Thunderbird alum connects student with their passion for global marketing

March 24, 2023

Julie Schuldt is a true global citizen. Throughout her life, she has lived in different parts of the United States, as well as Asia, specifically Japan and South Korea, and has experienced a variety of cultures, traditions and global perspectives. This international exposure, combined with her parents both having a Thunderbird education, inspired her to pursue a Master of Global Management (MGM) degree at Thunderbird School of Global Management at Arizona State University, which she plans to complete in spring 2023.

Currently, Schuldt is a marketing intern at ATMA Global, a company that provides global learning solutions to corporate, government, education and travel markets. Working closely with CEO and Founder Sanjyot Dunung, who is also a Thunderbird alum, Schuldt helps deliver effective business and learning solutions that integrate cultures, countries, global affairs, education and technology. Julie Schuldt sitting on a stool at a round bar, looking over her shoulder and smiling. Julie Schuldt sitting in the “Take a Seat” barstool that was donated by her dad, T-bird alum and previous Pub manager John Schuldt, ’85. To be a part of T-bird history and the Pub, you can also donate at Download Full Image

Dunung and Schuldt's relationship began during Thunderbird’s Grand Opening and 75th Anniversary Global Reunion, where Schuldt utilized her networking skills to approach Dunung and proactively reached out to her on LinkedIn. Following Thunderbird’s Career Management Center's advice, Schuldt remained in touch with Dunung throughout the summer and fall of 2022. By December 2022, Dunung had offered Schuldt an internship opportunity.

“I’m always happy to connect with T-birds and hope that everyone is receptive to alums and students — that’s what helps to strengthen our global network," Dunung said. 

Dunung and Schuldt's backgrounds are both diverse, with Dunung being born in Mumbai, India, raised in Liverpool, England, and Des Plaines, Illinois, and later graduating from Thunderbird. She has since based herself in New York City, where she founded ATMA Global. Recognizing Julie's good intuitive understanding of working across cultures, combined with solid marketing skills, Dunung offered Schuldt the internship position. 

“I appreciated that she stayed engaged, was enthusiastic, attentive to work and a self-starter. While business skills are always essential, we also review for personality fits to ensure that someone will fit into our team culture," said Dunung.

Since joining ATMA Global, Schuldt has demonstrated enthusiasm and interest in the company's products and services, particularly their recently released award-winning online platform, Atma Insights. Judges have called it a "Netflix-style" learning solution for professionals, educators and students. Julie's role involves researching and identifying new marketing channels, and she has been able to apply both her skills and experiences to propose interesting new marketing ideas that are still in the research and analysis phases.

Thunderbird's emphasis on understanding the importance of global markets to businesses has been instrumental in preparing students like Schuldt for careers in the global economy and strengthening the institution's global network. As Schuldt pursues her MGM degree at Thunderbird, she is constantly reminded of the importance of a global perspective in business, learning and technology — core elements of her current work at ATMA Global. Working closely with Dunung has been an incredibly positive experience for Schuldt, who has become her mentee. 

"Sanjyot is a great communicator and active listener. She truly cares about her team members and is passionate about her business. It has been a pleasure working with her," Schuldt said.

Question: Does ATMA Global provide paid internships?

Sanjyot Dunung: We periodically offer paid internships based on our needs and availability of skills. Over the years, our approach to internships has evolved. Rather than just hire an intern without clear objectives, we tend to focus on identifying tasks internally — that our teams have identified a need for. This enables us to more efficiently and effectively align intern skills with our teams’ needs, ensuring that interns have productive and enriching experiences.

Q: What’s something you learned while at Thunderbird — in the classroom or otherwise — that has helped you excel in your internship?

Julie Schuldt: My marketing class with Professor Ettenson has been a great asset in helping me excel in my internship. In Professor Ettenson’s class, I learned invaluable frameworks to help me quickly understand and synthesize all the information I gather through my market research.

Q: If your company was hiring, what do they look for in candidates? Does a bachelor’s or master’s degree make a difference?

Dunung: The degree is secondary to the skill sets. For more advanced skills needs, a master’s is helpful but not required. We expect to train new team members on our products, services and processes. We expect new team members to be able to start applying their skill sets and experiences to add value relatively soon after joining our team.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who has just graduated from Thunderbird and is looking to start their career? 

Schuldt: Exploring your passions will inevitably lead you down a beautiful rabbit hole that will open you up to a world of opportunities and possibilities you would have never seen otherwise. While exploring your passions, make sure to explore the Thunderbird network. I am continuously impressed with how willing Thunderbird alumni are to chat with, support and mentor current students or recent alumni.

Q: What’s your favorite story from your time at Thunderbird?

Dunung: I had the pleasure of attending Thunderbird at the Glendale campus, which provided a wonderful and unique experience. While I lived across the street in Sagewood, we all often hung out at the pool on campus, meeting new friends usually at the start of a semester before the workload preoccupied us. I spent many a Thursday evening playing pool at the Pub, where I had no skill but frequent beginner’s luck. With a fellow T-bird I taught ballroom dance, meeting new people and learning new skills. I’ll always remember the close bonds forged through Japanese classes with Kumayama-sensei and the case-study-focused FORAD class! I’m sure every T-bird remembers their more intense classes.

Q: What’s your favorite story from your time at Thunderbird? 

Schuldt: It is so difficult to pick one because I have so many! By far the most impactful thing about my Thunderbird experience is the incredible friendships I have. One of my favorite memories from Thunderbird is performing on Latin American Regional Night. We performed a traditional Cuban Rueda dance.

Dasi Styles

Senior Media Relations Officer, Thunderbird School of Global Management


ASU student wins Special Jury Award for VR experience at SXSW

March 24, 2023

Cameron Kostopoulos, a student in the Narrative and Emerging Media program at Arizona State University, won the Special Jury Award at South by Southwest (SXSW) for his virtual reality experience documenting the lives of transgender people. 

