Abby Hawthorne, Haley Steiner, Alma Atassi

Three Scottsdale residents last week earned degrees and big honors at Arizona State University’s winter graduation ceremonies.

Abby Pellino Hawthorne, Hayley Steiner and Alma Astassi were among scores of grads who were awarded a variety of bachelor’s and higher degrees.



After earning dual bachelor’s degrees and working for two years in program management post-graduation, Abby Hawthorne knew she wanted to return to ASU to pursue her JD from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and now looks forward to a career in international arbitration.

Focusing on international and business law and alternative dispute resolution, Hawthorne was a member of ASU Law’s Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot (Vis Moot) court team – a role she says provided the most defining moments of her legal studies. 

She was recognized as the top oralist at the University of San Diego Vis International Commercial Arbitration pre-moot event and one of the top 32 oralists globally at the Vis Moot Vienna competition during her final year at ASU Law.

“Though time intensive and challenging, my role on the Vis Moot team helped grow my advocacy and legal research skills in a way that was fun, interesting and will surely pay off in my career,” said Hawthorne, who was recognized for her advocacy skills as one of 10 ASU Law students honored with The Order of Barristers.

Hawthorne, who holds bachelor’s degrees in global studies and sociology as well as certificates in international studies, and religion and conflict, studied abroad twice: a summer studying European Union law and policy at ASU Law’s partner program in Prato, Italy, and a semester in Melbourne, Australia, working on an independent study paper examining female representation on the federal courts of Australia and the U.S.

“When discussing my non-traditional law school path with ASU Law professors and administration, the answer to my many questions was never ‘no’ – it was: ‘If you’re willing to put in the effort, we can find a way to make that work,’” Hawthorne said.

Hawthorne served as a U.S. Department of State Title VIII fellow studying the Bosnian, Croatian and Serbian language and culture. Having completed the fellowship, she has turned her attention to preparing for the bar exam and starting her legal career.



Hayley Steiner has already created one business and is now laying the groundwork for another company. 

“I have so many business ideas already thought out,” said Steiner, who received a master’s degree in digital culture from the School of Arts, Media and Engineering.  

“I actually already have started one company so far that is called The Protein Lab, which is a company that is only aimed at finding ways to turn certain types of food into high protein foods.”

Steiner describes the company on its Instagram account as a “one woman owned business” that “aims to find new solutions for high protein nutritional meals.” For the Arizona-based business, she makes protein balls in different flavors and with high amounts of collagen, the main structural protein found in the body. 

“With this company, I hope to open storefronts in the future and eventually keep introducing new products with high amounts of protein,” Steiner said. 

She already has a new idea for a future business. 

“Many people buy clothes from clothing brands like Nike and Adidas without even realizing that these companies are using a technology that allows them to use plastics in their products,” she said. “There is also another clothing company called Girlfriend Collective that uses plastic to create thread which they then use to create all their workout products.

“My idea would be not only to use plastic, but to find technology to be able to break down all types of trash. Then with all the new textiles created from all the different types of trash, the textiles would be combined with other materials like wood or bamboo to make furniture. This would help solve a huge problem but also be a company that creates sustainable furniture.” 

With the help of the ASU Venture Devils program, Steiner is taking the first steps toward this new venture. 

“I have been accepted into this program and now have access to mentors, which is a huge blessing,” she said. “This idea would take a very long time to create, as there needs to be research done to see if this is even a possibility to break down all types of trash into new textiles.

“There would need to be prototypes made to see if it is possible to use these textiles to create furniture. Right now, I am working with one mentor who has given me advice on how to start this research. I am hoping that in the future I will be able to create a company that would be able to achieve this.” 

She said her “aha moment” in deciding her latest academic achievement came from studying graphic design.  

“I graduated with my bachelor’s in 2016. I worked for a few years in the field and then decided to make a huge life decision. I decided to completely change my career and teach English abroad for a year. In 2018, I moved to Japan and was an English teacher in an after-school program. It was an amazing experience.”

“It definitely hit me harder when I went to the Team Lab Borderless Mori Digital Art Museum in Tokyo. In this museum, they have huge installations with projections and some with motion capture. It was very interactive, and this is also how I got inspired to find a graduate school program where I could get the skills for this kind of design.

Asked about her ASU experience, she said, “I really enjoyed being in a graduate program where everyone seemed like they were collaborating. Being part of the digital culture master’s program was very interesting because there were not that many students in the program. I was able to interact with mostly the same students. 

“It was really interesting to see everyone evolve and especially receive feedback from them on my ideas. It showed me that we are all in this together when it comes to accomplishing our goals and gaining new knowledge. It was also beneficial to see that everyone has been working on their goals for a while and nothing just comes instantly.”

And she said she chose ASU because “most universities only offered programs for motion capture that were aimed for filmmaking. I also knew I did not want to only specialize in artificial intelligence. I was really hoping to have a new experience and live somewhere else besides Arizona. However, I remembered some of my friends were in the digital culture bachelor’s program when I was an undergraduate. I looked into the program, and it ended up that ASU was also offering a masters program for it as well… The digital culture program offered many paths of study, including motion capture, artificial intelligence, mobile development, software engineering and more. This is exactly what I was looking for.”

“While a lot of the skills I learned in this program, like motion capture and augmented and virtual reality, are way more advanced than software engineering, I feel that it will be beneficial for me to start there. However, I do want to eventually get into a career where I can use those skills as well.”



Alma Atassi has been named The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fall 2021 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Politics and Global Studies and received a degree in global studies and a certificate in cross-sector leadership. For Alma Atassi, participating in the Arizona Legislative and Government Internship Program was the highlight of her college experience. 

She was 11 when the Syrian revolution kicked off. From her home across the globe in Scottsdale, Arizona, Atassi watched the country her family was originally from change.

The events sparked her interest in the world of politics and international relations.

“So when I found out about a major called ‘global studies’ from friends who were attending ASU at the time, I immediately researched it and realized it was the perfect fit for me to continue learning about world cultures and international issues more deeply,” she said.

Beyond her interest in global studies, Atassi was also accepted into the Next Generation Service Corps, a cross-sector leadership scholarship program.

Through a global experience or an internationally focused internship, global studies majors put their learning to work to address real-world challenges. To fulfill her global experience, Atassi wanted to embed herself in a new culture so she went to Spain for a summer semester.

 “I learned a lot about myself and increased my cultural competency skills, and even felt more confident and independent by the end of the trip,” she said. “Figuring out how to live and maneuver on my own in a new country has allowed me to feel like I can go anywhere without fearing the unknown.”

She went on to intern for the Democratic Caucus in the House of Representatives and was assigned to the education committee. She was able to brief representatives on bills, present bills in caucus and sit through various meetings all while gaining 12 credits.

 “The internship also confirmed my decision to go into a future career as a policy analyst, specifically focusing on education-related issues,” she said, who also wrote policy memos through the ASU Helios Decision Center for Educational Excellence.

“All of these experiences, as well as the classes that I took, gave me the necessary skills, confidence and credibility to solve complex issues in the future through the avenue of public policy,” she said.

Atassi hopes to one day be a legislative policy analyst or adviser where she can make an impact and improve the state of education locally and nationally.

She shared that she was grateful for the support provided by ASU and the School of Politics and Global Studies (SPGS) during her time in college.

“SPGS has truly created an amazing school that supports its students and helps them become their most successful selves,” she said.