From on the ground to in the skies and online, communication grad shares his journey
Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of outstanding spring 2020 graduates.
Like many of his fellow Sun Devils, Connor Tummond’s journey to graduation wasn’t a direct path, but a road with twists and turns that adjusted to fit his needs.
Tummond arrived at Arizona State University as an on-campus freshman studying pre-med courses and gaining leadership experience through the Residence Hall Association.
“Being an on-campus student was the best experience in my life,” Tummond said. “I wouldn't have wanted to do it any other way; I wouldn't have wanted to go to any other college. ASU affords freshman students so many opportunities and so many different alleyways and clubs and organizations to get involved in.”
But after changing his major a few times and feeling discouraged, Tummond said he decided to drop out of ASU and attend flight school.
“After I finished flight school and I started working as a flight instructor, I decided to go back to school. ASU Online afforded me that opportunity to be able to work full time and continue to finish my degree,” he said.
This spring, Tummond will graduate with his bachelor’s degree in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences as a second-generation Sun Devil. In a post on Instagram, he captured what it meant to join his family as a graduate of ASU, writing: “Showed up to ASU four years ago as a second-generation Sun Devil. Dad, I know you couldn’t be here, so I wear your gown in your honor. Mom, you carried our family on your shoulders, and for that I wear your stole. Travis, as my big brother, you always watched over me, and for that I wear your cap. I leave with a family, a dog, and endless memories of success and humility.”
Tummond said he was 5 years old when his father died by suicide. His post and desire to incorporate elements of his family members into his graduation experience speaks to his support system. “Those are my main people. My mother supported me and paid tuition, and she did it all by herself,” he explained.
From connections to peers and teachers, leadership opportunities and following in his family’s footsteps, attending ASU provided Tummond with many important moments. But one opportunity in particular stands out among the rest: Tummond said it was at ASU that he felt comfortable to live as an openly gay man.
“I knew I was gay in the seventh grade and was in the closet from the time I was 13, all the way up to the time I was 18. And because I was living at home, I wasn't able to be the person I wanted and was afraid of what my parents were going to think. And how everybody in high school was going to react,” he said. “Showing up to ASU and getting that feeling of inclusion and diversity and that ‘aha’ moment of ‘this is now my time to be whoever I want to be and who I am deep down.’ ASU is the place that I was able to come out openly as a gay man and really begin to find myself after holding that back for years.”
Tummond shared more about his experience at ASU.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Answer: Something that I learned is that going to college is not just about the bookwork. It's about learning how to function as an adult; learning how to manage your time, learning how to make friends outside of that primary education setting. I learned to never pass up an opportunity and learned to never not talk to somebody and always be open to the next thing to come and keep your options open.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t get tunnel vision: Don’t be so focused on one goal, on one idea. Our motto is No. 1 in innovation and I think it's funny how much we promote that, but we really are changing the way a university operates. We are massive and there's so many things to learn and there's so many things to do and so many different avenues for you to go and dip your toes in. Having that one-track mind can actually be more detrimental than it can be helpful to a student.
I went from pre-med to nursing to kinesiology and then I took a break and then I switched. So I changed my major now four times and I still want to keep learning and I still want to go back. I love learning about communication, but I still want to go back and get my degree in nursing. I would love to one day return and get my MBA. Never stop learning and never shut that part of your brain off.
Q: Reflecting on all your experiences at ASU, what is one that will stick with you?
A: Several months ago, I was sexually assaulted. I was literally supposed to take a final two days after that happened. I emailed one of my professors, Mary-Ann McHugh, and she was the kindest and most caring and she still emails me today to check in. She got me connected with ASU counseling services and I felt like somebody at ASU absolutely cared. To have something bad happen and to have a professor like that care so much about a student that she's never actually met face-to-face meant a lot. My best experience with The College is the quality of the professors that we have. They are 100% there for us. They are responsive, they care and they are interested in what is going on. The faculty at Hugh Downs is of an exceptional level.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I've got about three different avenues that I'm looking down right now. Amazon just contacted me in regards to a position, so I've got the opportunity to use the degree that I am earning right now. I can still continue to fly and then continue to build my hours to go off to the airlines. And then, I really do have my eyes set on that Master of Nursing program.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you choose?
A: This is going to sound so cheesy and so cliche — definitely reducing our carbon emissions. Taking that money and putting it toward climate change and reducing the human impact on this planet.