ASU grad found her calling in nonprofits

December 11, 2020

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

Four years ago, Cheyanne Kratz could never imagine graduating with a degree in nonprofit leadership and management. For her, a college experience was predicated on a few slim options. Woman in a cap and gown with a stole giving the forks up sign, Cheyenne Kratz portrait ASU grad Cheyanne Kratz Download Full Image

“I'm a first-generation college student, so I didn't know anything other than being a lawyer, doctor or engineer,” Kratz said. “I came into school as an environmental engineering major. In high school, I was president of the engineering club. I kind of knew what to expect coming into college. But, when I came to ASU, I felt I was so different from the people in my classes. I had this idea I wanted to be an engineer who implemented water purification systems in third world countries, and then I realized I cared more about helping people than the engineering part.”

Once immersed in Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, Kratz found her groove among a school of individuals who are dedicated to learning about and helping the world around them. To her surprise, it seemed as if it was a program that was immersed in real-world experience. 

“Almost all of our teachers have full-time jobs,” Kratz said. “They are actively working in the nonprofit world and have connections that they're bringing into class. Studying nonprofits is somewhat of a new thing at universities, but I think it’s a lot more personable than other majors.”’

For the past two semesters, Kratz has worked at the Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention office as the marketing and communications peer educator and has also been involved in sorority life and student organizations. For Kratz, this can be one of college’s prime opportunities.

“Get involved no matter what capacity,” Kratz said. “Get involved in sexual and relationship violence, even if you're not super interested. It’s an education we could all use. We’re all trying to have relationships with friends and family we can understand. So, it's super helpful to take one class or go to one club meeting. I’m learning new stuff every single day in the professional world and my personal life.”

As she wrapped up her last semester at ASU, Kratz shared some of her reflections and advice for fellow Sun Devils.

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

A: I obviously picked engineering. So I changed my major, which was very hard for my family to comprehend. Everyone kind of stereotypically thinks you can't make any money in nonprofits. I had never heard of the major before. I did it on a whim because my engineering advisor suggested it. I’m super thankful it went this way. 

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

A: I was in a group in my fundraising development class, randomly picked. I was with some of the most interesting people I've ever met. We worked together to come up with the idea to have a meditation space in a children's hospice center. 

It was funny because we all had different personalities and mindsets, but we all collectively found this to be so cool. We were looking up meditation cushions for three hours! Moments like this remind me that nonprofit can also be what you make it — there’s a marketing person, an accounting person, an event planner and even the person who researches meditation cushions. It's funny to me when people wonder what nonprofit actually is because you can be anything you can be in for-profit in a nonprofit. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I applied to 18 schools and got into all of them! My home is 40 minutes from campus, so ASU wasn’t one of my top choices. But, I ultimately picked ASU because I received a good scholarship and wanted to be able to go to a school where I didn’t have to worry immensely about money. I also applied to a lot of schools on the East Coast but didn’t own any winter clothes, nor had I ever seen snow before. ASU was the best decision for me because the nonprofit major isn’t offered at many schools. So I’m thankful I ended up coming here. 

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

A: Gordon Shockley taught my social entrepreneurship class last spring. He had so much passion and opened my eyes to the idea that you can help people in more than the nonprofit sector. So many companies are doing social good. He really pushed us out of the normal. He had us look at people throughout history and where social entrepreneurship really started. 

Then we would also talk about entrepreneurs who were working just for profit. We never really talked about profit in my major, so we learned the difference between the people who simply want to make money and the people who are doing it out of their heart but also need to make money. Ever since this class, I have become super interested in social responsibility. I think for-profits have so much power in change, and I think they need to be the ones to step up for there to be change.

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

A: I think being less stressed about meeting people and putting yourself out there more. I was sometimes afraid to go to clubs or try things alone. I look back and think, “the PAB would’ve been fun” or opportunities like that. Especially now with most classes on Zoom. 

I go to ASU 101 classes and teach sexual education, and I always tell them that Zoom makes it easy to hop in and out. It’s not like physically walking to a meeting. Give it a try. Go to a Bingo night or yoga session; they’re fun. I wish I did more of that. 

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

A: I really like Coor Hall and the tables outside. That’s where I would see the most people on campus. I liked being there and seeing people interact. That’s where I really felt like a college student. I also really liked the courtyard outside the law school on the downtown campus. 

Q: Do you have any plans after graduation?

A: Yes, I’m attending grad school at Indiana University for their master’s in public affairs program. Before, I applied to a million jobs, but nonprofits aren’t getting enough funding right now and aren’t eager to employ someone who graduated during COVID-19. 

In my head, I thought, everyone is going to need someone to help them because nonprofits work on helping when there is a crisis, and there’s this pandemic going on. But it really affected the galas, fundraising and donations. Then, they can’t physically help the people they need to help because of guidelines and social distancing protocols. 

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

A: That’s hard. There are some things that will always be bigger than what you’re passionate about. I love the work that I've done in the Sexual and Relationship Violence Prevention office. I think that sexual education throughout the whole world would be so good, especially in countries where cultures are against providing birth control, STD testing and sexual education, in general. 

I think that would not only save many lives but livelihoods. I worked at a women's shelter here in Arizona, and we could essentially only hand out diapers for adults because of the stigma surrounding birth control. Then we would see tons of 14 and 15 year olds who were pregnant because they’re not receiving birth control or education about it. 

Written by Julian Klein, ASU Student Life

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


From childhood, grad fought inequitable treatment of others; law school is her next goal

December 11, 2020

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

Injustice has always spurred April Karina Guevara Espinoza to do battle for those who are being inequitably treated. The School of Public Affairs’ fall 2020 Outstanding Graduate plans to do it someday as a human rights or immigration law attorney. But her efforts to balance the scales began long before that. Alexis Klemm, Fall 2020, Outstanding Graduate, School of Public Affairs, Watts College, Arizona State University April Karina Guevara Espinoza is the fall 2020 Outstanding Graduate of the School of Public Affairs at Arizona State University. Photo courtesy of April Karina Guevara Espinoza. Download Full Image

“I have been fighting on behalf of others since I was a child. If someone got orange juice while the others got apple, I would be the child shouting about how this is an injustice,” she said. “I have always enjoyed defending others when they were mistreated.”

Guevara Espinoza, who is receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in public service and public policy, grew up in Yuma, Arizona, on the Mexican border. She watched as the border wall was built and said her family experienced many racial injustices. These experiences cemented her desire to become an attorney, which she said has been her dream career from an early age.

“I felt like my voice and my arguments needed to hold weight and power in order to help create any change,” Guevara Espinoza said. “Being an attorney would allow me to not only defend others in court, but help me change legislation that is oppressing my community and other communities of color.”

At first, because she planned to go to law school, she sought to major in pre-law-related courses to be the most prepared.

“I now know that you can major in anything and still apply to law school, but as a first-generation student, you are not taught these things, you learn them yourself,” she said. “After doing my own research in public service and public policy, I realized I could concentrate my major around law and policy, so that is when I decided to choose it. I am glad I did because not only have I been able to take important law and criminal justice classes, I have also learned the behind-the-scenes work of how policies were once legislation. I feel as though my major gave me a good balance of law courses and policy process courses.”

Read on to learn more about Guevara Espinoza and the perspective she’s gained from her time at ASU.

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

A: In Professor Mellissa Linton’s WST 373 Latina/Chicana Issues course in the School of Social Transformation, I was introduced to an incredible analysis on the concept of “illegality” by Nicholas De Genova. Though I already believed no person is illegal and that there are simply people of undocumented status, I learned that illegality is a social construct. De Genova explains how illegality is a racially motivated concept produced by law. U.S. labor needs have always determined the amount of which particular immigrant is being accepted into the United States. The U.S. has imported migrants when they needed them, like through the Bracero program, then, like a revolving door, expects them to go return to their home country after making a life in the states.

It is interesting, since many need to go through the rigorous process of becoming a citizen or are here due to overstayed visas, yet they are now considered illegal because of new laws that replaced those that brought them here “legally” in the first place. I would highly recommend De Genova’s “The Legal Production of Mexican/Migrant ‘Illegality’” for a deeper analysis. Furthermore, the systemic barriers imposed onto migrants have caused the delay in effectively achieving documented, “legal” status. Through this perspective, my passion for working within immigration law and helping those in need has grown and intensified. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for a multitude of reasons. Like many, I wanted to stay in the state because of the price of tuition and because it was close enough and far away enough from home. I toured each of the Arizona universities and ASU was the only campus I genuinely liked. I thought it was unique that there were four campuses and I loved that I was a downtown student because I was surrounded by skyscrapers and beautiful art. Plus, I was living in front of my dream law school, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Fortunately, I received a full ride from Arizona State University and it was a done deal from then on. 

(Guevara Espinoza also said she is grateful to have received the following scholarships: New American University Scholarship Dean’s Award, Horatio Alger State Scholarship, President Barack Obama Scholars Program, Benjamin A. Gilman International Scholarship and the Watts College Study Abroad Scholarship.)

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

A: Joanna Lucio, associate professor and associate dean of academic and student affairs at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, shared the best life lesson with me in an interview I conducted with her. She said, “Don’t worry about what other people think. Be aware of what you put your energy into and who you put your energy into. Have boundaries and say no, love yourself more than caring about the opinions of others. People in authority have influence and experience, but they don’t know everything. Connect with and listen to yourself.” I think other student leaders should pay close attention to what Dean Lucio said. These words of wisdom struck a chord with me and felt very comforting to hear. I hope others can benefit from them, too.

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

A: If I could give only one piece of advice, it would be that ​I promise you, you are not running out of time. As someone who decided to figure out my life plans at seventh grade, I thought I had everything figured out and that I needed to stick to this timeline in order to be successful. I chose to cram everything I was interested in into three years of college and I wish I was more patient with myself. I always had to choose which job or which club I was giving my all to because I was spreading myself too thin.

If you are someone who is debating going into law school or pursuing any higher education, do not feel as though you need to go right away. Having work experience, especially in the field you plan to go into, can help you massively when pursuing the educational side of that field. Having the time to mature before pursuing something as serious and time-consuming as graduate school will also benefit you in the long run.

Even if you do not choose to work or go to school right away, taking time off to do whatever it is you want to do can benefit your mental health and happiness greatly. It is never too late to go to school. You have the time. Try not to stress about it too much, though if you are anything like me, I know you still will. 

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life?

A: If you are a student at the downtown ASU campus, I 100% recommend studying at The Grand. The coffee shop is a short walk from campus. They are open 24 hours, which is super convenient for finals week. The ambiance is cozy with low lighting, great music, creative coffees and even better food. (Try their mac and cheese!)

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will continue to study for the Law School Admission Test during my gap year. During that time, I plan to work in a firm as a legal assistant or clerk as I complete my law school application. I would love to and have always planned to attend ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. After law school, I am interested in working as an international human rights attorney or in a firm that specializes in immigration law. Additionally, I have a dream goal of creating a scholarship for other Latino, first-generation students who aspire to go to law school, because our presence in these spaces are underrepresented and extremely needed.

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

A: I feel as though I have been asked this question several times and each time it is very easy to answer: poverty. Solving poverty on our planet would solve a significant amount of other issues. Ending poverty would lead to ending homelessness and housing insecurity in general. I would first tackle this issue by creating affordable housing for all. Moreover, food insecurity would diminish and malnourished populations would no longer grow hungry. I would tackle this by investing in or creating programs that feed underserved communities. I would also invest in cities that are considered food deserts to ensure everyone has access to affordable groceries. People would not have to decide between a car payment and healthy food at the grocery store for their children.

I would use the millions to create a free or affordable child care program so that both parents or any guardian are able to work to create their own income. Millions of people would be able to fulfill basic needs such as health care, education, housing, cleanliness, food and water. Ending poverty means ending the epidemic that is causing millions to live unhappy and unfulfilled lives.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions