4 Chandler students earn ASU degrees SanTan Sun News

4 Chandler students earn ASU degrees

May 11th, 2021 STSN Staff
4 Chandler students earn ASU degrees
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By Ashlyn Robinette
Staff Writer

Four Chandler natives were among the approximately 18,000 Arizona State University students who received degrees May 4.

Rayven Cannon, Farah Eltohamy, Ayesha Ahsan and Sara Donaldson reflected on their post-graduate plans – which include fighting injustice and protecting the environment.

Of the overall student total, nearly 12,200 were undergraduates and more than 5,500 were graduate students. Nearly 6,900 students graduated with honors, the most ever for an individual class and a 5 percent increase over last spring.

“We are incredibly proud of what our Sun Devils have accomplished during the past year of all-compassing changes and challenges wrought by the pandemic,” said Melissa Werner, executive director of the Office of University Events and Protocol and the Office of University Ceremonies.

Fueled by passions to help their community, Cannon, Eltohamy, Ahsan, and Donaldson say they will utilize the knowledge and experiences they gained from ASU to make differences within architecture, journalism, sociology and conservation professions.

Fighting for representation

Cannon and Eltohamy want to see more women like them in their field to increase diversity and representation within the architecture and journalism industry, respectively.

After earning a BS in business administration finance from Lyon College, Cannon learned of ASU’s three-year master of architecture program and has now earned her master’s degree in architecture.

She plans to get a job in architectural science and technology.

Cannon initialize didn’t realize how underrepresented women are in the field. Only 22 percent of licensed architects are women, according to the National Council of Architectural Registration Boards. About 9 percent are non-white and less than 1 percent are Black women.

These facts motivated Cannon to work harder.

“I’m a first-generation college student. I’m Black. I’m Native American. And I’m white,” Cannon said. “Going into this profession, I did not know that the numbers were very low and that the numbers were stacked against me. Knowing that and knowing that I’m very competitive, I want to win. And I want everybody around me to win.”

Cannon and her peers met with the alumni of The Design School and surveyed students to brainstorm ways to ensure that students’ voices were heard, regardless of race, gender or sexual orientation.

The group outlined 14 action items they wanted to see from The Design School administration, This letter became the foundation for Design Justice, an initiative Cannon co-founded.

Cannon ultimately says she wants the voices of underrepresented students heard within ASU’s architecture community and beyond.

Eltohamy hopes to improve Muslim representation in the news.

Eltohamy said she learned the importance of community storytelling when the president of a mosque told her, “You are one of the only people who is actually talking to me and asking me about this mosque and telling the stories of the people here.”

He added that the only time reporters ever approach him is “to condemn some random terrorist attack in some other country as opposed to actually getting to know the community.”

This experience inspired Eltohamy to use her passion for social justice and voice as a journalist to amplify the voices of those underrepresented.

“Journalists from other marginalized backgrounds, in general, have never really been able to break into this field and tell the stories of their communities fairly and accurately,” Eltohamy said. “So that’s something that I really wanted to help fix, and the only way you can really fix that is by having more Muslim journalists in this field who can tell the stories of the Muslim community as it is.”

Eltohamy was awarded an ASU Leadership Scholarship and completed her undergraduate degree from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication in three years, using the fourth year to earn her master’s degree through Cronkite’s 3+1 program. She was named an Outstanding Undergraduate Student at the Cronkite School convocation.

Eltohamy says that she is currently finishing an internship at NPR then will work for the Texas Tribune as their Washington reporting fellow.

Helping the environment

Since graduating, Ahsan and Donaldson have put themselves on a path to bettering the community and environment.

After Ahsan realized that she didn’t want to go into the medical field, but knew that she still wanted to help people, she decided to study sociology as it fulfilled her interest in learning about the science behind inequality and had a humanized approach she was seeking, she said.

“My experiences as a woman of color and a first generation American fueled me to learn about the issues of inequity,” Ahsan said.

“I was surprised to learn about how prevalent many issues are and how they’re not as distant as we make them out to be,” Ahsan said. “Racism, food insecurity and education inequity are among the myriad issues prevalent in our own neighborhoods.”

Ahsan was accepted into the Leadership Scholarship Program and Barrett, The Honors College then graduated with dual degrees in sociology and economics. In pursuit of a public interest law profession, Ahsan will be starting a law degree program in the fall.

Donaldson aims to use what she learned at ASU to help protect the environment. From her courses and experience in the Central Arizona Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, Donaldson says she learned about the relationship between organisms and how they interact with the environment. She was also taught environmental ethics.

“Learning about all the diverse species and plant life changed the way I saw a typical landscape,” Donaldson said. “I began to see how living things connect to each other and how they contribute to the value of biodiversity.”

Donaldson always knew that she wanted to pursue a degree in science and majored in conservation biology and ecology at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences along with a minor in dance from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

Donaldson received the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship all four years as well as the New American University Scholarship.

Because her passion lies in protecting wildlife and the environment, Donaldson will be working toward her master’s degree in plant biology in conservation from ASU. After finishing her degree, Donaldson says she hopes to work at the Desert Botanical Garden.

“Surround yourself with subjects that interest you and classes that spark passion,” Donaldson advises new students. “Be brave, take chances and participate in new things.”

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