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Finding her place on campus — and in the world

Outstanding grad Kali Richmond's time at ASU has been a journey of self-discovery

ASU International Service Devils in Vietnam 2016

Kali Richmond (right) served as president of International Service Devils since 2014. The ASU Polytechnic campus-based club organized spring break volunteer trips to Costa Rica, Guatemala and India, in conjunction with the company Dream Volunteers. In 2016, Dream Volunteers asked ASU's experienced group to establish its first program in Vietnam. Photo courtesy of Kali Richmond

May 04, 2016

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

Kali Richmond, named the outstanding bachelor’s degree graduate for 2016 in ASU’s College of Letters and Sciences, majored in applied biological sciences at the Polytechnic campus where she was also a student in Barrett, the Honors College. Richmond completed a minor in nutrition and healthy living, worked two part-time jobs to pay the rent and gain resume-worthy experience, and is graduating with a GPA above 4.0.

She says her four years at ASU have been a journey of self-discovery.

“I graduated from high school with no established purpose and no idea of what kind of person I even wanted to be,” said Richmond, whose hometown is Apache Junction, Arizona. “But I walked into ASU with the ambition to step out of my comfort zone and find out what the world has to offer, and what I have to offer the world. I discovered that the career I chose would have to be purposeful; I had to make a difference in the lives of others.”

A spur-of-the-moment job application her freshman year for a student position at the new Sun Devil Fitness Complex on the Polytechnic campus would set her on the path. 

This job, she said, is where she really began to grow — “becoming part of an enthusiastic team of ASU students, making friends, getting pulled out of my shell and involved at ASU” — and she earned two promotions over the past four years.

As a sophomore, she mentored incoming Barrett freshmen and became an Honors Devil, helping recruit new students. These experiences helped her polish her public-speaking skills and professional interactions and to overcome her shy tendencies. She joined the ASU Polytechnic campus club International Service Devils and spent spring break that year volunteering in Guatemala.   

That trip was life-changing for her.

“I don’t have words to describe the amazing effect that this trip, the people who traveled with me and the people that I met there had on my beliefs and my perspectives on life. I came home a different person,” Richmond said.

Since then, International Service Devils has been her passion, and she has served as president the past two years. She and her executive team have organized and participated in spring break service trips for ASU students to India and, most recently, Vietnam, raising significant funds for these efforts with well-crafted ASU PitchFunder campaigns.  

Richmond recently shared some reflections about her college experience with ASU Now.

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

Answer: By the time I went to India, I was three years into my biology major and nutrition minor and already working in the medical field as a scribe. I had learned so much about biology and health care, that I naturally viewed the slums of India in terms of health. Some of the people on the streets were there because of handicaps such as severe undernourishment, polio infection or mental illness. And no one paid any attention to the trash and stagnant water growing bacteria near where the children played. I realized that the polio vaccine was actually something I had taken for granted, and that many people do not have the access to it. This made me recognize that these types of health-care shortcomings exist globally, even in our own country. I knew I wanted to be a person who could provide relief from and even prevent things like this, no matter where I am. And I was grateful that my studies in biology and nutrition could help me to be that person.    

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

A: Mark Twain wrote in “Innocents Abroad”: “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness …”  I second this statement. The more places I see, cultures I get to experience and people I meet, the more I realize how small I am relative to the rest of the Earth. I have become more open-minded and more accepting to the vast differences in individuals, communities and environments. I have learned and am still learning to appreciate these differences rather than judge them, and to be permeable to new things around me so that I can continue to broaden my perspective.

I never would have thought I would be spending my college years traveling abroad — especially leading the volunteer program that let me do so. Everything about International Service Devils has made me a better person than I was when I entered college.

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

A: Test yourself! And leave your comfort zone as much as you possibly can! You’ll be surprised at all that you can achieve when you do. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have accepted a seat with the Master's of Physician Assistant program at A.T. Still University and will begin the program in June.

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