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Each year, the Arizona State University Alumni Association celebrates the achievements of alumni who own or lead successful, fast-growing, innovative businesses across the globe with the Sun Devil 100 awards.
This year, eleven of the 100 inducted into the Sun Devil class of 2020 were communication graduates from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication.
“That so many of our majors were included in the 2020 class is a clear indication of the value of the communication degree," said Hugh Downs School Interim Director and Professor Paul Mongeau. "These graduates used the skills we teach – communication, collaboration, and critical thinking – to excel not only in their jobs but also in their relationships and communities."
The virtual ceremony recognizing the ASU alumni was held September 17, 2020.
Pardis Mahdavi, dean of social sciences in ASU’s The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences added, “Our alumni who earn communication degrees go on to build successful careers in a wide range of industries, and these outstanding alumni demonstrate that. The interdisciplinary education they received at ASU provided them the foundation to lead and establish innovative businesses around the world. We are proud of the incredible things they’ve accomplished with the skills they gained during their time in The College.”
Meet this year’s honorees from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication:
Kathleen Duffy Ybarra
President and CEO, Duffy Group Inc.
Kathleen Duffy Ybarra founded Duffy Group Inc. in 1991, and serves as the company's president and CEO. She is a founding member of the Arizona Human Resource Executive Forum and currently serves as vice chair of the Phoenix Steering Committee for 2020 Women on Boards. In 2018, Duffy Ybarra was awarded the Athena Business Woman of the Year Award in the private sector. Duffy Ybarra graduated with a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 1981 and as a student was a member of the Kappa Delta sorority and involved with student government and Devils’ Advocates. Today she continues to stay involved with ASU, serving as chapter advisory board for Kappa Delta, cabinet member of the Campaign ASU 2020 Council, a member of the President’s Club and a member of the ASU Alumni Association. In addition, she was a founding member of the ASU Greek Advisory Board and a former trustee of ASU. She received Sun Devil 100 awards in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Founding partner and designated broker, E & G Real Estate Services
Ben Ellis has been the designated broker and founding partner for E & G Real Estate Services since September 2013. He was previously an associate broker at IRENT4YOU Inc. from 2011–2013. He began his real estate career in 2008 as the marketing and transaction coordinator for the real estate investment firm Marcus & Millichap. Ellis served as a volunteer project manager for the Valley Eruv Project from 2008–2013. He is a director for the Jewish Community Association of Greater Phoenix and a member of The College Dean’s Council. He received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 2008 and Sun Devil 100 awards in 2018 and 2019.
Chief Operating Officer, Inquir (formerly Higher Ed Growth)
ASU alumni Frank Healy and Eric Flottmann were two of the entrepreneurs who founded Higher Ed Growth (HEG), a full-service marketing agency specializing in post-secondary education, in 2007. More than a decade later, the award-winning firm is a recognized leader in the higher education industry and the Phoenix business community. HEG is committed to its employees and credits its innovative team for skyrocketing success. Featured as an Inc. Magazine Best Workplace 2017 and a Phoenix Business Journal Best Places to Work in 2015, 2016, and 2017, HEG places emphasis on happy, engaged employees. HEG was voted one of the nation’s top education marketing companies by industry peers, recognizing the company’s dedication to the industry and exceptional client results.
Managing partner, founder, 360 Industrial Services
Eric Ganz is a founder and managing partner at 360 Industrial Services. Established in 2013, 360 Industrial Services is an industrial/commercial construction skilled staffing firm that operates nationwide. He is actively involved in supporting Kids’ Chance of Arizona, Phoenix Children’s Hospital and the Phoenix Zoo. He is a member and current board member of the Entrepreneur’s Organization of Arizona. He received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 2001.
Founder and CEO, Hint Inc.
