Family and human development graduate shows perseverance in gaining a degree

November 29, 2021

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

Ahrash Farhangi has had a non-traditional path to earning his degree. He was born in Oklahoma, but spent most of his childhood living in Iran. At the time, there were two biggest pastimes in Iran — soccer or wrestling. After returning to the U.S. during his freshman year of high school, he decided to pursue both. He earned a scholarship to play soccer in college, but blew out his knee and was unable to play. His dreams of finishing college were put on hold. Ahrash Farhangi Ahrash Farhangi Download Full Image

Fast forward several years, he was married with kids and in a career he didn’t love. He was traveling more than he’d like and was missing important years of raising his children. He needed a new direction.

As he was walking past a Starbucks, he overheard the manager talking to a new employee all about the Starbucks College Achievement Plan program. He knew that was his ticket to returning to school. While attending a conference for Starbucks, they talked about how to rebuild connections and improve relationships. He was very interested in learning more about attachment styles, so when he was looking for a program at ASU, he took CDE 312: Adolescence and knew that the family and human development program was a perfect fit for him not only to reconnect with his family relationships, but also in helping build connections with the young employees that he worked with.

Farhangi had many professors that made an impact on his learning, but one that stood out to him was Dr. Jennifer Chandler. Her "Foundations Project Management" course was one of the best classes he took during his time at ASU.

“Dr. Chandler’s approach to teaching about project management was very enjoyable,” Farhangi said. “She structured the class as if she was our client. It felt like I was getting a very real-life scenario experience, which was challenging, but also very beneficial.”

Farhangi also appreciated that Chandler went above and beyond to help him succeed.

“She was very responsive and took the time to help anytime I needed it. She was very detailed in her resources that she shared to help me be successful,” he said.

Farhangi is graduating this fall with a major in family and human development and a minor in project management. Being an ASU Online student, he says he's looking forward to visiting Arizona for graduation, and hoping to visit the Grand Canyon and eat at In-N-Out Burger while he’s here.

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

Answer: Online school is very difficult and challenging. Many times, I thought of online school as being easy and a no-brainer. Wow was I wrong.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: When I was in high school, I was looking for a wrestling school to advance my wrestling career, and at the time ASU was becoming a powerhouse. Having lived in Iran and wrestling being our national pastime, I had seen Coach Jones defeat many of the world’s best wrestlers. I had somewhat of an admiration for the program. When I started to work for Starbucks and they offered an opportunity to attend ASU, I jumped on it. Last year I went to the ASU match against North Carolina and it was amazing.

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

A: Dr. (Jennifer) Chandler, I really appreciated her boldness and passion for project management. She challenged me in ways that brought the best in my approach to study and pay attention to details — no matter how small.

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

A: Plan out the semester, stay organized, get ahead and always have a backup plan for internet outage.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I spent many early and late nights sitting at the kitchen table and taking long walks listening to audio books and lectures.   

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I would like to continue working for Starbucks and transition into the construction, maintenance or human resources department. 

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

A: I would love to buy tiny homes for homeless people, and develop a community where they can be safe and provided trade skills to help our fellow citizens get back and involved in our community.

Shelley Linford

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

ASU grad finds their identity in informatics and digital culture

November 29, 2021

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

When Elizabeth Harris made the 18-hour drive for the first time to attend Arizona State University, they were unsure of themself, but sure of wanting to make a big change.  Elizabeth Harris Arizona State University informatics and digital culture graduate Elizabeth Harris came to the university to make a big change, and ended up finding that and more through their major, the communities they joined and in helping others. Download Full Image

“I went from a graduating class of 181 to a university with more than 70,000 people,” says Harris, who uses gender-neutral pronouns. “Coming to ASU helped me to find myself, separate from the things I’d held onto as an identity for the previous 17 years of my life.”

Harris found a new identity in part through the informatics major in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU and a certificate in digital culture from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

“It felt as though everything I was learning was second nature, just stored in a part of my brain that I didn’t know was there,” Harris says. “The opportunity to have a digital culture concentration and truly be at the crossroads between art, technology and humanity opened my eyes to so many career paths.”

Harris enjoyed the community of eager new students and the many learning opportunities at Tooker House, the Fulton Schools residential community. In their first year, Harris also played the role of ASU mascot Sparky for the Downtown Phoenix campus and appeared as themself on the jumbotron at football games.

Through informatics, Harris discovered that failure was fun and fixing bugs was like solving an escape room. And by participating in hackathons — even winning a second-place prize in an Action.ML hackathon — Harris had the opportunity to solve challenges and determine their niche in the field of informatics.

Harris also helped others through work as a grader and undergraduate teaching assistant. They found being a teaching assistant rewarding as they could guide students to the right answers and provide a sense of pride and accomplishment.

This opportunity came from one of Harris’ most impactful professors, Principal Lecturer ​​Farideh Tadayon-Navabi. Through Tadayon-Navabi’s classes, Harris transformed from feeling terrified to learn to code to confidently teaching concepts to others.

The experience also contributed to Harris securing an internship at IBM and earning two Grace Hopper scholarships. 

Throughout the last three-and-a-half years, Harris has gained the confidence to make space for themself in the diversifying field of engineering, where “it’s important to listen to all the voices in the room.”

After graduation, Harris will begin a junior associate project manager position with digital consulting company Publicis Sapient in Denver. Long term, Harris wants to work in artificial intelligence.

“With the birth of a new field, it’s important to have diversity in its creation,” Harris says. “Things like darker skin tones and disabilities are often forgotten with large-scale projects, and there needs to be a voice for them within the development room. I want to be in the room where it happens.”

Monique Clement

Lead communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering