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After a break to play pro golf, graduate returns to earn degree

ASU grad in laboratory

Photo courtesy of Skyler Hong

May 26, 2020

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

Skyler Hong first attended Arizona State University in 2008, but after a semester, decided to leave and pursue a career in professional golf. 

Hong played golf for the next several years, competing in small tours across Asia and the PGA tour in China in 2014. But he said uncertainties of a career in professional golf and a desire to pursue a career in dentistry led him to return to The College Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU in 2016.

“During my time playing golf, I felt really nervous for not having a backup plan in case I never made it as a successful player,” said Hong, a recent graduate of The College’s School of Life Sciences with a degree in biological sciences (neurobiology, physiology and behavior).

Hong came back to ASU and met with an adviser who helped him get enrolled again for the next semester.

“Coming back after taking a break from school was definitely challenging,” he said. “However, I think the challenge was really in my head.”

Being an older-than-usual undergraduate student made Hong worry he’d feel out of place at ASU.

But that’s not what ended up happening.

“I feel extremely fortunate because my first semester back actually gave me a lot of confidence throughout the next four years,” Hong said. “I knew I could succeed because ASU supplies students with amazing tutoring centers, supplemental instruction sessions and thoughtful professors to help us do well in class.”

Hong answered some questions about his time at Arizona State University.

Question: How has The College prepared you for success? 

Answer: ASU and The College prepared me for success by supplying me with the best professors and tools to feel ready for dental school, which is where I want to go after graduation. I have had multiple professors who love to give examples of how their class is useful in our future line of work. Sometimes, it was the most unexpected classes where I learned the most! In addition, there were times when I felt exams were quite challenging, but later on, I realized how important it was to have that knowledge for future classes. 

Q: What’s been your motivation to succeed?

A: I was a regular volunteer at a homeless shelter called André House of Arizona as well as Brighter Way, a nonprofit dental clinic I spent two years at. During these years, I realized how little care is put into oral health for those who are struggling financially. I would like to one day give back to the community by helping those who need dental services.

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

A: I feel my “aha” moment was when I took BIO 201: Anatomy and Physiology I, and I learned an introductory level of how parts of the brain work and how they function. I wanted a major which focuses on just that, and when I shared that with my adviser she suggested neurobiology, physiology and behavior.

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

A: Something that I learned time and time again is how everyone struggles. There are times when you feel everyone is smarter than you, but I realized everyone struggles and that whoever studied the most efficiently does well in class. 

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

A: It's really difficult to single out one professor because I feel each of my professors has taught me something very important. If I had to choose one professor, it would be Dr. Rizal Hariadi. He was my research professor and he taught me not to get lost in the little things and to enjoy what I'm passionate about.

Q: What inspired you to pursue a graduate degree?

A: I’ll be attending the University of New England’s dental school in Portland, Maine, as part of a four year program. The reason I picked University of New England was because of more clinical experience I would receive and also because we’ll get to work with drills and hand pieces on our first week of school. UNE was definitely my first choice and I am grateful ASU helped me reach my goal! 

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