There are no accidents in life, only collisions ... including “aha” moments, which, with hindsight, inevitably highlight the synchronicity of life. My final applied project for my master’s degree was to help build a new comprehensive Star Wars class for the ASU film and media studies program. I was having a difficult time coming up with appropriate ideas for my applied project and, instead, was just considering taking a comprehensive exam to fulfill the requirement. My committee chair, Kevin Sandler, asked me if I would be interested in building quiz banks for a new Star Wars course as my applied project. I had no idea the film and media studies program was putting together a Star Wars course! My “aha” moment had come full-circle.

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

A: In 2009, after my first film and media studies class on race and gender (with Daniel Bernardi), I was hooked. It was like my eyes were opening for the first time. I know that sounds dramatic, but it’s amazing how conditioned by media and dominant ideology we’ve all become … and when that light switch gets turned on, there’s no looking back. I can honestly say, from my first race and gender class in 2009 through my last class in 2018 (FMS 503: Business in Hollywood), ASU has given me perspective that, arguably, anyone living in the 21st century needs: Every day, each of us processes a constant stream of media, including the content being spoon-fed to us by the “phones” in our pockets. When it comes to film and media studies, ASU is exemplary.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: Originally, because the university offered the online bachelor’s degree program I was looking for. When I decided to get my graduate degree, it was a no-brainer. ASU has, hands-down, one of the best film and media studies programs in the country.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Kevin Sandler, whom I had as a professor for both undergraduate and graduate film and media studies. When I went back to get my bachelor’s degree in 2009, I was in my mid-40s and had been an industry professional for over two decades, including owning my own production company. Needless to say, I was confident in my ability to analyze, research and write. Even so, Professor Sandler always pushed me to take that extra step, especially in graduate school, to dig deeper, to write more effectively, to make my arguments stronger — an invaluable lesson which can be applied across-the-board in life.

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

A: Do not give up! During both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I spent many a panicked night trying to piece together a paper or an assignment — notes, Post-its, readings, ideas and index cards everywhere. I can even think of at least one occasion when the stress was so overwhelming I cried! If this ever happens to you, remind yourself you didn’t make it this far by accident ... stay focused, eyes on the prize.

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

A: Though I’m an online student, I’ve visited the campus a few times since 2009. Each time, at some point, I end up taking it all in and chilling at Hayden Lawn.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After spending decades on the road, I am really looking forward to settling down and teaching film and media. That said, I do continue to tour and will always be creatively involved in production — it’s just who I am — but there is something about sharing my knowledge and experiences with others, especially younger generations. I never wanted to be a teacher ... funny how that happens!

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

A: The biggest problem facing our planet is global warming, but the solution, for the most part, comes without a dollar sign. The solution to global warming is about choices. If I were given $40 million to tackle a problem that could be solved with money, it would be hunger. Approximately one in eight people on this planet suffer from hunger and malnutrition, and the majority of those people don't live in developing countries — some studies have shown that one in seven Americans go to bed hungry! Although $40 million wouldn’t even come close to “solving” world hunger, it is an investment worth making.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English