Kostopoulos won the award in the XR Experience Competition for his piece “Body of Mine," which puts you inside the body of another gender and you can discover stories about and interviews with transgender people. Cameron Kostopoulos SXSW Jury Prize Award Cameron Kostopoulos Download Full Image

SXSW is an annual event in Austin, Texas, that celebrates the convergence of technology, film, music, education and culture.

“For the people who are questioning their identity or people who are exploring their gender, I wanted to give them a space and create a bigger platform where cisgender and straight people could listen to queer stories and try to connect with them,” Kostopoulos said.

The SXSW jury described the work as “a beautifully crafted virtual reality experience that shows how VR can provide a safe space for understanding, reflection and connection when a safe space in the real world is hard to find.”

“It has been thrilling to watch our Narrative and Emerging Media master’s student Cameron Kostopoulos take the germ of an idea he had when he started in our program last fall and turn it into a fully body experience that is so magnificent that it took the Special Jury Award at SXSW interactive where it was competing with professional projects from around the globe,” said Nonny de la Peña, program director of the Narrative and Emerging Media program. “I am delighted that ASU can provide the mentorship, the connections and the production support to help students’ who work as hard as Cameron turn into award-winning directors in immersive technologies.”

The Los Angeles-based Master of Arts in Narrative and Emerging Media program is a collaborative effort between ASU's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. 

The program focuses on the development of a creative practice and critical understanding of emerging storytelling and immersive experience content creation in augmented, virtual and extended reality, and short-form digital, streaming and virtual production.

Kostopoulos started his project a year ago. It began as his undergraduate thesis at the University of South California, where he received his Bachelor of Fine Arts in film and television production with a minor in future cinema. 

“I already had the piece built coming into the program, but the ASU faculty really helped me with the production side and helped me get all the equipment I needed and helped me make the connections I needed to make. They helped guide the piece ethically and narratively,” he said.

The project evolved as Kostopoulos encountered new trials in his personal life.

“I had been outed as gay to my parents, and I lost that relationship. I was thinking a lot about safe spaces and what those are, and what they mean to people who aren’t as privileged to have one. I didn’t have one, so I decided I wanted to build one,” he said.

Kostopoulos didn’t have any experience building a VR game but decided he would learn. He said he spent about a year learning how to assemble a game on Unreal Engine, a game engine that provides a suite of tools for game development, including 3D rendering, physics simulation and visual scripting.

Kostopoulos referred to the team that worked with him as “underdogs” since they were the youngest with the smallest budget for their category. Kostopoulos was the director, lead developer, designer and artist.

The rest of the team consisted of Evan Siegal, an Unreal technical artist who helped build the piece; Taylor Woods, production designer of the physical installation; Prateek Rajagopal, who composed the music; and Ethan Denning, Ty Kostopoulos and Charlie Anderson, who helped run the installation.

Kostopoulos said his team’s reaction to winning was “a rush of excitement.”

“Our team kind of broke down crying because we had worked so hard. We put in so many all-nighters and so many tears, blood and sweat into the piece,” he said.

Kostopoulos plans to write and direct feature films and a short film in the future. He is also currently exploring the intersection between intimacy and technology specifically as it relates to queer identities within the realm of XR.

Written by By Sierra Alvarez

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A sense of belonging

March 23, 2023

Panel examines role of Indigenous land in founding of universities and how higher ed can cultivate deeper relationship with Native peoples

Universities and colleges can do a wonderful job of solving society's problems, educating the populace and making life better for everyone. But they also can create problems — problems such as displacement and lack of equity and inclusion for unrepresented groups.

That was the premise of a Wednesday night hybrid forum titled “People, Places and Possibilities: Land and Belonging in Higher Education,” hosted by Arizona State University’s Center for Indian Education and sponsored by the Spencer Foundation. 

“We are interested in the ways in which institutions of higher education might pay closer attention to the role of place in the work that they do. By place, we mean land that has been imbued with meaning,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, university vice president of social advancement and director of the Center for Indian Education. “We wanted to gather a group of people and scholars to have a conversation about what responsibilities institutions have, particularly towards Native lands and Native peoples.”

In addition to Brayboy, panelists included Amanda R. Tachine, an author and assistant professor with ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College; Eve L. Ewing, writer, scholar, cultural organizer and an associate professor at the University of Chicago; Megan Bang, professor of the Learning Sciences and director of the Center for Native American and Indigenous Research at Northwestern University; and Deondre Smiles, an assistant professor in the Department of Geography at the University of Victoria in British Columbia, Canada.

Brayboy said the forum was inspired by a March 2020 long-form investigative report titled “Land-grab Universities” by Robert Lee, a lecturer in American history at the University of Cambridge, and Tristan Ahtone, an investigative reporter and a Nieman fellow.

The study that revealed how 52 of the nation’s best-known public and private universities were funded by nearly 11 million acres of land seized from nearly 250 tribal nations. Lee and Ahtone claim these universities have dubiously confiscated these lands and benefited to the tune of half a billion dollars. The article, which won a 2021 SIGMA Award, has prompted students and faculty of many universities — including ASU – to demand acknowledgement of this injustice and the land on which they sit.

Brayboy said at the forum that ASU has done a commendable job with its land acknowledgementArizona State University's four campuses are located in the Salt River Valley on ancestral territories of Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Pee Posh (Maricopa) communities, whose care and keeping of these lands allows us to be here today. . At the beginning of the event Wednesday, a video of ASU's Indigenous land acknowledgement was shared. 

The Lee and Ahtone paper also states that some of these confiscated lands were promised to freed slaves, which left Black communities in the lurch.

“Institutions, sometimes intentionally or unintentionally, displace people to create themselves,” Tachine said. “Native American people in lots of institutions of higher institutions often wonder about our sense of belonging. There are different systems of power that are creating those feelings. And they’re more than just feelings. They are real actions that make it difficult for Native people to thrive.”

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Professor Megan Bang from Northwestern University (left) and Assistant Professor Deondre Smiles from the University of Victoria participated in the March 22 forum "People, Places, and Possibilities" through Zoom. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Ewing said land-grant universities historically have been a mechanism for primarily white and wealthy people to accrue power, which means others get excluded.

“The more our people are left out of universities, the more the university gets to configure itself as a prestigious place, which allows it to accrue power,” Ewing said. “And yet the paradox is that we are here, right?”

Smiles said there’s more than a bit of irony when it comes to how universities honor its land and the people it once belonged to.

“At the University of Victoria where I teach, I read a land acknowledgement before every single event and I critically interrogate this,” Smiles said. “Whose relationships are they supposed to be honoring, because these perspectives are often not represented on this college campus. … I think the way we think about space and place ties into what perspectives we prioritize and what are really given center stage in higher education.”

Bang focused her comments on how and what is being taught on these ancestral lands.

“The biggest role for us is to recognize the transformation of what actually needs to happen with how we learn and what we learn,” Bang said. “The Western knowledge system separated disciplines to have a division of labor towards particular ends. As a learning scientist, how and what you think matters, and are intertwined.”

Panel members said despite what has happened in the past, they envision a brighter future for students, academics and their children — but they must continue to fight and persevere as they have done for centuries.

“This is where ancestry really becomes important,” Ewing said. “The things that our parents, grandparents and folks who we will never meet or never know their names and what they went through in order for us to be here … to sit here and have a nice dinner with you, for us to have nice glasses and clean water to drink, all the things that are so innumerable, we owe that to those who come after us.” 

Top photo: Associate Professor Eve L. Ewing from the University of Chicago (center) is joined by Assistant Professor Amanda R. Tachine from ASU's Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and President’s Professor Bryan Brayboy of the School of Social Transformation on Wednesday, March 22, at the Canopy by Hilton Tempe Downtown. The panel addressed the topic “People, Places, and Possibilities: Land and Belonging in Higher Education,” put on by ASU’s Center for Indian Education and sponsored by the Spencer Foundation. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Reporter , ASU News


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Spring break trip to Alaska provides ASU students with firsthand look at Indigenous law

March 17, 2023

It was not your typical spring break. There were no trips to a beautiful beach or movie-watching marathons.

Instead, a group of 29 Arizona State University law students packed their parkas and took off to Alaska for a course in Indigenous law as part of ASU’s Indian Legal Program.

“The trip proved to be a once-in-a-lifetime experience for some of our students,” said Stacy Leeds, Willard H. Pedrick Dean and Regents Professor of Law at the ASU Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

The course, titled Alaska Native Legal Issues and Solutions, was created by Leeds and Alex Cleghorn, senior legal and policy director at the Alaska Native Justice Center. It took place from March 6–10 in Anchorage, Alaska. 

ASU’s Indian Legal Program, one of the most respected in the country, has conducted traveling classrooms since 2010.

Past spring break trips have been to Nebraska and taught by Professor Lance Morgan at HoChunk Inc., the business enterprise of the Winnebago Tribe. This was the first to Alaska. 

According to Leeds, most of the literature in federal Indian law minimizes or entirely fails to address the Alaska Native experience.

The trip offered law students insights into some of the most complex legal and political issues of our time, she said.

Students learned about everything from criminal and civil jurisdiction to the area’s world-class intertribal health system. The class tapped into the expertise of local attorneys, business leaders and government officials.

Cleghorn helped co-teach the course and secured local experts as guest speakers. The Cook Inlet Tribal Council and Southeastern Foundation tribal nonprofits provided classroom space and technical assistance. Cook Inlet Region Inc., an Alaska Native regional corporation, hosted a reception for students to meet attorneys and business leaders. 

“For many, the course was both intellectually and emotionally challenging because it unpacked so many conflicts, injustices and tensions,” Leeds said. “Every single participant grew in their understanding of Indian law and in their exposure to the diverse perspectives and unique lived experiences of Alaska Native communities and individuals.”

Exploring legal land rights

Land is a consistent legal issue for most Native American tribes, and central to the course were discussions about the complex legal issues that flow from Congress’ 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which extinguished Native Alaska land claims and abolished tribes’ legal claims to the land in Alaska, and instead conveyed 45.5 million acres to newly created regional Alaska Native corporations. This differs from land ownership patterns in the lower 48 states under the reservation model and other tribal land tenure systems.

“It was very eye-opening for our students to learn about Alaska’s rich history and see how the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act changed the landscape for tribes in Alaska,” said Kathlene Rosier, assistant dean for community engagement and executive director of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program, who took part in the trip. “The students were able to compare the differences between tribal structures and land claims in the lower 48 states.” 

Second-year law student Clayton Kinsey said he appreciates the opportunity to go on ASU Law trips. 

“This was basically a semester's worth of Alaska Native issues and solutions packed into one week,” said Kinsey, who plans to get an Indian Law Certificate at ASU along with a law degree. 

Kinsey was surprised to learn that for the 229 federally recognized tribes in Alaska, there are limited rights to hunt and fish. 

“Many of these people survived on hunting caribou, whaling and fishing for salmon, trout and other fish,” Kinsey said. “So, in a way, there was no established right for many of these people to continue their way of life.”

Ravynn Nothstine, a third-year student who grew up in Alaska, was able to stay with family and participate in traditional Alaska Native dancing while she was there. She knew about the settlement act most of her life but the trip, combined with her studies at ASU Law, gave her a new perspective. 

“My understanding was deepened,” Nothstine said. “I learned a lot more about the nuances of the law. And since I am a bit more legally trained, I now have a better understanding of how it works.” 

Maryam Salazar, a second-year law student, described the trip as amazing.

“What mostly resonated with me was applying a forward-looking approach to changing legislation instead of relying on legislative history to advocate for Native peoples,” Salazar said. 

“We were exposed to many different perspectives on the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act that allowed me to see the creativity of self-determination and how tribes and the corporations can use different approaches to reach their needs.

“I don't think there is a perfect way to go about things, but I've been digesting these new approaches and thinking about possibilities for Indian policy.”

Leeds said that without the support of the local community, her students wouldn’t have had this rare opportunity.

“We are so grateful for the extended legal and business community in Alaska — especially for Alex Cleghorn, who leads the Alaska Native Justice Center, and Gloria O’Neill, CEO of Cook Inlet Tribal Council Inc. — who came to together to make this possible,” she said.

Photos courtesy Ravynn Nothstine, Maryam Salazar and Clayton Kinsey

Dolores Tropiano

Reporter , ASU News

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Manipulating molecules and minting chemists

March 16, 2023

Ryan Nangreave conducts complex research in a Lake Havasu lab, mentors ASU undergraduate students

Arizona State University at Lake Havasu is known for its picturesque beauty, access to outdoor activities and small campus feel.

But under its quaint façade, there is hard-hitting research taking place in a lab.

Ryan Nangreave, an assistant teaching professor in chemistry, and one of his students are conducting work on synthesizing novel molecules for production of non-natural proteins. Yes, it sounds complicated — and it is — but it’s got important real-world implications.

“This type of genetic engineering allows scientists to create new proteins with unique activities, properties, labels and methods for further conjugation to other molecules,” said Nangreave, who teaches general, organic, bio- and environmental chemistry at ASU at Lake Havasu, and was a postdoctoral fellow of ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

“This allows future researchers to advance health, medicine and cancer research.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU News

It's the seventh year Nangreave has engaged in an undergraduate research project. The goal is to complete the research and present the findings at the next American Chemical Society meeting in New Orleans in 2024.

What takes place inside the lab is superseded by what’s taking place outside the classroom — Nangreave is preparing undergraduates for graduate work and minting future chemists and STEM workers through his mentorship.

Just ask Aidanek Ruslanbekova, who graduated from ASU at Lake Havasu in 2022 with a biology degree. She said it would not have been possible without the guidance of Nangreave.

“I used to work on the Havasu campus at the office, but I quit my job in order to fully commit my time and energy to research in Dr. Nangreave’s lab,” said Ruslanbekova, who will receive a full scholarship at Tulane University in New Orleans to pursue her PhD in chemistry, as well as $33,000 to conduct research. “My research and teaching experience at ASU at Lake Havasu gave me the opportunity to be considered by graduate schools.”

She said her first day in Nangreave’s class was life-changing. He conducted an experiment with balloons filled with different gases to demonstrate the concept of chemistry.

“He concluded the lesson with, 'That’s why I love organic chemistry,’” said Ruslanbekova, who is a native of Kyrgyzstan. “His passion for the subject, I believe, is the reason why I have developed a passion for chemistry, too.”

Nangreave is now instilling that same passion in Cem Arkun, a second-year biology student. Arkun, who hails from Turkey, originally applied to a medical school in Italy but COVID-19 prevented him from entering the country. He applied to ASU and was going to attend at the West campus, but then discovered ASU at Lake Havasu.

“Havasu offers the same major, but I like the small-city feel,” Arkun said. “You really get to know the people, the community and your instructors.”

The latter definitely applies to Nangreave, who spends up to 12 hours a day with his latest protégé. In fact, they are like family.

“The drive to excel and success Cem possesses is amazing,” Nangreave said. “He’s in my office every day asking questions. He works with me with in the lab for 20 to 30 hours a week, even on weekends. He makes me match his passion. He pushes me to be a better teacher.”

Student in chemistry lab

Second-year biology student Cem Arkun gently mixes a liquid solution that will protect an amino acid structure in a lab at ASU at Lake Havasu. Chemistry Assistant Teaching Professor Ryan Nangreave is mentoring Arkun, who plans to pursue a medicine and PhD route to become a researcher. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Arkun said he has plans to become a medical doctor and the research he conducts with Nangreave is preparing him for that day.

“I don’t feel like I’m working on an undergraduate research project. I feel like I’m getting grad-level experience right now,” Arkun said. “It’s in the way he (Nangreave) treats me, the way he teaches things, the way he explains things. He is my mentor. I would say I am greatly benefitting from this experience.”

Nangreave said the feeling is mutual.

“There’s some downtime in the lab, and that’s when you really get to know your students,” Nangreave said. “They get to know me as a person. I get to know them and their background and where they came from. I exchange gifts with his family for the holidays. I view them as part of an extended family.”

RELATED: ASU at Lake Havasu celebrates 10 years of community education

Why students come to Havasu is no mystery; why Nangreave is there is a bit of a fluke. In 2014, Nangreave and his wife, Janette (a physical chemist lecturer at ASU at Lake Havasu), were in the middle of their postdoctoral work in Tempe when he received a call to teach a semester in Havasu. The prior instructor left in the middle of the semester to take a job at another university and a replacement was urgently needed. Nangreave was offered a position as an adjunct faculty member to fill the slot.

“I felt it was a good opportunity to get some teaching experience, but the idea was always to go back to Tempe, finish my postdoc and proceed into an industrial position,” Nangreave said. “But when I got up here, I thought it was paradise.”

The students thought the same of Nangreave, who were appreciative of his commitment to them and the job. When the position was posted after the end of the school year, students begged Nangreave to apply. They also applied pressure on then-director David Young to hire Nangreave. Young listened to his students and tendered the job offer to Nangreave when he submitted his application. Nangreave called his wife and asked her to leave her position at the Biodesign Institute, where she ran the lab — not a small ask. They moved their family from Chandler, Arizona, to Lake Havasu City in 2015 and never looked back.

ASU at Lake Havasu Executive Director Carla Harcleroad said she’s glad the Nangreaves made the campus their new home.

“Ryan and Jeanette Nangreave embody the best of ASU at Lake Havasu, and they continue to help shape this location,” Harcleroad said. “Their commitment to student success, their colleagues and ASU is inspiring, and their community engagement in STEM education is admirable. I can’t wait to see what they do next on campus and in Lake Havasu City.”

Nangreave’s next move is to simply stay put… and continue to inspire students.

“After my third year teaching at this position, I received a job offer to teach at my alma mater back East,” Nangreave admitted. “It was a great job offer and I talked it over with my wife and my children. But we all agreed that Lake Havasu is our home now.

“I’m exactly where I should be.” 

