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ASU Online graduate gains perspective abroad

Online studies help grad pursue immersive learning opportunities

ASU Online graduate Jeffery Pendleton poses in front of a lake with a large fountain spout in the middle
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. 

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

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