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ASU student powers through working as a firefighter to graduate with honors

Marc Sepulveda stands outside his new restaurant.

Marc Sepulveda stands outside his new restaurant.

December 05, 2017

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

Aside from the time he spent in the military, Marc Sepulveda, who grew up in Chandler, Arizona, has created a cozy home not far from Arizona State University.

Sepulveda will be graduating with his Bachelor of Arts in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies with a minor in political science from the School of Politics and Global Studies this fall. His hard work and determination have paid off as he will be graduating summa cum laude.

His journey to graduation has been a long one, filled with challenges and accomplishments. Sepulveda worked as a corpsman for the Navy in both Iraq and Afghanistan and currently works as a firefighter for the city of Chandler, which he has been doing for more than ten years. On top of being a firefighter, Sepulveda owns a few small businesses in Chandler, including a real estate brokerage called MT Real Estate, a gun store called AZ Guns and a restaurant named Ghett'Yo' Taco.

“I enjoy the challenges of growing and managing small businesses,” Sepulveda said. “Most of my companies' jobs are entry level and employing people and watching them develop and go on to bigger and better has been rewarding for me personally. Very few things feel better than an employee coming back and saying thank you or seeking advice long after they've left your organization.”

He is happy to have completed his degree, and is looking forward to having more free time to spend with his family.

“I have one son, Thomas Jefferson and am excited to finally be done with school to spend more time with him,” Sepulveda said

Sepulveda answered a few questions about his ASU education.

Q: Why did you chose to study political science and history?

A: I began my studies at ASU in the spring of 2006, but school just wasn't for me. When I returned to finish my education in 2015 I picked up where I left off in pursuing a degree in urban planning. As part of that program I took a history class with Professor Peter Van Cleave and thoroughly enjoyed it. I ended up taking three classes with him because he is an excellent instructor. His passion for history struck me. It made me question why I was returning to school. I am very fortunate to not 'need' a degree for vertical growth in my jobs, so I decided if I was going to invest the time and money, I would do something I enjoyed. At that point I changed my course of study to history with a focus on American history. Throughout the journey, I maintained that thought process and only took classes that piqued my interest and I eventually accumulated a lot of political science to the point where I only needed a couple lower level courses from a community college to get the minor.

Q: What’s the most valuable thing you learned while at ASU?

A: The most valuable thing I have learned at ASU was the value of time management. For two back-to-back semesters I took 22 and 21 credits and I still pulled straight A's. Believe me, this is not because I am smart. I am a single dad with several other commitments. It took many long nights, early mornings and sometimes some frustration. I abstained from many invites to go party or go on trips, to prioritize my schooling. There are only so many hours in a day, but if properly utilized, they can amount to massive levels of production.

Q: What has been your biggest accomplishment at ASU?

A: I guess my greatest accomplishments at ASU would be my GPA and honestly, just graduating. I maintained and will graduate with a GPA that exceeds 4.0. Again, this is not me being arrogant or pretending I am smart. When I returned to school, I wanted to do my best. I have fallen short many times in my short life, but I was determined to hit the mark with this endeavor. Going back to school on my own accord made a big difference because I was in this for Marc and no one else.  

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

A: If I had to give advice that would be worthwhile to listen to, I would say don't give up. There were times I did not want to keep going. Putting a kid to bed after an exhausting day of working at the office, coming home after being up for 48 hours at the fire station can be trying. It is easy to make excuses but excuses don't get us anywhere. Nearly a fifteen-year hiatus, two wars, a career in the fire service, a child, several startup businesses and many other challenges that I have long since forgotten. If after all of that I can get through school, anyone can. You just have to want to finish more than you want to make excuses.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am not sure what my plans are after graduation. I say that it would be great to hit cruise control and relax a bit, but I fear that's just not my style!

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