Top photo: Second-year biology student Cem Arkun uses a pipette to add a chemical mixture to his experiment designed to protect an amino acid structure in a lab at ASU at Lake Havasu. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong to speak at ASU March 15

Wong's appearance is part of the Honors Lecture Series presented by Barrett, The Honors College

March 13, 2023

Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong has a lot to say about society.

Through her work she has weighed in on many issues, including Asian American womens’ struggles with depression, the roles of artists and comedians, and women of color in the entertainment business. Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong stanidng on a stage with American flags, wearing a white suit, raising her arm and smiling. Performance artist, comedian and writer Kristina Wong will appear at ASU on March 15 as part of Barrett, The Honors College's Honors Lecture Series. Photo courtesy Barrett, The Honors College Download Full Image

She has created and performed in shows based on her life experiences, including “Wong Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” about the high rates of depression among Asian American women, and “The Wong Street Journal," about navigating white privilege as an Asian American “mzungu” in East Africa.

Her most recent play is “Sweatshop Overlord,” a dramatization of her activist work with the Auntie Sewing Squad, a national mutual-aid network of volunteers who sewed masks for vulnerable populations, at-risk people and front-line workers during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Based on this work, Wong recently won a Doris Duke Artist Award, a prize worth $550,000 that she can use however she wants. Wong was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in Drama for her work on “Sweatshop Overlord.”

Wong is bringing her unique perspective to Arizona State University for a Barrett Honors Lecture Series event from 5 to 6 p.m., Wednesday, March 15, at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus.

This lecture, in room 128 at the Cronkite School, located at 555 N. Central Ave., will detail her experiences using theater to do the work of education, community-building, culture shifting and therapy to set the stage for legislative change.

The event is free and open to the ASU community. Registration for a seat at the event can be found here.

In addition, Wong is an artist-in-residence at ASU’s Gammage Auditorium and will perform her one-woman show “Kristina Wong for Public Office” on March 18.

According to Mathew Sandoval, Barrett Honors Faculty Fellow, Wong has a connection to the honors college dating back to 2018, when she included honors students as historic reenactors in New York City performances of an immersive play she wrote titled “Kristina Wong’s Discharges from American History,” which focused on political scandals that have happened in hotel rooms. The play was directed by Janessa Joffe, with assistance from Sandoval.

“Kristina provided a great opportunity for Barrett students to participate in a play based on interesting historical events and be exposed to her creative processes. To be in a play in the theater capital of the United States with an outstanding artist and social commentator like Kristina was an experience like no other for our students,” Sandoval said.

Also in 2018, Wong participated in a community dialogue co-sponsored by Barrett Honors College and ASU Gammage in which she discussed the role of artists and comedians in the age of U.S. President Donald Trump, the unique challenges women of color face in the entertainment business, new horizons in theater, the successes and struggles of being a self-sustaining artist and her projects.

Wong was featured in the New York Times’ Off Color series “highlighting artists of color who use humor to make smart social statements about the sometimes subtle, sometimes obvious ways that race plays out in America today.”

She has been a commentator for American Public Media’s Marketplace, PBS, VICE, Jezebel, xoJane and Huffington Post, and a guest on Comedy Central’s "The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore," FXX’s “Totally Biased with W. Kamau Bell” and "AM Tonight" on Fusion TV. 

She has had roles on "General Hospital," Nickelodeon’s “Nicky Ricky Dicky and Dawn” and Myx TV’s “I’m Asian American and Want Reparations for Yellow Fever," and she spent a month in Northern Uganda recording a hit rap album “Mzungu Price” with local rappers.

For her work, Wong has been awarded grants from Creative Capital, The MAP Fund, Center for Cultural Innovation, the Durfee Foundation, National Performance Network. She has received six artist-in-residence grants and a COLA Master Artist Fellowship from the Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs.

In 2017, she was named as one of the “YBCA 100″ celebrating the innovators, provocateurs and thought leaders who are using their platform to create cultural movement. She also received the FOCUS AWARD from Kearny Street Workshop for her unique contribution to amplifying the Asian Pacific American community’s collective voice within American culture.

Wong has been awarded residencies from the MacDowell Colony, New York Theater Workshop, Ojai Playwrights Festival, Montalvo Center for the Arts, Hermitage and Atlantic Center for the Arts. She also has taught at Cal Arts in the Master of Fine Arts Creative Writing program and has twice given the commencement speech at University of California Los Angeles, her alma mater.

Nicole Greason

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


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Celebrating the women of ASU Online who inspire, advance STEM education

March 10, 2023

Women throughout history have made significant contributions in the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Through their contributions, they have opened doors and paved the way for others to advance the work they’ve started and make contributions and discoveries of their own.

Women’s History Month celebrates these women, their roles in American history and their contributions.

Such notable women are found in the faculty at ASU Online, making up 55% of the faculty who teach online, representative of the students they serve. 

Portrait of ASU professor

Ara Austin

Ara Austin's passion for student success outcomes stems from her PhD work, which analyzed the effects of socio-cognitive and socio-cultural factors on student performance in organic chemistry courses. 

Her research focused on student self-efficacy, motivation and self-regulation as well as different forms of capital — a student’s upbringing and their social and cultural environment — and how these factors affect their skills and how they performed in college chemistry courses. 

“We find that women and underrepresented students have lower self-efficacy when entering organic chemistry courses,” Austin said. “This is not their fault. We have created a culture and environment in STEM where these students feel like they won’t be successful. We need to do a better job so that our students don’t feel this way because I believe all students are capable of success.” 

Now a senior director of online engagement and strategic initiatives at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, her focus is on increasing experiential learning opportunities for online students through the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) program. The program was developed to address the challenges of offering quality research opportunities to ASU Online students at scale, specifically providing research experiences to underrepresented students in a variety of disciplines. 

“We want to help students recognize how important research experiences can be,” Austin said. “It helps students gain skills like communication, interpreting data, writing about the data and then sharing that knowledge with other people.”

In fall 2023, a total of 190 online students participated in OURS experiences; 74% were women, 41% underrepresented minorities and 57% were Pell-eligible. 

Portrait of ASU Professor .

