Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
Araceli Villezcas is graduating from Arizona State University with honors this May, completing her honors thesis on the stories of her father's life as an immigrant. She is a recipient of a Wells Fargo award and serves as editor-in-chief of Lux Undergraduate Creative Review, a publication that showcases literary, artistic, musical and cinematic work by undergraduate students.
Villezcas will earn her degree in communication, with a minor in sustainability.
Question: What's your current job?
Answer: I am working at Arizona Kids Think Too (AZKTT), a nonprofit organization serving disadvantaged youth and their families in the greater Phoenix area. At AZKTT, I work as an instructor for a program named Building Our Leaders Through Science (BOLTS). I lead groups of children through STEM-based activities that promote leadership and teamwork. I also tutor math and language arts for third-fifth grades at Academia Del Pueblo.
After graduation, I plan to work in marketing and public relations in the media. I am interested in communication design and creating impactful messages. Communication is a powerful tool to inspire action and change, and I would love to work in a position that allows me to be creative while also doing work that matters to me.
Q: What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
A: It was when I was on a study abroad trip in Liege, Belgium. At the time, I was a student at Mesa Community College and taking an intercultural communication class. Traveling within the European Union was an incredible experience. I learned about theory in the classroom and witnessed it play out during my travels and interactions with the local people. Communication is truly an essential part of everyday life and is applicable to every situation. I have greatly enjoyed choosing to pursue this area of study because I know it will always remain relevant in my life, work, and experiences.
Q: What made you choose ASU?
A: I primarily chose ASU because it was important for me to stay close to my family while pursuing my education. I also loved the campus, programs, and opportunities that ASU offered. I knew I would thrive here so it was the natural choice for me to make.
Q: Is there a particular faculty member at ASU who was influential?
A: Dr. Heather Curry was one of (my) most influential professors at ASU. I took both her Introduction to Communication and Intro to Communication Inquiry classes in my first year at ASU. She taught with such a passion for the field and it made me excited to go to class. The discussions and coursework were also interesting and insightful. Taking both classes with her as the professor motivated me to continue pursuing this field of study.
Dr. Olga Davis at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication was also one of (my) most influential professors at ASU. I took her Identity, Performance, and Human Communication class in the spring of 2017. I had never previously considered performativity as a way to engage with coursework and it opened up a whole new world to me. In part, her class inspired my honors thesis work, which focuses on challenging harmful master narratives.
Q: What were the most useful classes you took?
A: They were COM 325 Advanced Public Speaking, SOC 365 Sociology of Mass Communication, and COM 316 Gender and Communication. COM 325 encouraged me out of my comfort zone and helped me become a more practiced speaker. SOC 365 challenged me to become a more thorough writer and allowed me to sharpen my research skills, something that has greatly influenced my academic success. Lastly, COM 316 taught me about the pressing issues affecting LGBTQI+ individuals. Since taking these classes, I have continued to learn more about the subjects.
Q: Were you involved in any student organizations or clubs? Or athletics?
A: This year, I am the editor-in-chief of Lux Undergraduate Creative Review. Lux is a student-run annual publication that accepts submissions in fiction, nonfiction, poetry, art, music, film, and screenplay from all ASU undergraduate students. The publication is produced with the help of Barrett, The Honors College.
Q: What advice do you have for students who may be following your path?
A: Become involved in student organizations during your first year at ASU. You may not realize it but you’ll only get busier so take advantage of the spare time that you have early on. Attend meetings, events, and lectures. There is always something going on at every campus. Also, push yourself to engage in a different internship at least once every year. Experience is the key and ASU offers so many opportunities — all you have to do is look for them! Finally, study abroad at least once during your time at college. It sounds cliché but you really do meet your best friends and make life-changing memories!
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: Changemaker Central on the Tempe campus was my favorite spot for studying and working on projects with friends. They have comfortable seats and the walls are covered with events, projects, and organizations. It was always a good spot to study in between classes.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I believe that one of the most pressing problems of our time is climate change. Unfortunately, it is disproportionally affecting developing countries, even though it is developed nations that tend to have a higher ecological footprint. If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would focus on promoting sustainability efforts by making education more accessible in developing countries across the world. In the words of Julie Ann Wrigley, “It’s people who cause the most daunting sustainability challenges we face. Thus, it’s people — with the right knowledge, tools, and experiences – who can change the current trajectory to a more hopeful, more positive one.”
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