Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Someday we may see the name Roman Sierra on the ballot for political office.
Sierra is graduating Arizona State University in December with a bachelor’s degree in political science and honors from Barrett, The Honors College.
He began his journey to ASU at Estrella Mountain Community College, which he entered in 2014 at the age of 14 while still a student at AAEC-Estrella Mountain High School in Avondale.
Sierra, an Arizona native, completed high school and an Associate of Arts degree at EMCC in 2017 and transferred into ASU.
At his young age, Sierra already is politically experienced. Last year, he participated in the Arizona Leadership Academy, a program that identifies and develops emerging leaders in the state’s Democratic Party who may be interested in running for office. He was a member of the Arizona Governor’s Youth Commission and assisted with the Be Seen, Be Heard anti-drug campaign. He also has volunteered for Democratic candidates' campaigns, including that of Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego.
In 2018, he was a field organizer for his father’s campaign for the Arizona Legislature.
“It definitely was challenging to do that position, as I had to be accountable for getting canvassers out regularly. It was stressful organizing busy people, some who got discouraged because of the summer heat,” said Sierra, recalling campaigning throughout the hottest time of the year in central Arizona.
Sierra, along with the volunteers who walked precincts in District 19, overcame the heat and the campaign was successful. His dad, Lorenzo Sierra, was elected to represent District 19 — which covers parts of Avondale, Litchfield Park, Tolleson, and Estrella Mountain Regional Park — in the Arizona House of Representatives.
Last January, Sierra was chosen to serve as the second vice chair of the District 19 Democrats.
“Someday, I might run for office. Politics interest me and I believe that it’s my responsibility to understand issues and be involved in the community,” Sierra said.
For now, he is focused on graduating ASU, possibly working for his alma mater, and pursuing a master’s degree.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: When I was in high school I was very unsure of what I wanted to major in. I had originally thought that I should go into a more STEM based field, but I ultimately discovered that I didn’t have too much passion for it. Throughout my life I have had exposure to politics, mainly through my dad, who’s now a state legislator. I would often help him out with his campaigning and went along with him to political events. By being able to see firsthand the impact that someone can have on their community, I became more interested in politics and decided that it was the field that I wanted to study. My history minor came about due to my lifelong interest in history and it seemed like the perfect way to further my understanding of politics.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: Something I’ve learned at ASU that has changed my perspective is that in order to achieve in college you absolutely have to put in your best effort. In my first year, I was admittedly not putting in my full effort, leading me to not get the grades that I wanted. This led me to change my study habits and put more effort into my assignments, resulting in me getting the grades that I knew I could achieve. Effort also goes deeper than just your class work, it also is a critical aspect of pushing yourself beyond the standard class work and possibly doing research or being involved in an organization. Your professors are always willing to help you out with projects you want to do, it’s just a matter of taking the effort to go ask them and then committing to do what you say you will.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU for a number of reasons. First of all, I always felt like I was a member of the Sun Devil family due to members of my family going to the university in the past. Growing up, ASU was always present, whether it be through my dad taking me to one of the football games or through going to different school and club conferences at the different campuses. When it came time for me to pick a university, I already had a natural skew towards ASU because of my past, but by researching the programs that ASU offered, it became the obvious choice. No other in-state university had as strong of an educational program and ASU also offered the best cost and financial package for my situation
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU and what was that lesson?
A: I wouldn’t say that I had one professor specifically who taught me this, but overall the most important lesson I’ve learned as an ASU student is how to debate and listen respectfully to those you don’t necessarily agree with. When you think of political science classes, you’d probably think they can get quite heated due to the current political climate. Luckily, I’ve experienced the opposite and have seen that professors make sure that all different viewpoints are included in class discussion and that they are all considered, so long as they are appropriate. As the ASU charter says, it’s about who we include not who we exclude, which means our classes push us to think differently and include all viewpoints.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: The main piece of advice I’d give to students still in school is to utilize every resource that is available to them. As ASU students we have a lot of resources that we are automatically given access to, such as the fitness centers or academic advising. Also, as students we get free tickets to sports events, which is a great way to show off your school spirit! If you’re already at the university, you might as well get the full advantage of going to games.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: This may sound biased because I’m a Barrett student, but some of my favorite college moments have happened around the Barrett Tempe complex. In my first year at ASU, I lived on campus in the Barrett dorms and made a number of memories with my roommates. Our evenings would mainly consist of us getting dinner at the dining hall, going back to study, and then going around later in the evening to the POD Market to get a snack or see events that were happening around campus. In terms of where I like to study, I find that the second floor of the Memorial Union is a relatively quiet place that has comfortable chairs and plenty of places to charge your electronic devices. Additionally, sometimes there will be conferences up there that have leftover lunches that someone may offer you, which is a nice little surprise if you forgot your lunch.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: During my time at ASU, I've really enjoyed being a student worker in the role of Transfer Student Ambassador, so currently I’m planning on using the experience I’ve gained from that position to find a full time staff job at the university. Helping students get to college is something I’m passionate about, and there’s no institution I’d rather people go to than ASU. I also hope to go back to ASU within the next year and further my education by taking courses for a master’s degree and then possibly doing work related to the government.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If there’s one thing I’ve learned throughout my schooling it’s that throwing money at a problem doesn’t always solve it, but that it can often be the main way to success for woefully underfunded programs. So, if I were given $40 million I would choose to give it to something that I know it would be well used for. In this case, I feel that that money would be great as a start of a scholarship fund for undocumented students, who often face massive struggles with financing their education. Without education, society will struggle, and often the biggest hindrance to further education is its cost.
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