Carolyn Compton

Carolyn Compton, a professor of life sciences and medical director of ASU’s Biodesign Clinical Testing Laboratory, was named a top female scientist in the world in 2022 and one of the world’s top 100 pathologists in 2016.

Her journey as a pathologist was only the beginning. Compton taught at medical schools, led national institutes and, ultimately, under her leadership, the ASU Biodesign Institute converted its research infrastructure to focus on testing, tracking and mitigating the coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic and developing the first saliva-based COVID-19 test in the state of Arizona.

That journey was not met without its challenges. The wisdom she garnered through those lived experiences she now implements in how she approaches teaching.

“I treat them (students) completely equal,” she said. “I get a chance to coach them.”

Comptons says that it’s not only important to lift women up in the field of medicine, but it’s also important to help normalize representation in medicine, to see women in leadership positions and be comfortable with taking direction from them at all levels.

Portrait of ASU Associate Professor .

Kristen Parrish

Kristen Parrish, an associate professor at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, has expertise in energy-efficient building design and construction. She also focuses on student success, specifically inclusive teaching.

A third of her research work and scholarship looks at how to improve the way that we teach. While that work is focused on how to enhance teaching in a way that engages everyone in the classroom, and is not designed for one specific population, the results can be segmented to look at specific populations. 

“It is refreshing and always rewarding to see that some of the things that we try to do in classrooms resonate with populations that have traditionally been kept out of or felt not a part of the engineering and, in my case, the construction discipline,” Parrish said.

In 2022, only about 11% of the entire U.S. construction workforce were women and Parrish is trying to move the needle.

“The most important thing that I tell girls, I tell my daughters and I tell all my male colleagues that have girls is, tell your girls to keep raising their hands,” she said.

“Having the perseverance to keep your hand up until you do understand is important,” Parrish said.

When it comes to engaging more women in STEM, Austin said it's important that women see themselves represented in these fields and continue to advance the strides that have been made to change the status quo. She remembers being gifted books about famous inspirational people in history. The book she liked the most was the one about Marie Curie, a physicist and chemist who was the first woman in history to win the Nobel Prize. 

“Representation is important because people connect to others who they can identify with,” Austin said. “It just goes to show that proper representation can lead to a sense of belonging for many of us, and we need it to inspire the next generation of scientists.”

In engineering, Parrish shared that in the past there was an idea that for women to be successful in male-dominated careers, they had to behave the way men behaved — emulating the people that are in power.

“Luckily, we’ve made some progress,” Parrish said. “Broadly speaking, there’s less pressure to become like someone else and there’s more of a celebration of who you are — we want you to be here because you are you. Everyone has something they bring to the table, and let’s celebrate all those identities that are brought to the table and the unique contributions they bring to the team.”

Austin said she wants her students to feel like they have a place in the sciences and feel like they do belong.

“It’s great to see so many women in our science programs at ASU,” she said. “I’m grateful to them for choosing the field as much as they are grateful to me for being an inspiration to them. We need to do a better job at making it normal that women, and all people, are capable of doing science. Even an unconventional person like me had a place. Everyone has a place in science.”

Top photo courtesyThisIsEngineering via Pexels.

Meenah Rincon

Public Relations Manager , ASU Online

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ASU community mourns Sun Devil and former Navajo Nation President Peterson Zah

March 8, 2023

Zah served as the 1st special advisor to the ASU president on American Indian Initiatives

Peterson Zah, the first president of the Navajo Nation and a graduate of Arizona State University, died Tuesday, March 7, at age 85.

Zah, who led the Navajo Nation from 1990 to 1994 and was a special advisor to ASU President Michael Crow, earned a bachelor’s degree in education from ASU in 1963 and was awarded an Honorary Doctoral Degree of Humane Letters from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in 2005.

“I am saddened by the passing of Peterson Zah, a groundbreaking and courageous leader who shared his knowledge, passion for education and service, and generosity of spirit to make Arizona State University, Arizona and Indian Country better," ASU President Michael M. Crow said. "He set the standard for ASU’s commitment to American Indian students and tribal communities, and he will be deeply missed. Our condolences to the Zah family and the Navajo Nation.”

Zah was born in 1937 in Low Mountain, Arizona, and attended the Phoenix Indian School. After graduating from ASU, he returned to his community to teach carpentry to Navajo adults and then became a field coordinator for the VISTA Indian Training Center. He later co-founded and became executive director of DNA-People’s Legal Services, a nonprofit legal services program for Navajo, Hopi and Apache people.

Zah was chairman of the Navajo Nation Council from 1981 to 1987, and in 1990 became the first president of the Navajo Nation, which had changed its constitution to shift from a council governing model to a three-branch system: executive, legislative and judicial.

He was a lifelong advocate for education in the Navajo Nation. Just last fall, he met up with the ASU Tribal Nation Tour as ASU American Indian students traveled across the Navajo Nation visiting schools, according to Jacob Moore, associate vice president for tribal relations at ASU.

“He took the time to talk to K–12 students about going to college as a viable option for their future,” he said.

Moore said that when Zah was a student at ASU in the early 1960s, “there couldn’t have been more than 10 American Indian students here then.”

Moore’s father, Josiah Moore, was a fellow student of Zah’s who went on to become chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation.

Zah’s experiences as a student in the 1960s helped inform his role as ASU’s first special advisor to the president on American Indian Initiatives, a post he was recruited to by then-ASU President Lattie Coor in 1995. He served until 2011 and saw the Native student population double.

“If we think about where ASU is now in terms of our commitment to Indigenous and tribal communities and nations, it all starts with Pete,” said Bryan Brayboy, the current senior advisor to the president and a President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation.

“And we shouldn’t be surprised because Dr. Zah has always been a nation builder and a movement builder.”

Zah created the advisor role as a commitment to students, Brayboy said.

“At his core, he was someone who educated the institution and educated, in some ways, President Crow and the broader public about the centrality of Native people in this institution and also the state and the region,” he said.

