Every year, thousands of online Sun Devils from across the country travel to Arizona, many for the first time, to walk across the famed graduation stage and earn what they’ve worked so hard for. We caught up with eight students to discuss their unique paths to ASU Online, their experiences as online Sun Devils and what their plans are post-graduation
Taylor Carnley, Art History
For Taylor Carnley, the path to ASU Online was about finishing what she had started. After spending her first two years of undergrad on campus at Georgia State University, Taylor ultimately dropped out due to personal issues combined with a lack of interest in her business major. Art was her true passion, and with the support of her husband and family, Taylor discovered ASU Online’s bachelor’s degree program in art history. The rest is, well, history.
“Every professor has been amazing, supportive and helpful,” she says. “They go above and beyond when you’re having a problem. Every person I have ever interacted with at ASU, whether it be my advisor, staff, professors or students, has been been so lovely. I can say with complete honesty that I will be beyond proud when I can say that I am an ASU alumna!”
Post-graduation, Taylor plans to work as a customer service representative for an insurance agency, learning the ins and outs of the industry from her boss, who owns the company.
“She is grooming me to be the best I can be in my position,” Taylor says. “She is proud of what I’ve done and knows I owe so much to ASU. My confidence has grown exponentially because of the classes I’ve taken.”
Stephen Green, Business — Global Logistics Management
When Stephen Green got out of the U.S. Marines in 2014, he was undecided on his major. He knew he wanted to do something in business, and planned to follow in his brother’s footsteps by going to school in Kansas. But when a quick Google search led him to ASU Online’s business major with a concentration in global logistics management, he knew he had found the right fit.
“It caught my eye because I had a passion for logistics in Afghanistan,” he says, “so I went after it.”
As a veteran, Stephen attends ASU Online through the GI Bill, and has been impressed with the level of support shown for those who have served.
“I could not have made a better choice in pursuing my higher education upon separating from the military,” he says. “I attribute my academic achievements to the faculty and staff I have interacted with along my journey. They truly inspired me to not only pursue my own personal success, but also to strive to continually make those around me better in everyday life.”
With his degree, Stephen hopes to further his career within the federal job sector.
“I just got offered a logistics management position, which I attribute to my degree,” he says. “It’s a direct reflection of how awesome ASU is — I landed my dream job. I can stay in the federal sector and help the military, both overseas and domestically.”
Christian Hansen, Health Sciences — Healthy Lifestyles Coaching
Christian Hansen has spent many hours studying in hospital rooms and chemo centers. As a caregiver for his mother, he turned to ASU Online so that he wouldn’t have to give up on school to support her.
“It’s the first school I haven’t quit,” he says. “I think it takes a certain kind of person to do it. You have to have a lot of organizational skills and motivation to sit down and do the work.”
Christian has been most pleased by the ability to take courses in multiple areas of interest, merging his healthy lifestyle coaching degree with a minor in film and media studies.
“I have loved every second of learning about film,” he says. “I majored in it for about a year, but when my mom passed away in 2014, I started feeling like I wanted to do something where I could help people like her. I was really focused on health and cancer prevention.
His post-graduation plans are still up in the air, but Christian has been looking into attending seminary or applying to one of ASU’s graduate programs.
Robyn Hefner, Psychology
Robyn Hefner and her brother, both ASU students, are the first in their family to graduate with a bachelor’s degree. For Robyn, the decision to attend ASU Online came on the heels of taking a year off from school, during which time she worked, traveled and discovered what she was most passionate about: psychology.
“Many students are unsure of what they want to do, and I think I am the perfect example of someone who tries new things in order to find what they are passionate about,” she says.
From the discussion boards to the online library, Robyn says the overall experience and setup of ASU Online has been amazing, and has prepared her for her post-graduation hopes of working for Teach For America.
“I’ve always loved children and education,” she says. “That’s the passion I was looking for. We’re there to help them understand that school is fun.”
Sarah Knapp, Family and Human Development
Sarah Knapp is the only person in her family to attend and graduate from college while working full-time. A student through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, Sarah is one of the few employees in her community who are taking advantage of the program.