Kara Goldin is the founder and CEO of Hint, Inc., best known for its award-winning Hint water, the leading unsweetened flavored water, and the author of “Undaunted: Overcoming Doubts and Doubters.” She has received numerous accolades, such as inclusion on Fortune’s list of Most Powerful Women Entrepreneurs and Forbes’ 40 Women to Watch Over 40. Goldin is a regular keynote speaker at business events and writer on business and entrepreneurial topics. She hosts the podcast "Unstoppable" with Kara Goldin where she interviews founders, entrepreneurs and other disruptors across various industries. Goldin and her company Hint launched the Hint of Entrepreneurship scholarship at ASU this year. She is a member of the Campaign ASU 2020 council and served on the ASU Alumni Association’s National Alumni Council from July 2017 to June 2020. She received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 1989 and Sun Devil 100 awards in 2018 and 2019.
Owner, CEO Etc.
Reagan Jackson is the owner of several Texas-based technology businesses. He has owned CEO Etc. (also is known as CEO Technologies and Computers, Electronics and Offices Etc.) since 2009. His other businesses include Crosspoint Data Centers, Nalcom Wireless Communications Inc., East Texas Broadband and CEO Security. He is also a principal of Shiftspin.com. He attended Abilene Christian University from 2000–2001 and received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 2004. He received Sun Devil 100 awards in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Owner and founder, Evolve Public Relations and Marketing
Jennifer Kaplan founded Evolve Public Relations and Marketing in 2010. She was previously the director of public relations for Spark Design LLC and a co-founder and partner in PRIME 3 LLC, a Phoenix-based public relations, marketing and event planning firm, from 2005–2009. In 2017, she was named one of the Most Influential Women in Arizona Business by Arizona Business Magazine. She received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 1996 and Sun Devil 100 awards in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019.
Founder and CEO, Adsport, Inc.
Gary Knudson is a sports marketing executive who founded Adsport, Inc., an agency that is dedicated to helping corporations navigate team sponsorships and relationships, in 1994. Knudson strives to bring the same energy as when he played football at ASU and in the NFL to his role as CEO. He has negotiated and activated hundreds of successful sponsorship agreements for brands such as Chevron, State Farm, Visa, Alltel, Dodge, America West Airlines, Chevrolet and True Value. He received his bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 2003.
Founder and CEO, U & Improved
Jodi Low founded U & Improved, a leadership training and development company, in 2008. U & Improved partners with companies and individuals to deliver “heart-based leadership” training. In 2016, Low launched the U & Improved Leadership Foundation to provide leadership training scholarships to deserving high school teenagers. She was previously the chief relationship officer for Amplify U, a company she founded that provided personal development programs. She is also the co-founder of Girlfriend University, a training and coaching firm developed to empower and educate women about strategies for creating successful businesses. As an ASU student, Low was a member of Alpha Phi sorority. She received her bachelor’s degree in interpersonal and intercultural communication from The College in 1994. This is her second year in a row receiving the Sun Devil 100 Award.
Chief operating officer, ProctorU Inc
John Sandoval has been the chief operating officer at ProctorU since 2016. ProctorU delivers millions of secure and standardized examinations to people all over the world for academic institutions and professional organizations. Sandoval joined ProctorU in 2014 and led client experience and operations teams before transitioning into his current role. Prior to joining ProctorU he led client service strategies in the Los Angeles/Hawaii market for Best Buy and Geek Squad. He received a bachelor's degree in communication from The College in 2016.
Founder and owner, World Motors LLC
Tyler Thompson is the founder and owner of World Motors LLC, a Tempe-based automobile dealership specializing in Mercedes Benz vehicles. He founded the company in 1998, during his freshman year at ASU. His company is a 10-time recipient of the Wells Fargo Auto Dealer Platinum Award for business ethics and sales achievements. He frequently mentors budding entrepreneurs in business growth strategies and serves on the Bank of America Auto Dealer advisory board. He received a bachelor’s degree in communication from The College in 2002 and this is his second year in a row receiving a Sun Devil 100 award.