History graduate to continue his passion with museum internship


November 29, 2021

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

Aubrey Feyrer grew up in Phoenix with a love for sports, science and dinosaurs, either wanting to become an athlete or a paleontologist one day. Once he reached high school, his interests shifted towards his studies and he became passionate about his academics.  Aubrey Feyrer Aubrey Feyrer is graduating with his bachelor's in history from the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and from Barrett, The Honors College. Download Full Image

“I realized that I wanted to keep learning and studying and try to navigate a path where I could use my knowledge for my career,” Feyrer said.

He fell in love with history and decided to pursue a degree in it through Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. Not only did he enroll to earn his bachelor’s in history, but he was also accepted into Barrett, The Honors College and signed up for a minor in philosophy. 

His passion for learning awarded him the New American University Scholar Program Dean’s Award and the President Barack Obama Scholarship. He will be graduating this semester having earned six consecutive Dean’s List awards and as a member of Phi Beta Kappa, the oldest academic honor societies in the U.S.

Upon graduation he will begin an internship at the Tempe History Museum out of an interest in public history. 

“When I visited the museum and saw its structure, layout and exhibits, it was a place I knew I wanted to be involved with because of how it richly presents the history of Tempe in different ways,” Feyrer said. “These ways include architectural, environmental, sporting and cultural histories and since I have spent so much time in Tempe, the prospect of learning and engaging more with its local history is very exciting for me.”

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

Answer: The “aha” moment that made me realize I wanted to study history occurred in two parts. The first came in my sophomore year in high school. The history class I took that year was one of the most fun and enjoyable classes I had at my high school because my teacher, Mr. Ian Moses, was so passionate and engaging with how he taught the material. His teaching helped me realize that this was an interesting, important, worthwhile and valuable subject that I wanted to explore at a deeper level. This led to the second part of my “aha” moment, which came the following school year.

In my junior year, I took higher level classes for the first time, with one of them being AP U.S. history. This class was my first step towards getting a deeper and more nuanced knowledge and understanding of history as a subject and like my sophomore year, I had a fantastic experience in the class and I had another awesome teacher, Mr. Sergio Holguin. The combination of having two amazing teachers who truly cared about the material and taught it in engaging ways alongside my discovery of my dormant love for history in its many facets inspired me towards committing to it for the future. I learned many great things and had fun while doing so, which made me want to keep going and forge a more distinct path into the subject and what it could offer me.  

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

A: One thing I learned at ASU in the classroom was that regarding history and most academic subjects and settings, there are going to be multiple interpretations, angles, views and thoughts instead of something singular or all-encompassing, and this changed my perspective. Growing up, I thought that certain facts were indisputable and whatever the first statement or interpretation I heard was the right or only one. However, ASU has helped me realize that this is not the case and was never the case because we as learners and academics need to exhibit critical thinking skills and open-mindedness, which leads to not always accepting the first thing you hear. Learning how to consider multiple interpretations and think more critically, broadly and deeply helped change my academic perspectives and coincided with my growth as a student.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because the university itself was the best and most convenient choice for me personally, both financially and socially. Moving out of the state seemed very daunting and intimidating for me at the time, plus ASU ran through my family because both my dad and brother graduated from the university. In fact, my dad is currently a faculty member at ASU. However, the ultimate reason I chose ASU was because of its honors college, Barrett. As I kept growing academically in high school, I wanted to apply and see if I was cut out enough to get into Barrett, The Honors College, because it had so many alluring academic and social features that I wanted to be a part of, like the inclusive community it has, the high-level faculty employed there, the depth of courses and studies on offer, and the open layout of the complex itself. I knew that if I truly wanted to grow into the academic I am today and get the best out of my experience at the university, I had to get into Barrett. Thankfully I did, and that was the moment that solidified my commitment and enrollment at ASU.  

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

A: The professor that taught me the most important lesson at ASU is Dr. Alexander Aviña. I had the pleasure of having two classes with him and both largely looked at history through the lens of local people and how historical events affected them or vice versa. These two classes and his teachings taught me that history is vital for understanding people, societies and cultures, which few other subjects can provide. Also, I learned from his classes that history still matters and it is relevant today, even if mainstream media and opinion would suggest otherwise.  

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

A: The best piece of advice I would give to those still in school is to participate, engage with and try to take something away from your classes, no matter how large or small that takeaway is. In my time at ASU, my most enjoyable class experiences came from me putting an effort into engaging with the material and finding ways I could be involved in classroom discussions and activities. Now I understand this can be challenging or off-putting for some students, but I cannot stress enough how important participating in class is. It helps with finding meaning in your classes, makes school less intimidating or boring or whichever negative feeling it could give to someone and correlates with better and more efficient academic performances overall. Even if a certain grade or end result does not come, I wholeheartedly believe that students will get more personal satisfaction and growth from actively participating in their classes. 

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

A:  My favorite spot on campus is the Sun Devil Fitness Center Green Gym, because I always had fencing practice there alongside my friends and have many fond memories of that place.  

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My plans after graduation are to first begin my internship at the Tempe History Museum while also working a second job. In the meantime, I hope to cement my enrollment back at ASU for graduate school, with my sights set on the MA program in history, with a focus on public history. When I continue my education, I want to keep learning and growing academically and personally, and work towards attaining a professional career as a historical archivist.

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

A: If someone gave me $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, I would use the money to try and end the world’s air and environmental pollution. With so many factories and increasing industrialization, the air quality is slowly deteriorating and smog is becoming a more prevalent issue today. Furthermore, toxic waste and littering are seriously harming our environment, the creatures that live in it and many human cultures and societies around the world. I believe that investing that kind of money into tackling these issues would help make our planet healthier and a safer place to live in for all the world’s organisms: humans, plants and animals alike.

Rachel Bunning

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

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