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On wheels and wings

ASU grad Cass Murphy on a well-worded mission to save the planet

Cass Murphy

Cass Murphy will complete her bachelor's in English (creative writing) this May. What’s next? “I'm going to try my hand at integrating literary and genre writing in a series of high-fantasy wildlife/resource-management novels,” she said.

May 03, 2016

Editor's note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2016 commencement. See the rest here.

The kind of toughness Cassidy “Cass” Murphy exhibits is best summed up in two words: roller derby.

The Okemos, Michigan, native has participated on ASU’s Derby Devils club team for two years, and she points to it as a highlight of her time here.

But her athleticism is not her only defining feature. Murphy is also a well-rounded student-citizen. She’ll be graduating this May with her bachelor’s degree in English (creative writing); minors in applied biological sciences (College of Letters and Sciences), sustainability (School of Sustainability) and parks and protected area management (College of Public Service and Community Solutions); and a certificate in environmental humanities (Department of English). She has completed internships in both the biological sciences and with a literary magazine. In her rare free time, she enjoys birding. She hopes to combine all of these disparate passions in a future conservationist-author self.

It’s clear Murphy is on a no-nonsense, well-worded mission to save the planet.

Murphy told us a bit more about her time at ASU as well as her future plans.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: This kind of “prior-planning” question isn't going to get a very romantic or idealized answer. I checked the box for “English Creative Writing” when I applied to ASU after sitting at the kitchen counter for a few minutes trying to think what I was good at (or as I might say after four years of education, “while trying to think of at what I was skilled”).

I realized recently that I've had the good fortune to drift into a lot of things. And though this does make it difficult to plan for, say, the future, it has allowed me to have a variety of awesome experiences.

I took a theater production crew class during my freshman year because I was curious about playwriting. The play we produced featured a deaf actor, and I ended up learning some ASL (American Sign Language). I added two of my three minors after realizing I'd already taken some of the required courses. All of them have broadened my perspective more than I could have ever predicted while trying to wring qualifications out of my college experience. And I got the fantastic opportunity to intern with Superstition Review because a professor recommended me for it.

Probably the most “aha-iest moment” has been when I decided not to graduate last spring (I had my major, two minors and certificate completed) and planned another year to study applied biological sciences. That was a genuine “this is what I want to do, and I'm doing it” moment.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I have an internship in the ASU Natural History Collections, working in the bird collection identifying and cataloguing specimens. One thing that's surprised me is how interested I am in taxonomy. Previously, I would have called it an exercise in tediousness, but that was before I knew anything.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Another "prior planning" question. I was tired of being cold all the time; during Michigan winters I used to heat my breakfast cereal in the microwave so I could stay warm that much longer.

I also found ASU's website faster to navigate than UofA's. And I got a nice scholarship, which always helps.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Explore everything, but not so much that you waste your time. You never know what you'll find unless you look, but if you look too much you could miss everything.

ASU Derby Devils in 2015

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: The Secret Garden, which somehow hasn't completely lost its secret-ness after all the press it's gotten.

While that's my favorite isolated location, I'd say my favorite experience has been skating in the Homecoming Parade with the ASU Derby Devils. (Yes, we totally have a roller derby team; I've skated on it for over two years. Shameless plug.) It's such fun hearing the astonished tendrils of conversation float by after the team has passed: “Roller derby still exists?”

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'm going to try my hand at integrating literary and genre writing in a series of high-fantasy wildlife/resource-management novels, which I'm sure will bring scorn and ridicule down upon me from every conceivable perspective.

In the short term, I'm going to travel across the country and go birding. Yes, people actually do such things for fun.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: The eventual doom we're creating for ourselves via human overpopulation, species extinction and resource depletion.

On a cheerier note, I'd also start an organization to lobby for the protection of the endangered Oxford comma. [Editor's note: Sadly for Murphy, ASU Now operates under AP style, and thus all Oxford commas have been removed from this article.]

The Department of English is an academic unit in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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