howell’s success and its recognition broadly by SMS faculty. In short, Ms. Howell is a standout who makes an impression on those who interact with her.”

Following graduation, Howell plans to pursue a PhD in physical chemistry at Harvard University. Her long-term career goal is to become tenure-track faculty at a large research university.

Amy Berry

Dean’s Medal: School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning
Major: Geography
Minors: Sustainability, urban planning

Berry is a top-performing graduating senior in the geography, urban planning and sustainability programs, making the Dean’s list every semester. She has balanced her studies while juggling many duties in her position as a student retention assistant.

Faculty in the school speak glowingly about Berry, noting her exemplary performance in class and her outstanding projects including her study of agricultural land loss in the U.S. using GIS and statistics.

“Amy has more interests than just geography and sustainability. She has compassion for those less fortunate than herself,” said Ronald Dorn, associate director and undergraduate programs professor at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Berry is involved in the community and participates in her church ministry and local charity events including Christmas Angel.

Ashton Marks

Dean’s Medal: School of Politics and Global Studies
Major: Political science

Faculty say Marks is “a joy” to have in class, recognizing him for always engaging in class and being eager to answer questions. “Ashton is an ideal student, combining intelligence, hard work and an eternally positive attitude,” said Kim Fridkin, professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies.

Avital Simhony, associate professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies who taught Marks in two courses concurred, saying he “was a treasure of a student,” who was “passionately engaged in class discussion.”

Valerie Hoekstra, associate professor at the School of Politics and Global Studies noted that “Ashton rose to the top immediately,” and “raised incredibly nuanced questions about the material that elevated our discussions. He was a leader of discussion, but never pompous or impolite even though some of the topics we discuss can be quite contentious. He also has demonstrated significant character and perseverance in pursuit of his degree. He is inspiring.”

Julia Phelps

Dean’s Medal: School of Human Evolution and Social Change
Majors: Anthropology, mathematics (statistics)

Phelps stands out to faculty as being an enthusiastic and engaged student with an outstanding work ethic. During her time at ASU she worked as a statistician doing data analyses. 

In her research and course work she performed at a very high level, making the dean’s list every semester. Phelps spent time abroad including in Leipzig, Germany, to train in advanced statistical modeling and in the Philippines, where she worked with faculty at a field site.

Upon graduation, Phelps strives to become an anthropological statistician.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications , New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU grad’s path from NCAA championships to studying abroad

April 27, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Delaney Bucker started her journey at Arizona State University as an athlete — swimming, biking and running her way to two NCAA National Championships on the women’s triathlon team.  Delaney Bucker Download Full Image

After accomplishing this impressive feat, she was ready to reach new heights on her academic path. With a passion for community development, educational access, curriculum development and science communication, Bucker took a hands-on, interdisciplinary approach to her studies — finding a place for the humanities in biology. 

Her unique combination of degrees, majors, minors and certificates illustrate her interdisciplinary spirit. This spring, Bucker, a Barrett, The Honors College student, will earn a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences from the School of Life Sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with minors in Spanish and civic and economic thought and leadership, as well as a certificate in history and philosophy of science.

Along her path, Bucker, who was chosen as the spring 2020 dean’s medalist for the School of Life Sciences, often formed connections and established partnerships across departments at ASU and on a global level. Throughout her time at ASU this was seen in her exploration of a diverse span of activities and engagement in a variety of leadership positions in the lab, in the field and beyond.

Bucker says she could see herself pursuing a career in education after graduation but she is eager to continue learning and seeing what opportunities come her way in the next few months.

“I think one of the greatest lessons I've really grounded myself in is that learning does not terminate at all upon graduation,” Bucker said. “Even though I'm leaving university and maybe I won’t have a structured learning environment for the time being, I am actually leaving with the confidence that I am capable of learning anything and this is the time that my learning can flourish more than ever before.”

She shared more about her journey to becoming a lifelong learner.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: One big lesson I’ve learned is that we're all learners and we're all teachers. I felt I grew and changed in a positive way the most when I had professors who kind of acknowledged that they were still learning as well, and that their students were teachers to them. Having smaller classes, particularly in contrast to the large lectures, helped me realize how much I appreciate an approach to teaching where the teachers themselves were learners. It also inspired my own learning when I could come to the classroom and have something to teach to the class that the professor themselves was open to hearing. So I think that's a huge takeaway from university — framing myself as a continuous teacher and learner and also continuing to establish relationships with people around me who want to carry that same sentiment.

Q: What were some of the challenges you encountered while attending ASU and how did you overcome them?

A: I’ve found that a common theme in the biological sciences major is that people want to become doctors and I never entered with that as my aspiration or goal. But I think because of this I was continually questioning myself, telling myself, "If I'm in a major with all people who want to be doctors, either I also need to be a doctor as well or I shouldn't be in this major if I don't want to be a doctor.” So it was this personal struggle that I felt and I guess I wasn't confident in the creativity that I could bring forth in the major and that field of study. I had to get creative and find an interesting way to integrate my biological sciences background into the field of education that I want to go into. At first it was hard for me to really conceptualize. But I think the challenge that I had initially in understanding how these all link and how these form me as a person will kind of be an output of my university experience. It's been a challenge, but I think it's also been a great opportunity.

