First-gen ASU grad pursues passion for pediatric nursing

December 6, 2019

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

First-generation Arizona State University student Anjelica Yapura is graduating with a degree in nursing from the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and hopes to work in pediatric nursing after graduation. Yapura, who moved to Phoenix when she was 7 years old from Live Oak, California, knew she wanted to work with children after seeing her mom teach at a preschool while growing up. ASU grad Anjelica Yapura poses on the Tempe campus ASU fall 2019 graduate Anjelica Yapura. Download Full Image

Yapura joined the TRIO program the second semester of her sophomore year and now works as a tutor there. The TRIO program helps first-generation college students, low-income students, students with disabilities and veterans in their pursuit of a college degree. She tutors students on nursing-related courses but doesn’t limit herself to that.

“Anything that they come up to me with, I’ll try to help them as much as I can,” Yapura said.

Yapura’s motivation through college was “making my parents proud.” She loved seeing their faces light up when she told them the success she was having in school. Yapura is the youngest of her siblings but the first of them to go to college. She has even inspired her older sister to go back to school and enroll in nursing courses.

Yapura spoke to ASU Now about her journey studying nursing and what’s ahead for her after graduation.

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

Answer: So my first two years I was in Barrett, and I was a part of this club called Barrett Student Nurses. To get us used to what type of options were around us, they would take us to different hospitals and give us a tour. One of the tours we had was at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. I just remember going around and seeing how each unit was because they had us go through the whole building and talk to some nurses. It really made me more interested in what I was going to do as I started the actual nursing program, since we don’t start until our junior year.

I didn’t really figure out that I wanted to be a nurse until my senior year of high school. I knew I wanted to be in the medical field but I didn’t know exactly what part until the beginning of my senior year.

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

A: I think the biggest thing that I learned was that it’s OK to ask for help. I think that especially for a lot of first-generation students, it’s very hard to ask for help because we’re always used to doing things on our own.

So when things got difficult, it was hard for me to ask someone, “Hey, I need help on my end” or “Maybe you could help me with this?” It was very hard for me to do that, and I didn’t really learn how to do that until my junior year of college. That’s something that I wish I knew to get used to in the beginning because before, even if I was struggling, I still tried to pull through. It didn’t used to really bother me — to the point where I was feeling overwhelmed or where I needed to go get someone to help me.

The biggest person I turned to was my best friend who I met freshman year. We went to camp for nursing. So I went to him first. Then I went to Rafael — my boss through TRIO. We have a very close relationship.

Q: Why did you go to ASU?

A: The biggest thing is that it was more affordable. They gave me the most scholarships, specifically for my degree program.

It’s also very close to where I live. I live in the West Side of Phoenix so at most 25-30 minutes by freeway, so if I wanted to see my mom I could always come and visit her. It wasn’t too far to the point where I couldn’t visit. My mom is a big part of my life so I didn’t want to feel more homesick than I needed to be.

Q: What plans do you have after graduation?

A: So after graduation, (nursing majors) have to start studying for our certification. Before we start applying for any jobs, we have to study and show that we passed our certification. So that’s the biggest thing for me.

I’m doing my internship at Maricopa Medical Center in their pediatric acute unit and would love to work there, but their unit isn’t hiring anyone at the moment. So they said if I was still interested, I could work through one of their other units in one of their other departments and move up and apply when there’s a position open. I really enjoy working with kids a lot. I’ve already worked six shifts with them, and it made me realize that this is what I really want to do.

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

A: My freshman year Human Event teacher, Dr. Matthew Sandoval. It was his first year teaching at ASU too and his first time teaching Human Event, because he used to teach at UCLA.

Basically, he knew that I was one of the only people who was first-gen in my class. He told me if it starts feeling hard, just remember where you come from. Because sometimes you don’t realize that it takes a lot more than others to get here but it shouldn’t stop you. He knows how hard it is for a lot of first-gens to get to where they are. He said, “Sometimes remembering what you’re doing this for will help to push you to keep going.”

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

A: My favorite is actually the TRIO office. Even when I’m not working there, I’m always there. You can do homework there, but you can also just hang out and talk to your coworkers or even other students who come in.

Usually students who come in are your friends because you refer them to the program and they apply, so a lot of my friends are in the program. And so by just being there we’ll do homework together, or we’ll have potlucks and eat there, or all go out to lunch together. It’s a very big community for us.

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

A: I think the biggest thing would be access to health care. When I was (studying abroad) in Peru this summer, we were able to help out with a community, and we got to help out at one of their clinics.

I thought it was really interesting how most villages would only have one clinic within a vicinity. And if certain villages didn’t have access to a clinic, they would walk or travel all the way to that certain clinic just to get any health care services. That made me realize, obviously, how fortunate I am that there are so many health care facilities within my vicinity.

Some people really need something and they can’t access it or have to go through long, long portions of transportation just to get there. I feel that that’s something that if I could, I would try to influence, and not just in the United States but in other countries as well, where they can have more access to health care — but more affordable access to health care.

Written by Lindsay Lohr, Sun Devil Storyteller

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Microbiology graduate to pursue advanced degree in bioterrorism and biodefense

December 6, 2019

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

When Megan Davis of Phoenix transferred to Arizona State University, she knew she wanted to change her major. But what she didn’t expect was to find a degree she’s certain will support any professional direction she pursues. Megan Davis is graduating from ASU with a BS in microbiology Megan Davis is graduating from the ASU School of Life Sciences with a Bachelor of Science in microbiology. She will pursue an advanced degree in biotechnology with a specialization in bioterrorism and biodefense. Photo courtesy Megan Davis Download Full Image

Davis discovered her passion for microbiology after taking her first course. Her professor’s enthusiasm for the field was contagious, and it was then she realized she had found the right field. She was determined to pursue her specific research interests and accomplished her goal by networking and creating her own internship opportunity with a local crime lab.

Davis said ASU has provided her with exactly the learning opportunities she hoped for.

“I chose ASU because I wanted to attend a college known for its research and innovation in science,” said Davis. “The vastness of degrees in the School of Life Sciences alone was extremely appealing to me. ASU provides so many outlets for making this dream come true, that I wouldn’t have thought of going anywhere else.”

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

Answer: After doing research and making the switch I soon discovered this degree can have incredibly vast world applications; everything from food and water regulation services to working with NASA, to the developing field of bioterrorism defense. The freedom of it all seemed incredible. My spark of interest was brought to life during the first microbiology course where I saw how passionate my professor, Cheryl Nickerson, was while she taught. She is one of the scientists whose research regularly gets launched on NASA’s spaceflights, which is fascinating to me. It showed me a wide range of what is possible, and this was the moment I realized I wanted to run with this degree. 

Q: What is your greatest accomplishment during your college career?

A: My greatest accomplishment during my college career was getting to work in the Arizona Department of Public Safety scientific analysis bureau crime lab for my internship, performing research in controlled substances and getting to present my research to the head member of each department. This research involved testing drug detection limits with spectroscopy instruments for officers in the field and forensic scientists in the laboratory. This was something I never realized I could do until I pursued the idea. I became proactive in my own search for an internship, networked with people, and made connections that allowed me to get the position even when the applications were publicly closed.

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

A: One of the most surprising things I learned while at ASU was in my MIC 494 Host-Microbe Interaction course. I realized that just because something is published in a scientific journal, even one that’s well known, doesn’t always mean the information is correct. This might seem like an odd revelation, but it meant many things for me. First, it took away a layer of reliability placed on others. As young undergraduate students, I think many of us believe, “If it’s in the literature it’s fact,” but scientific findings don’t typically end in fact. This is why theories are developed. Learning this helped me understand that to come to my own conclusions I must critically study the way research is done even if it means meticulously analyzing methods. Once I realized this it allowed me to feel empowered to do research of my own and helped me understand the world of scientific literature much better.

Q: What is one of your favorite memories while attending ASU?

A: Some of my favorite memories while attending ASU were getting to work in the Biodesign Institute, touring the Vivarium and finding friends in my major. These facilities were fascinating to see research in action and opened my eyes to the intricacies of what can be done in master’s programs. As for making friends, I feel like there aren’t many students majoring in microbiology so finding friends in my major provides such a great support system. Also, we get to make nerdy bacteria jokes to each other. 

Q: What were one or two of your challenges while attending college, and how did you overcome them?

A: Two of my biggest challenges in college were trying to motivate myself and to eat on a normal time schedule. In order to overcome this, I found inspiration in others by reading about people with jobs that sounded like something I would be passionate about. This gave me something to work towards if I needed to realign myself with my goals. Sometimes I get so caught up in work that I eat late in the day so to combat this I set timers on my phone for lunch and dinner and make sure to eat even if I don’t feel hungry at the moment. I definitely thanked myself later for it!

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

A: I think one of the most important lessons I learned while at ASU was during an elective course called Outdoor Survival. My professor, Scott Kozakiewicz, always said, “Life is full of assets and liabilities. It is up to you how you deal with them, and how you turn those liabilities into assets.” It makes sense for outdoor survival, but I find that it’s also applicable to so many other life aspects. Things that might seem like failures can develop your character and provide you with wisdom for your next approach in future endeavors. 

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

A: The best advice I can give to those still in school who don’t know exactly what they want to do is to get into their fields of interest! For me, I was interested in many and in order to determine what I wanted to do before graduating, I tested the waters in each area of interest. This can be done by getting a job, interning and/or volunteering in those fields. It’s a bonus if you can get those experiences to count for credit, too. For example, I was interested in the veterinary medicine field for a while and decided to work at an animal hospital for a few months as a result. I was also interested in forensics and so I interned in a crime lab. The real-world experiences are so incredibly valuable, even if the fields you explore aren’t where you end up, they still look great on a resume and help you personally learn so much.

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

A: In Tempe, I like to sit under the trees in the grassy area next to Hayden Library during good weather, but for studying, getting work done, and meeting friends I prefer the space downstairs below the food court in the MU building. It has tables with outlets and lounge areas where you can play pool or ping-pong. It’s also conveniently right below all the restaurants, and the lunchtime bustle helps me focus when I study, as crazy as it sounds! At the West campus, the library is hands-down the best place to go.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: After graduation, I plan to work on my master's in biotechnology with a specialization in bioterrorism and biodefense, while working at the Department of Public Safety, where I interned.

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

A: If I was awarded $40 million to solve a single problem, I think I would try to tackle sustainability issues to perform research on potential microbes that can combat the effects of microplastics on ecosystems. There has been a lot of new research on these topics and I would definitely love to get the opportunity to be a part of it.

Sandra Leander

Assistant Director of Media Relations, ASU Knowledge Enterprise