ASU grad follows her mother's example in caring for children


November 29, 2021

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

Taylor O’Connor has always had a soft spot in her heart for children. Her mother was a preschool teacher ever since she could remember. Her example of teaching with love and patience had a big impact on O’Connor. She was able to help her mom at the preschool throughout high school. The examples of the children also had a big impact on her. Taylor OConnor Image provided by Taylor O'Connor Download Full Image

"There is something about children that is so uplifting," O’Connor said. "I was born crossed eyed, but always felt that kids were so accepting. Seeing their ability to see past the differences of others helped me to know that I wanted to learn more about their development.”

O’Connor is graduating this fall with a degree in family and human development. She plans to follow in her mother’s footsteps and become a preschool director someday. We asked her a few questions about her experience here at ASU.

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

Answer: My "aha" moment was not necessarily a moment but a pathway that my mother had led me down. My mother has been the calmest, most patient and inspiring teacher. She has been working at a preschool since I was around 3 years old. Every day after school, I would go and help her with her class until the school closed. Getting to help children learn and watch their brains grow has always felt uplifting and inspiring. After years of shadowing my mother, I was able to have my own job at the same preschool I had attended for years, when I reached the age of 16. At this time, I was able to learn more and more about the different types of development and milestones each child has throughout their childhood. I always knew I wanted to work with children in some way. By studying family and human development it has helped me understand children's thinking from a new perspective.

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

A: While studying at ASU, I have found myself in engaging classes that expand my understanding of our society. When having a family and human development major, you learn about the different relationships that individuals gain throughout their life course. You understand the different phases in life and can relate them to your own. When it comes to having a sociology minor, you gain a deeper understanding of our society and how it functions. These classes have changed my perspective about how our society functions today.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose to go to Arizona State University because of its location and the opportunities it provided. When looking into ASU, I found that they had an amazing family and human development program. Being the youngest and only sibling to attend Arizona State University compared to the University of Arizona has been a great experience.

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

A: While attending ASU, I've made great connections with multiple teachers over the past few years. One that stands out to me is Professor Stacie Foster. She was one of the first teachers I had here at ASU. She taught FAS 101: Personal Growth in Human Relationships. This class helped me strengthen my personal relationships while being away from my family for the first time. It was a great reminder to tell your family members you love them and check in on others in your life. Many of these lessons we discussed in class continue to help build my relationships now and in the future.

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

A: Communication is key! Reaching out to your professors with any questions or concerns has helped me throughout my time at ASU. I've learned how to strengthen my schoolwork and work ethic, as well as reached a deeper level of understanding of the curriculum given to me by teachers. If you do not understand an assignment, it is okay to reach out. Although it made me nervous to reach out, after the first time speaking with a teacher, it made it easier to do it with other classes as well.

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

A: The best study spot on the ASU campus is a secret garden in between some of the buildings. It's the perfect study spot or place to hang out with your friends. There are some beautiful plants to look at as well as some sweet birds that will land right next to you. I can't disclose its exact location but it takes a few tunnels to get there. It's one of the most peaceful places on campus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plan after graduation is to continue to strengthen my skills as a family and human development major and become a preschool director. I want to be a part of a child's growth process by helping them reach their milestones and help their brains grow over time. With the communication and connections skills that I have learned from ASU, I can build relationships with parents and families while providing a caring environment for their children.

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

A: If someone were to give me $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would put it towards quality education for everyone. I would implement a plan to build schools in underfunded areas. Everyone should have an opportunity to gain an education regardless of their class, gender or racial status.

Shelley Linford

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

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