ASU grad pursues dream by combining passion of art and communication studies


December 8, 2021

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

For as long as she can remember, Melanie Utter has loved to create art. Photo of Melanie Utter This fall, Melanie Utter will receive her bachelor’s degree in communication studies, with a minor in studio art from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Afterward, she will continue as a graduate student in the interdisciplinary studies master’s program at the ASU West campus. Download Full Image

“I’ve always been incredibly passionate about animation and children’s literature, and I wanted to be the person who could create artwork for other people to be inspired by,” she said.

As she ventured into various artistic mediums — colored pencils, animation, watercolors and sketching — Utter found that creating artwork for friends and family members left a strong emotional impact on both the recipients and herself.

“I knew I wanted to be able to continue doing that in my future as well,” Utter said.

This fall, she will receive her bachelor’s degree in communication studies, with a minor in studio art from the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences. Afterward, she will continue as a graduate student in the interdisciplinary studies master’s program at the ASU West campus.

“I wanted to pursue a degree in communication because honestly, it was a great way for me to get out of my comfort zone and to learn a skill that I felt was so essential in today’s world. But I also wanted to be able to represent myself and my artwork because I’m very passionate about all the things I can create, and my creativity, so I wanted to find a comfortable way to pursue that and be able to intertwine both of my passions,” she said.

Throughout her time at ASU, Utter was not only able to combine her passion for art and communication studies, but also come one step closer to her dream of becoming an illustrator and author of children’s novels.

Question: What are some unique skills you gained as a communication major?

Answer: From communication studies, I learned a lot about leadership and also representing myself. I gained skills like public speaking, intercultural communication, and I also learned a lot about theory and rhetoric, which helped me inspire a lot of my artwork.

Q: What made you interested in pursuing a master’s degree?

A: I wanted to pursue a master’s degree because of the 4+1 program and because it was an opportunity for me to further my skills and take everything I learned to the next level. I am really hoping to accumulate all of my experiences and passions into a strong final project in my master’s program. By the end of my program, I’m hoping to illustrate and write my own children’s book, based on all of the research I’ve accumulated over the years at ASU.

Q: What do you love most about the ASU West campus?

A: During my time at ASU, I was able to receive wonderful feedback and support from both students and faculty. My professors saw my work and always encouraged me to go even further with it. ASU West is an amazing community, and you’re able to work with professors one-on-one and gain a lot of feedback from them. In my case, I was able to work with professors who gave me the confidence to go beyond my undergraduate degree. This was enough for me to realize I had the potential to not only pursue a graduate program, but to do well.

Q: Reflecting on your time at ASU, how do you feel you’ve grown as a person?

A: The experiences and opportunities I’ve had here at ASU have helped me hone my skills, become the person I truly want to be, and of course prepare me for the future. I cannot wait to continue my education here, and I’m proud to be a Sun Devil.

Amber Orquiz

Digital Media Specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

602-543-6450

Marketing director returns to ASU after 25 years, completes online master’s degree


December 8, 2021

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

For nearly everyone, the COVID-19 pandemic has come with major life changes, new routines and maybe a different outlook on life. Arizona State University student Kelly Freter is no exception.  This fall, Kelly Freter will receive a master's degree in political psychology; she also earned her bachelor's degree in journalism from ASU in 1996. “For me, my ASU story isn’t about how it’s never too late. I think I’m more excited about what comes next, just like I was at 21, although I’m much better at setting boundaries and being brazen than I was back then. I don’t have any plans to graduate again from ASU at 71, but anything could happen.” Download Full Image

“As the pandemic took hold, I was lucky enough to still be working, but I was at home and as everyone knows, everything was different,” Freter said. “During that forced change, I finally paid attention to that nagging feeling of wanting to find what was next.”

What was next for Freter was something she never expected — pursuing a master’s degree in political psychology from ASU at 46 years old. She earned her bachelor’s degree in journalism from ASU in 1996.

“It will be 25 years between my two degrees, and I’ve found myself reflecting a little on this ASU-bookended journey,” she said. “... For me, my ASU story isn’t about how it’s never too late. I think I’m more excited about what comes next, just like I was at 21, although I’m much better at setting boundaries and being brazen than I was back then. I don’t have any plans to graduate again from ASU at 71, but anything could happen.”

Freter, who grew up in St. Louis and currently lives in Los Angeles, completed the master’s program through ASU Online. As the director of marketing and communication for the Los Angeles LGBT Center, she said she found the online program to be a great fit for her.

“Certainly time management is a big challenge in any program. For me it had been a long time since I had to do so much reading and homework,” she said. “But I wanted to jump-start part of my brain and skill set that I hadn’t used for quite awhile, so this program certainly gave me that opportunity.” 

Here, Freter shares more about her Sun Devil story and what’s next for her.

Question: Why did you choose ASU? 

Answer: My bachelor’s degree from ASU had carried me a long way and done some amazing things for me, but I felt like I needed a boost before I started my next career adventure. I knew ASU had a robust online program and literally just went online to see what was available and found the political psychology program. It was the course outlines and the utility of the online format that really made my decision an easy one.

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

A: The real magic of this program is that so much of it feels like learning about things that were hidden in plain sight. Most of the students in my classes had a high level of political interest coming in, and many weeks there would be a running joke in the discussion boards about what assumption that we came in with was going to get blown up by the new material that week. To be open to new ideas and experiences, you really have to give up the preciousness of what you think you know — which I guess has been the most transformative lesson from the program.

Q: Were there any opportunities that positively impacted your ASU experience?

A: I’m not sure if it was only due to COVID restrictions, but there were a lot of virtual talks and speakers sponsored by my college and the university. Those were amazing conversations to be a part of, and I hope that the virtual format can continue in some way post-COVID restrictions. The conversation with Cecilia Muñoz stands out to me the most.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school or future first-year students?

A: Take advantage of the opportunities that are available. There are a lot of great speakers and events that students can be part of, even online. And this includes being able to connect with your classmates and professors if you have questions or want to feel that you are part of a community, rather than just sitting up alone at night on your laptop doing your work. Also, if anyone is considering doing an online program at ASU: Do it. It’s a well-oiled and seamless online community. In addition to your program, the administrative, IT and financial aid support staff rock. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’ll be moving to Washington, D.C., from Los Angeles in January to start at George Washington University as part of their Master of Professional Studies political management program. I was also accepted into the Presidential Management Fellows program — it's a two-year training and leadership development program and the federal government’s premiere pipeline for moving advanced-degree graduates into government leadership positions.

Emily Balli

Multimedia specialist, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences