Flexibility of online classes allows soon-to-be graduate to balance work, home and school

Alexandria Smille partially credits her daughter Lyric with helping her stay motivated.


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

Juggling work and a toddler is a daunting task. When you add the desire to earn a degree, it might seem impossible. For Alexandria Smille, earning a Bachelor of Science in urban planning through ASU Online and the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning meant that she could utilize the flexible nature of the courses to fit them into her life, all while learning the skills she needed to positively impact our communities.

“Even though being a mom made it a thousand times more challenging, my daughter’s little face kept me going,” Smille said. “I have been working on this degree since I graduated from high school in 2011. I faced many adversities, but I kept going. She has made it easier to complete this dream of mine and now I know I can better support us going forward.”

Smille will be graduating this May with her degree. We asked her a few questions about her experiences at ASU.

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

Answer: I originally set off to college in 2011 for graphic design but began to realize I did not want to spend my time behind a computer screen forever. I began studying the environment and sustainability, and realized the greatest thing I loved about my studies was how we can use sustainable and environmentally friendly practices in our communities. Through this path I became passionate about how we interact within our communities and how better to plan and lead within them.

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

A: Honestly, it was through discussion with my classmates. So many of them are in various stages of their lives and had so many other things going on that it truly impressed me. It showed me that there is no one way to live life and that we are all doing the best we can with the choices we have in front of us.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it was the best option for me to finish my degree and raise my daughter on my own at the same time. She just turned two and I am graduating! I honestly could not have done this anywhere else. ASU has a great academic program, but their online program is as good as if I was actually attending classes on campus.

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

A: This is a tough one, but I would have to say Ron Dorn. It wasn’t necessarily a direct lesson he taught, but more so how he viewed the world. He has gotten me more excited about rocks and geomorphology than I ever thought possible. I can look at a landscape and see so many amazing things or the history of things almost every time. It helps me look for the little things in my life and be amazed by the wonders of the world.

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

A: Find a professor that ignites a passion in you. Even if they don’t teach classes in your major, take classes of theirs that work for your schedule or you find interesting.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on getting a big-girl job! I’ll be looking in major cities to find work I find meaningful, but that can support my daughter and I. Immediately after graduation, I am headed to Red Rocks to knock that off my venue bucket list!

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

A: Planetwide problems will take more than $40 million dollars to solve, but if I could start a movement or create greater awareness about our corrupt food systems I would choose that. There is so much food going to waste, too many food deserts that need support and way too many people going hungry.

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