ASU Law fall grad overcomes early obstacles to achieve success

Wayne Unger looks to help other students do the same in the future as ASU Law professor

November 23, 2020

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

“Given life’s challenges, while the road in front of you may look daunting, overcoming the challenges before you is often made possible by the community you surround yourself with, and ASU is a phenomenal community.” Wayne Unger Wayne Unger, ASU Law fall 2020 JD candidate. Download Full Image

So said Wayne Unger, a fall 2020 JD candidate at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, when asked about his ASU Law experience. After starting law school in fall 2018 at the University of California Hastings College of Law in San Francisco, Unger experienced the unexpected loss of his mother in his hometown of Chandler, Arizona, leading to an emergency transfer request to ASU Law.

“Dean (Douglas) Sylvester, Dr. Christine Wilkinson, and many others moved mountains to make the transfer as easy as possible during this challenging time,” said Unger, who commuted from San Francisco to Phoenix while his mother was ill. He completed his first 1L semester with a top GPA and began his second semester at ASU Law a few weeks after his mother passed away.

In the short 2 1/2 years since, Unger helped to open the Greek Leadership Village on ASU’s Tempe campus; worked on the in-house legal team at Microchip Technology in Chandler; participated in the ASU Global Security Initiative’s Disinformation Working Group; researched data privacy, security and disinformation for ASU’s Luminosity Lab; and wrote two published law journal articles. He will graduate one semester early this December. While TEDxASU 2020 was canceled due to the pandemic, Unger was also selected as one of the speakers for the prestigious event.

Unger, also an ASU undergrad alum, is pursuing his JD with a focus in data privacy and constitutional law. His ASU Law honors include being named a Pedrick Scholar and a recipient of the Brett Aspey Memorial Scholarship, preceded by his undergraduate recognition in the Leadership Scholarship Program, founded by Wilkinson, and the Larry R. Ludden Leadership in Business Scholarship.

Unger also taught Privacy Torts and Defamation for ASU Law Professor Michael Selmi’s fall 2020 torts course and has forthcoming articles in the following publications:

  • "Katz & COVID-19: How a Pandemic Changed the Reasonable Expectation of Privacy," Hastings Science and Technology Law Journal (forthcoming 2020).
  • "Reclaiming Our Right to Privacy by Holding Tech Companies Accountable," Richmond Journal of Law and Technology (forthcoming 2020).
  • "How Disinformation Campaigns Exploit the Poor Data Privacy Regime to Erode Democracy," (unpublished, forthcoming 2020).

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

Answer: My “aha” moment when I realized that I wanted to study data privacy and constitutional law, specifically, in law school came after a meeting with Professor Gary Marchant of ASU Law. At the time, I was enrolled in his Law, Science and Technology course. In lieu of the final exam, I opted to write a research paper. When I met with Professor Marchant to discuss research topics, he proposed I research the private right of action with respect to data privacy and security lawsuits. I ran with the topic, and data privacy and security and its intersection with constitutional law has become my specialization. My research paper for Professor Marchant’s class is set for publication in the Richmond Journal of Law & Technology.

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

A: In law school, I quickly realized that it is normal to feel dumb on a daily basis. Many of us have a blind Achilles heel in the “I don’t know what I don’t know.” Law school changed my perspective by helping me understand that there is a lot of information, history and knowledge that falls into the “I don’t know what I don’t know.” And that’s the excitement in learning — discovering information that challenges or adds to your knowledge, beliefs and values.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: ASU is my home. Growing up in Arizona, ASU was in my backyard. I completed my undergraduate studies with the W. P. Carey School of Business. After working in Silicon Valley for five years, I returned to Arizona unexpectedly for family reasons, and I am very grateful to ASU for welcoming me back for law school.

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

A: While I never had Professor Diana Bowman for a class, after a networking event, Professor Bowman and I developed a strong mentor/mentee relationship. She taught me to “always write like the writing will be published.” This simple advice improved the quality of my scholarship tenfold.

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

A: It takes time to discover what you will enjoy doing professionally. Be patient.

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

A: For my undergraduate tenure, the Secret Garden on the Tempe campus. For law school, the law library and the law school’s reading room.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: While I have no set plans besides taking the Arizona bar exam, my aspiration is to return to ASU as a law professor.

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

A: Comprehensive data privacy and security policy reform.

Julie Tenney

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Filmmaker finds inspiration in ASU liberal studies degree

November 23, 2020

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

You know that feeling you get when you visit a place for the very first time but sense it’s going to be important for you? Sabrina Petrovski sitting on stairway outdoors in Spain Sabrina Petroski in Spain. Download Full Image

That’s what filmmaker Sabrina Petroski experienced when she came to Arizona — and Arizona State University — at age 11.

“We visited the ASU Tempe campus so my older brother could tour,” said Petroski, who grew up in Farmingville, New York. “I immediately felt connected to it and it became my dream school.

“When I was doing undergrad I was afraid I wouldn't get in or wouldn't be able to afford it, so I didn't even apply,” she explained. “But when I decided to look into getting my master's degree, I thought now’s the perfect time.”

Petroski, who has just completed the Master of Liberal Studies with a concentration in film and media studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, earned a bachelor of arts in digital media production at the State University of New York at New Paltz — about halfway between Albany and New York City — before joining ASU.

As a freshman in college, she found she had a passion for radio production. When she transferred to SUNY New Paltz her sophomore year, Petroski looked for a program that would allow her to continue with that work and found the digital media production major.  

“I fell in love with it during my first course,” she said, “and I found that I was really good at editing and writing scripts, and the passion grew from there!”

This fall, as part of her master’s applied project requirement, she’s been using her storytelling and filmmaking skills to develop a short documentary-style marketing video for the Master of Liberal Studies program.

“I’ve interviewed upwards of 15 people, have heard all of their stories about why they chose the Master of Liberal Studies and what they’re hoping to do with what they learned. It’s been an amazing experience,” she reflected, “and I’m pretty proud of the project.”

Arizona has been good to her in other ways. This fall, Petroski earned three awards at the Show Low Film Festival - White Mountains Arizona Film Festival for a documentary short she made her senior year in college.

The film, "Becoming Me," follows Milo Paz through the process of transitioning from female to male, and the emotional toll the journey has taken on them. It was honored as Most Inspirational, earned a Finalist Award for Shorts Under 10, and also won the Social Media Award, “which grants me a free submission to next year's festival and free lodging,” Petroski noted. 

Her goal is to continue creating documentaries that give a voice to those who feel as though they cannot tell their stories themselves.

“I plan to continue writing and making films on my own, and I’m currently applying for production jobs in New York City and Los Angeles,” Petroski said. “Right now I'm working on my next screenplay, which will hopefully be done in time for next year's festival circuit!”

She shared some additional reflections about her ASU experience:

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

Answer: I learned that no matter how old you are or what stage of life you're in, you should always strive to continue learning. I’ve met so many people in my program who have been set in their careers for more than 20 years and decided to come back. I feel like it gave me so much hope for my future, because no matter what, there are always options to move forward and keep learning.

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

A: Megan Todd taught me that there is always a new way to explore your passions. I never in a million years thought I would want to teach, but she gave me opportunities to guest lecture and create PowerPoints for her future classes to use when examining film production and I absolutely loved doing it!

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

A: Life is hard, things happen and education can’t always be your first priority and that's okay, but never lose your drive for learning. Take your time, choose to study things that you are passionate about, make connections with your professors and other students. It'll make the hard work feel less hard. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I always liked sitting on my couch while studying. I would perch myself in the corner between the two sections, prop myself up on a bunch of pillows and get to work with my cat sleeping next to me! 

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

A: I would strive to fix the American prison system. I would use the money to create programs for rehabilitation and learning, as well as creative outlets. There are so many non-violent offenders who are treated so badly and they deserve a chance to grow and better themselves while serving time for whatever crime they committed. 

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts