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First-gen ASU grad has the world on a string

Graduating ASU student Trevor Harcrow / Courtesy photo

"One thing that I learned, rather really confirmed, was that no matter what the task is in front of me, I can achieve success so long as I put my mind to it," said ASU student Trevor Harcrow, who is the first in his family to graduate from university.

April 30, 2018

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

Hailing from Kirksville, Missouri — a small, tornado-prone city on the Midwestern plains — Trevor Harcrow graduates this semester from Arizona State University with a bachelor’s degree in English (linguistics) and a certificate in teaching English to speakers of other languages (TESOL).

You can’t trace a direct line from his beginnings in that green, humid environment to this brown, dry one, however; Harcrow also spent several years in the U.S. Navy, where he traveled extensively.

He will become the first in his family to graduate from university. This doesn’t mean Harcrow hasn’t done a lot of learning elsewhere, though: His experience in the Navy also opened his eyes to the wider world. Having lived and/or worked in more than 30 countries, he hopes to continue learning and teaching overseas after graduating.

Harcrow interned this semester as a second-language tutor for the Department of English’s writing programs, helping non-native speakers through required English courses. His military-honed work ethic has made him a standout in his classes and internships alike.

“He shines as a student in my courses,” said Ruby Macksoud, an instructional professional who directs the Department of English’s internship program, “and his life experiences have helped other students to think outside of the box.”

Harcrow answered a few questions about his inspirations and plans for post-graduation.

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

Answer: My "aha" moment was on April 5, 2012. I had just gotten out of the Navy and was traveling in Europe with some friends who also recently gotten out. I was driving our red Mini Cooper D rental down the highway on the outskirts of Stockholm, Sweden, contemplating my life. I was looking at the clouds in the sky asking myself what I wanted to do with my life, and all of a sudden it hit me. From that day forward, I have dedicated myself to teaching English abroad, whether that is just helping friends improve their conversational English, writing letters to pen pals for practice, or in a formal academic role (which is why I chose to study at ASU).

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

A: One thing that I learned, rather really confirmed, was that no matter what the task is in front of me, I can achieve success so long as I put my mind to it. Being the first of my family to graduate from university, it was a daunting task in and of itself, but while taking 18-plus credits a semester, working full-time and taking care of home responsibilities, I really tested myself, but I rose to the challenge and here I am crossing the finish line.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because I recently moved to Arizona (for work) and heard nothing but great things about the veteran center. Pat Tillman had a profound impact on the lives of Arizonans, and being prior military I wanted to be a part of that.

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

A: Stick with it no matter what! While it may seem impossible to you at the time, it will be even harder if you stop. Just like life, there will never be an opportune time to do something, so when things get rough just dig your heels in and always keep moving forward. Life won’t stop for you, so why should you stop for life?

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

A: Most of my time was spent either in the G. Homer Durham Language and Literature building or in Hayden Library. I didn't have a dedicated spot that I would hang out at, but rather on nice days I would just walk around and sit on the benches enjoying the weather (when it wasn't 110). ASU's campus is really pretty, and there are a ton of little hidden gems to see, but you will only find them if you explore.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My immediate plans after graduation include volunteer teaching here in the Valley. My long-term goal is to teach abroad, but being a fresh graduate I want to gain in-field experience first. Also, I have not explored nearly enough of Arizona, so I would like to take a year seeing the sights that the state has to offer before moving on to the next chapter of my life.

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

A: I would use this money to help fight against the growing problem of plastic in our oceans, as well as just the general pollution of our planet. We only have the one planet.

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