Commitment to public service led outstanding graduate to study nonprofit leadership and management


Atlas Pillar, Watts College School of Community Resources and Development outstanding graduate Fall 2019

Atlas Pillar, fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate, School of Community Resources and Development, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

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

As a career choice, the nonprofit sector hadn’t initially occurred to Atlas Pillar, who originally enrolled in ASU as a double major in musical theater and journalism. But, reflecting on his life and the many champions who helped him along the way, Pillar eventually decided he wanted to devote his life to serving others.

“I’ve always had a passion for caring for others, as well as an aptitude for research and writing, but I didn’t know how applying my skills in the nonprofit sector might look,” said Pillar, the School of Community Resources and Development’s (CRD) fall 2019 Outstanding Graduate.

“Ultimately, I chose ASU because of the Nonprofit Leadership and Management program, which I believed to be my first step in becoming someone who could impact meaningful change,” said Pillar, of Gilbert, Arizona. Pillar is receiving a bachelor’s degree this fall from ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

The CRD Nonprofit Leadership and Management program checked all the right boxes, plus provided something he hadn’t expected: a sense of empowerment.

“This program changed my perspective on what I can accomplish, and gave me the power of applied learning and proactive problem solving,” he said. Additionally, the leadership experiences and opportunities to have an impact on his peers during his academic career helped fuel his confidence. “ASU served as a training ground for me to be a mover and shaker, even prior to receiving my degree.”

“I want to be at the forefront of professionalizing and streamlining the endeavors of the nonprofit sector."
— Atlas Pillar

Pillar is grateful for the influence of Sandra Price, a CRD lecturer, for whom he said he has worked as a research assistant for all four years of his program. He said she taught him much about utilizing creative and nontraditional processes to manifest important change at ASU and beyond.

“When it comes to creating solutions, Dr. Price taught me that with passion and patience, anything can be done, regardless of how others approached it in the past, and if anyone is going to do it, it can and will be me.”

He’s also thankful for the financial assistance he received through the Yoshioka/Hossbach Family Maroon and Gold Leaders Scholarship, Dean's Undergraduate Research Scholarship, Barack Obama Scholarship, the New American University Scholar — Provost's Award and a scholarship from the Homa and Irene Wood Foundation.

Now his plans for graduate school include even further study and research in the nonprofit sector, including a master’s degree in program evaluation and data analytics.

“I want to be at the forefront of professionalizing and streamlining the endeavors of the nonprofit sector,” he said.

If he were given a $40 million grant to change one of the world’s problems, Pillar answered immediately.

“Assuming this is an arbitrary number supposed to fit the bill of solving any world problem, I would use this money to redistribute food and the means for food production,” he said. “Fulfilling basic nutritional needs has been shown to have drastic impacts on health, education and employment rates. We have the food and the mechanisms. We’re just not doing it.”

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