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Like many others last week, I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of U.S. Senator John McCain. I had the good fortune over the last two decades to be able to spend time with Senator McCain and his family, and to see firsthand his steadfast commitment to his country, its ideals and the people he was elected to represent. He was a true leader who demonstrated the courage, collaborative spirit and creativity that drives action and progress, and I will miss working with him.
Whether he was taking the lead in the establishment of the McCain Institute of International Leadership at ASU, hosting the Sedona Forum or collaborating with us to revive the next phase of the Rio Salado Project, Senator McCain never stopped imagining and working toward a better future. In service to his meaningful and enduring legacy, ASU will continue working to build a better Arizona and a stronger America, dedicated to liberty, justice and opportunity for all. To learn how you can help make a difference, I invite you to join me and other leaders In The Arena.
As stated in ASU's official charter, we are a public research university, measured not by whom we exclude, but by whom we include and how they succeed. To fulfill that institutional commitment, our efforts to identify new and more effective ways to engage and serve all students will never end. Education continues to evolve, as do societal needs and student expectations, and we have a responsibility to help shape the future we want.
With this charge in mind, we recently welcomed Maria Anguiano to our Sun Devil family as our new senior vice president for strategy. Maria was formerly the chief financial officer of the Minerva Project, a for-profit capital venture startup that supports the nonprofit Minerva Schools, and vice chancellor for planning and budget at University of California, Riverside. A first-generation college graduate with dual degrees in economics-accounting and Spanish from Claremont McKenna College and an MBA from the Stanford Graduate School of Business, Maria has a deep understanding of the impact of higher education and a personal commitment to making quality education more accessible.
In her new role, Maria is part of my executive team and focuses her extensive experience to assist in formulating innovative tactics designed to engage and support historically underserved student populations. This is a large and complex set of responsibilities, but they are vitally important to the future success of ASU and Arizona. I hope you will join me in welcoming Maria to our Sun Devil family.
For the past two years, ASU has enjoyed hosting a special Congressional Conference that convenes federal policymakers, industry stakeholders and university faculty for in-depth conversations on topics of major global significance. A year ago, a large and distinguished group gathered at the ASU Polytechnic campus to discuss cybersecurity. This year's well-attended event on the ASU Tempe campus examined space innovation.
I opened the day's session with some personal thoughts on how space exploration sparked my curiosity as a young learner, and how ASU has redesigned itself to help to inspire and prepare future innovators . Among the day's highlights was a special keynote by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who discussed America's space priorities. Among them, he highlighted the critical importance of helping Americans to understand the daily impact that space has on their lives, and the subsequent need to drive innovation forward to the Moon, Mars and beyond. Additional conference highlights included conversations between members of Arizona's congressional delegation, industry leaders and ASU faculty on NASA's current challenges and preparing a space workforce.
ASU is proud to be able to coordinate thought-provoking forums capable of drawing participants of this caliber, and hopefully, igniting new ideas and action.
A big treat for me this time of year is welcoming our newest Sun Devils. Every August, we host Sun Devil Welcome, a high-energy event that brings freshmen from across ASU together to learn more about our university community and traditions, enjoy some entertainment, and build some school spirit. It is always a memorable afternoon.
This year, nearly 11,000 of the most academically gifted and energetic freshmen in ASU history joined me at Wells Fargo Arena to get the academic year off to an exciting start. After a raucous roll call that introduced the student bodies of each college and school, I shared a few lessons from my own freshman year at Iowa State. I also encouraged them to push themselves beyond their comfort zones, to be open to new ideas, and to ask for help when needed. Our faculty and staff are standing by to support their success.
A few days earlier, I also had the pleasure to welcome our new international students to ASU. With music, dancing and a lot of information, we gave nearly 2,000 Sun Devils from around the world a warm welcome and a request to stay connected and participate in all that ASU has to offer.
Whether they come from across the street or a far country, it was clear that the Class of 2022 is gifted and enthusiastic, and I look forward to sharing more about them in the future.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) convened in Los Angeles, and I was invited to speak on strategies for positioning American higher education for future success. In a session dedicated to discussing the need for new postsecondary models, I addressed a room of 200 Senate and House education chairs, legislators and legislative staff, asking them to consider the critical relationship between the way colleges and universities are designed, the thinkers they produce, and their impact they have on the US economy.
I also challenged them to imagine how they could support revolutionizing higher education to meet the changing demographic, technological and workforce demands of the future, and shared examples of how ASU has redesigned itself and produced significant outcomes. As policy makers work to strengthen the quality of life and economic vitality of their states, it is imperative to recognize the vital relationship between college completion and a healthy, prosperous society. ASU welcomes the opportunity to work with legislators to help move Arizona forward, and to collaborate with leaders in other states to provide learners with valuable options and brighter futures.