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Academic achievement times three: Moen triplets set to graduate from ASU with honors

Moen family

The Moen family, from left to right, Anders, Claire, parents Todd and Karin, and Grant.

April 25, 2019

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

In 2015, Claire Moen and her brothers Grant and Anders were looking for a university where they could make connections within a close-knit intellectual community but still have the opportunities, academic rigor and resources of a top-tier school.

The triplets, who are originally from Arizona but spent most of their lives in Arkansas, were preparing to graduate from Harmony Grove High School in Benton, Arkansas, where their graduating class was less than 100 students.

Their father, Todd, had gotten a job in the Phoenix area and a few relatives had attended Arizona State University, so the siblings agreed to check out ASU, particularly the West campus. They heard that ASU West offered a smaller environment but still with the presence of Barrett, The Honors College.

“Being from a small town, we weren’t sure how we’d do at a large university. We were looking for a place where we could feel comfortable,” Claire said.

That is exactly what they found at the West campus, where she and her brothers enrolled as honors students, each with a New American University Scholarship.

Claire decided to double major in biology and psychology while Grant majored in biology with a minor in political science and Anders majored in political science. All were in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and Barrett, The Honors College.

The trio will receive their undergraduate degrees from ASU this spring. They are among the 1,250 students who will participate in the Barrett convocation on May 4. It is the largest graduating class in the honors college’s 30-year history.

“The Barrett West environment was very welcoming to us. The staff has always shown an interest in us and getting us connected to opportunities,” Claire said.

Among those opportunities was the chance for Claire to research the effects of urbanization and increasing global temperature on ecosystems by observing 1,500 black widow spiders and their ability to thrive in hot urban environments. The Bidstrup Scholarship from Barrett helped support her work.

Anders said an internship with the Peace Corps in Washington, D.C., “was perhaps the greatest opportunity I had in college.”

“Working in the director’s office at the Peace Corps was an incredible opportunity which allowed me to see much more about how the government functions and how agencies communicate with each other,” he said.

Grant interned at a medical center focused on family practice, which gave him valuable exposure to medicine and solidified his desire to be a doctor. He also conducted undergraduate research on developing new drugs for treating breast cancer.

All three took advantage of opportunities to be involved in the ASU West community. Anders worked as an assistant at the Writing Center, scheduling tutoring appointments and coordinating resources for students. Claire and Grant were active on the ASU West Programming and Activities Board, assisting with organizing and hosting events for students.

After graduating, Claire will continue jobs she had while an undergraduate as a medical scribe at Cardiac Solutions and Virginia G. Piper Medical Center and as a Starbucks barista. She plans to apply to medical school.

Grant, who also wants to become a physician, will take the MCAT and apply to medical school.

Anders — who is thinking about attending graduate school to study political science in the future — has applied to teach English in Japan.

We caught up with the Moens to get their thoughts on their undergraduate experience. Here’s what they had to say:

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

Claire: I’ve always had a passion for medicine, since I was a little girl engrossed in medical documentaries. Biology was the natural choice for preparing to go to medical school, and I chose to add psychology later on as I wanted to focus not only on the physical but the mental manifestations of illness in my future career.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

Anders: The Barrett staff at ASU West are all wonderful people and are a joy to interact with. They are extremely outgoing and do their absolute best to accommodate students and give them the best experience possible at ASU. Without their energy and excellent sales pitch, I don’t know if I would have gone to ASU.

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

Grant: One of the really special parts of attending a such a large university is getting to interact with people from all across the United States, as well as people from many countries across the world. Hearing all those perspectives does a lot to open your eyes about political and cultural issues. I have definitely become more knowledgeable about the world and about others.

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

Claire: Dr. Nicole Piemonte’s “Science and the Modern Self” played an essential role in shaping the type of physician I hope to be some day. I had initially been afraid to be in a specialty where I would forge emotional connections with patients and thought I would be best suited for work in the emergency room, where the majority of interactions are with relative strangers. Now, I feel equipped to not only handle the patient treatment process, but help patients through the emotional and mental manifestations of illness as well.

Anders: My Human Event Professor Lisa Watrous taught me how to think critically and how to engage with literature to a degree that I hadn’t been familiar with before. While my high school danced around analyzing texts, we students never really learned how to analyze them properly. Prof. Watrous challenged us during every class and helped rewire how my brain thinks about different texts. While I certainly struggled in the class and wish I could go back and rewrite a few papers, I came out a better student and a better reader, and I could not be more thankful to both Barrett and Prof. Watrous.

Q: What is the best piece of advice you would give to those still in school?

Grant: Explore different careers early on. Take a class that isn’t required for your major in a field you are interested in or that you think you might be interested in and see if you like it more than the courses for your major. Don’t be afraid to start a new hobby or find a new passion, whether learning to play an instrument or speak a new language.

Organization and time-management is key. Develop good study habits and start studying for your exams a lot earlier than you have to. If you do things slowly over time and pace yourself you are going to feel a lot better physically and emotionally and you will perform better on your exams than if you cram at the last minute.

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

Claire: My favorite spot on campus would have to be the fountain close to the University Center Building. Especially at night, I always found it to be a good place to relax and collect my thoughts.

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

Claire: Unfortunately, $40 million in today’s economy will only go so far in tackling any critical problem on our planet. However, I like to think that it would be a good start for an initiative. I would personally love to one day create a low-cost clinic focused on providing accessible, affordable preventative care programs targeted toward underserved communities.

Grant: Most big problems are unlikely to be solved with $40 million. The main ones that come to mind for me include climate change and the development of renewable energy, as well as research and attempting to cure life-threatening illnesses such as breast cancer, the disease I’ve studied more than anything else.

Anders: While $40 million would hardly change things, I would put my money into working to cut greenhouse gas emissions. If we want our children and our children’s children to be able to survive on this planet and for the world to be inhabitable for many generations to come, we can’t just wait for things to get really bad and then act. We have to take on this problem as soon as possible and be proactive or else we will regret it. 

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