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Editor’s note: Javier Cárdenas will receive the Young Alumni Achievement Award at the 2014 Founders’ Day celebration. He is a pediatric neurologist at the Barrow Neurological Institute at St. Joseph’s Hospital and Medical Center in Phoenix.)
Which groups or activities were you most involved in at ASU? What did you gain from that involvement?
I was involved in the Special Olympics and Best Buddies as a volunteer, and I also volunteered in the laboratory of President’s Professor Jennifer Fewell, who at the time was studying Africanized honeybees. The service activities with the first two organizations gave me a perspective of life that has motivated me to help as many people as I can through my work, and Fewell’s laboratory was the first place in which I saw how quality scientific research is performed.
How did your education at ASU prepare you for your current job or business?
I started my degree program at ASU intending to be a teacher. I got an education degree with an emphasis on special education. What my degree taught me was how to present – I had a large phobia around speaking in public, but standing up in front of 30 new students and teaching them got me over my fear. I work in an academic institution, so being able to present with confidence continues to benefit me today.
How did ASU help you achieve your dream?
I’m living my dream of being able to help as many people as possible, and ASU provided me with the tools to do so. Often, it comes back to my ASU roots – at Barrow, we created the first brain injury clinic in the nation with an on-site teacher, and I was able to come back to the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College for assistance with this and make it happen.
Why have you chosen to be a member of the Alumni Association?
It helps me stay in touch with my ASU family.
What current development at ASU do you find most exciting? Why?
I find it exciting that ASU’s standing continues to rise, in all sorts of areas. Barrett, the Honors College at ASU continues to garner accolades, and ASU Online ranks among the best in the nation for online education. We’re seeing the realization of what the New American University concept has so often spoken about.
What that says to me is that our reputation continues to grow and that the education we’ve received here is being perceived in an increasingly positive light.
What are three “can’t-miss” ASU experiences every Sun Devil should participate in?
1. Play intramural sports – they’re fun, they’re a great way to meet people, and they’re not so intense that it’s hard to enjoy them.
2. Drop in on the improvisational comedy troop that performs in the basement of the MU on the lunch hour.
3. If you ever get the chance, watch a Sun Devil football game from the sidelines. I’m able to do that right now because I’m working with Dr. Roger McCoy as the team’s concussion assessment consultant.
What advice would you give to today’s ASU students?
Work hard – the payoff is great! Wear the pitchfork with pride. You represent your school everywhere you go – in academic, social and business settings. The reputation of a school is built by the people who’ve attended it.