“I live in a pretty underserved community,” she says. “For a lot of the people I work with, education isn't a high priority. Some of the younger people I work with feel like they aren’t smart enough to go to school, so they don’t try even though it’s a good opportunity. I definitely had that feeling before I started school. It took a lot of pushing from friends and family for me to even start taking classes. Even though I got great test scores, no one in my biological family had ever gone to college, and most of my siblings didn’t even graduate high school.”
One of her best cheerleaders was her mom, who sadly passed away before she could finish her degree.
“My mom was sick my whole life,” Sarah says. “I was her caretaker, and once I turned 18 I became her emergency contact. She’d always ask for a copy of my report card and talked about how she couldn’t wait for me to graduate. She just kept pushing and when she died I figured, what’s the point? Then my sister reminded me of how important it was to her, and how she would want me to have a better life.”
Post-graduation, Sarah hopes to work in special education. For now, she continues making the dean's list and seeing all of her hard work and sacrifices pay off.
Joseph Peck, Interdisciplinary Studies
At 43, Joseph Peck viewed earning his degree as an opportunity to show his kids that age is just a number.
“I wanted them to know that you can keep your dreams alive, strive for the best and never stop learning,” he says.
As a stay-at-home dad to a 14-year-old daughter and 5-year-old son, Joseph says raising his children is the hardest job he’s ever had. Taking classes through ASU Online has allowed him to maintain his focus on what matters most while also pursuing interdisciplinary studies in global health and sustainability. His experience even brought him to the Dominican Republic, where he traveled for nine days working with the Peace Corps.
“We built a wall, we built a house, we planted trees and did all sorts of stuff,” he says. ‘It was very rewarding. I like to make a difference.”
Next up for Joseph is job hunting, and he hopes to find something in environmental sustainability, health and safety. He has already utilized a career specialist with ASU to get him started on his search.
“Take advantage of everything ASU provides,” he advises. “It’s there for a reason.”
Brittani Rudick, Communication
Being an online student has allowed Brittani Rudick the flexibility to travel with her husband across Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Mexico, all while maintaining a 4.0 GPA.
“We live in an RV full time so that my husband can pipeline and support us financially,” Brittani explains. “We’ve had to find RV parks with fast internet so I could go to school.”
One of the ASU Online resources she swears by is the online library’s “Ask a Librarian” feature, which she discovered after being assigned a research paper.
“It’s so user-friendly, and being able to contact a librarian is amazing,” she says. “I’ve used it for very specific searches for papers, as well as applying for the job I ultimately landed.”
Now working as a field office manager for a major pipeline company, Brittani says what she is most excited for after graduation is working — 80 hours a week.
“I try not to fight the universe with opportunities like this one,” she says. “They wanted someone who had computer experience and who knows grammar and punctuation. I hope to continue in this role full time for the foreseeable future."
Joshua Sosa, Internet and Web Development
Although web development started as a middle-school hobby for Joshua Sosa, it grew into a passion that would ultimately lead him to roles as a webmaster and assistant for the Arizona/NASA Space Grant Consortium, as well as a website designer and developer for the University of Arizona’s Lunar and Planetary Lab.
Though he began as an astrophysics double major at the U of A, Joshua had hoped to find course offerings more geared toward web development, and was happy to learn that ASU had such a degree. Upon becoming benefits-eligible in his position with the lab, he was able to enroll at ASU Online with a qualified tuition reduction.
“Thanks to ASU's education and training, and the prospect of graduating, I was promoted to senior level,” he says. “Although it's taken me a lot longer to complete my undergraduate degree than most of my friends, I'm really happy with how things worked out, and very appreciative of ASU's offerings. I was surprised to learn that all classes go on a 7.5-week term, and that's been a great benefit to helping me quickly work through the degree program.”
Post-graduation, Joshua plans to continue working for his current department while also starting graduate school with ASU Online’s master’s degree in graphic information technology.
“I’m excited to see what opportunities I can look forward to in the future,” he says.
His advice for students here and now: “Don’t give up. Sometimes it can be very difficult to complete things and get things in on time, but I would encourage people to try their best. Work as hard as you can. It only happens once for a lot of students.”
ASU Online congratulates all Sun Devils graduating this December. We look forward to watching you succeed wherever you go next.
Watch graduation ceremonies live through ASU Live.