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Risks pay off for digital culture student

Photo of Erick Fowler

Erick Fowler graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture with a concentration in film and with a minor in design studies. Photo by Campbell Boulanger.

April 24, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Erick Fowler made a big decision when he chose to go to college 1,000 miles away from his hometown in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

“I had never even been to Arizona before orientation,” he said. “Going against everything else I’ve ever done in my entire life, I decided one of the most important decisions of my life would be an excellent time for me to be spontaneous and choose my college based on pure gut feeling.”

Fowler saw the move as a chance to push himself to leave the nest and become his own person, independent of his hometown. He also was drawn to ASU’s nationally ranked journalism school.

“Coming into college I actually was a journalism major,” he said. “I love a good documentary, and I figured that journalism was the way to me achieving that dream.”

But soon, he realized that journalism was not the right path for him, and he made another big decision.

“From an early age I was filming,” he said. “Growing up I made short, absurd videos. While on assignment for a class, I realized how much I dreaded the process of gathering stories without my camera. So, I decided to fully give into my lifelong love of film and pursue the career of my dreams.”

Fowler graduates this May with a bachelor’s degree in digital culture with a concentration in film and with a minor in design studies.

Fowler not only found the courage to pursue his dream here, but he said he also found the courage to get out of his comfort zone.

“In high school, I was a pretty apathetic kid,” he said. “I went to class, got the ‘A’ and then went home. I didn’t really branch out much beyond that.”

Going to ASU, Fowler said he wanted to change that, but he never could have imagined how much it would actually change him.

“Instead of being this quiet, uncaring teenager, I now thrive on meeting new people and taking on new challenges,” he said. “Coming to ASU opened my mind to the world of possibilities and the wonderful people that are out there.”

Fowler answered some questions from ASU Now:

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

Answer: In the middle of my senior capstone project, my group and I were struggling to define what exactly our project was and where it was going. What resulted from that was a rather intense conversation with our professors, Kimberlee Swisher and Grisha Coleman. After what seemed to be a barrage of critiques, I remember Kim telling us, “It’s good that we’re having these conversations.” My defensive self immediately was floored. How could something so tense and critical be good? But giving it time and reflecting with my group members allowed me to reframe the situation in my mind. At that moment I realized how to take critiques and make something wonderful with them. If it wasn’t for Kim and Grisha, I don’t know if I would have ever learned that skill that is so crucial to creative work.

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

A: Try everything. Try all you can. Go outside of your comfort zone as much as possible. You never know what you’re going to find out there. Somewhere out there are elements that will make you your best self and people that can become lifelong friends, partners or mentors. There is no better time to grow and explore all that life has to offer than college.  

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

A: Forest Mall. Especially during the cool days in the fall and spring. I could work, or just sit, on a bench out there for hours while people walk by. There are few places that really give you a scope of how big this university is like Forrest Mall during the middle of the day. Plus, it has been my route from parking to campus and back for the past four years. Not much is better than the feeling of walking to my car after a late night of working.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Right now, it is to go into the world of media production and travel as much as possible while making time for my own personal artistic endeavors. Wherever I am, I want to make a difference. I crave the feeling of making an impact on someone’s life and I hope to be at a place that allows me to do that with my talents.

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

A: Climate change. There are a lot of issues that are important and in desperate need of financial backing, but I believe that if we don’t at least partially solve the issue of climate change, then we may not last much longer into the future as a species. It’s more dire than we want to realize, and if we don’t do something about it, nothing else will even matter because we’ll be gone.

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