Cynthia Lietz, dean, Watts College, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, ASU, convocation, spring 2022

ASU confers degrees upon more than 1,300 Watts College graduates at spring convocation

By

Mark J. Scarp

Festive shouts from families and friends reverberated throughout Desert Financial Arena on May 10 as Arizona State University conferred degrees from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions upon more than 1,300 graduates at the college’s spring 2022 convocation.

The college celebrated the conferring of 814 bachelor’s degrees, 490 master’s degrees and 11 doctoral degrees during the convocation on ASU’s Tempe campus.

The in-person ceremony at Desert Financial Arena was the second of its kind since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. About 900 graduates attended. Graduates from 2020 and 2021 whose convocations were virtual also were invited to participate along with their spring 2022 counterparts.

Graduates applauded enthusiastically as those receiving degrees from each of the college’s schools and Interdisciplinary Programs were announced, including the School of Community Resources and Development, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the School of Public Affairs and the School of Social Work.

Watts College Dean and President’s Professor Cynthia Lietz challenged the graduates to use their education and experiences to fulfill the college’s mission of building more vibrant and healthy communities – a call to action with seemingly extra weight, given current world events.

“It is easy to get discouraged by things like the ongoing implications related to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, by a growing attack on the ideals of democracy as seen both nationally and internationally through the unprovoked war in Ukraine and by acts of discrimination and violence that are both personal and systemic,” Lietz said. “With that said, I can say with great confidence that the graduates of this college are in dramatic contrast to all the things that we fear. You help us reimagine what it could mean to infuse values such as respect, civility and dignity into our private and public discourse. You also remind us that higher doses of things like empathy, resilience and courage are needed to respond effectively to the challenges that we face today.”

Lietz said Watts College’s graduates are not reluctant to take on these considerable concerns.

“Instead, you face the very things that discourage us, that worry us. You face them head on, with an unwavering commitment to one simple goal: to make the world a better place,” she said.

College's outstanding graduates honored

Chandra Crudup, associate dean of Inclusive Design for Equity and Access, paid tribute to the college’s six outstanding graduates for spring 2022: Natasha Davis of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice; Nikhil Dholaria of the School of Public Affairs; Xuecong Fan of the Hainan University-Arizona State University International Tourism College; Albert Murrieta of the School of Social Work; Sandra Perez of Interdisciplinary Programs; and Tanner Smith of the School of Community Resources and Development.

As each outstanding graduate was honored, Lietz included particular experiences, often-difficult obstacles and noteworthy achievements that each of them shared with many fellow graduates. These included excelling in Barrett, The Honors College; working one or more jobs while undertaking studies; participating in multiple internships and public service projects; being online students; or the first in their families to receive a bachelor’s or master’s degree. 

Lietz also asked those in attendance to applaud the veterans or active military members among the graduates, noting that the Watts College has the highest percentage of students who are veterans or who are active in the U.S. military, of any college at ASU.

Before the convocation, several graduates arriving at the arena reflected on the meaning of the day.

Elijah Cabrera is about to enter the U.S. Army, saying he looked forward to this week’s ceremonies commissioning him as a second lieutenant following the completion of ASU’s Reserve Officer Training Corps program. The Los Angeles resident said ROTC and his studies, which led to a Bachelor of Science in public service and public policy, taught him the value of time management.

“You really do learn how to manage your life,” he said, “balancing ROTC, school, job.”

Aaron Lotten’s Bachelor of Social Work is just one step in his career path. The Powell, Wyoming, resident said he will start work on his Master of Social Work next week.

“I’m inspired by my colleagues and I’m ambitious for the future,” he said.

Deanna Ringlero of the Gila River Indian Community in central Arizona, who earned a Bachelor of Science in nonprofit leadership and management, recalled an important lesson from an internship she undertook this year.

“I learned I was more resilient than I thought,” she said.

Ringlero said she will pursue a master’s degree in human and family development in hopes to become an executive with the Boys and Girls Club in her community.

Madyson Spahn of Washington, Illinois, who earned a Bachelor of Science in criminology and criminal justice, had advice for students still in school.

“Show up in class and be engaging,” said Spahn, who will pursue a master’s degree in counseling. “You get out what you put in.”

Dawson Chute of Orange County, California, said that with his Bachelor of Science in public policy and public service, he plans a career in the foreign service.

“There I can help people of different cultures, different politics and all walks of life. The Watts College exemplifies that. Here you have everyone from everywhere,” he said.

Student speaker reminds grads of day's importance

Just before the convocation concluded, student speaker Ivan Quintana told fellow graduates that while the day was one to celebrate, it also offered him a chance to reflect on the duties one owes to society. He mentioned Esperanza, the main character in Sandra Cisneros’s novel, “The House of Mango Street.”

“She makes a wish as a child to be able to leave her impoverished neighborhood, to be able to go to college and become a great writer. This meant that she had to leave the only home that she knew, and leave her community,” Quintana said. “We all have made a wish to achieve our dreams and goals, and that often means we get to leave while others stay behind. But just like her, we must realize that we cannot forget who we are, where we come from and that the reason, as Esperanza puts it: ‘I march so far away … (is) to come back for the ones I left behind, for the ones that cannot get out.’”

Quintana received two bachelor's degrees, one in criminology and criminal justice and the other in public service and public policy. He concluded with a wish for the graduates, one he said is similar to Esperanza’s, evoking the Watts College motto: “Be the Solution.”

“I wish for all of you to embrace the joys that you will experience tonight, celebrating this huge milestone with your loved ones,” he said. “Engrave the memories and feelings into your hearts, because the joy and light we get to experience tonight, is what we want others to be able to enjoy. This is why we endeavor to be part of the solution.”

The entire convocation ceremony can be viewed on ASU Live.