ASU President Crow and Peterson Zah shake hands during commencement ceremony

ASU President Crow (left) congratulates Peterson Zah on his honorary ASU degree during commencement in 2005. Photo by Tom Story

Brayboy is the outgoing director of the Center for Indian Education, which was founded in 1959. Zah was one of the first graduates of the center.

“He started a trend, with Jacob’s dad, Josiah, of preparing students who would lead their tribal nations and communities,” Brayboy said.

“Perhaps, the most recent example is Gov. Stephen Roe Lewis of the Gila River Community.”

Zah was succeeded in his role of special advisor by Diane Humetewa, from 2012 to 2014, and she was followed by Brayboy.

“What we’re doing in 2023 is Dr. Zah's legacy of showing up here in the early 1960s,” Brayboy said.

Zah was instrumental in creating ASU’s Construction in Indian Country program in 2001, part of the Del E. Webb School of Construction, to provide students with the skills needed to navigate the complex cultural, legal and regulatory issues associated with construction management in Indian Country.

In 2019, he was awarded the program’s “Lasting Impact Legacy Award” in recognition of his lifetime of achievements.

Peterson Zah talks about the Construction in Indian Country program.

Marcus Denetdale, program director for Construction in Indian Country, said that Zah was a profound influence on him, and recruited him twice – once to attend ASU, in 2009, and again to his current position, in 2017.

“His leadership was exceptional. It was profound. It was intense – in a very positive, meaningful, impactful way,” he said.

In 2020, Denetdale was traveling to the White House and got some advice from Zah, who had been several times.

“He said, ‘Don’t worry about photos. Go with three agenda items you have for your organization. Washington loves numbers, so make sure you have numbers to back up your agenda items,’” Denetdale said.

Denetdale didn’t meet President Trump that day but he did get to meet Vice President Mike Pence.

“I heeded the words of Dr. Zah and left my phone in my pocket. I told him my three items, and he did ask me about workforce numbers and he sent me to the U.S. Secretary of Labor for a follow-up, and we got a discussion going about how to increase workforce numbers for veterans in federal jobs.

“And that all came from Dr. Zah’s advice.”

Denetdale most recently spoke to Zah last year, when the Construction in Indian Country program received a $1.8 million grant to increase access to water on the Navajo Nation.

“He said it’s been a lifelong fight for him to get water to our people,” he said.

“He said he was older now and didn’t take a lot of requests for help anymore, but with water, ‘I’ll always be there to help.’

“He told me to keep fighting and to keep going.”

Annabell Bowen started working with Zah in 2009 as a coordinator in the Office of American Indian Initiatives, but she knew him when she was a student in the 1990s.

“The fact that we had him here on campus brought a sense of comfort and made me feel safe,” said Bowen, who is now director for the Office of American Indian Initiatives in the President’s Office.

“He gave a lot of encouragement to students and he made you feel like you had a purpose here. That was our retention.”

When she started working as a coordinator, she assisted him with travel and meetings.

“He acknowledged you and made you part of the work,” she said. “He would say, ‘Get your notepad and let’s go,’ and bring me to the meetings.”

Zah was a listener, Bowen said.

“He wanted to be face to face with people,” she said. “He would frown upon trying to communicate through email or the telephone. He would say, ‘Let’s meet up. I’ll come to you or you come to me. Let’s talk.’”

A proud Sun Devil, Zah was a season ticket holder to ASU women’s basketball and was instrumental in bringing “Showdown on the Rez” to the Navajo Nation in 2018, she said.

“He incorporated a lot of Diné teachings,” said Bowen, who added that Zah had remained a mentor to her after he retired.

“He valued relationships and encouraged the students to greet each other as relatives. He used that knowledge as a source of endurance.”

Zah’s family released a statement on Wednesday: “The family understands that the community is mourning alongside them because Peterson Zah was a loved mentor, grandfather and friend to many. We will pay tribute to this amazing Navajo man in the coming days. The immediate family is working on arrangements.”

Brayboy said that the loss of Zah’s many decades of accumulated wisdom is huge.

“But it’s sweetened a bit because of his legacy,” he said.

“Whether it’s the scholarship in the Sandra Day O’Connor School of Law that’s named for him, or our continued increasing numbers of Native students, staff and faculty, or ASU’s more clearly articulated commitment to the 22 tribal nations and communities in this state, it all starts with Pete.”

Top photo: Peterson Zah speaks during the American Indian Convocation at Arizona State University in 2006. Photo by Tom Story/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU News


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ASU students, staff and faculty named Catalyst Awardees

March 7, 2023

In the spirit of the ASU Charter, individuals, groups and programs are leading efforts to ensure a greater sense of belonging across Arizona State University. They are advocates and organizers, from first-year students to tenured faculty, who have set a standard for inclusive practices.

At the annual Catalyst Awards ceremony, seven accomplished recipients were named awardees for fostering diversity and inclusion. Eight additional recipients were selected for the inaugural Catalyst Grants, which financially support and amplify projects, programs and events that intend to facilitate an inclusive environment.

Nominations are received from the Sun Devil community for four categories: excellence in inclusion; innovation; initiative; and impact on community. The awardees are then chosen by members of the Committee for Campus Inclusion, which is composed of students, faculty and staff from across the university. The committee is embedded within the office of Inclusive Excellence to nourish a positive campus experience through celebration, programming and the promotion of resources.

According to Nancy Gonzales, executive vice president and university provost, the Office of Inclusive Excellence and Committee for Campus Inclusion have undergone significant growth with the addition of staff positioned to advance a dynamic ecosystem of affinity groups, associations, centers and initiatives. “Since 1996, the Committee for Campus Inclusion has honored the collaborative work of individuals and groups who have a vital role in creating lasting impacts on the educational environment,” Gonzales said.

Among the awardees, Multicultural Communities of Excellence (West) is one of four spaces at each of the metropolitan Phoenix campuses providing a sense of community and support for students of color and other historically underrepresented identities. According to Seda Shahin, a student ambassador and undergraduate within the W. P. Carey School of Business, these locations have created value for the university by supporting faculty in their passions, encouraging students to find peers and mentors to celebrate their culture with, and creating a platform for everyone to be heard. “Multicultural Communities of Excellence is more than a space,” Shahin said. “We have a fundamental responsibility to help students find their passion and lifelong mission.”

Through the Authors on Tour Series, a new initiative originating from the West location, the space has increased student-faculty interactions by inviting authors at the university to engage in a casual setting with students. According to Shahin, a supported faculty in this space will lead to better-supported students in the classroom, resulting in a well-rounded, better university.

Awarded as a member of faculty, Susan Holechek is an assistant teaching professor and the director for the School of Life Sciences undergraduate research. According to Romele Rivera, an undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Holechek cultivates an environment that is inclusive and welcoming to people of all backgrounds. While primarily in a teaching role, Holechek’s reach extends outside her professional capacity as a lecturer, assuming a personal role as an advisor and mentor for all students, including those not within her employ. 

“She has gone above and beyond to assist her students in whatever capacity she is able. For instance, she has been an advocate for underrepresented students in the science population by promoting program, grant and research opportunities to those not just within her lab,” said Rivera. “Many of her students that have been involved in these programs have brought back highly competitive awards — awards that would not have been viable if Dr. Holechek did not serve as an advocate for those under her care.”

One of Holechek's notable contributions toward a more inclusive environment is her care for the online student population. She recognized that research and academic opportunities are limited for the online student population and came to realize how each online student is capable of a more dynamic experience. Through her work she has built a Research Immersion program that has been a mainstay since its inception. The goal of this program is to provide online students a full research immersion opportunity, where they learn various techniques and skills tailored for digital learning methods.

Through this program, students have gone on to obtain Research Experiences for Undergraduates and professional degrees, crediting the immersion program for their upward motivation in pursuit of a career. “I’ve been afforded the confidence and training to say that I am a student of value and it is because of her that I was able to realize this,” said Rivera.

Cassandra Aska, deputy vice president and dean of students, serves as the university chair for the Committee for Campus Inclusion. She said it’s an honor to recognize students and colleagues for the outstanding ways they are supporting one another.

“The endeavor of evolving ourselves is perpetual,” Aska said. “The nominees, regardless of earning an award or not, cultivate dialogue, connection and innovation. In their own way, raising awareness on varying important topics that educate and advance a greater sense of self and connection within the community. We are a better university because of these contributions.” 

Congratulations to all awardees, grant recipients and nominees. The 2023 recipients are listed below in order of category. 

Catalyst Awardees

  • Jessica Salow, assistant archivist, ASU Library.

  • Susan Holechek, assistant teaching professor, School of Life Sciences.

  • Maureen McCoy, associate teaching professor, College of Health Solutions.

  • Daniel Jackson, PhD candidate, School of Life Sciences.

  • Crestcencia Ortiz-Barnett, graduate teaching assistant, School of Music, Dance and Theatre.

  • Marta Tecedor, assistant professor, School of International Letters and Cultures; Hunter Langenhorst, graduate teaching assistant.

  • Multicultural Communities of Excellence (West).

Catalyst Grantees

  • College of Health Solutions, Racial Social Justice Book Club.

  • GUIDE (Growing Understanding to Increase Diversity in Education).

  • Amplified Voices.

  • Advancing Trauma-Informed Practices in Higher Education.

  • The Collective for Research Equity and Diversity Presents: Supporting BIPOC and Queer Doctoral Students.

  • (Re)Constructive Latinx Immigrant Narratives.

  • CISA Black History Month Town Hall.

  • Black History Month at Barrett.

Rocque Perez

Communications Manager , Office of Inclusive Excellence

Award-winning musician to host 10th annual community dialogue

Wynton Marsalis will serve as the distinguished speaker at the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy's 2023 Delivering Democracy event April 1

March 7, 2023

The Center for the Study of Race and Democracy (CSRD) at Arizona State University is welcoming Wynton Marsalis to host its 10th Delivering Democracy program. The legendary Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, trumpeter, composer, teacher and artistic director will help CSRD celebrate the milestone of the event with a dialogue and concert on April 1.  

Delivering Democracy 2023, like the annual programs in years past, will provide opportunities for powerful engagement and spirited dialogue with communities across the nation and the world. Each year, Delivering Democracy provides a forum in which visionary speakers discuss democracy and issues of race, justice and engagement with thousands of local, national and global attendees. This year's program will feature a dialogue between Marsalis and Lois Brown, director of the CSRD and Foundation Professor of English. The program will be held in person at Pilgrim Rest Baptist Church in Phoenix and livestreamed, starting at 5 p.m. Mountain Standard Time. Viewers will be able to contribute questions in advance. Portrait of musician Wynton Marsalis holding a trumpet. Legendary Grammy and Pulitzer Prize-winning musician, trumpeter, composer, teacher and artistic director Wynton Marsalis will host the ASU Center for the Study of Race and Democracy's 10th Delivering Democracy program. Photo courtesy Wynton Marsalis Download Full Image

Known and deeply respected for his contributions to jazz and classical music, as well as his involvement with the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in New York City, Marsalis has paved the way for countless musicians, especially those of color. He has broken barriers in and beyond the workplace, won the highest accolades and recognition from his peers and professional community, and become a role model for many in and beyond the United States.  

The Delivering Democracy Community Resource Fair, which is free and open to all attendees, will again be held before the program begins. From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. on April 1, attendees can discover and engage directly with many organizations and learn about their missions and how their work advances democracy, inclusion, education, mentoring, community health and wellness, justice and cultural awareness. 

Visit for registration information.

The Center for the Study of Race and Democracy at Arizona State University facilitates powerful and informed dialogues and transformative scholarship about issues related to race and democracy.  The center’s innovative programming and its deliberate outreach in and beyond the ASU community contributes to the university’s commitment to academic excellence and accessibility. CSRD's programs and events feature experts and changemakers, community leaders, scholars and accomplished professionals who engage with and inspire audiences. Distinctive lectures, effective workshops and productive, inspiring collaborations are signatures of the Center for the Study of Race and Democracy.

Suzanne Wilson

Sr. Media Relations Officer, ASU Media Enterprise