In addition to their academics, ASU undergraduate students are encouraged to take part in extracurricular activities like research, community service, studying abroad or joining student organizations. Senior mathematics major Emily Vidal has done them all.
A native of Pearland near Houston, Vidal also carries a double minor in biology and technical writing and is a member of the ASU Honors Program. Her high school grades meant she had her pick of the state’s top college and universities, but a pit stop to see family in San Angelo on the way to visit Texas Tech University changed everything.
“My uncle peer-pressured me into checking out ASU,” Vidal said. “I think he knew ASU would be a good fit for me. So I toured ASU and I loved it. ASU is the only school I applied to.”
And by taking advantage of her opportunities, Vidal has truly had the complete ASU experience.
Many of Vidal’s activities outside the classroom have stemmed from her involvement in research. It all kicked off her sophomore year when she was accepted into a 10-week Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) to conduct systems biology research dealing with immunological data at the University of Connecticut.
At the end of the REU, Vidal had a completed research poster that she then presented at the Joint Mathematical Meetings in Atlanta, Texas Undergraduate Research Day in Austin, Great Plains Honors Council Conference in Beaumont and National Collegiate Honors Council Conference in Atlanta.
“I got a lot of help from the Mathematics Department and the Honors Program,” Vidal said. “They guided me through the process of getting my materials ready and writing an abstract that would stand up to the level it needed to.”
The level was high enough that Vidal won Poster Awards at both the GPHC and NCHC conferences.
Public Service / Study Abroad
Research also fed Vidal’s interest in public service, which in turn led to a once-in-a-lifetime trip abroad. While participating in a mathematics modeling competition, she was tasked with not only formulating equations to measure water flow scenarios at a dam in the Zambezi River basin in Zambia, Africa – but also with constructing a budget for the project and measuring potential ecological impacts.
“I learned about the problems in that area and why they needed to fix that dam to prevent flooding and displacement of a lot of people,” Vidal said. “It planted a little seed in my mind, and then the opportunities in Colorado and Rwanda came along.”
The opportunity in Colorado was the Public Policy and International Affairs Institute hosted by the University of Colorado-Denver School of Public Affairs last summer.
“It was a great way for college students from all over the country to gather and see what is going on with public service right now,” Vidal said. “We did a lot of workshops and seminars, much of it dealing with the legalization of marijuana and the current opioid crisis.”
“ASU has been wonderful to me. I’ve met amazing people and I think my education is awesome…I preach ASU to anyone who will listen.”
Barely a week after her trip to Colorado, Vidal was winging her way overseas to Africa for Global Youth Connect’s 2017 Rwanda Human Rights and Peacebuilding Education Program for Young Leaders.
“We learned about the Rwandan genocide in 1994,” Vidal said. “We got to meet government officials who are actively pushing for reforms, which was really cool. I also volunteered with a group called Esperance, which is the French word for ‘hope.’ They are working with people who have a very tense past because of ethnic conflicts by trying to get the kids to play and work together to create a generation aimed at peace and reconciliation.”
“Africa is so beautiful,” she added. “Rwanda is very hilly, so you can always see mountains, as well as lush greenery. But we were in the capital of Kigali, which is very industrialized with chrome and glass everywhere and new buildings going up all the time. So it was a strange but really cool juxtaposition of all the pretty scenery and this modern city.”
Student Organizations / Work
In addition to the predictable Honors Student Association, Vidal is a member of the Technical Writing Club and Mathematical Association of America. She also won a 2016 Rammy Award from the Student Government Association for Best Female Student Leader and is listed in Who’s Who Among Students at American Universities and Colleges.
She has also worked her way through college, first as a tutor in the Math Lab and then as part of ASU’s Community Development Initiatives (CDI).
“Surprisingly, there is a lot of use in public service for someone with my technical ‘mathy’ background,” Vidal said. “In my job right now with CDI, I’m doing statistical analysis and reporting on community health data concerning children’s wellness. So I’m able to take my major and my minors and mash them all together with my love for public service and volunteer work.”
Membership in the Honors Program requires students to maintain academic excellence throughout their time at ASU. Vidal has certainly upheld her end of that bargain, regularly making the Dean’s List and earning membership in multiple honor societies:
- Pi Mu Epsilon national mathematics honor society
- Sigma Tau Delta national English honor society
- Alpha Chi national honor society for all majors
- Phi Kappa Phi national honor society for all majors
In her limited spare time, Vidal enjoys Student Nights at the Stadium Lanes bowling alley and $5 Movie Nights at the Icon Theater. Scheduled to graduate in May, she is still deciding whether to start working right away or head straight to graduate school to reach her ultimate goal of earning a Master of Public Health degree with an emphasis in epidemiology.
“Epidemiology is kind of a mix of biostatistics, microbiology and disease tracking,” Vidal said. “So there is the flavor of math in there that started me on this path to begin with. That’s the endgame – to get my master’s degree, become an epidemiologist and work in public health.”
I Chose ASU
Vidal put all her eggs in one basket when she only applied to ASU – and doesn’t regret it for a moment.
“ASU has been wonderful to me,” Vidal said. “I’ve met amazing people and I think my education is awesome. Another reason I’m prepared to move into the real world when I graduate is because of the Honors Program. It really is a game changer.”
“And I’m going to graduate debt-free,” she added, “which is the really big red bow on top of that nice present. I preach ASU to anyone who will listen.”