Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.
At the beginning of the pandemic, communication major Van Westcott assumed, like many of us, that things would be back to normal after a few months. When all of his in-person courses transitioned to remote learning, he quickly realized that this was how the remainder of his time at ASU would be spent.
At first, Westcott admitted he really didn’t know what to think and was a bit concerned. Over time, however, he says he was pleasantly surprised.
"To be completely honest, it really wasn’t too difficult to adapt and transition to a new learning platform. I would consider myself as a person who embraces change and who goes with the flow. Not only that, but all of my professors were incredibly patient, accommodating and considerate, which made this process of adjustment far less difficult than it could have been. I must admit that I enjoy the flexibility that comes with online classes. I was able to experience the pleasure of on-campus courses up until my senior year, so I truly do not mind finishing college this way. I am most proud of not only my perseverance and resilience but also that of my peers and professors."
Westcott is graduating this spring with a Bachelor of Science in communication from the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. He was a recipient of the Louis and Louise Menk Endowed Scholarship from the Hugh Downs School. We recently asked him to share his thoughts about his experience at ASU.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: When I first began my academic career at Arizona State, I was originally going to school for hospitality management through the W. P. Carey School of Business. Attending the W.P. Carey School of Business was a good experience; however, it didn’t take long for me to realize that working in the service industry after college was something that I did not want to pursue. Once I came upon this realization, I decided to take a year off from school to seriously consider what I wanted from my education. During this time I reflected on my own talents and interests, and I also received wisdom and guidance from my parents. I have always had a natural ability to relate and connect with people from all walks of life, so, it seemed very apparent to me as well as to my family that human communication was the right choice for me.
Q: Are there any jobs or internships you had during your time at ASU that provided you a different type of learning experience than from the classroom?
A: Last summer when I was visiting Durango, Colorado, I interned at a local company called Durango Sewing Solutions. Durango Sewing Solutions is world-renowned for creating top-of-the-line rock climbing gear such as their most famous product, the D4 Portaledge. During my time as an intern with DSS, I got to experience firsthand how a company functions. I helped facilitate certain processes such as customer relations, advertising and even production of the actual merchandise. My time as an intern was a valuable, exciting experience. I was able to apply the skills I have learned in college such as collaboration and interpersonal communication in a real-world setting.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you that changed your perspective?
A: Throughout my time at ASU I have learned to think more critically about the world. I have learned to not believe everything that I see or hear, and to always be mindful and to think for myself.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I am proud to say that I was born and raised in Flagstaff, Arizona. Growing up in a mountain town with amazing, loving parents and an awesome little brother is something that I would never change if I could. Although Flagstaff will always have a special place in my heart, I always knew that I wanted to attend college somewhere other than NAU. When I was growing up, my parents oftentimes took my brother and me on trips down to Tempe for weekend getaways, and we never failed to have a great time. As a kid, I knew that I was destined to go to college, and I remember telling myself that I would one day be a Sun Devil. When the time came to transfer to a university from community college, I was torn between staying in Arizona or going to a school in Colorado. After a great deal of consideration, I felt that going to school at Arizona State would be the best option for me, and that feeling has not changed. I am proud that I am soon to be an ASU alumnus.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: My two pieces of advice (as cliché as they sound) are to stay true to yourself and to maintain a healthy balance in life.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: I always enjoyed spending time near the grassy areas surrounding Old Main and the fountain out front. However, I really love the Tempe campus as a whole.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I am not 100% certain of what my plans are once I graduate. ... What I do know is that I will be traveling to Japan at some point (when pandemic travel restrictions loosen up) as I have always been fascinated with that part of the world. Not only do I want to experience the city of Tokyo, but I would love to explore some of the rural parts of Japan as well. I am not exactly sure what my occupation will be after college, but I do know that I want to do something that entails working with like-minded individuals in order to create something great, help people or make the world better in one way or another. Although my future is unclear, I know that as so long as I continue to strive for greatness and to remember who I am and what I represent that amazing things are sure to follow.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I had an extra $40 million that could be used to solve a global problem, I would utilize those funds to help preserve our natural world. There is no denying the fact that humans have severely impacted the environment and we continue to do so. I would invest the money in sustainable, renewable and clean energy resources in order to reduce human dependency on fossil fuels. Although I love this idea, it is going to take much more than $40 million to solve this crisis. It is going to take more than any monetary amount. The only way this problem will be solved is through willpower and through the actions of the people who live on this planet.
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