Q: What has been your best memory at ASU?

A: Best is a strong word but I would say some of the most impactful weeks I had at ASU were when I studied abroad in India. Through the perspective of economic thought and leadership, we looked at India globally and politically. We looked at the historical text of the making of India and we got to talk with people, working relatively closely within the political life in Delhi. But then in contrast, we also went and stayed in Tilonia, a very small, rural village. We were able to see and experience these two very different types of living that are both existing within a six hour bus ride from each other. That was a very dramatic experience and that's where my thesis project of contextualizing mental health in the rural community came from.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: With intention and reflection I've gained confidence that my experiences have made something of themselves and will continue to do that. For right now, I really do feel my next step is that I'm ready to learn. I want to explore, gain and practice skills of self-sustainability like gardening, creating a greywater system in my house and growing my own food. I want to focus on establishing these very practical skills and the kind of lifestyle that I want to live. When it comes to contributing to my community I think my next step is looking into teaching opportunities. I see my long-term path going toward education or academia and thinking about educational models, educational systems and educational philosophy. I don't personally feel justified in going and knocking on the education system’s door without having been an educator myself. So I'd like to have that experience to build off of in the future.

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

A: Find your community. Really engage yourself on campus and explore different areas. There's so many opportunities and there’s such a rich diversity of opportunities on the ASU campus that even if you start one and you don't like it, move to the next one. There's so much opportunity to engage with people beyond just sitting beside them in lecture. Seek out opportunities that maybe don't seem the most connected. They will nonetheless add to your bank of skills and the experiences that will help you make the most of your time at ASU. Be a self-directed learner and know that your learning doesn't end after graduation.

Emily Balli

Manager of marketing and communications, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

ASU In the News

License restrictions block getting more nurses where needed

Doctors and health care workers in hard-hit areas of Michigan have been begging for assistance as they struggle to treat gravely ill patients.

The situation grew so dire at Detroit’s Sinai-Grace Hospital on April 5 that night-shift nurses in the emergency room refused to work unless more nurses were brought in, according to WJBK. Stressed hospital administrators told the nurses to either work or go home. To fill the gaps, some remaining emergency room personnel found themselves working 24-hour shifts. Download Full Image

To lend a hand, many older doctors and nurses have come out of retirement, but licensing restrictions are an obstacle to them crossing state lines and going where the needs are greatest.

One scholar has a suggestion for reducing the burden this is placing on the medical profession.

Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University, says states should revise their professional licensing rules to allow a concept known as universal license recognition. If Michigan did this, licensed medical professionals from other states could go there and go right to work.

“States are looking for ways to get more medical professionals to the front lines of the fight against the spread of the virus,” read a recent press release from Arizona State University.

Article Source: Michigan Capitol Confidential

Project Coordinator, Center for the Study of Economic Liberty

History student overcomes obstacles to graduate with master’s degree and honors

April 20, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

Madeline Stull has made the most of her Arizona State University education. The Scottsdale native always knew she wanted to go to graduate school and saw Barrett, The Honors College and the 4+1 program as opportunities that were too good to pass up. Madeline Stull Madeline Stull will be graduating this spring with her bachelor’s and master’s in history and minors in Arabic studies and civic and economic thought and leadership. Download Full Image

“I have always been an avid reader, which always made me quite curious,” Stull said. “Since elementary school, I have been looking forward to attending college to fill that curiosity. As it turns out, it simply grew larger.”

Stull was granted many awards while at ASU including a Friends of the Center research grant from the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, Norman Family scholarship from Barrett, The Honors College, a School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership Travel Grant and most recently, a Fulbright scholarship to study in Serbia after graduation.

Stull underwent chemotherapy while going through school and at times felt isolated, but she pushed forward and took hold of each liberty that came her way. Starting out as a researcher in the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, she was able to work with history Professor Chouki El Hamel, who offered her another opportunity.

“Due to my background in Arabic, we were a great research pair — leading to my position as the first employee in the Center for Maghrib Studies,” Stull said. “His help and support motivated me to submit a chapter of my undergraduate thesis to a conference in Poland, which was the only paper accepted from an undergraduate.”

Stull will be graduating this spring with her bachelor’s and master’s in history and minors in Arabic studies and civic and economic thought and leadership. We caught up with her and asked her a few questions about her time at ASU.

Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

Answer: Being a student at ASU taught me the importance of finding your own community. More than once I felt alienated, ostracized and misunderstood by numerous groups on ASU's campus, especially during the period I was undergoing chemotherapy. It was discouraging, and quite honestly, disappointing. I expected more from such an "inclusive" university. Fortunately, I found that inclusion in small groups of people on campus. My network in the history department and the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership have made me feel more at home in an academic setting than any other place or group. Their smiling faces and pointed critiques mean more to me than they will ever know. 

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

A: Dr. Chouki El Hamel and Dr. Carol McNamara have both taught me, and continue to teach me, that individuality and personal values are at the core of being an incredible scholar. They have shown me both how to accept myself and how to use that acceptance to continue growing in academia. 

