ASU Online sociology grad plans to help other students achieve their dreams

April 19, 2021

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

After becoming a new mom, Quenette Martinez knew she wanted to finish her bachelor’s degree. However, she wasn’t sure how she could attend classes on campus with a newborn. She needed an online program that was cost-effective. ASU became her top choice because it is one of the only universities that offers a sociology bachelor’s degree fully online. Quenette Martinez Photo courtesy of Quenette Martinez Download Full Image

“It is because of the support of ASU staff and faculty through the online program that I am now able to say that I have achieved my dreams of completing my bachelor’s degree, not only for myself, but for my daughter,” Martinez said.

She feels a huge reason for her success is the constant care from one of her professors, Beverly Carlsen-Landy. Martinez was able to take a couple courses taught by Carlsen-Landy and moved on to become her teaching assistant.

“I’ve never had a relationship with any professor,” she said. “I truly never thought it was possible. You just go to class, do your work and go back home. But she goes above and beyond to make those connections with her students, even in the online setting. She really encourages us to connect with other students, as well.”

Listen: Beverly Carlsen-Landy talks about online teaching.

Another resource Martinez is grateful for during her time at ASU is the support from her success coach. Going to school as a new mother was challenging at times and having someone to talk to helped keep her motivated. She recalls the time she was in the hospital in labor during finals week. Her coach called her at the right moment and encouraged her to keep going and to finish the course as best she could. Martinez studied in the hospital and took her finals. This impactful experience inspired her to give back to other college students by coaching them to achieve their goals.

Martinez excelled in her studies and was on the Dean’s List every semester. She is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in sociology. We talked to Martinez to learn more about her experience at ASU.

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

Answer: When I began my first sociology class at ASU, I knew that I wanted to major in sociology. Exploring the theories and structure of society reminded me that in order to see an effective change in society, first I must understand the history that has led to what society is now. Once I was exposed to the theories on how society functions as a whole and how individuals within the society significantly impact social norms, I knew I wanted to pursue my bachelor’s in sociology. 

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

A: While at ASU, a majority, if not all, of my classes required students to complete research using peer-reviewed journals. Throughout this process, I recognized that a lot of information that we receive through various (media) outlets are simply not true, but rather based on opinion and noncredible sources. This changed my perspective of social media because I realized that while individual opinions do matter, they can be misleading and create false narratives of the world. I learned the importance of doing research and fact-checking as a tool to better understand society and implement effective change.

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

A: I have learned various lessons from multiple professors during my time at ASU,  but there is one professor who taught me a very important lesson that I will carry with me. Dr. Beverly Carlsen-Landy taught me that empathy can move mountains. I enrolled in her course during the pandemic, a time of uncertainty and doubt. However, she encouraged her students to keep moving forward and went above and beyond to ensure that we were successful in her class. Dr. Beverly Carlsen-Landy taught me that professors are human too, and it was exactly what I needed. At that moment, I knew that I had the support of ASU to walk me on my journey to completing my bachelor’s degree. 

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

A: My advice to students in school would be practice time management and set a weekly schedule, read your course syllabi and ask questions when you do not understand something.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: As an online student, I had to set the tone for my study sessions at home and in the community. My favorite place for power studying was at a local coffee shop — prior to the pandemic. Creating a safe space where I could focus and feel peace was critical to me as an online student. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I plan to expand my life coaching business. My passion is to serve as a life coach to college students, while providing emotional and academic support. I will be doing more networking and providing low-cost group sessions to support students in their personal and academic lives so that they too can experience the joy of graduating.

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

A: If I had $40 million to solve one problem on our planet it would be emotional and mental health. I believe that some of the largest issues in our world stem from the lack of emotional and mental health. Therefore, I would use the $40 million to conduct research on the mental and emotional health of children and how it impacts adulthood, in hope of creating resources and continuous support to bridge the gap between the traumas of childhood and adulthood.

Shelley Linford

Marketing and Communications Manager, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics

Philosophy, political science graduate finds passion in local politics

April 19, 2021

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

When Arizona State University student Hannah Willes graduated from high school in Colorado Springs, Colorado, about 10 years ago, she swore to never go back. She didn’t think she was cut out for school and wanted to dive into a career instead.  Hannah Willes Hannah Willes is earning her bachelor's degrees in political science and philosophy. Download Full Image

She started working in the medical administration field and was able to run a local practice within a year of graduating high school.

“That was when I realized I was capable enough, smart enough and determined enough to do whatever I set my mind to,” said Willes. “Within a couple years of working in that field I realized I wanted to go back to school but it didn't happen as quickly as I would have liked.”

After four years of working at the practice, she realized balancing a full-time school and work schedule wouldn’t fit for her. She began working as a server to free up time to go back to school and after a year of doing that, she enrolled full-time at Paradise Valley Community College.

“I got really involved in that community and utilized my newly minted passion for politics and civic engagement to create a voting drive that registered over 100 young people to vote and won me a full ride scholarship to any in-state university,” said Willes.

She enrolled at ASU and also joined Barrett, The Honors College to pursue a double major in philosophy with a concentration in morality, politics and law from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and political science from the School of Politics and Global Studies.

During her final semester, she has been interning full time for the Arizona State Legislature and says it is one of the best experiences of her academic career. She elected to work with the Democratic team and found this legislative session to have unique challenges. 

The internship was partly remote due to COVID-19 and in early January, protests broke out in front of the state capitol.

“During our first week at the capitol there was a protest of hundreds of Trump supporters surrounding the capitol plaza with personal weapons including assault rifles and one group even brought a guillotine,” said Willes. “This was right after the Jan. 6 insurrection in Washington, D.C., so even though there was extra security in the building and walking us to our cars, it was still a scary sight to see.”

Willes has enjoyed the internship despite its obstacles. She says it is mostly research under a time crunch and reporting findings on a bill in a written summary as well as a formal presentation to members of the State Senate.

“Many of the senators are on multiple committees and rely on our staff to dig into the bills for them and report back what we find,” said Willes. “Each senator also has a different knowledge base on a given topic, which leads to having to juggle briefing members who may be subject experts at the same time as members who are hearing about the issue for the first time.”

One of the most satisfying parts of the job, Willes mentioned, is writing talking points for the senators to use in committee or on the floor.

“I don't think there is anything more satisfying than hearing your elected representative stand up and go on the record with words you wrote and ideas you want to convey,” said Willes. “I never understood how speechwriters could be fulfilled when their work was being used by someone else but after getting a taste during this internship, I completely understand.”

The internship has been a challenge with it having long hours and a lot of work that doesn’t get used, but Willes still recommends the internship to everyone.

“I think that especially my peers in the (School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies) would be valuable assets to the legislature even if they aren't political science majors,” said Willes. “If it's something that sounds interesting, I say go for it. The experience is worthwhile and exposes you to the reality of Arizona politics.”

If you can’t participate in the internship, Willes still recommends for everyone to watch a broadcast of a committee hearing on a topic that interests them to see how their elected officials act in the position. 

“I have learned that the legislature goes unseen as they handle the issues near and dear to us as Arizonans as national politics captivate most people's attention,” said Willes. “I think that if more Arizonans paid attention to issues that are handled in the legislature, we would see a change in how our elected officials act in their elected positions.”

Willes is the recipient of multiple scholarships including the All-Arizona Academic Team Scholarship, Barrett All-Arizona, Coca-Cola Scholar, the Experiential Learning Program, the SPGS Director's Scholarship and the Transfer Achievement Award. She will be graduating summa cum laude this semester.

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

Answer: My second semester at Paradise Valley Community College I accidently signed up for a philosophy course thinking it was a sociology course. I almost dropped that first day when I realized my mistake, but something made me stay. I realized I needed to declare philosophy as my major halfway through that semester. I loved the fact that logic and reasoning could help me find answers about the world that most people don't bother asking. I loved reading philosophy and stretching my mind to try and understand these intricate concepts I had always been curious about.

I realized I needed to study political science when I got to ASU and my adviser let me know that all those political science classes I had taken for fun had me halfway to the degree anyways. I realized that I didn't have to give up philosophy to study political science. I'm so thankful I did because I see my future career aligned more with my political science degree than my philosophy degree. I had originally thought I would use my philosophy degree to get me to law school, but I have learned that the goal I wanted to accomplish with a law degree I can actually attain without law school, for now anyways.

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

A: I learned that fostering relationships with faculty is one of the most rewarding experiences that college has to offer. As a first-generation college grad, I didn't know how to go about the "college experience."

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU at first because it was in town and on-ground learning was important to me. I also liked that there was such a diverse student body and lots of class options. After completing all of the philosophy and political science classes that my community college had to offer it was refreshing to have such a large course catalog to choose from. It also didn't hurt that I got a full-ride scholarship and the honors program also offered me scholarships to cover the cost of their fees.

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

A: Dr. Tara Lennon taught me the importance of communication with my professors. During my first semester at ASU, I was struggling in her class that I didn't think I should have had much trouble in. I was intimidated because, unlike my classes at community college, she felt more distant as it was hard to get her attention with hundreds of other students doing the same. I got over my hesitations and started working with her in her office hours to fill in what I wasn't understanding in class. Now she is the first chair on my honors thesis, and I couldn't be more thankful for all she's done for me.

Also, Dr. Cynthia Bolton taught me how to write, and better analyze, a philosophy paper and for that I will be eternally grateful. I am a better writer and researcher because of her.

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

A: Foster relationships with your professors. I couldn't have gotten the internship if I hadn't gotten two glowing letters of recommendation from professors who I took the time to create a working relationship with. I also had multiple situations where a difficult class was made more workable and even enjoyable by investing time into going to office hours. This is especially true for any philosophy students out there who have to take PHI 333: Symbolic Logic. I couldn't have survived that class without all the extra hours Dr. Brad Armendt and his TA spent with me outside of class.

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

A: It feels like it's been forever since I've been on campus now because of COVID-19 but I'd have to say I really enjoyed the new Hayden Library digs while I got the chance to use them. Those single person study rooms saved my life as someone who was commuting to ASU and sometimes had large gaps in my class schedule.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I am ready to get back to work. I always tell people it's not the schoolwork part of going back to school that is the hardest, it's the student income that I struggled with. I am excited to get back into the workforce and to be passionate about my career goals. There is so much I have learned that I am excited to put to good use. I have my sights set on a master's degree eventually, but I need some time back in the workforce before I can commit to that. Taking time off after graduating high school was hard but it worked out well for me. I think taking time off before going to grad school will serve a similar purpose.

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

A: If I had $40 million dollars I would have to try and tackle climate change. It is the single most existential problem of my generation and those after me because if we do not address it, we won't have a planet to call home. I think that Bill Gate's method of creating positive change is by far the best if you have the money to do it; invest in the inventors. $40 million would go really fast if you tried to use it lobbying for change in our government, much less the whole world. Investing in science and engineering professionals whose inventions could do away with plastic, make renewable energy more accessible and reliable, and come up with new ways to recycle or safely break down the plastic we have already made would all solve massive issues regarding climate change.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies