ASU graduates celebrate at Downtown Phoenix campus

After more than a year of working remotely, students in the College of Health Solutions at Arizona State University were finally able to see some of their fellow graduates and faculty members on Wednesday, May 5.

About 300 graduates attended the college’s walk-through celebration, which ran all day on the Downtown Phoenix campus. About a dozen professors cheered and waved noisemakers as each graduate received a diploma, walked across the stage and had their photo taken before heading down a red carpet to a balloon-filled courtyard for cookies.

Thomacita Begay, who earned a degree in exercise and wellness, was grateful.

“I’m just very thankful we got this opportunity to get some kind of experience and to be able to walk,” said Begay, a member of the Navajo Nation who will return to ASU for a master’s degree in exercise and wellness.

“I want to work with our native youth and work for our Native American community, so I can give back to my family.”

Begay, who earned an associate degree from Mesa Community College, transferred to ASU just before the pandemic forced classes to be taught remotely.

“I think the best part of being at ASU was being able to meet my professors and even though we weren’t able to see each other in person, I still got to connect with them virtually and I still got to learn as much as I could from them.”

The college also held two small in-person events on Tuesday, May 4 — a hooding ceremony for doctoral students and a celebration for doctor of audiology graduates, who receive a white coat.

Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions, told the audiology graduates that the college’s charter gives them direction and focus.

“It says that we bring people together to improve the health of the communities we serve, reaching them where they live, work, learn and play throughout the lifespan,” she said.

On Wednesday, Helitzer told ASU News that the pandemic health crisis has highlighted that mission for the students and faculty.

“The College of Health Solutions is all about the impact we can make for communities to improve their health. We definitely galvanized,” she said.

“A lot of our students volunteered with the vaccination effort. Hundreds of people tuned into our virtual talks. It’s really about having people on the outside see us as a resource.”

Randy Bravo attended Wednesday’s celebration to receive his master’s degree in the science of health care delivery. A year ago, he received his bachelor’s degree, when all of ASU’s graduation events were virtual.

“I’m really grateful they were able to give us the chance to walk across the stage this year,” said Bravo, who hopes to work in public health for a year before applying to medical school.

He said his favorite part of his time at ASU was forging connections with people.

“Meeting so many people from all walks of life and different backgrounds was the best thing about being at ASU.”

More Downtown Phoenix campus celebrations

Thunderbird School of Global Management

Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Top photo: Thomacita Begay celebrates her graduation from the College of Health Solutions at an event on the Downtown Phoenix campus on May 5. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

Mary Beth Faller
marybeth.faller@asu.edu