Oh, the places you’ll go — as an ASU Online graduate! From coming to campus for graduation to accepting new roles across the country (and beyond), we caught up with three recent graduates to discuss their unique paths to ASU Online, their experiences as online Sun Devils and what they’ve been up to since they walked across the famed graduation stage.
Caitlin Hornik, English
During her two years in ASU Online’s undergraduate degree program in English, Caitlin completed her studies while performing at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville; in Boca Raton, Florida; and on a cruise ship traveling the world. She spent her final two semesters on five different continents and three different oceans.
“It’s a testament to the fact that it’s a program you can do from anywhere in the world,” she says. “I didn’t have to put my career on hold. I could continue doing what I loved both with performance and with academics.”
From start to finish, Caitlin says the process of applying to becoming a student was seamless.
“It was so easy,” she explains. “All of the counselors, admissions staff and professors were helpful and accessible. I learned more in my first semester than I learned in all three of my semesters at my on-campus school. As someone who is self-dedicated and self-motivated, I knew as much work as I put in I would get out. I liked the online classroom setting and the freedom to choose and design a program that was best for me. It broadened my horizons as a writer, and I learned so much about the world from my English classes.”
Coming to campus for graduation in May 2017, Caitlin was able to fully realize the results of her hard work.
“Hearing my name being called as I walked across the stage — it still doesn’t feel real,” she says. “I was greeted with open arms on campus, and people were so interested in hearing my story. Getting my diploma made it so tangible. I definitely encourage students to go to graduation if they can. The experience is something they’ll remember forever.”
Post-graduation, Caitlin has worked as a freelance writer while simultaneously auditioning and performing. Most recently, she toured across the United States and Canada as part of “PJ Masks LIVE: Time to Be a Hero,” based on the series from Disney Junior. She plans to keep working in both arenas, and ultimately hopes someday the two paths will cross.
“I would eventually love to do theater criticism or journalism,” she says. “There are so many great parallels between writing and theater, and being able to combine my two biggest passions would be incredible. I apply for new writing jobs every day, and the skills I’ve learned through ASU Online help propel me forward.”
Erin Kent, Emergency Management and Homeland Security
When Erin Kent first applied to the ASU Online master’s degree program in emergency management and homeland security, she thought her interest lay primarily in the latter subject. Two semesters into her studies, she realized her true passion was in helping to create plans for supporting and rebuilding communities after the worst types of emergencies.
“I credit the variety of professors I had in my emergency management classes, many of whom were in the field and had been working in real-life jobs,” she says. “It was like the program was made for someone like me. The idea of coming together to help rebuild and save lives and protect our greatest asset, which is our people — that’s where I’m finding my passion.”
For her applied project, Erin pored over emergency plans for her local county in Midland, Michigan, focusing on those sections that cover what happens after disaster strikes.
“A lot of emergency planning is for natural disasters like hurricanes, fires and earthquakes, and there is also a section for violent intruders,” she explains. “One of the things that has interested me the most and is now in my career goals is mutual aid where, for example, a county has a mutual agreement with surrounding counties that says if something major happens, people from those counties will come in and help. It’s the concept of people coming together who you might not always talk to or expect. It’s not just the Red Cross we are able to depend on — it’s each other.”
She calls her experience coming to campus for graduation in May 2017 both “weird and cool.”
“It was like feeling at home in a place I’d never been,” she says. “People saw my ASU shirt and said, ‘Forks up,’ which was cool. I was really sad when it was over. It was life-changing for me, and I don’t think people feel that inspired everywhere.”
Back in Michigan, Erin currently works for Dow Chemical Company as an emergency dispatcher, helping those in the field stay on track with the most up-to-date information.
“I’m in the notification stage right now, but my ultimate goal would be to become one of the emergency managers who is activated when something happens,” she says.”There are a lot of things I can grow into at Dow Chemical. I’m not there yet, but I’m on my way.”
Scott Lau, Urban Planning
For Scott Lau, the decision to enroll in ASU Online’s undergraduate degree program in urban planning came after questioning the thought process behind a new bike lane in Sacramento.
“There was a road reconstruction project near my neighborhood that added a bike lane in between two lanes of road,” he explains. “Right in the middle, removing the original bike lane that was next to the sidewalk. I knew the area and knew I would be sure to look out for bikes, but what about if someone was coming from out of town and was frustrated with their GPS, and not paying attention to the road as well as they should be?”
He was intrigued enough by the problem to look up the resume of each of the city’s planners.
“They had a lot of experience, but were from cities that I felt were irrelevant to Sacramento’s needs,” he says. “I wanted to do it better, and it was during a time where I needed a degree.”
Although he was working toward becoming a police officer, he knew the selection process was competitive, and felt the flexibility of attending school online combined with the potential to earn his degree was well worth it.
“I had insomnia back then and thought if I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I can watch a lecture,” he says. “But after I was accepted, I really followed through and put in the effort, and was able to graduate magna cum laude.”
Though many of his classmates were unable to attend graduation on campus in May 2017, Scott was pleasantly surprised by the networking events and opportunities to meet new people.
“I built friendships with people I would have never met were this online program not so organized and established,” he says. “What could have been a miserable experience not knowing anyone turned into getting to meet five new people and walk at graduation.”
He also credits ASU with helping him obtain his current role with the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.
“The one thing that made me more competitive than other candidates, many of whom had much more experience, was the fact that I had learned about geographic information systems — software that is important for use in planning and zoning a city,” he says. “Other candidates didn’t have that skill, and nowadays all city planning and urban development is switching to more high-tech types of work. ASU gave me a distinct advantage.”
He is currently shadowing coworkers to gain experience, meeting with politicians and other city officials. When it comes to long-term career goals, he has political aspirations of his own.
“I want to become a city mayor,” he says. “I adapt well and see current trends that need to be worked on. I want to do something remarkable in society, and I think no matter where I am, I could pick up the problems of a city and think of solutions to make things better.”
ASU Online congratulates Caitlin, Erin and Scott for their significant achievements, both in the classroom and out in the real world. We look forward to watching your continued success.
ASU support doesn’t stop at graduation. Learn more about how the ASU Alumni Association supports all graduates.