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Medallion Scholar finds network of passionate people

April 07, 2022

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.

Many students walk past Old Main each day, but few enter the building during their time at ASU. This isn’t the case for spring graduate Alyssa Duran, who calls Old Main her “home away from home.”

As a member of the Medallion Scholars Program and Student Alumni Association, Duran could often be found planning, volunteering and attending events in ASU’s oldest building.

“Old Main truly has a special place in my heart and will always remind me of what it means to be a Sun Devil,” Duran said.

It was the W. P. Carey School of Business that initially brought Duran to Tempe from Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was impressed by the strong network of professors with industry experience, mentorship opportunities and organizations that allowed students to gain relevant experience during their undergraduate careers. This May, Duran will graduate with a degree in business management.

Prior to choosing her current major, Duran studied digital marketing. She enjoyed that she could combine both her creative and technical skills in this field, but found herself being pulled to learn more about how companies can establish a strong culture.

“I decided to switch from digital marketing to business management to pursue more classes that focused on leadership strategies, human resources management and global business management,” Duran said.  

Despite changing her course of study, she continued to be involved in student organizations and internships at digital marketing firms so that she could pursue her passions for both disciplines.

Duran was pleasantly surprised by the leadership opportunities that were available to her as not only a student, but a Medallion Scholar. She recalls mentioning to the Medallion Scholarship adviser that she was interested in learning more about special events planning and they connected her with one of the planners for ASU’s commencement ceremonies.  

“I worked with the graduation staff on organizing the event and learning about the necessary communication plans to make such a large event happen,” she said.

Duran even led the Herberger Institute for Design and Art Class of 2019 down the field for commencement as a flag bearer.

The Medallion Scholarship gave Duran access to plentiful opportunities, and provided her with a network of people who are passionate about service and leadership. Duran appreciated that through the Medallion Scholars leadership development course, she had a space to talk about challenges she and others were facing, create service plans to impact various communities and meet lifelong friends. 

“If you had told me that some of my best friends would be working on NASA solar panels, leading a marketing project for NBC Universal, and serving as a community engagement leader for the U.S. surgeon general, I wouldn’t have believed that I could’ve met these people,” she said. “Passionate leaders who want to make an impact in their communities are drawn to ASU, and that’s who I wanted to surround myself with.”

In addition to the leadership development that came with being a Medallion Scholar, Duran learned some valuable lessons from Professor Rivadavia Drummond of the W. P. Carey School of Business. Duran described his classroom management as being similar to how a CEO would run a company in an open forum meeting. She appreciated how he could translate abstract ideas into actionable goals, and said he presented his ideas in engaging and meaningful ways.

“I have been able to emulate some of Dr. Drummond’s leadership tactics in my own leadership roles to create open dialogue on large projects and challenge ideas,” Duran said.

One group that she is particularly interested in impacting are high school students. If given $40 million to solve a problem, she said she would choose to invest in social media education and mental health training tools, from the perspective of individuals who have grown up with social media. 

“There is extensive research on the psychological impact of social media, but these researchers may have biases about the people that use these platforms or don’t see the value of having a social media account,” Duran said.

She suggests that the standard advice of removing oneself from social media can actually isolate teens; social media forms much of popular culture, shares news and gives access for friends and family to see important life moments.  Duran added that logically, people can understand social media is a "highlight reel," but our brains process images in the subconscious and "irrational" parts of our brains.

“There needs to be a set of strategies to help individuals process negative emotions and reconnect with who they are, even as a participant of social media,” she said.

Duran’s advice to those still in school is to take a variety of courses that help build soft skills, such as public speaking and negotiations, and more fun courses to help discover interests.  

“Classes like ‘Personal Style and Wardrobe’ or ‘Team Building and Collaboration’ can help you discover topics that you are passionate about, identify personal strengths and weaknesses, and ultimately provide the tools to communicate who you are to other people,” she said.

After graduation, Duran plans on pursuing a career in digital marketing to help companies establish authentic connections with their consumers.

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