Fall 2020 grad is a teacher by nature

December 3, 2020

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

If there is a family trait that’s worth nurturing, one that produces a long line of educators might be it. Courtesy photo of graduating ASU student Albert Molina. Albert Molina. Download Full Image

Graduating Arizona State University student Albert Molina describes himself as part of such a family, and he couldn’t be prouder to be continuing that legacy.

Molina is earning a BA in English via ASU Online this fall, and he plans to teach when he finishes his master’s degree. “Both my mother and father teach and have inspired me to share the knowledge and passion I have for English,” said Molina. With so many teachers leaving the profession in the U.S. for myriad reasons, stemming the tide with a new generation of committed educators like Molina is a must.

Another piece of good news: The apple doesn’t appear to fall far from the proverbial tree. Molina’s young son shares his creativity and motivation to mentor others. “My son, Alden, loves to read, write stories and make music,” he said. “I was incredibly proud when he told me he understood how much I loved English and that I wanted to share it with others. He then began writing stories and he told me to teach them to others.”

Molina’s accomplishment is one more success story for the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. Molina shared that he had been working at Starbucks and had almost given up on higher education when he learned about the tuition help. He decided to keep at it. Now, he has been accepted to a graduate program at National University in San Diego, California, near his home in Chula Vista, where he will earn his teaching credentials.

We sat down with Molina to find out a bit more about what he’s accomplished to get to graduation day.

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

Answer: I have always loved English and literature. Books and stories were as much a place to learn as they were to escape. The lessons I learned in the pages of the books that were read to me as a child, as well as the pages I discovered myself as I got older, inspired me to dive into the subject and share the lessons and love I have for English.

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

A: Persistence. When I got to ASU, I had a 3-year-old son and two failed attempts at college success. The support and encouragement of the people I have a met on my journey with ASU inspired me to persist through my hardships and past failures to achieve a dream I once thought was out of reach. It is a lesson that I will never forget.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I believe ASU chose me! I am a product of the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, and just when I was going to leave Starbucks, ASU opened its doors to me and I never looked back!

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

A: Allow yourself room to grow and don't be afraid of making mistakes.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: On the couch in my home with headphones on!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will start my master’s/credential program to become a high school English teacher.

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

A: Climate change. I believe financial loss shouldn't be a deciding factor in making the right choice to save our planet.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


Architecture graduate aims to work across fields

December 3, 2020

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

Olufela Joda graduates this month with a master’s degree in architecture, but he has no plans to limit his design aspirations to architecture alone.  Photo of graduate architecture student Olufela Joda Olufela Joda Download Full Image

“I don’t think the role of a designer has to be static or streamlined to one particular field,” said Joda, who is from Nigeria and moved to Arizona in 2018. “For example, I’m an architect, but I’m currently working on creating a streetwear brand that tries to bring the conversation about nature conservation into popular spaces. That’s how I see my career going – designing many different things from buildings to clothes to album covers, like a Virgil Abloh or Olafur Eliasson.”

A school project to design a bird studio for Ramsey Canyon preserve inspired the streetwear brand. 

“Initially the objective was to take the ‘conservation’ conversation into the public realm because urban streetwear is a fundamental part of our modern lifestyle,” Joda said. “Over the past few months the idea has evolved into something slightly different.”

Jọda is a niche clothing and lifestyle brand rooted in youth culture, offering streetwear fashion and accessories made with sustainable materials and processes.

He is still developing the brand, which he said is a lifestyle idea expressed through clothing and aims to create a community of everyday people personally invested in today’s conversations while elevating their personal style.

During his time at ASU, Joda made sure to work on a wide range of projects, including interning at Corgan, where he was part of the aviation team working on the Phoenix Skyharbor Terminal 4 south concourse project. 

“I don’t think I have a favorite project to be honest,” he said. “That would be like having a favorite child.”

“The most important thing I learned at ASU is that my interests as a designer can be beyond the borders of conventional architecture,” he said. “I still love architecture, but now I want to be a designer who works across many different media and fields.”

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

Answer: I don’t think there was ever really an “aha moment.” I’ve loved designing things since I was little, so when I finished secondary school the only real option that made sense at the time was architecture. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: There were many factors, I think, but most importantly ASU was the most welcoming of the colleges I had dialogues with and that influenced my decision.

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

A: Max Underwood taught me a lot of things. I was his TA for two classes and his student in the spring 2020 semester. In that time he taught me about work-life balance and how to stay organized across multiple projects at the same time. He also taught me about how important it is to network. Ultimately, I think the most important thing Max taught me is how to think about problems and challenges, and that is something I will always take with me. 

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

A: Enjoy all the little moments, they go by quickly.

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

A: The SDFC soccer pitch.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m working on a few personal projects right now, so my immediate plans for after graduation are finding a balance between working at a design firm and working on my own projects simultaneously. 

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

A: I would use the money to tackle poverty in my home country from a political perspective and through activism as well. I believe you can’t create sustainable  solutions to societal problems without creating an institutional framework that addresses the problem. I want to discuss this in more detail with anyone who is interested. #ENDSARS.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts