September 2012

Promoting Awareness and Wellness (PAWs)

Ashford University is proud to show you our PAWs. That is, our Promoting Awareness and Wellness initiative! Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways that you can participate or be more involved.


Along with people from Hispanic nations around the world, many Hispanic Americans celebrate
National Hispanic Heritage month in September.

This September, Ashford University’s PAWs initiative initiative recognizes two important subjects: National Hispanic Heritage Month and Suicide Prevention Month.


National Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated beginning on September 15, the anniversary of independence for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico celebrates its Independence Day on September 16, when, in 1810, a priest by the name of Miguel Hidalgo y Costilla pronounced the start of the Mexican War of Independence from Spain. On September 18, Chile celebrates its Independence Day and, lastly, Columbus Day is celebrated on October 12.

In order to properly recognize the anniversaries of these events, National Hispanic Heritage Month is observed from September 15 through October 15. What began as Hispanic Heritage Week in 1968 under President Lyndon B. Johnson was expanded in 1988 by President Ronald Reagan to cover a 30-day period. National Hispanic Heritage Month was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, and all Hispanic nations join the month-long celebration.

Ashford University celebrates National Hispanic Heritage Month by looking at the lives of several distinguished individuals who have made a difference. These individuals have embodied excellence in their fields of interest, without ever forgetting where they came from (September 15 to October 15, n.d.).

Junot Diaz

Junot Diaz was born in Santo Domingo in the Dominican Republic in 1968. His family moved to the United States when he was six years old. As is the case with many children who immigrate to the United States, life was not always easy for the young Diaz. Lucky for us, he found refuge in the place that would ultimately determine his career: the library.

Junot Diaz loved to read whatever books he could get his hands on and would walk four miles to the public library to pick up new reading material. Diaz studied English during his college years at Rutgers College to fine-tune his writing, and shortly thereafter earned an MFA from Cornell University (Junot Diaz, n.d.).

Diaz has been recognized by The New Yorker magazine as one of the top 20 writers for the 21st century. He is best known for his novel, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, which won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008. The novel is celebrated for its beautiful yet accessible language, and was hailed by Lev Grossmen of Time magazine as “a massive, heaving, sparking tragicomedy” (Grossman, 2007).

Listen to a podcast featuring Junot Diaz discussing what it was like to come to this country at such a young age.


Luis Walter Alvarez

Rarely does an individual one-up themselves after winning a Nobel Prize, yet that is exactly what Luis Walter Alvarez was able to do.

Alvarez was born in 1911 in San Francisco. He was educated at the University of Chicago, where he received his Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and PhD. Alvarez worked as a physicist at UC Berkeley for most of his career, and in 1968 was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. However, it is entirely possible that Alvarez’s most unique contribution to the scientific community didn’t come until years after he was awarded the Nobel Prize (Luis Alvarez Biography, n.d.).

Luis Alvarez’s son, Walter Alvarez, was a geologist doing research in Italy. He had pointed out to his father a layer of clay in the rock that marked the period where the dinosaurs had gone extinct. Luis Alvarez knew of a method he could use to find out more about the clay, and began analyzing it. Alvarez and other chemists were able to find that the clay contained high levels of iridium, an element not commonly found on earth. Alvarez concluded that the presence of iridium indicated that the dinosaurs’ extinction was caused by an asteroid striking the earth. While many theories had been circulating as to the cause of the dinosaurs’ extinction, none had been widely accepted. Alvarez’s theory was initially scoffed at by many scientists; however, years later and after further research, it is widely accepted that Luis Alvarez is the man who solved the mystery of how dinosaurs went extinct (Yarris, 2010).

For more information about Hispanic Heritage Month, be sure to check out the official website.



Each year, almost one million people in the United States attempt suicide. Suicide affects not only those who commit or attempt it, but also their friends, family, and loved ones. While there are any number of reasons an individual might give for attempting suicide, there is a strong link between suicide and depression. You could make all the difference in the world by talking to someone you know who is exhibiting the following symptoms:

  • Feelings of sadness or unhappiness
  • Irritability or frustration, even over small matters
  • Loss of interest or pleasure in normal activities
  • Insomnia or excessive sleeping
  • Changes in appetite – depression often causes decreased appetite and weight loss, but in some people it causes increased cravings for food and weight gain
  • Irritability or angry outbursts
  • Indecisiveness, distractibility, and decreased concentration
  • Fatigue, tiredness, and loss of energy – even small tasks may seem to require a lot of effort
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt, fixating on past failures, or blaming yourself when things aren't going right
  • Trouble thinking, concentrating, making decisions, and remembering things
  • Frequent thoughts of death, dying, or suicide
  • Crying spells for no apparent reason (Depression, 2012)

Young people are also affected by suicide. In fact, suicide is the third leading cause of death among people age 15 to 24. To hear the story of one girl’s bout with depression, see the video below.

If you are in crisis and need to talk to someone, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1.800.273.TALK (8255).

What You Can Do

If you know someone who might be considering suicide, talking about it with them can seem overwhelming. While it’s never easy to talk to someone about suicide, having a conversation with them can make all the difference. There are a few simple steps you can take that can be the difference between a person getting help or harming themselves. Collectively, these steps are known as “Question, Persuade, and Refer” (QPR).

1. Question

The first step in QPR is to ask “The Question.” While it may seem like an awkward conversation to have, asking a person if they are considering suicide is the first step toward getting help. One way to ease into this conversation is to let the person know that you are concerned about them. You can also take a more direct approach and simply ask the individual if they are thinking about suicide. It is important to know that asking a person about suicide does not increase risk, and that after being asked about suicide, people often feel relieved, not stressed.

2. Persuade

The second step is to persuade. Contrary to what you might think, the most important part of this step is listening. Listen to what the person has to say, give them your undivided attention, and be present for them. Persuading a person to get help can be as easy as asking them the question, “Will you go with me to see a counselor?”

Sometimes, an individual might refuse to get help. In this case, contact 1.800.SUICIDE (784.2433) to find out how this person might be helped. If you think the person is in immediate danger, try to prevent access the person has to means of suicide, including car keys, pills, and sharp objects.

3. Refer

The last step of the process is referring the person to get help. Ideally, you would be able to go with the individual to a mental health provider. Often, this option is not available. Getting a person to agree to see a professional and knowing they will keep that appointment is a huge step in the right direction. If you are unsure how to find a counselor, call 1.800.SUICIDE (784.2433) for more information. When attempting to help people who are considering suicide, it’s always best to heed this advice:

“Remember, we are only responsible for what we know at the time we know it, not for the things we will learn later on. So, if in doubt, act! Reach out! Don’t wait! Do something!” (Quinnett, 1995).


September 15 to October 15 is National Hispanic Heritage Month. (n.d.). Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from:

Junot Diaz (nd.) Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from:

Grossman, Lev. (Dec. 09, 2007) Top 10 Fiction Books. Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from:,28804,1686204_1686244_1691840,00.html

Luis Alvarez Biography. (nd.) Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from:

Yarris, L. (2010). Alvarez theory on dinosaur die-out upheld: Experts find asteroid guilty of killing the dinosaurs. Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from

Depression. (Feb. 10, 2012). Retrieved on August 20, 2012 from:

Quinnett, Paul. (1995). Question, Persuade, Refer. Ask a Question, Save a Life. (Brochure).


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