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

A: Looking forward while staying present. There are so many opportunities out there, and you will never know unless you start looking early. Try your best to identify what you want and write it down. Then plan accordingly, so that you can both accomplish what you want while being able to have time for yourself. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I love the mall in front of Old Main as well as the new library. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: As of now, I plan to go to Serbia for a year on a Fulbright. Afterward, I intend to get a PhD in Eastern European history somewhere. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Education for all, though I am not sure $40 million is enough to solve a global issue.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

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Students, faculty talk 'Race and the American Story'

April 14, 2020

Annual symposium has transitioned to 'Zoomposium' with events though April 28

In the nearly 200 years since his death, Thomas Jefferson has been remembered in many ways by many people, and not without controversy.

Harvard Law School Professor Annette Gordon-Reed and University of Virginia Thomas Jefferson Foundation Professor Emeritus Peter Onuf — co-authors of the New York Times bestseller “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination” — acknowledged as much in a discussion of the Founding Father earlier this month.

“Jefferson is such an interesting character. I think the working premise for both of us was that we weren’t satisfied with stereotypical understandings of him; loving him or hating him too much,” Onuf said of his and Gordon-Reed’s collaborative process while writing their book.

Gordon-Reed agreed, adding, “It was about trying to understand this human being, who we’re still talking about in 2020, on this new medium.”

The medium Gordon-Reed was referencing was Zoom, where their discussion kicked off the annual Race and the American Story symposium, which brings together students and scholars to talk about race and American culture.

Due to the unfolding COVID-19 crisis, the symposium — originally scheduled to be held March 18–21 at the National Civil Rights Museum in Memphis, Tennessee — was turned into a “Zoomposium” this year, hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Political Thought and Leadership.

The Zoomposium features four of the originally planned major lectures in an online format and welcomes members of the community to participate, in addition to students and faculty.

The lectures run through April 28 and cover such topics as the famous James Baldwin-William F. Buckley Jr. debate of 1965, in which the civil rights activist and the conservative commentator, respectively, faced off on the subject of the country’s racial divides.

The next lecture, “Race and American Sports,” will take place at 1 p.m. MST, Friday, April 17, and will feature Aram Goudsouzian, professor of history at the University of Memphis and author of “King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution.”

Race and the American Story is a national educational project that involves faculty and students from universities across the country, including ASU, the University of Massachusetts Amherst (UMass) and the University of Missouri. It began in 2014 when Adam Seagrave, currently an associate professor at ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, and Stephanie Shonekan, currently a professor of Afro-American Studies at UMass, were colleagues at the University of Missouri.

As racial tensions on campus escalated following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, Seagrave and Shonekan felt compelled to act.

“I was teaching a course, an earlier version of Race and the American story, and an African American student of mine shared that a number of her white friends at the university were no longer her friends because of the tensions on campus that arose after the Michael Brown shooting,” Seagrave said. “That really brought home to me that we needed to do something to address this.”

Adam Seagrave

Associate Professor Adam Seagrave.

Shonekan had already been spearheading a campuswide program to orient students to the values of the university and address issues of racism, so he reached out to her and the two combined forces to create the Race and the American Story project. Since then, the project has spread to their new homes at ASU and UMass.

Over the course of a semester, students enrolled in the Race and the American Story course read about and discuss issues of race both historical and contemporary. This spring, Seagrave and ASU T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics Associate Professor Eleanor Seaton co-led a discussion with students on select articles from The New York Times 1619 Project, which aims to reexamine the legacy of slavery in the United States.

“Our ultimate hope for the project is to create community and build friendships across differences among students and faculty that otherwise wouldn’t have been likely to develop,” Seagrave said. “There’s something about the learning environment that is really conducive to developing really good relationships, and I think students experience that through the camaraderie that comes with reading the same things, discussing the same topics and then finally coming together for this symposium at the end of the semester.”

During Onuf and Gordon-Reed’s Zoom discussion of Thomas Jefferson, they covered everything from his relationship with Sally Hemings (Gordon-Reed is the author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book “The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family”) to how his understandings of race might have influenced his ideas about American citizenship.

Toward the end of the discussion, students had a chance to ask Onuf and Gordon-Reed some questions. ASU political science undergraduate Cormac Doebbeling wondered if they thought Jefferson considered how the Declaration of Independence might pertain to people of other races and genders in the future.

“I’d be skeptical that he could have ever seen the notion of a nonwhite majority America,” Onuf said.

“I think it would have been hard for him to come to the idea that people who had been enslaved in this country could come to love it,” Gordon-Reed said.

In any case, while Jefferson may not have been able to foresee what the future would bring, what matters to Seagrave is how we choose to deal with the realities of modern-day life now.

“I always try to ask my students to lead with love in all of their interactions with each other,” he said. "On another level, I think perspective is really difficult to obtain when you’re living in a particular historical moment, so I hope the deep historical reflection we take in the course gives students some valuable perspective on contemporary issues that allows them to embrace the idea of really respecting each other as human beings and having that as the basis for their interactions with each other.”

Top image courtesy of Pixabay.