A childhood promise leads to a bright future in criminal law

November 23, 2020

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

Once an 8-year-old child who promised his mother he would go to law school, Alexander Kong is now grateful for the knowledge he gained while pursuing his Master of Legal Studies (MLS) degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. And he’s ambitious about the future. Alexander Kong Alexander Kong is an ASU Law fall MLS candidate with a focus on criminal law. Download Full Image

“The ASU Law professors truly changed my perspective on how the world works,” said Kong, who will graduate this fall with an MLS in criminal law. “I wish I had started the MLS program a lot sooner because the curriculum was mind-blowing. I wish our education system made it mandatory for institutions to teach our young generation the fabric of our beloved Constitution.”

Kong, a U.S. military service member from Monterey Park, California, said he chose ASU Law because of his great experience as an ASU undergrad while he earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in operations management. He now looks forward to completing his military service and then furthering his education in pursuit of a JD degree with the goal of becoming a criminal lawyer.

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

Answer: There are so many professors to choose from but Sandra Erickson from the SDO 501: U.S. Law and Legal Analysis course really stood out. Miss Erickson was a fair but firm kind of professor. She really opened my eyes to the world of law, and I thank her for that.

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

A: Keep grinding because you will get there. It doesn't matter how long it takes as long as you finish strong.

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

A: I would fund any organization that is actively pursuing effective ways to convert ocean water to potable water. There is a world water crisis where at least a billion people do not have access to safe water. Unfortunately, 3% of the Earth's water is fresh and desalination requires an abundance of electricity to turn ocean water to potable water. I hope to see an effective solution within my lifetime.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I'm an online student and my favorite spot for power studying was at the bar. My friends always pressured me to go hang out with them. So I looked like a complete fool at the bar with my iPad, law books, and a book stand. They were busy having fun while I crammed away with my classes.

Julie Tenney

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

Still serving: Military alumna takes aim at veterans' wellness

Transition to student life after military service inspired Dakota Hohenwalter to create a new campus group, the ASU Veteran Wellness Club

November 23, 2020

Dakota Hohenwalter is an Arizona State University College of Health Solutions graduate student pursuing a master’s degree in exercise and wellness. She is also a military veteran with nearly 10 years of soldiering behind her, including four years of active duty and a six-year commitment to the U. S. Army Reserve as an intelligence analyst.

Her military experience has given her a unique view about exercise and wellness as it applies to veterans. That, plus her own transition to student life after military service, inspired her to create a new campus group, the ASU Veteran Wellness Club. dakota hohenwalter Dakota Hohenwalter Download Full Image

“Serving in the military comes with a lot of rewards and sacrifices. Most often, the biggest sacrifice veterans give during their service is their health. A lot of the missions, training exercises and stressors cause wear and tear on the body,” she said.

That wear and tear can be emotional, too, and it’s extensive. In 2019, government figures showed that 25% of veterans had a service-connected disability, and the number jumps to 41% for veterans who served after the 2001 attack on New York’s World Trade Center.

The ASU Veteran Wellness Club is structured around a long-standing view that holistic health rests on eight pillars: physical, spiritual, emotional, social, occupational, financial, intellectual and environmental wellness. With that in mind, the organization serves as both a social outlet and as a clearinghouse connecting members to resources that will help them navigate school, finance and life beyond the barracks.

And that can be a challenging transition. Being active-duty military means living with constant direction that dictates where to be and when to be there, Hohenwalter said. In contrast, campus life means being able to do whatever you want whenever you want.

“It was kind of hard for me to adapt to that college lifestyle,” said Hohenwalter, who graduated from the College of Health Solutions in 2019 with her Bachelor of Science in exercise and wellness.

Through the Veteran Wellness Club, she hopes to help new student veterans on campus find the resources she wishes she had known about when she first came to ASU.

The club isn’t her only outlet for giving back to the community and supporting our troops. Hohenwalter recently talked to the College of Health Solutions about what drives her to aid others and how she plans to serve in the future.

Question: How has serving in the military affected your life today?

Answer: Serving in the military has allowed me to develop a passion for service. While I may not always be serving my country through my military service, I try to give back to my community and those around me whenever possible. I sincerely believe that I am where I am in life because of the communities I have been a part of. Additionally, two of the most important lessons I've learned in life were due to my military service: One, resilience, and two, confidence in oneself. In the past, before my service, I was often lacking in confidence and doubted myself often. In the military, I was given a lot of opportunities and responsibilities and had great mentors which allowed me to overcome this personal barrier. I was also faced with several obstacles and difficulties while serving that have taught me a certain level of resilience, which has contributed greatly to my success as a student. 

Q: How are you still connected to the military and other veterans?

A: I am still heavily connected to military communities and veterans throughout the Phoenix area. I currently serve on ASU's Veteran Advocacy and Affairs committee, and I also serve as the president of the Veteran Wellness Club on the ASU Downtown (Phoenix) campus.

Q: What does service mean to you and how has that changed after serving?

A: Service to me was always about sacrificing for the greater good. There was always an emphasis on selfless service and giving back to those around me while I served. After I transitioned to the reserves, that mindset was preserved, and I learned how to apply it to my "civilian soldier" lifestyle. My passion for service was what drove me to pursue a career as a professor and as a researcher geared towards injury prevention in tactical populations.

Q: How do you see yourself improving health outcomes for veterans?

A: In the future, I would love to be a part of preventive studies that help improve the overall musculoskeletal health of service members and veterans so they're able to minimize any damage to their bodies.