Active-duty Army major graduates with master's degree in history


November 29, 2021

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

Walter Sprengeler grew up in Flagstaff, Arizona, and has always been in love with northern Arizona. He spent his whole life there and had never left the state until 2008, when he was commissioned in the Army.  Walter Sprengeler Walter Sprengeler (middle) is graduating with his master's in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Download Full Image

He earned his bachelor’s degree in education from Northern Arizona University earlier that year, but knew he would enroll in a university again to earn a master’s degree, which was always a goal of his. 

“My mother taught me the value of getting an education early on and I look at getting this degree as continuing the family tradition of achieving academic success,” said Sprengeler.

Sprengeler has been on active duty for the last 13 years as a logistician and currently holds the rank of a major. Despite his duties at work, he enrolled in Arizona State University as an online student while continuing to work full-time. 

“It has been a constant balancing act between obligations for the Army and the requirements for the graduate program,” said Sprengeler. “I had to take a leave of absence last year because I was deploying with my unit so it was a little frustrating breaking the pace I had. Although it has been tough and challenging, it has been rewarding as well.”

He is earning his master’s in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester.

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

Answer: I received my bachelor’s in education with emphasis on history from Northern Arizona University, so pursuing this field had always been a goal of mine. Additionally, history is a big part of the Army and I use it a lot to make sense of current issues the Army is facing from a logistics perspective.

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 many of the challenges our country is currently facing, we have dealt with before. It is up to all of us to work toward a better future for the country. All it takes is all of us stopping and listening to another person’s opinion and taking their viewpoint into consideration. Every class was designed to have those discussions and understand another’s viewpoint. It was a place for debate and discussion — two things we have drifted away from as a whole collective society.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because it was affordable and the class schedule fit my professional timeline. Additionally, my mother and younger brother are alumni from ASU.

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

A: This is a tough question as every professor I had was great. But if I were to narrow it down to one it would have to be Dr. Peter Van Cleave. When I first started the program in the fall of 2018, he was the one I had my first class with and several after that. He was very open with his classes and offered lots of great feedback on discussion board topics and even all my papers. I believe he allowed me to grow as a young historian over the last three years. He is a true professional and one of the best.

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

A: Keep going! You’ve got this. Continue to approach all topics with an open mind and have open dialogue with your peers. Balance life and school. You can still have fun while pursuing a graduate degree. Once you get to the end you will look back at where you came from and smile because you will know you did it. Oh, and when they get to the capstone portion of the program, revise, revise and revise some more.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I was an online student and my favorite spot for studying was my own study in my house. I would usually play and listen to some electronic trance music and work on my assignments.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Currently planning on taking a break for a while from higher education. I will be working towards my Arizona teaching certification in 2022. I do want to pursue another master’s degree in the future, either in education from the University of Southern California or foreign diplomacy from the University of Arizona.

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

A: Climate change. This is not just any one country’s problem. This is the whole world’s problem. As John F. Kennedy once said, “For in the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s futures. And we are all mortal.”

Rachel Bunning

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

Online history graduate student reflects on his student experience as a digital archivist


November 29, 2021

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

Clinton Roberts wanted to earn his master’s degree in history for the last 20 years, but life kept interrupting his plans. That was until one day in 2019 when he came across an advertisement for Arizona State University Online.  Clinton Roberts Clinton Roberts is graduating with his master's degree in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Download Full Image

“I am so glad I reached out to ASU and applied,” Roberts said. “Going back to get my master’s has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life.”

As a student, Roberts became an intern for A Journal of the Plague Year: An Archive of COVID-19, a digital archive created by history faculty at ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. He created the "Rural Voices" collection for the archive to look at the effect of COVID-19 on rural communities.

His internship turned into a position as a digital archivist for six months and while employed, he coordinated the curation of oral histories. 

“My time at (the Journal of a Plague Year) became an integral part of my graduate school experience,” said Roberts.

Roberts will graduate with his master’s degree in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies this semester. 

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

Answer: I was lucky to find my major reasonably early in my college career. But I think my "aha" moment came during my undergraduate (time) at Oklahoma State University. That’s where I met my first mentor, Dr. Neil Hackett. I wish I had a recording of all his lectures. He taught history like an unraveling tale. In those moments, I went from being a mere history student to loving the discipline. I owe a lot of my success to his guidance.

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

A: One of the most important things I learned while at ASU was transitioning my historical knowledge into a career. I have had great experiences with the faculty at ASU. If it was not for their guidance, then I would not have had a chance to publish my academic article, “‘Rural Voices’ Pandemic Collection Shares Quiet Stories of Loss and Hope During COVID-19,” on (the school's) blog. I also would not have had the ability to join a top international COVID-19 archive like (the Journal of a Plague Year). I will always be grateful for the opportunities ASU has given me.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU after examining some of the other graduate programs that were being suggested to me. I looked at the programs and ASU was definitely the best fit for me. I wanted an online program, but with on-campus staff. In addition, ASU’s online history program was consistently rated among the best. It was an easy choice and I decided to become a Sun Devil.

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

A: While at ASU, Dr. Kole de Peralta taught me the most about transitioning my academics to reach the next level. Without her help, I would have never been able to become an archivist or had my academic article published.

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

A: My best piece of advice to those still in school is to use your time wisely. There is a lot of work in the master’s program and time management is an essential aspect of success at this level. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: My favorite spot for power studying was definitely my desk at home. The year 2020 was a challenging year for many of us and finding comfort in my own home became essential to keeping my education in focus. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I began my teaching career over the summer and I suspect for now that will continue. I hope to pursue my PhD one day, but teaching secondary education has my immediate attention covered.

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

A: That is such a difficult question. It would be hard to make a global change on any particular issue with $40 million. But I do believe you can make tremendous changes to people’s lives. I would create a scholarship and help underprivileged students go to college. An investment of $40 million could help produce the next doctor that saves lives or the next scientist that solves a worldwide crisis. If we invested $40 million in our future and improved all those lives? That would be such a small investment for all of the good it could achieve.

Rachel Bunning

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