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Online graduate wanted prestige, flexibility of ASU

Urban planning major gained insight into how people interact with their environment

May 01, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

After dropping out of college, Scott Lau knew he needed to earn a degree, and he was drawn to Arizona State University not only because of the flexibility but also the prestige.

Lau, who lives in Sacramento, is earning a bachelor’s of science degree in urban planningin the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences from ASU Online, and has worked full time while taking classes.

“ASU Online has a lot of credibility,” he said. “When I dropped out of college, I knew I wanted to have some kind of impact on my community, and ASU Online gave me a chance to redeem myself.”

Scott Lau is graduating with a degree from ASU Online.

Lau had attended two University of California schools, for a year each, until he realized he wasn’t interested in engineering.

So he got a job working as a technician at Folsom State Prison, where he dealt directly with maximum-security prisoners. He was considering a career in law enforcement when a botched road reconstruction project in his city made him think about urban planning. And he realized the ASU Online program would work perfectly.

“I suffer from insomnia and so I get up at 3 a.m. and watch a lecture or do homework,” said Lau, who’s 25.

“I’ve gotten so much insight into human nature and psychology and how the environment affects people’s happiness.”

Lau and his parents will travel to the ASU campus for the first time to attend graduation, which he’s dedicated to his grandmother, who died two months ago.

“She came from China and without her, I wouldn’t have this chance at an education.”

He answered some questions from ASU Now:

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

Answer: The environment that you chose to be in is a determinant in how happy you are as a person. My major in urban planning has emphasized creating, arranging and designing structures in a way that relieves stress and promotes the quality of life amongst others.

It made me realize that the buildings around me were not arranged or built by accident, but due to the hard work of a planner or architect. It changed my perspective, that there is a science to it that gives us a feeling of safety and pleasantness based on the look and design of a building, green space available, and accessibility. The level of comfort that you are in depends on the environment or place you put yourself in.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is a world-renowned university. It is a Pac-12 school and is known everywhere for both athletics and academics. It gives me pride and motivation to excel as a student for a school that participates in sports and is often broadcast nationally. In other words, ASU gives me bragging rights. My choice in choosing ASU Online vs. other online schools is the prestige that ASU has.

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

A: Aspire to inspire before your time expires. Our time in college is limited. Do something that is worthwhile and will get your name remembered. Pat Tillman is remembered all over campus for doing something very remarkable. Look at the impact and things that we are doing now in his name. What can you do that is remarkable and can be famed about? Get out there!

Q: What is your favorite spot to study and think about life?

A: My favorite place to study, meet with friends or ponder the direction that my life is headed to would be my backyard patio. It offers ample sunshine and features a garden of exotic plants with a fish pond. It gives me a nature side of my day and I think about how easy or hard it is to be a fish, or a flower or a bird. Then I switch back to reality and think about the things I need to accomplish.

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

A: I would focus on the mosquito population control. Mosquitos are not only a nuisance to us, but they also carry a wide range of diseases that are incurable and damaging to the health. Zika virus, the virus that causes pregnant women to give birth to babies with smaller heads/brains, is carried and spread through mosquitos. With the $40 million dollars, I’d invest in mosquito electric zapper lamps and put them in places where mosquitos are in need to control. Electric zappers are the most effective bug killers without the chemicals that could harm others or the environment.

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