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Graduate planning on career that gives back to the community

Nikki Oxford
April 29, 2013

When Nikki Oxford finishes her studies at Arizona State University in May, she’ll be the first in her family to graduate from college.

Earning her bachelor’s degree in family and human development from the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, represents an academic endeavor that took her from two years at a community college to ASU where she decided on her major.  When she was considering colleges, ASU was her only choice since it was close to home, offering her the opportunity to commute to and from her current home in Chandler.

“I took Introduction to Psychology in high school and found out I was good at it and I really liked it," said Oxford, who is originally from Lebec, Calif. "That sparked my interest in psychology, in general, and in family and human development. I like that it looks at group and family systems and how people interact in relationships.”

Oxford earned a perfect 4.0 GPA at ASU, combining her studies with work to help fund her education. Most recently she worked as a paid intern on programs to end homelessness in Maricopa County for the Maricopa Association of Governments. One of the most memorable experiences from the internship was helping to organize and participating in the 2013 Point-in-Time Homeless Street Count of the homeless on a freezing January morning.

“It was definitely an eye-opening experience," she says. "It’s very humbling to see the number of things we take for granted every day. People are sleeping in the bushes without blankets or food or anywhere to go. A lot of them have mental illness."

Soon Oxford will start a new position at Maricopa Association of Governments working on programs related to ending domestic violence in Maricopa County.

“They organize domestic violence training events and work with a lot of advocates,” she says.

And, she’s applying to graduate school to earn her secondary education degree that will enable Oxford to realize her career goal of becoming a school psychologist, preferably working with high school students.

“I can relate to that age group,” she said. “They’re pretty vulnerable at that age. I feel like you’re going through a lot mentally and you’re growing at the same time.”

Among her most memorable experiences at ASU was being part of the Community Action Research Experiences Program with Sanford School associate professor Larry Dumka where she wrote her honor’s thesis and conducted a volunteer satisfaction survey for a domestic violence shelter. Oxford earned the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics honors thesis award for her work and she’ll graduate Summa Cum Laude from ASU.

“I learned a great deal from the program. We wrote a lot of papers and had discussions about social entrepreneurship and research,” she said.

No matter where Oxford goes in her career, she’ll make sure that she’s making someone else’s life better through her job.

“I always wanted to have a career where I give back. I want to earn a living but I want it to mean something.”

One of her next endeavors will be helping her younger sister navigate college, making her the second in the family to earn a college degree.