ASU Online graduate gains perspective abroad

Online studies help grad pursue immersive learning opportunities

April 25, 2022

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

Jeffery Pendleton chose to study online to live out what he learned in the virtual classroom.  ASU Online graduate Jeffery Pendleton poses in front of a lake with a large fountain spout in the middle Download Full Image

Although he hails from Liberty, Kentucky, Pendleton spent three-and-a-half years in France, Switzerland, Luxembourg and other parts of Europe. He accomplished what he calls a “self-designed long-term ethnographic experience” while obtaining a Bachelor of Arts in anthropology from the School of Human Evolution and Social Change within The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Since he was a child, Pendleton has been interested in understanding the human experience from multicultural perspectives.

“When I was 11, I began teaching myself foreign languages as a way to gain access to more information about unique experiences across cultures,” Pendleton said.

In grade school, Pendleton explored the natural and social sciences before initially studying linguistics at the first university he attended. Following a break from education that led him abroad to France, Pendleton felt the time was right to finish his degree. After completing a Universal Learner Course on human origins, he knew transferring to ASU Online was the right choice.

“I get the same education as someone attending courses in person taught by the exact same professors, all the while living abroad and applying what I learn everyday,” Pendleton said. 

Completing his bachelor's degree at ASU is just the first step in Pendleton’s educational journey. Read below to learn more about his college experience and where he’s headed next.

Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of as an ASU Online student?

Answer: I am most proud of advocating and creating community for my fellow ASU Online students. I am the founder and president of the online branch of the Undergraduate Anthropology Association at ASU, which I established to foster community within online anthropology students and to provide us with the same networking and educational opportunities available to on-campus students. 

Similarly, I advocate for the wider ASU Online student community as an inaugural member of the Online Student Government Advocacy Group and the chief justice of the OSGAGOnline Student Government Advocacy Group Supreme Court.

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

A: I learned that an online university experience is worth what I paid. Truthfully, when I first enrolled at ASU, I was skeptical. Although I had read many great things about the online student experience, I was worried that I wouldn't be challenged, the courses would just be boring readings and writings, professors would never know my name, etc. All of that couldn't have been further from the truth to what I experienced. The courses were dynamic and immersive, the lectures were expertly produced and kept my attention and the professors made sure they were available to meet with us for virtual office hours.

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

A: In my Individualized Instruction course on intercultural hermeneutics, Dr. Nina Berman taught me there is no one way to do science. In an attempt to understand the world and the people that live in it, the different fields of study ask many of the same questions. In this course, I learned the importance of examining a question from multiple perspectives, which leads to different answers to the same problem. I also learned the importance of taking diverse approaches to research, and that respecting others’ methods help us all progress. 

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

A: Don't be afraid to ask for help and opportunities. It’s been my experience that professors will do everything in their power to help you succeed. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be attending the University of Cambridge to earn a Master of Philosophy in biological anthropological science, followed by a PhD if all goes to plan. My research will focus on how risk alleles connected with highly polygenic psychiatric disorders may offer cognitive advantages, and could therefore be favored by selection. 

My research will contribute to better understanding the origins of social cognition, metacognition, theory of mind and brain-culture coevolution. My findings may further establish the neurodiversity paradigm. I hope it provides evidentiary support to shift what are commonly called psychiatric disorders to being viewed as adaptive responses to adversity and ecological change, as opposed to pathology. I hope my work helps change the perception of mental disorders, as well as leads to novel ideas about when and how to treat them.

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

A: I would invest it in providing access to education in impoverished areas of the world. With more opportunity available, people may use their unique perspectives to develop new problem-solving techniques to help their communities to prosper.

Written by Lexy Fairfield, marketing content specialist, EdPlus at Arizona State University

ASU Online student and Starbucks partner aims to design sustainable urban cities

First-generation grad aims to make a difference with sustainable urban design

April 25, 2022

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

Imagine a future sustainable city with modular buildings, vertical farming and local production of important goods all nearby. Work, grocery stores, restaurants and other common destinations are just a short walk or bike ride away.  Download Full Image

This is the future Arizona State University graduate Conor Kennett hopes to build in his career. 

“Cities like Detroit shrunk because they did not have a long-lasting sustainable industry to keep their economic growth going and so they suffered,” Kennett said. “I want to create something that will be long lasting while also being sustainable for the environment.”

Kennett, a first-generation student from Minneapolis, is graduating this spring with an online Bachelor of Science in urban planning from the College of Liberal Arts in Sciences. He’s also earned a minor in sustainability and a certificate in geographic information science. 

Kennett was able to attend college thanks to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, a first-of-its-kind partnership that provides qualifying Starbucks partners with 100% tuition coverage to earn an undergraduate degree through ASU Online

“I chose ASU because Starbucks gave me a scholarship for it,” Kennett said. “Without that scholarship, I would have never gone to college. I am so glad I did though because ASU has been an amazing experience and the teachers and faculty have been incredible in my journey.”

Read on to hear more from Kennett about this ASU experience and advice for current students. 

Question: What accomplishment are you most proud of as an ASU Online student?

Answer: I am super proud to be graduating with honors and having made the dean’s list three semesters considering for me school has always been a challenge. I was a C student in high school and never saw myself as someone who could even get B’s let alone A’s. I just needed to find the subjects that were interesting to me I guess!

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

A: I think when I started talking to a coworker about urban planning as he was attending ASU for the program it started to click for me a bit, but then after talking with someone at ASU about the program and what sort of career paths it could lead to is when it really started to sink in. I think city design is really interesting and all of the factors that go into it fascinate me. There are certainly some dream projects that I want to work on at some point if I can.

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

A: I think taking classes that were unrelated directly to my field really brought me some perspective and one class, in particular, was about extreme weather. The class made us look at extreme weather events occurring around the world each week and I remember looking into major flooding that was happening in Iran. I didn’t think it flooded in Iran, but they have seasonal floods that are really destructive and that year they were particularly bad. It helped to alter my perspective in a way that everyone in the world is dealing with issues and we (the United States) can't think it's all about us.

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

A: I think Professor Ronald Dorn was probably the most influential professor at ASU though honestly there were many. He really showed me that learning can be fun and taught me how to crave knowledge. Something about his candor and his passion for being an educator really changed me as a student. I do not think I would’ve completed my degree without his influence and I hope I can express that in person at some point because I want him to know how pivotal his role was in my education.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying? 

A: I do all my homework and study at my desk in my apartment because secretly I am a hermit. It is my comfort zone and I filled my space with lots of nice stuff so I don’t like leaving it very often.

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

A: Find your passion and then work for it. The things you will be passionate about will not come to you easily and no one is born for it. You don’t decide to be a doctor on a whim, you work towards it with a fervor and unrivaled passion because you care about people. You don’t become a lawyer because it sounds cool, you choose that path because you care about justice and equality. Never give up on yourself and keep going because it will be worth it to finish that degree. This is the best investment you can make in life and it is worth it.

Written By Stephanie Morse, marketing content specialist, EdPlus at ASU