Sun Devil advocated for sexual violence prevention among fraternities

November 17, 2020

As spring 2020 ASU graduate Colton Lish finished his degree, he also left behind a legacy of leadership in sexual violence prevention. Lish, who majored in philosophy and innovation in society, focused his extracurricular efforts on combating toxic masculinity and teaching leadership to help reduce the rates of sexual and relationship violence on campus.

Lish got his start in sexual violence prevention leadership through Greek life, becoming a founding member and president of Theta Xi’s ASU chapter his first year. As president, Lish made it his mission to recruit fraternity members as passionate about preventing sexual violence as he is. 

Colton Lish playing a ukelele

ASU grad Colton Lish

About halfway through his college career, Lish left his role in Greek life to continue his work in other ways. He began a research proposal to study how sexual violence could be prevented in fraternities. Through this, Lish began working with ASU’s Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention Program. For his last year, Lish was in charge of men’s engagement and helped design a training program for leaders in fraternities.

“We designed this six-week program to cover sexual violence prevention, touching on everything from consent to bystander intervention, relationship violence prevention and even survivor suppot,” Lish said. 

According to Lish, the premise of the training is to help men foster leadership skills through being a “prosocial bystander” and standing up against sexual violence. Lish believes it is important to conduct this program in a group so that members can hold each other accountable. 

Lish has also become a mentor for the current leadership of Theta Xi in hopes of furthering his mission. In addition to this, Lish spent his extra time playing Quidditch on a school team. As he graduated, he reflected on his time at ASU and shared his advice for current Sun Devils.

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

A. This is a tricky question because I’m most likely not going to be getting a job in the field I majored in. I’m getting a double major in philosophy and in innovation in society. The “aha” moment for philosophy was taking a philosophy 101 class and just being enthralled. Gosh, the things they were talking about; is god real? What is the self? What is logic? My “aha” moment was like oh my gosh, if I study this, I’m going to finally be able to beat my mom in an argument. 

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

A. There's this statistic — it's a harrowing statistic — but during their time in college, before the age of 24, 1 in 5 women are sexually assaulted before they get out of college. 

What really changed my perspective was hearing that number and then going into my own personal experience that almost all of my closest female friends here at ASU had told me about an experience that they have had. I heard that statistic and then did the logic to figure out that that number’s low. The actual number is higher. 

Through my own experience, I’ve figured out that that actual number is a lot higher. I’ve changed my perspective from oh, it’s a bad thing that all of this happens and I’m going to create a space where it can’t happen to no, I need to use the privilege that I have to make this stop. That's what I dedicated the latter half of my college career to. 

Q.  Why did you choose ASU?

A. I don’t do well in dark places. I grew up in a pretty dark place; the sun wasn’t out all that much, and it messed with my mentality. I wanted to come to a place where I could have ample opportunity and be able to thrive as a student. 

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

A. The most important lesson that I learned wasn’t actually from a professor. He worked in University Housing, his name is Tim Leyson. When I was the president of my chapter, he was one of the only Theta Xi alumni that was on ASU’s campus. He really taught me how not just to lead, but to lead with love and that's influenced everything I do.

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

A. Call your family. 

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

A. [I really like] the James Turrell ASU SkySpace.

Q.  What are your plans after graduation? 

A. I am going to save up a bit so I can afford it, but once I save up enough money, I want to go to graduate school to become a teacher. I want to be a high school teacher. 

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

A. If I were to use $40 million to solve one problem on the planet, I’d develop an educational campaign that we could deploy to high schools teaching men about healthy masculinity.