2020 grad is 1st to earn degree in organizational leadership with project management focus

Melanie Roemer: ‘I found I was supposed to be a project manager!’

May 1, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2020 graduates.

You know how you can be apartment or house hunting and walk into a space you know you were meant to live in? ASU graduate Melanie Roemer Melanie Roemer completed the BA in organizational leadership with a concentration in project management online while working full time at PayPal in Chandler, Arizona. Download Full Image

That’s the feeling ASU graduate Melanie Roemer had intellectually during her first week in Jennifer Chandler’s course OGL 320: Foundations of Project Management.

“It was my third semester at ASU (fall 2018) and within the first week of the course, I realized I was supposed to be a project manager!” recalled Roemer, who lives in San Tan Valley and has completed her degree through ASU Online. “I felt comfortable, normal, and like my search for what I ‘should’ be doing with my life was answered. It was really natural, and I found myself wanting to know as much as possible about being a good project manager.”

This week she’s graduating summa cum laude from ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational leadership and is the first student at ASU to complete this degree with the concentration in project management.

Roemer had been on track to finish her organizational leadership major in fall 2019, but as soon as she learned that the new concentration was an option, she contacted her adviser and changed course.

“It pushed my graduation date out two more semesters, but I'm so happy I did it,” she said. “The extra coursework helped my understanding of project management immensely.”

Roemer is rightly proud of having completed the degree with a 4.0 GPA while working full time, a goal she set for herself when she was first admitted to ASU. 

“There were times when I was working and going to school full time that it felt like too much, but I’m glad that I dug in harder to reach my goals,” she observed. “In my time at ASU I’ve learned perseverance and the importance of setting goals.”  

After graduation, Roemer plans to take a short break and then go through the PMP (Project Management Professional) self-paced course offered by ASU Career and Professional Education, in preparation to take the PMP exam certification through the Project Management Institute. 

“I want to move into a role on a project management office team within PayPal where I work,” she said. “I’m also thinking about starting a master’s degree in the spring of 2021, but haven’t decided if that’s the route I want to take.

“I'm most excited to be part of a bigger organizational group that works cross-functionally across a large business to ensure teammates have access to tools and training they need,” she emphasized. “I love getting into the details of creating training products, launching them and reworking them. It makes me happy to know that I'm making an impact on the overall business for years to come.”

Roemer shared some additional reflections about her ASU journey.

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I chose to attend ASU because of ASU’s innovation and availability of online degrees. I’m unable to attend classes in person because I have two preexisting medical conditions that make being on campus very difficult. Walking all around campus is not something I am able to do because I have pulmonary hypertension. I have an oxygen concentrator that helps, but I am short of breath even while using it. I get tired easily. I also have a condition called common variable immunodeficiency (CVID) which means my body doesn’t produce any antibodies. It makes me very susceptible to illness. I wanted to protect myself, and going to school online was the perfect solution for me.

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

A: Dr. Stephen Davis taught me how to be an effective leader through his Assessment of Leadership class. It was one of the hardest classes I took in my time at ASU and my favorite. I am constantly rethinking how I can become a better leader. We were also inducted into Omicron Delta Kappa together in the same class!

Dr. Margaret Allen taught me the value of being patient with myself. This semester has been very draining emotionally and physically, but she told me in one of our emails to breathe, and I took it to heart. It made all of the difference in my outlook for the rest of the semester.

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

A: Contact your professor if you’re struggling! They’re humans, too, and want to see you succeed!

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I curated a space out of our spare bedroom with a desk, tapestry and day bed. My favorite place is to snuggle into the day bed with a couple of our dogs and write papers. They like to keep me company. 

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

A: Given the situation the world is in because of the coronavirus, I would like to work on the problem of public health. There are so many people who don’t have access to health care, and those who do, sometimes cannot afford it. In 2014, I was diagnosed with sepsis and spent 30 days in the hospital. During my stay and for the appointments that followed, I accrued almost $1 million in medical debt. No one should have to worry about their livelihood while their body is healing.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


ASU's Herberger Institute harnesses design and arts tools, content for community

May 1, 2020

On March 24, Arizona State University’s annual Social Embeddedness Network Conference was hosted virtually for the first time, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

In her opening remarks, keynote speaker and Herberger Institute Professor Maria Rosario Jackson said, “As we meet today, we must remember that this is a moment of crisis and hardship — and it is also a moment of possibility and transformation.”  Photo by Tim Trumble.

This week, ASU’s National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation, a partnership between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and ASU Gammage, launched Cultural Innovation Tools, a site that brings content and solutions together for the community to understand how arts and culture at ASU are responding to the moment.

In the face of the pandemic, students, faculty and staff at Herberger Institute are leveraging their creativity to pull together tools and resources for other artists/designers/culture makers, for families sheltering at home, for educators adapting their work online and for community organizations and government leaders who seek to partner with artists and designers as they respond and rebuild resilient and equitable communities.

“The National Accelerator advances how artists and designers can leverage their creative talent for transformation of just, equitable communities through new ways of practice and public policy,” said Jen Cole, director of the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation. “No time is more urgent to imagine how artists and designers can lead change than in this moment, when our cultural sector is disrupted and artists themselves are struggling.”

Cole said that artists across the United States are leading social and policy adaptation in response to COVID-19 as well as leading change for social good, including prototyping new models of personal protective equpment with maker communities, radically rethinking music, dance and theater, and working in alignment with public health leaders to reimagine public communication for social distancing.

“We hope this site can be an entryway into this new way of thinking about how artists and designers are responding to the urgent needs of our country and our communities right now,” Cole said.

From podcasts exploring the effect of creative placemaking on Arizona communities, to a series of lively conversations with creatives conducted by Institute Professor Daniel Bernard Roumain, to online art talks and crafting activities hosted by the ASU Art Museum, Cultural Innovation Tools is designed to serve a wide range of people looking for more engagement with design and the arts.

The site features free resources, a toolkit originally created for area assisted-living leaders to coordinate educational programs virtually, and additional resources such as podcasts, concerts and videos, plus online modules from Institute Professors Liz Lerman and Michael Rohd and Evelyn Smith Professor Stephani Etheridge Woodson.

Lerman, a dancer, choreographer and MacArthur “genius grant” recipient, is interested in user feedback on the digital version of her “Atlas of Creative Tools” class, which she aims to grow into a “digital commons.” The Atlas of Creative Tools is a collection of artistic tools that Lerman has noted and gathered throughout her many years of practice, in addition to tools she's learned or come across through work with collaborators.

“I am hoping that this edition of the Atlas of Creative Tools aids those suddenly teaching online, either with its content or its structure,” she said. “There’s a special ‘perspectives’ section, which highlights the way the tools can be used by dancers of different genres, people of different ages, and folks from various disciplines.”

Rohd, a theater artist who works at the intersection of community change and creative work, said his course on expanding civic practice is aimed at supporting the capacity of anyone in arts/culture/design/heritage and municipal government, public health and community development in the work of cross-sector collaboration.

“I think at this moment, paying particular attention to equitable partnership practice and truly responsive recovery efforts is an urgent need,” Rohd said. “This course can really help in areas of project development, process design and relationship-building.”

In addition to launching the Cultural Innovation Tools, the National Accelerator for Cultural Innovation has partnered with the Arizona Commission on the Arts to provide local artists and cultural organizations with peer-to-peer support navigating stimulus resources to support employment and small business cohesion.

Deborah Sussman

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts