Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2022 graduates.
Randy Chavez is one of the first two students to graduate from ASU Local, Arizona State University’s new hybrid university experience, in Los Angeles.
During his journey, Chavez initially pursued his physical therapy degree at a local community college. However, he took a leap to transition into a creative career, transferring to ASU to obtain his bachelor’s in communications from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications.
“I remember dreading having to take a chemistry class for my physical therapy program,” Chavez said. “During that time, I was really into local radio and was craving doing something creative like a journalism role. I told my friend: ‘Hey, I will give this a try. I’m going to switch my major to communications and get a radio industry internship. If I don’t get a job at the end of the internship, I’ll go back to what I was doing.'”
Chavez took the leap, even though he and his parents were a bit apprehensive about his financial future in a creative field as a first-generation Latino student. Fast forward, Chavez obtained an internship at a radio station which later turned into a job. Currently, he works producing podcasts for the National Football League (NFL).
When asked what it means to be one of the first students to graduate from ASU Local, Chavez laughed and said, “It hasn’t fully hit me yet! I never thought I would be graduating from Arizona State University via a local program in Los Angeles. It makes me happy to be part of something new — I would even say revolutionary — because this could potentially be the future of education.
“ASU Local has given me a different, new, robust way of studying and obtaining my education to continue my career. To pursue what I like to do and still get the education that I wanted in my own backyard — L.A.”
To help him fund his education, Chavez was awarded the ASU Local Scholarship, the ASU Local First 50 scholarship and the ASU Summer University Grant. Most ASU Local students qualify for merit-based or grant-based support.
As we prepared to celebrate this year’s exciting graduation, our ASU Local team sat with Chavez to learn more about his unique experience with ASU Local.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU Local that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Answer: For me, the big lightbulb moment was how easy it was to speak to an ASU Local counselor. Coming from a relatively big community college, one had to set appointments to talk to a counselor, and it was a complicated process. The ASU Local counselor reached out quickly and scheduled a convenient time for us to talk. It was the first time I felt, within an educational institution, that I was not a number. I felt like I was part of a family, if you will, part of a group.
Q: Why did you choose ASU Local?
A: I discovered ASU Local in an Instagram ad. I was trying to decide where to transfer, and I was torn between a couple of state schools or online programs. COVID-19 had just begun. ASU Local seemed to have their stuff together, and the program made the most sense: high-level education delivered conveniently. I obtained an excellent education, took great classes and did it on my own time. It was the most well-rounded option.
Q: Which professor or coach taught you the most important lesson at ASU Local?
A: Student success coach Stefan Kennerly has been my go-to person most of the time I’ve been in the program. He’s been the most vital to my success, checking up on me regularly and even helping me find housing — we have a Slack channel to help students find accommodations. Stefan taught me how to be successful in the program. It was also good to have someone to talk to — especially as an upperclassman since most students in the program are in their first and second year. Talking with Stefan helped me not feel alone. I could tell him how I was feeling about school, and he listed and validated my experience.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Be forgiving and good to yourself. So often, we stress out about the silliest things. You have to accept that you’ll make mistakes. You will experience failure. There will be moments when you realize that what you’re doing isn’t suitable for you or isn’t something you enjoy. The most important thing you can do is to be supportive of yourself. Projecting negativity onto yourself isn’t going to help you. Instead, it will hinder your progress. Being forgiving and easy on yourself is the best thing you can do.
Q: What was your favorite spot on your ASU Local site or your city, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: I’m a very low-key person. I like hanging out in one of the quiet study rooms in the Herald Examiner Building and being with my thoughts, compiling my notes, doing coursework, looking at my calendar and planning. Life feels pretty loud, especially in downtown L.A. and it’s even louder outside the city. Citywise, my favorite stop is anywhere that is spacious, mellow and has coffee. I like my coffee black, like a cold shower to get me going. Although I occasionally savor the opportunity to enjoy a specialty coffee, like a nice latte or a Cuban café.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Producing podcasts for the NFL has been a great experience. I want to continue working in a creative field while discovering new opportunities. I’d also love to see other ASU Local fellows pursue creative careers and cross paths with them. L.A. is massive, and there is opportunity everywhere to intern and work.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would invest the funds in educating underprivileged people — especially children in Central America — about leveraging the internet technology and economy for their benefit. You can make money; you can find work and get an education off the internet. There is so much underrepresented communities can tap into if our communities begin to leverage nascent technologies — take coding, for example. Many people are unaware of the opportunities created by the growing need for tech roles.
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