Taking off on a career in aviation

December 8, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Joshua Grzywa used to jump out of planes as part of his work during his 15 years in the U.S. Army Infantry. Now he flies them. One conversation with an ASU Professional Flight program student at an aviation fair changed his relationship with flight. From that moment he was excited to learn how to fly. Joshua Grzywa Professional flight graduate Joshua Grzywa. Download Full Image

It hasn’t always been an easy journey, but rising to the challenge has been a rewarding experience.

“Balancing heavy course loads with flight training on a regular basis is taxing to every student within the program,” Grzywa says. “Committing upwards of 12 to 15 hours per week to flight training in addition to normal class loads is not out of the norm — however, I can’t imagine anyone would trade the hours spent flying around the southwestern United States for labs or lectures.”

He credits aviation senior lecturer and chief ground instructor Marc O’Brien for getting him off the ground as a flight student.

“Aviation is not always intuitive, and without a true understanding it can be difficult to progress,” Grzywa said. “He always found ways to ensure the students understood so much ‘foreign’ material.”

Grzywa was chosen as the Outstanding Undergraduate for the Professional Flight program for his academic standing and involvement in student and community activities.

Name: Joshua Grzywa
Major, School: Professional Flight, the Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering
Hometown: Aurora, Illinois

Question: Why did you choose to come to ASU?

Answer: Attending ASU was a natural transition from my work as a Reserve Officer Training Corps instructor with the Army ROTC program here at ASU. I spent four years working with cadets as their prepared to become officers and lead the soldiers of our future Armed Forces. Once I was notified that I was going to be medically retired due to back injuries, my boss insisted that I started taking classes and overnight I became both an instructor and a student.

Q: Was there a particular “aha!” moment when you knew you were on the right path?

A: I was flying my first solo cross country flight where we are required to fly a certain distance with all flight planning and navigation done on our own. I had around 30 hours of training at this point and was just getting to cruise altitude between Marana Airport and Gila Bend. There isn’t much between those two airports other than a mine and a lot of open desert. I remember thinking that I was doing this on my own; I felt like an actual pilot and was filled with more excitement than I could remember in a long time.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? How do you see your future?

A: I am beginning my master’s in safety and human factors with the Aviation department. I will also continue to flight instruct as I build up my hours and experience. This is an exciting time to enter into the aviation industry. The demand for pilots has never been higher and as someone who would never do well in an office, I am excited that my career will take me around the country and around the world.

Q: What’s one thing unrelated to engineering that you are good at?

A: During my time at ASU, I was compelled to assist my fellow veterans following a slew of suicides by members of my former unit. With the help of my wife and a couple friends, I founded a veterans’ nonprofit called Deep Sea Valkyries. Our mission is to enhance the lives of veterans through the treatment of PTSD while introducing them to healthy recreational marine-based activities. Focusing on a holistic approach to healing, participants conduct group counseling sessions coupled with guided sea adventures and daily spiritual devotions. In July 2016, we had our maiden voyage where 20 veterans from across the country came together in the Bahamas for a week-long retreat filled with scuba diving, snorkeling, exploring remote islands and healing through group sessions. Next summer we will host two retreats and more than 40 veterans will experience much of the same. These retreats are free for the participants as each retreat is funded through private and corporate donations. This is perhaps my biggest hidden talent, seeing a social problem and being able to find a solution that, while out of the norm, is effective and long lasting.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Love for travel makes graduating ASU student want to make the world a better place

December 8, 2016

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2016 commencement. See more graduates here.

Arizona State University student Anna Laird has always loved traveling, which is part of the reason she joined the Peace Corps after she completed her undergraduate degree. portrait of student Download Full Image

“During the Peace Corps, I became passionate about development work and figuring out ways to make the world a better place. Living in Kyrgyzstan for two years taught me about development on a grassroots level, but I needed to find a way to expand my knowledge. The Global Technology and Development (GTD) program in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society was the solution to my knowledge gap,” she said.

Laird says the GTD program taught her to always question, continuously seek more information, and to analyze a problem from an innovative perspective.

“A few months into the program, I remember watching a news segment on the BBC where a journalist was interviewing a Syrian refugee. The refugee was showing the journalist his smartphone and explaining how he used Google Maps to plot the safest routes. In hindsight, it seems so obvious, but at the time it was a light-bulb moment.”

She felt that this was a new phenomenon and the potential uses of mobile phone technology for refugees were endless. She sought to learn more and ended up using this topic for her capstone project. She also hopes to put the information she gleaned to use in the future. “Had I not been enrolled in the GTD program, I doubt I would have given that news segment a second thought. Instead, it stuck with me for months, and I simply had to learn more.”

Now with the development experience she gained in the Peace Corps and a solid foundation of knowledge thanks to the GTD program, Laird says she feels prepared to pursue a career in international development work and seek innovative solutions to problems. 

Name: Anna Laird

Major, school/college: Global Technology & Development, School for the Future of Innovation in Society

Hometown: St. Petersburg, Florida

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: I became interested in development work while serving in the Peace Corps in Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia. I started thinking about the various uses for technology in a development context. Through my work in the Peace Corps, it became clear to me that the development field would need to become more innovative as we entered the digital age.

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

A: It is hard to pinpoint one particular thing, as I feel like my entire experience at ASU changed my perspective! The entire Global Technology & Development (GTD) is partially designed to challenge any existing perspectives you might have and expose you to new ones. Overall I would say that the biggest thing I have taken away from my time at ASU is to question everything and never take things at face value — there is always more to learn and understand!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU appealed to me for so many reasons! I was initially drawn to ASU because of the GTD program. The GTD program combined so many aspects that I was looking for in a graduate degree program. I was also very impressed with how much support ASU offered online students, which was very important to me.

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

A: Keep at it! Also, caring about little details can go a long way. If you don’t have a copy of the APA manual — go buy it immediately (or whichever style your particular school uses).

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

A: Does Blackboard count? As an online student, I’ve actually never been to the ASU campus! Attending graduation in December will be my first time on campus and I can’t wait!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m actually not sure yet! I hope to return to development work and would love to focus on human rights related issues. I will be looking for opportunities both at home and abroad. In the short-term, I plan to read a few books that are NOT school related and enjoy taking a break from writing papers!

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

A: While there are many problems to choose from (unfortunately), I would probably choose to tackle access to quality education for women and girls. Millions of girls are denied education around the world, which prevents them from accessing opportunities and reaching their full potential. 

Marissa Huth

communications specialist, School for the Future of Innovation in Society