English literature graduate transforms obstacles into understanding

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Nobel Prize laureate Thomas Mann once said, “A writer is someone for whom writing is more difficult than it is for other people.” Aslihan Kilic has certainly found this to be true in her life, though perhaps not in the way that Mann meant. Graduating ASU student Aslihan Kilic / Courtesy photo "All of the professors I had inspired me to look deeper at the world we live in," said graduating Arizona State University student Aslihan Kilic. She is earning her bachelor's degree in English (literature) this spring. Download Full Image

Kilic grew up in the San Francisco Bay area as a speaker of Turkish. She remembers well her difficulty in learning to speak and read English. Through her struggles, the Arizona State University student developed a keen empathy for others in the same position.

Kilic is graduating this spring with a degree in English (literature) and a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL). Her facility with the language isn’t just adequate now; this former English language learner devours canonical English texts: Plath, Dickens, the Brontës, Hemingway. She then reads the authors’ biographies.

Beyond this semester, Kilic will employ her adept language skills and hard-won empathy in her chosen career of counseling; she is on track to pursue a second bachelor’s degree in psychology at ASU this fall.

We caught up with Kilic between finals to ask a few more questions about her ASU experience.

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

Answer: My first language was not English, but I remembered the struggle of learning it when I was young. The tenacity I had to learn English stayed with me for as long as I could remember! I decided to choose English as my major, and I learned that you could gain a certificate to teach speakers of a different language, alongside gaining a bachelor’s degree.

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

A: All of the professors I had inspired me to look deeper at the world we live in, whether it be through an environmental, historical or cultural [lens]. I was introduced to a lot of different types of literature, which helped illustrate life in different time periods. I learned a lot from them and their unique perspectives.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I decided to go in 2016. I had a lot of difficulty in my personal life from 2013 onward, so I finally thought that my mindset in 2016 allowed me to make a leap to a university. ASU was the closest to me, and I heard a lot of good things about the school.

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

A: Never give up on what you want to do; the struggle you go through with each class and semester is worth it in the end.

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

A: I loved Hayden Library; I always did a lot of my studying there! I loved the little cafe inside of the library too!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I want to continue working where I am, but I will be researching different job opportunities and reaching out to professionals to see if they have any ideas. In the fall I will be starting a new degree.

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

A: My mother passed away from cancer (many different areas of her body were infected). I would use [the money] to find and fund researchers who truly want to succeed in finding the real causes and cures to this horrifying disease.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


Dual bachelor’s graduate finds success through ASU Online

April 30, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Born to teenage parents and raised by a single mother in Northern California, Stephani Watson learned to support herself from the time she was 17 years old. Stephani Watson holds her ASU grad cap Stephani Watson is graduating from ASU with a BS in political science and a BA in interdisciplinary studies. Download Full Image

At 22, she was hired by Intel. She spent nearly two decades there, gaining knowledge and promotions. But then the recession hit.

At the time, Watson was nearly 40 years old, earning six figures.

“After the recession hit, they were only hiring people that had multiple degrees: master’s degrees, PhDs. On paper — even though my work was good — I couldn’t compete with any of my peers.”

Unable to compete, Watson was terminated and soon found herself in a predicament.

“Where am I going to go get a job that makes that much money, with no degrees, and when my entire adult work experience is with one company? It was devastating,” she said.

She spent a couple of years working on web development for clients but knew she had to go back school, calling it a “no-brainer.” Her first stop was a local community college where she studied interdisciplinary studies, political science and sociology. Her next stop was Arizona State University.

Watson is graduating this May with a Bachelor of Science in political science and a Bachelor of Arts in interdisciplinary studies, with two areas of concentration in justice studies and sociology. But her time with and love for the university won’t end after graduation.

“I can’t express how much I love ASU and hope to have a long future relationship with ASU. Once I get into my career and start earning an income, I want to set up pledges for all the scholarships I was blessed to have,” she said. During her time at ASU, Watson said she received support from the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma Higher Education Program Scholarship, William D. Kavan Political Science Scholarship, ASU Retirees Association Scholarship, and the American Indian Graduate Center.

Watson answered a few questions about her experience at ASU and her plans for the future.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: When I was looking to transfer, I wanted to apply the degrees I had earned at community college, which were interdisciplinary studies, political science and sociology. Unfortunately, our CSU college is more geared toward business and they didn’t have the well-rounded programs that I wanted. I had heard a lot of great things about ASU so I went online, looked at the programs and — because it was online — it was very appealing to me. I started contacting the admissions department; everyone was extremely nice and helpful.

Q: How was your experience as a non-traditional, online student?

A: Going back to school for me was exciting, maybe because I am a non-traditional student and already had a corporate background. I had already worked several years in the workforce and recognized how important a post-secondary degree was. I was really able to dedicate and apply myself so that portion of it wasn’t difficult.

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

A: I think my “aha” moment happened actually not at ASU but right before I transferred. I was attending on-campus classes at my community college with a lot of students that were half my age and they were always coming to me. I would have thought because I was older they would treat me funny or ignore me, but it was the complete opposite. The students were super nice and always wanted to be on my team and always coming to me for advice. I thought, “Wow, if I can help students I would love to do this and teach.” And once I transitioned into ASU, my professors were so phenomenal that I just knew I wanted to be a part of that.

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

A: Really dedicate yourself and don’t settle for mediocre work or mediocre grades. Your grades, your transcripts and how you do at school is like your credit. You have to keep your credit clean so you can buy things. School is like that as well: You have to make sure it’s top-notch so you get the best employment options after you leave school, to be able to do whatever it is you’re truly passionate about.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans are immediately ASU Law, I’m already registered and start Aug. 16. From there, I’d like to get a professorship at Folsom Lake College; I just finished an internship there and my previous professors want me to come back to teach. My stretch goal is doing the EdD through ASU Online for my doctorate.

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

A: I would try and tackle the problem of education. I think a lot of world problems stem from people being uneducated, and that creates a wealth of other problems because they don’t know how to vote; they start making decisions for the greater population because they just don’t know better. Whereas if you’re educated, you can create solutions.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences