The story of this ASU grad's life will be written in lights

April 29, 2020

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

Jasmin Figueroa has always been a storyteller. She first dreamed of becoming an attorney and applied to Arizona State University in political science. But she soon realized that the kinds of stories she wanted to tell did not necessarily involve plaintiffs and defendants. Graduating ASU student Jasmin Figueroa sits on a rock. / Courtesy photo Download Full Image

The Scottsdale, Arizona, native is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Arts in in film and media studies, and couldn’t be happier about her choice.

“I always say to friends and family that I made the best decision of my life by switching from political science to film and media,” she said.

Figueroa was definitely “all-in” when preparing for her new dream career. She took advantage of every resource and opportunity ASU has to offer an aspiring filmmaker. She interned in 2020 at both the Sundance and Sedona Film Festivals, saying that each experience brought specific training and opportunities that significantly enhanced her classroom time.

“Being at the festival and meeting new people and watching these films from around the world was so inspiring,” Figueroa said, “it made me want to create something ASAP.”

Figueroa also served as the NBC Universal Campus Representative, where she utilized social media and planned events to help promote the company’s upcoming films and television series. And she participated in ASU Film Spark weekend seminars, where she rubbed elbows with producers, directors, casting directors and film executives in small group settings.

“I learned so much at these classes and they were highly beneficial to me,” Figueroa said. “It was great to meet people in the industry in a ‘101’ environment because we got to ask behind-the-scenes questions and hear about what it takes to get to their level.”

She recalled that her favorite instructor in the seminars was Deb Aquila, the casting director for “La La Land.”

“She was straightforward,” Figueroa said, “and her advice was, ‘Do your work!!’”

Figueroa answered a few more questions about her ASU experience before turning her gaze west to Hollywood.

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

Answer: When I was younger, I always envisioned myself doing something on the creative side, but I never really knew in what realm it would be.

When I first applied to ASU, my senior year of high school, I applied as a political science major. It’s pretty funny because since I was 9, I have been saying I was going to be a lawyer — mostly just because I was obsessed with true crime shows and movies. So then one day before high school graduation I realized I wanted to do something more creative and fulfilling and decided I wanted to work movies in some capacity. It kinda just came to me. If you ask anyone close to me, I have always been a storyteller and when I started to think more about it, it just felt right.

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

A: Meeting all different kinds of people at ASU and hearing stories from people all across the world has really opened my eyes that there is so much more to life, so much more to be learned, and to experience. I think one of the most important things I learned while at ASU is to listen rather than to always speak, because when you listen you are learning.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I’m born and raised in Arizona, and ASU really feels like home for me. The Tempe campus is only about 20 minutes from home, so with the convenience and the opportunity that it provides, it really was a no-brainer. And the campus, resources, professors and opportunity here were not matched anywhere else, so it was a pretty easy decision.

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

A: This is very hard, because I think every professor I have had at ASU has taught me something that I carry with me. My (film and media studies) professors, Kevin Sandler, Julia Himberg, and Aviva Dove-Viebahn, were all really essential my sophomore/junior years because it was when I was really starting to explore and understand my major better, and they were so helpful during that time. Some elective professors I had were also amazing, like Jane Legacy (from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College). I even got to take a yoga class, and (Faculty Associate) Rasoul Aminsobhani was a great teacher.

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

A: Sign up and apply for everything! Get out of your comfort zone. During my sophomore year, I started to engage more in school. Every time an email would come my way, I would go for it and apply; this led me to getting different internship and work opportunities. Along the way, I met so many different people, and the experiences have taught me so much about working in my field. There have been so many opportunities that have come to me just because I took that extra time to apply for something, so it is definitely crucial to put yourself out there.

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

A: I have a bunch! I love the Secret Garden to hangout or to eat lunch, and it’s a great place to take pictures. When I was a freshman living in Manzanita Hall, the basement study rooms were the best for doing homework with friends, though we probably weren't the most productive down there. I also love the little area in the Memorial Union on the first floor with the fireplace and all the lounge chairs. I would love to sit there and people watch sometimes, or I would watch TV shows on my laptop.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan on moving to Los Angeles and finding a job there, hopefully working my way into a writer’s room or something similar.

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

A: Well, I’ve always thought about a question like this, and I would definitely use the $40 million to build a shelter for dog and cat rescue. I love animals, and animal rescue is something I am very passionate about so I would use the money to not only build a rescue but to raise awareness about animal rescue around the globe.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


ASU grad achieves great heights in track and field, mental health advocacy

April 29, 2020

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

Spring 2020 Arizona State University graduate Mason Ford’s central goal is to change the world in some way. And during his time as a Sun Devil, his path as a talented high-jump competitor led him to effecting change on campus and beyond. Portrait of ASU grad Mason Ford Mason Ford. Photo by Askia Stewart Download Full Image

As an undergraduate, Ford studied business, sports and media studies and walked on to the ASU track and field team after starting his college career at Augustana University. The Chandler, Arizona, native went on to be the captain of the track and field team, co-president of the Student Athlete Advisory Committee and a member of Fellowship of Christian Athletes.

In graduate school, he studied sports law and business and became the president of Devils 4 Devils, which is a peer-to-peer program that provides training for students, faculty and community members to help participants improve their emotional-support skills and foster empathetic connections and mental health awareness among Sun Devils. He was inspired to advocate for mental health on campus after ASU Counseling Services helped him overcome a difficult period during his track career. He worked as a graduate assistant for ASU Athletics and worked as a management intern for ASU Counseling Services.

Ford has thought about starting a nonprofit that provides athletic equipment to kids who can’t afford it and creating card games that will help entertain people. Whatever the future holds, Ford knows he wants to make a difference. 

“I genuinely want to change the world. I’ve had this notion in my head for a long time. I don’t know what that looks like, but maybe it’s just helping one person through a tough time,” he said. “At the end of the day community is the word that is most important to me. I want to do things that help build communities up.”

Ford talked with ASU Now about what advice he’d give to current students, what he learned during his time at ASU and what the future looks like for him. 

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

Answer: I remember going to an academic adviser and telling him that I definitely wanted to go into the business school and then he asked what my interests were and I said sports. Then I just stuck with it from there. 

For graduate school, as a senior at ASU I had many friends who loved the sports law and business program, which really caught my interest, and I’m so glad I decided to pursue my master’s.

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

A: I wouldn’t even know where to start. I’ve learned so much in the classroom, on the track and through the work I’ve done in conjunction with ASU that I’ve truly grown so much in all areas of my life. I think the biggest thing I learned is that we have to embrace community and work in collaboration with the people in our community to continue to improve our society as a whole.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I have been an ASU fan my entire life but I actually went out of state during my freshman year to pursue my dream of playing college basketball. I missed the desert and decided it was time to come home. 

I risked a lot by leaving that school, but I gained so much by coming to ASU. I can honestly say that transferring to ASU is the best decision I have ever made. 

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

A: Oh my gosh. This is not a fair question at all. I’ve learned so much from all of them. I wish I could personally thank every single one of them. Maybe I will write them all letters to show them how instrumental they all were in my time at ASU. 

But the first one who comes to mind is Professor Natesh Rao from my graduate program, who is also an associate athletic director here at ASU. In his class I got to see how truly creative you can be in the sports industry and he introduced me to the idea that through action, you can turn even the craziest ideas into reality. 

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

A: Meet as many people as possible! 

There are so many freaking awesome people here. Make it your goal to meet as many people who are different from you as possible. Different major, race, height, sexuality, cultural background, country, economic status. Meet all the people you can. I wish I would have done it sooner. You also never know who may be able to help you pursue your dreams down the road.

Also, don’t be afraid to seek out help. And help your friends! Maybe you don’t need the help from ASU Counseling Services, but let your friend know that it is OK and normal if they do. 

ASU Counseling Services has been such a blessing to me in so many different ways from utilizing their services myself to allowing me to help others with the subject of mental health. 

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

A: Sun Angel Stadium. No doubt in my mind. There are a lot of great places on campus, the Secret Garden, Palm Walk, ASU bridge, but nothing comes close to the track. I spent more time there than anywhere else. I built some of my deepest bonds and friendships there. I accomplished a ton of my goals on that track and made all the best memories there. I’ve cried, laughed, yelled, laughed some more, thought the deepest of thoughts on that track. There is no better place in the world. 

Some nights I would drive there and sit at the top of those steep bleachers. If you’ve ever been, you know how steep I’m talking. I would just sit and enjoy the view. You can see all of Tempe from those bleachers. I would just take it all in. The crisp air, the cars driving down Rural Road. That was my peace. There was nothing better. The memories and the bonds I made on that track will be with me forever.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I'm not quite sure, but that's OK. I have been working with the retailer Tommy John (founded by a husband and wife team who are both ASU alums!). I would love to continue to work for the company as they have been such an incredible company to work for. 

I think I ultimately want to help athletes. I’ve said that for a while, and I’m not quite sure what that means but I think it is starting to form. I have had so much support as an athlete and I want to be able to give that support back and improve it for the next generation of athletes. 

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

A: Education. 

Trying to make sure that no matter where you come from in America that you have access to resources that give students the best chance to get an in-depth education in whatever field they want to pursue whether it be academic or vocational. I would especially want to focus on the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) fields to introduce those and emphasize the amazing ways people change the world in those fields. 

Those fields tend to be under-marketed in lower-income districts. If we want to continue to advance society, we are going to have to give more people the opportunity to make improvements to the world we are living in. 

Written by Sun Devil Storyteller Austin Davis and Hannah Moulton Belec, EOSS Marketing

Hannah Moulton Belec

Digital marketing manager, Educational Outreach and Student Services