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After years as an aesthetician, ASU grad finds right fit in global health


Nicole Waldmann stands along Palm Walk

Nicole Waldmann is graduating this fall with her bachelor's degree in global health from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

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November 30, 2020

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

Nicole Waldmann laughs now about her initial views of college, and the thought that higher education just wasn’t for her.

“Straight out of high school, I point-blank said college was not for me,” said Waldmann. Instead, she pursued her dual license in cosmetology and aesthetics and worked as an aesthetician for seven years.

“It was probably around that fourth year when my boyfriend at the time, now my husband, was graduating from ASU and I just felt something was really missing. I wasn't in love with my career choice and just felt I needed a change,” she said. “Seeing him graduate really inspired me to want to go back to school and say, ‘Hey, I can do this, I want to graduate.’”

Waldmann said her journey to finding the right program to pursue was a long one that started in community college before she transferred to ASU to study global health at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change.

“I jumped majors, from journalism to considering nursing, and took a lot of random elective classes,” she said. “Taking POS 160 Global Politics with Dr. Ripley here at ASU really sealed the deal that global health was for me. It took a long time, but I'm happy I finally figured it out.”

Waldmann shared more about her time at ASU and what she has planned next.

Question: What about global health inspired you to choose it as a degree path?

Answer: There were a lot of different things that were going on in the world that really led me to global health. I wanted to help people and was really interested in helping refugees, asylum-seekers and immigrants. A lot of my classes had focused on things that were going on in Myanmar, and stuff that I was not aware of that was going on on the other side of the world. It really just opened my eyes and made me realize I want to work in nonprofit and humanitarian sectors.

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

A: I could not believe how many different clubs there were to join; there was literally something for everybody. I stumbled upon a Harry Potter club (Dumbledore’s Army) and wound up joining that. I got to meet a bunch of students that have similar interests to me, and it was really cool because I feel like the students really work to not only bring us together with our mutual interests, but also want us to also really connect with each other. I feel like it was also a great way for incoming freshmen, especially those that live on campus and are far from home, to just get out there and not feel lonely.

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

A: Dr. Ripley — he has just been such an amazing teacher and I feel so fortunate to have been able to take two classes from him. He is such a fun person that you literally enjoy his lectures; they're not boring, they're not just very prim and proper.

Q: What would you say to prospective students in similar situations that you were in, and are considering if pursuing a degree is the right choice for them?

A: I was dead set on going to school because I was honestly at a point in life where I was just not happy. Even though I couldn't figure out what major I wanted at the time, I knew going to school and taking electives would be helpful. If somebody is feeling like their current situation doesn’t feel right: Change it. You have the power to change it and be where you want to be.

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

A: Breathe! It’s OK. Definitely take a step back and breathe, if your head is in the books from 9:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m., take an hour break, step away and refresh.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: So right after graduation, I will be taking a well-deserved long month off because it has been five and a half years of constant studies. And especially the past two years, I have not had a summer off, so it's been semester after semester after semester. Then after that time off, hopefully I will be working at a nonprofit organization. If something here opens up, I would love to continue working at my current internship or any kind of nonprofit organization locally. Once I get my master's degree, I am definitely applying for the United Nations, the World Health Organization and UNICEF.

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