ASU grad creates a culture of empathy and togetherness on campus

October 13, 2021

During her time at ASU, Emily Leon strived to create connection, community and a culture of empathy and togetherness on campus, and she aims to continue to build upon this mission moving forward.  

Originally from Chandler, Arizona, Leon graduated in the spring of 2021 with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. She also minored in women and gender studies as well as family and human development.

Leon was involved with Devils 4 Devils at ASU. Devils 4 Devils focuses on building an empathic and supportive environment to improve the well-being of the Sun Devil community.

 poses with bird.

ASU grad Emily Leon

As part of Devils 4 Devils, Leon was able to work together with other clubs like Active Minds, SKY Meditation and Changemaker Central. Leon will be returning after graduation to continue her work as the outreach committee chair and a community circle facilitator for Devils 4 Devils. 

“I support and direct outreach efforts by contributing creative solutions for promoting socially distanced involvement online and offline, collaborating with other club leaders to organize engaging club activities and events, creating visually appealing infographics, responding to direct messages and comments on social media and posting content relevant to Devils 4 Devils’ mission to advocate for empathy and whole-person health,” she said. 

As a community circle facilitator, Leon volunteered each week to create a space for connection between university students through virtual community circle Zoom calls. These calls provide social support, and with this project, Leon’s goal is to improve the well-being of those who attend. 

“I strive to cultivate a comfortable and inclusive environment where participants are not only excited for fun and games but also feel welcome and safe to express their vulnerabilities and strengths,” she said.

Leon said that her favorite part of working for Devils 4 Devils was the amazing community that surrounded her. She feels proud of this strong community she helped cultivate, while also maintaining an amazing GPA along the way. 

“I loved getting to know all of our members, seeing them give and receive support when needed and making so many kind, new friends,” Leon said. 

As she prepared to graduate, Leon reflected on her time at ASU, advice she’d give to current students and what the future looks like for her. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? 

Answer: I started off as a bio major thinking I wanted to work in women's health. However, after taking evolution (a class I was excited for), I realized I just didn’t have passion for the subject but knew I loved my psychology and women's studies classes. 

The day after my evolution class ended, I made an appointment to have my major changed to psychology and decided I’d work toward helping women and families in another way by working to become a marriage and family therapist.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: Academically, I feel like the most important and surprising thing I learned is that you have to look at a topic from many frameworks to begin to understand it. Certainty is hard to come by, and oftentimes there is more than one valid explanation or viewpoint. Socially, I feel like the most surprising thing I learned is that there are people who will be supportive of you for you and that it’s OK to be yourself!

Q: Why did you choose ASU? 

A: I chose ASU for many different reasons. I loved the wide array of majors offered, the focus on research, and the fact that it was close to home and many of my friends would also be attending didn’t hurt.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? 

A: I think Professor Karen Leong probably taught me the most important lesson during my time at ASU. Aside from all the enlightening reading and discussion we did, she helped me work through some difficult times and showed genuine care for me. This helped me understand that taking care of myself was part of taking care of my academics, too.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school? 

A: My advice to those still in school echoes the lesson I learned from Professor Leong in that you have to take care of yourself in order to be successful. If that means scheduling self-care time like you would for studying, that’s what you have to do to make sure you're well.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

A: My favorite quiet spot on campus to hang out was either CPCOM or by the plants in the Social Sciences Building. My favorite spot to hang out though was definitely STPV or the ceramics studio while I was working on different projects.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: After graduation, I'm excited to return to ASU for my master's degree in marriage and family therapy and resume my role in Devils 4 Devils!

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle? 

There are so many worthy causes, so this is a difficult question. I think I might use that money to make marriage and family therapy more widely available in my community, whether that means putting together an online program, opening up low-cost practices in marginalized neighborhoods or any other way to ease the burden that reaching out for help can unfortunately bring. I’d also want to use some of the money to work toward destigmatizing therapy as a whole, as I know that can also be a deterrent to seeking help.