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Justice studies grad reflects on seizing opportunities, overcoming imposter syndrome


Tylie DiBene

Tylie DiBene will graduate from Arizona State University this spring with a bachelor’s degree in justice studies, a minor in criminology and criminal justice and a minor in women and gender studies.

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April 16, 2021

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

As Tylie DiBene prepares to graduate from Arizona State University this spring, she has a message of gratitude and thanks to the university that she said provided her some of the greatest years of her life.

“Thank you for teaching me to be the person that I am, giving me the confidence to follow and chase my dreams. If it weren't for being in such a great and accepting community, I don't think I'd be where I am today and going for the goals that I had set for myself a long time ago,” said DiBene, who will graduate with her bachelor’s degree in justice studies, a minor in criminology and criminal justice and a minor in women and gender studies.

Having grown up in Nogales, Arizona, DiBene said many of her peers went to the University of Arizona due to proximity. But she had her heart set on ASU and quickly built a community at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“I was very fortunate to build my community right before I came to ASU. I enrolled in the Early Start program for justice studies and through that I was able to connect with professors, peers within my college and set a foundation,” she said.

DiBene’s involvement on campus continued over the next four years through ASU’s First-Year Success coaching and as a chartering member of the Alpha Omicron Pi chapter at ASU.

“My involvement in Greek life and Greek life leadership has impacted my ASU experience by teaching me more about myself and my ability to be a leader. I gained such a strong community and it taught me to be the best version of myself and shaped me into the person I was always meant to be,” she said.

DiBene shared more about her experiences at ASU:

Question: Why did you choose ASU?

Answer: I decided to come to ASU really early on. I’m from Nogales, Arizona, which is about an hour away from Tucson; everybody was going to the University of Arizona and I was the stubborn one saying, “No, I'm going to go to ASU, I love ASU.” I ultimately made the decision in my senior year of high school when I toured the campus and I saw how great it was and I was able to speak to so many people and learn about all of the resources ASU had and the different options that I had for my career and major paths. Actually being on campus and seeing it and seeing so many friendly faces made me decide that this was the community I wanted to be in.

Q: How did philanthropy impact your ASU experience?

A: I received a scholarship coming out of high school from the Nogales scholarship association and one in college from the Phoenix Panhellenic Association. Both scholarships were so important to me because it tied me back to the communities I am most passionate about and helped in furthering my education. In receiving both scholarships, I felt that I had a community that believed in me and trusted in the fact that I would make the most out of my education.

Q: Did you have an “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study your major(s) or what drew you to the degree program?

A: My senior year of high school, when I was looking into the different degrees that I could go into, I knew that I wanted to do something that would help people. I was looking at different career options online and found justice studies. I researched it a little bit and saw that it was all about social justice and figuring out how the world works for people and how we navigate it and how we can make it a better place for everyone with different identities. That made me decide that this is exactly what I wanted to go into. Especially since at a very young age, I realized that I wanted to go to law school. I wanted to be the defense attorney to help people that don't always have the voice amplification that they need. With justice studies, I knew that that was exactly what I needed to do to get to where I want it to be.

Q: What opportunities or classes have helped prepare you for your future career?

A: Fall of 2019, I took Justice 465 Death Penalty in the U.S. with Professor Susan Corey. Taking class with her was really important for me because it gave me a lot of insight as to what the job of a criminal defense attorney really entails and the type of people that I would be helping, and ultimately why I want to go into that field.

Q: Did you experience any obstacles along your way? If yes, how did you overcome them?

A: A lot of the obstacles that I experienced were related to imposter syndrome that I had. I was constantly looking at my peers and thinking: They're working at law firms; they're doing internships. I had a lot of moments where I took a step back and asked, “Am I supposed to be here? Am I smart enough to be here? Am I good enough to be here? Do I belong here?” What helped me overcome that is actually becoming a First-Year Success coach. Talking to students who were like me, feeling the same things, and then telling them that they do belong here helped me teach myself the same lesson.

Q: What was the most valuable lesson or skill you learned while at ASU?

A: The most valuable lesson that I learned at The College was actually taught to me by my First-Year Success coach, Aishwarya. I went into a meeting with her and was feeling really anxious because all of my peers were already looking into internships and job opportunities. I explained this to her and she reminded me that my path is completely unique to me — at the end of the day, it doesn't matter what my peers are doing because whatever I do is going to lead me to where I need to be and I just need to focus on that. That was life-changing for me.

Q: What message or advice would you share for future first-year students?

A: Enjoy every single moment. Your four years go by quicker than high school. I know in high school, we all thought that was the fastest thing ever, but in reality college is. There are so many opportunities — there's clubs and organizations, job opportunities, resources with your professors, study abroad and research opportunities — that you can go into. So do that, take every chance you can. But with that being said, always evaluate yourself. Always make sure that you're not pushing yourself to an extent that you can't go, because if you don't rest, your body will pick a date to rest and it won't be the most convenient of times. Know that it's OK to take a break.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I was going to go into law school right after undergrad in fall 2021 but then the pandemic happened and I just realized that I needed to take a step back and kind of regain my steps, find myself again. So I found a really great job opportunity as a legal assistant and after graduation I will work there full time and prepare for law school in fall of 2022.

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