While talking with Richard Church shortly after his graduation from ASU Online in December 2017, the sounds of his young children in the background help to drive home his message that it is possible to accomplish great things while still having the flexibility to be at home.
“I could watch my lectures when I needed to and still take care of my family,” he says.
An electrical engineering student, Richard’s ability to successfully balance family obligations with schoolwork allowed him to achieve exemplary academic performance, earning him the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Outstanding Undergraduate recognition.
“It takes personal discipline,” Richard says, when asked what it takes to be successful as an online learner. “If you get behind in a demanding program like electrical engineering, there is no catching up. You have to set a schedule and stick to it.”
Richard’s path to ASU Online began when he joined the United States Navy in 2009, in order to pay for school. While serving, he heard a commercial for the university’s electrical engineering program.
“I had always wanted to be an electrical engineer, so it was like fate,” he says. “My wife is a professor at the University of Arizona, and being from Tucson I had planned to attend school on campus. But the program at ASU Online worked out perfectly for me. I completed a semester in Alaska and two in Dubai before I got out of the Navy in December 2014.”
From the beginning, Richard was impressed by his professors’ passion for their subjects.
“The lectures were always so in-depth, and you could tell they cared about what they were teaching,” he says. “Electrical engineering is not an easy topic, and having the ability to get lectures straight from a professor’s mouth as many times as you wanted proved extremely beneficial. A lot of times on campus, you’ll finish a lecture and walk out of the hall wondering what they were talking about, and there’s little you can do without going in for office hours. It was so nice to be able to replay it and glean anything I had missed.”
In particular, Richard enjoyed his nuclear engineering course with associate professor Keith Holbert. The class would ultimately influence his decision to focus on power generation and clean energy. As a result, being able to meet his professors in person at graduation in December was one of the many reasons making the trip to Tempe was well worth it.
“Getting to meet people I’ve seen 100 times through lectures was a crazy experience,” he says. “I’m so glad I did it. It was also really special to go to the dean’s welcome reception, which was the award ceremony for Outstanding Undergraduate.”
Additionally, Richard was able to come to campus ahead of graduation for both an initiation into Tau Beta Pi, the engineering honor society, and again for his senior design project, since half of his team was on campus.
“It was fun getting to meet and interact with everyone,” he says.
As for plans after graduation, Richard has accepted a job working as a design engineer for Honeywell Aerospace beginning in February. He chose the position after interning in another department that didn’t feel like the right fit.
“They kind of let me roam around and see different things,” he says. “I will be working on the electrical control units of their airplane generators, but they are also willing to let me explore and figure out exactly what I like and where I want to specialize. I’m excited to find out.”
With plans to become heavily involved with the Alumni Association, Richard’s passion for ASU Online is electric — and he hopes to pass it on.
Learn more about ASU Online’s undergraduate degree program in electrical engineering.