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ASU Future of Innovation grad found right path after major switch

Arizona Baskin

ASU graduate Arizona Baskin.

December 11, 2017

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

After dedicating his initial efforts in college to a technical degree, Arizona Baskin realized that he wanted something different out of his undergraduate education at Arizona State University. While he was intrigued by technological innovation, he wanted to see how his work could affect the human side of the equation.

“When I was in electrical engineering, the emphasis was on the technology more than the people, and that just wasn’t for me,” said Baskin, who, like many students who have found their way to the School for the Future of Innovation in Society (SFIS), based his first choice of a major on his curiosity about how things work. It wasn’t long before he discovered he was more interested in how people work with things.

His experience switching majors inspired his undergraduate thesis, in which he examines the education and career choices of engineering students. He interviewed both former engineering majors who chose a different path, and those who are sticking with technical studies.

Finding SFIS was a fortuitous discovery.

“They’re asking questions that no one else is asking, and focusing on taking a more humanist approach,” Baskin said.

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

Answer: When I researched SFIS, I came across a video on YouTube with SFIS professors Gary Grossman and Jameson Wetmore. That video struck a chord in me and articulated some thoughts about technology and engineering that I wanted and needed to hear. I saw that video and realized that whatever major this professor was an instrumental part of was somewhere I belonged.

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

A: That I didn’t have to be an engineer and that engineers didn’t really do what I wanted to do anyway. I was groomed to be one by my high school and by my hobbies, and I felt pressure from my peers as well. I thought that I had no other choice. I learned that that was wrong. I had lost myself, but I gained a better understanding of my desires and hopes as a result.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Honestly, I was afraid to leave the state to go to another, more expensive and intimidating college, the Colorado School of Mines. I had initially enrolled there and was planning to leave the day that I realized I couldn’t leave, so I made a super last-minute change to ASU, and I lived with my parents for the first year.

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

A: Don’t feel trapped in a major, do the work, and make sure you finish!

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

A: I really enjoyed the parking garage, known as the Packard Drive Structure or Structure 7. In my first year, I often napped and did schoolwork in my car there between classes. In my second year, I often napped as well, but I also learned about the interesting view from the top level of the structure and enjoyed some nice sunsets up there also. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am planning on going to law school — I still need to figure out where that will be. I am, then, planning on passing the bar exam, being in a firm … and maybe heading towards politics?

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

A: Likely it would be homelessness, using a housing-first approach. My vision is that one-third of the money could go towards building housing by partnering with local or well-respected construction and design firms. One-third to strengthening and adding to a more robust non-profit-based support system for before, during, and after receiving housing and a job. And the last third would be split between a savings buffer and administrating and coordinating the whole venture.

Written by Madelyn Nelson

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