Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.
Devon Probol, a graduating history senior, has made an impression at Arizona State University's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, despite being almost 8,000 miles away in Canberra, Australia. Probol will be receiving the Dean's Medal at commencement ceremonies this winter.
At the beginning of her journey to graduation and the Dean's Medal, Probol was "lost in translation" and unsure of what she wanted to do with her life. In an effort to discover her passion, the Toledo, Ohio native decided to enter the job market after high school and took a job with the U.S. Department of State in Australia in July 2014. There, she found what she was looking for: a passion for history and policy analysis. She decided to move forward with her passion and take online classes with ASU, while also working and teaching U.S. history to high school students at the embassy.
In order to gain the normal college experience, Probol developed friendships with other online students and took advantage of extracurriculars, such as joining honors societies, studying abroad in Romania and working with her advisors.
“I would have people reach out to me constantly and ask how things are going," Probol said. "It's nice to have people check in and say 'Just making sure you're still above water.' And I feel you don't really get that at a brick-and-mortar school, unless something is wrong. It was so nice to know that someone actually cares and is genuinely interested in how school is going for you.”
With help from the program and specifically an Immigration and Ethnicity course, Probol has focused her passion and is pursuing it.
"I really want to focus on national security policy on immigration because it's a huge security risk," Probol said. "Even more so, climate change refugees, which people don't even consider. They don't fall under certain laws because climate change refugees are not an issue and we don't undertsand the implications of that yet. Learning about the historical implications of the situation and not reforming it really changed my persective and gave me passion."
Probol answered a few questions about her online ASU education.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)
Answer: When I took Dr. Van Cleave's Immigration and Ethnicity class. I knew I loved history and I enjoyed learning about it, but when I took that class, it changed what I wanted to do. Now, I am pursuing topics regarding immigration reform. Although immigration reform as a whole is important, I want to specifically understand how climate change affects migration patterns and the concerns surrounding climate change refugees.
Q. What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A. I took a course called American Religious Traditions that discussed the concept of pluralism, and how significant change could be made through inclusive rather than exclusive approaches. While in this particular class we were discussing the application simply to theology, I realized how effective this concept could be if applied in other aspects of life. I began finding additional merit in others through embracing their differences, rather than seeing them as a juxtaposition. It really aided in furthering my leadership skills and helping me to understand those around me a little more.
Q. Why did you choose ASU?
A. I chose ASU because I wanted to attend a highly reputable university that would add further credit to my resume. While I had already landed the dream job, I also wanted to pursue my personal goal of attaining a degree. ASU allowed me to do both without having to forsake one dream at the expense of another.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A. Make an effort to develop relationships with your professors — they want to see you succeed, and are willing to help you the greater majority of the time. Take advantage of the great minds you have around you while you can.
Q. What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A. Due to my non-traditional learning experience, I was never afforded the opportunity to choose a favorite spot on campus. However, I would often venture to the National Library of Australia that overlooked Lake Burley Griffin while living in Canberra. I spent many hours there studying and reflecting on life.
Q. What are your plans after graduation?
A. Although I loved my job working for the Department of State, I decided to take some time away to pursue other endeavors - such as gaining experience in the private sector. I intend to eventually continue my education, whether that be earning a Master's in Public Policy/Administration or attending law school.
Q. If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A. That's a tough one ... largely because there are so many issues that need to be addressed in our world. I would probably tackle immigration reform.
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