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Student ambassador reflects on full circle university experience

This spring, Mia Spanyers, a Barrett, The Honors College at ASU student, will graduate from The College with dual bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and mathematics.

April 22, 2022

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

Before Mia Spanyers became an Arizona State University student, she visited the Tempe campus a few times from her hometown near Austin, Texas. During one of her visits, she had the opportunity to hear from a panel of student ambassadors in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Now, four years later and nearing graduation, Spanyers is on the other side of the panel, serving as the president of The College Ambassadors.

“I remember when I was visiting I was really interested in the students who were telling their stories and doing panels and the tours and all that stuff,” Spanyers said. “I was always pretty interested in that sort of thing, so that definitely drew me in. Now I'm doing that for prospective students, which is nice.”

Along with serving as the president of The College Ambassadors, Spanyers also completed a research apprenticeship through the School of Human Evolution and Social Change at the Center for Archaeology and Society, where she had the opportunity to assist in the collection, investigation, standardization and reorganization of data that will be integrated into the center’s collections database. 

This spring, Spanyers, a Barrett, The Honors College student, will graduate from The College with dual bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and mathematics. Here, she shares more about her experiences at ASU and what’s next for her.

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study mathematics and anthropology?

Answer: I didn't really have a program, field or subject that I was interested in studying when I was in high school. So I picked math because it was what I was good at. It was something I was always drawn to from a young age; I always excelled in my math classes. It wasn't until my second semester that I took a stats course, so that's where that concentration sort of came in and that kind of just felt right to me. I knew that I always had an inkling for statistics and it always just made sense to me.

With anthropology, it wasn't my initial concurrent degree. I actually added global health first. Starting my sophomore year, I started taking an Intro to Global Health course and other anthropology courses — that was another field that I was really interested in. I didn't necessarily want to be a doctor or anything, but I always found it very interesting and just wanted to see where that would take me. After that initial anthropology class I realized that I loved it so much and knew I definitely wanted to pursue it. 

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

A: I would say Katelyn Bolhofner. I think her class, which I took on the West campus, was by far my favorite class that I've taken. There have been so many incredible classes that I've taken, but with hers she really emphasized the importance of us understanding the material while having fun. She is a forensic anthropologist outside of being a professor, so all of the material that she was teaching is super interesting to her and she's really passionate about it. Her biggest takeaway for us to bring out of the class was just to find something that we felt like we resonated with or something that was interesting. There was definitely not a focus on grades or performing and doing perfectly. We had the space to pursue outside projects if we wanted to, or to stay after class in the lab to ask questions that were purely out of interest. Her expertise and the way she approaches education really resonated with me.

Q: Did you encounter any challenges? If so, how have you overcome them?

A: I would say COVID-19 is a big one. When it first happened, I was a sophomore and I ended up going home that semester in March right after spring break. I packed up, moved out of the dorms, and went home and finished the semester at home. That was rough — trying to finish my classes for the semester at home with the rest of my family was very difficult. But it definitely did teach me more about where I prefer to get work done, or that I don't like to do work in my room. 

Making friends, especially in a new place that I am completely lost in, was overwhelming at the beginning. It was really great that I had one other person in my dorm freshman year who was also from out of state, so neither of us really knew anyone. But there were some moments that I broke out of my shell and went and sat at a table in the dining hall where I knew nobody and just sat and started a conversation with people, which is crazy out of my comfort zone. 

There have been little things here and there that I've encountered that have caused minor hardships for me, but I think it all comes down to personal growth and learning experiences. I'm happy that I was able to have the opportunity to be an out-of-state student and explore Phoenix and Arizona.

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

A: I would say for those who are still in school, I think that it's really important to find one thing. Just one thing that you really like. School can be overwhelming for everyone, so I think finding one thing throughout your day that you look forward to, or that brings you joy or happiness, no matter how small it is. You also have to be kind to yourself, especially because of the time that we're in now. Go easy on yourself. It's okay to take breaks, it's OK to sleep, it's OK to eat, it's OK to exercise and to take a break and go on a walk.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: My post-graduation plans are still up in the air. I am in the process of applying to a few online graduate school programs for data science. I definitely want to get my master's degree, whether that is this coming fall or semesters out from now. Whether I do a grad program or take a year off to travel or work, I am excited about it. 

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