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Student plans to aid in fight against terrorism

November 16, 2010

EDITOR'S NOTE: This article is part of a series that looks at outstanding undergraduate students who exemplify ASU excellence.

William Pentis is working towards the day when he thwarts criminal plots by disrupting the cash flows of terrorist organizations.

Pentis is an Arizona State University senior from Los Angeles who is earning a dual major in finance and criminology.

After considering colleges in California, he came to Arizona State University with his dad who enticed him to travel to the desert with the promise of seeing a Cardinals football game. A tour of ASU from a Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity representative sealed the deal for Pentis.

“I love this university,” he said.

Even residence hall rooms at Hassayampa Academic Village were awesome compared to his sister’s room at a California university, he said. And the out-of-state cost of attending ASU was comparable to in-state costs for California schools.

Always a student who had gone to small Catholic schools from K-12, he embraced the wide array of opportunities that are available at ASU and never looked back.

“I came here essentially knowing nobody,” he said.

Even though Pentis didn’t know anyone at first, he carved his own niche and embraced a double major that he couldn’t find at the other schools he considered.

“I fell in love with the accommodations of the people and the programs,” he said. “ASU has definitely blown away my expectations.”

From the professors who teach real-world experience to the best friends he’s made at ASU, Pentis has found the university exceeds his expectations. He maintains a 3.61 grade-point while taking classes to satisfy requirements for two majors.

“ASU has made an effort to put in industry professionals as teachers. That’s something you can’t get from a book,” he said. Police officers, FBI agents and probation officers have all taught classes that he has taken in the Criminology Department.

This sharing of practical experiences will serve Pentis well as he pursues his career goal of disrupting the cash flow of terrorist organizations through his knowledge of finance and criminology. He envisions working for the FBI or Department of Homeland Security and he’s studying Arabic for a competitive advantage if he’s stationed in the Mid-East.

“This is something I’m passionate about,” Pentis said. Part of his passion comes from 9/11 when he watched the emergency response near LAX airport, considered a major target in the days after the Twin Towers fell.

“It’s something you don’t forget. Ever since then, it’s been my call to service,” he said.

Pentis is also giving back to the university as a member of the Devil’s Advocates by leading tours for prospective freshmen and their parents.

“My advice is to get involved freshman year. Develop a social network of like-minded individuals who are going somewhere in life,” he said. “Students come up to me later and say ‘I came here because of you.’ ASU has given me a vast amount of opportunities. This is my way to give back to ASU.”

Pentis is active in a number of student organizations at ASU from Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity to the university chapter of the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners, an organization that brings in professional speakers from agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service and FBI.

Pentis is currently serving an internship at the Arizona Attorney General’s office where he is working in the Special Investigations Section. It’s been an exciting time for him where he’s worked on racketeering cases, major fraud and public corruption.

“The experience has confirmed what I want to do,” he said.

Charles Loftus is a faculty associate in the Criminology Department at ASU who works with Pentis at the Attorney General’s office.

“You name it, he’s involved,” Loftus said. “He’s going to be good wherever he goes. He’s the type of person I dreamed of when I was doing hiring before the economy crashed.”

Loftus also taught Pentis in his research methods class.  “He was one of the few students that got an A plus. Those are earned. He deserved it,” he said.

After graduating from ASU in May of 2011, Pentis hopes to go to Egypt for eight weeks to study Arabic through a Critical Language Scholarship that he has applied for through the U.S. Department of State. He’s also an applicant for the State Department’s National Security Education Program that would give him the opportunity to study for a year in Egypt or Jordan. Pentis has previously traveled to the Middle East when he visited Israel in 2008-09.

“I actually landed the day the Gaza War happened,” he said. “We could hear bombs going off when we were riding camels in the desert.”