Mom and daughter duo graduate through ASU Online

Both earn their degrees at the same time after supporting each other’s college journey

May 17, 2022

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

When the Pappas family — mom Maria of San Jose, California, and daughter Katianna of Scottsdale, Arizona – began their educational journeys at Arizona State University, it wasn’t their grand plan to earn their diplomas at the same time. But the timing worked out just so and they both received their ASU diploma this spring. Mother and daughter Maria and Katianna Pappas both received their degrees from ASU this spring. Download Full Image

“I love that Katianna and I are sharing this experience together,” Maria said. “We didn’t initially set out to finish at the same time, but we’re so excited to be celebrating with our family and friends. Throughout the journey, we were there to support each other, which was wonderful! It was a bonding experience.”

Maria earned her Master in Nonprofit Leadership and Management and Katianna earned a Bachelor of Applied Science in health entrepreneurship and innovation, both through ASU Online. We talked with both about their learning experience and journey together.

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

Maria: I’ve been in nonprofit work for more than 30 years and am currently the vice president of development at The Tech Interactive, a science center in downtown San Jose. So I’m not sure I really had an “aha” moment. But I learned something new in every class I took, from finance to leadership ethics to program evaluation. And that learning was thanks to both my professors and classmates.

Katianna: Originally my major was science focused, and I really enjoyed all of my STEM classes since I always had a passion for health and the sciences. When I started working, I realized I also had a huge passion and love for business, entrepreneurship and the strategy involved. I didn’t realize a health entrepreneurship and innovation program was an option for me. But when I discovered it, it sounded like the perfect mix of both my interests.

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

Maria: I’m proud of getting through a master’s program while working full time. Throughout the program, I was also able to contribute numerous real-world scenarios to each area we were learning. As a 30-year veteran of the industry, I had much to add to the discussions about how theories can be applied to a real nonprofit. 

Katianna: I’m most proud of my ability to balance work and school while still maintaining my social life. I started college in an on-campus program, but switched to ASU Online so I could continue to work full time as an IT recruiter. Getting an education and completing my degree were my main priorities, but it was important for me to have balance in my life while in school. That’s the main reason I decided to transition to an online program rather than be in person.

Q: How does it feel to be graduating at the same time as your mom/daughter? What was it like to go through the college experience at the same time?

Katianna: It was so much fun being able to share this moment with my mom. I wouldn’t want it any other way! She helped me so much throughout my academic career and I have always looked up to her dedication in both work and school. 

Maria: While in school, Katianna was a huge help when I had technology questions, or general questions. I had never been on Canvas and didn’t even know how to post a discussion when I started. We would bounce ideas off each other and sometimes vent about how hard it was to work full time and manage school – during a pandemic! It was wonderful we were there to support each other.

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

Maria: I appreciated learning about taking an asset-based perspective when approaching nonprofit work. It’s easy to start with deficits, but starting with assets is a much more respectful way to talk about our work.

Katianna: In one of my health innovation classes, we were looking at implementing tangible ways to measure health innovation in the field. I learned the importance of measurement and data collection in driving innovation.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

Maria: I knew ASU had a nonprofit leadership master’s program, but I hadn’t looked into it too seriously until I applied. I needed something 100% online as I work full time in a senior role at my institution. I was interested in the classes offered in the program and decided to apply. I also felt a connection to ASU with Katianna being there.

Katianna: My brother started at ASU, which led me to follow him from San Jose to the sunny state of Arizona. Working while going to school was really important to me, and ASU Online allowed me to transition to online learning. I knew ASU‘s program was really strong and would set me up in the right direction.

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

Katianna: Don’t be afraid to ask for help! This is your own journey and it’s not going to be easy; there will be challenges along the way. Advocating for yourself and your academic career will set you up for success in the future.

Maria: Finish! Graduating is a great accomplishment. So even when it gets hard, keep on keeping on. I’d also encourage anyone out there, no matter their age, who thinks maybe they could get a master’s degree one day, to do it. I hadn’t been in a classroom in over 30 years! It was fun learning again.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

Maria: Relax, celebrate, enjoy! I’ll catch up on all the Netflix shows people have been talking about for the past two years. Other than that, I hope to take some time to digest all I learned from the program and determine how to bring those learnings back to my own institution. I’d also like to explore how to help develop the next generation of nonprofit leaders. 

Katianna: Now that I’ve graduated, I’m going to take what I’ve learned and plan what’s next in both my career and further education. Also, some bottomless mimosas and catching up on much needed sleep.

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

Maria: I’m in development and will be trying to raise $80 million in the coming years. So if someone gave me $40 million, that would be a huge start to The Tech Interactive’s upcoming campaign. We train the next generation of problem solvers, so my $40 million would go to our efforts to bring up an entire generation of young people prepared to tackle our world’s greatest challenges. 

Katianna: I’m not sure exactly what I would do with $40 million, but I’d like to see progress made in cross collaborations between different countries with regards to solving world problems and analyzing areas of improvement. So many organizations are working independently on the same issues; if there was more sharing of research findings and collaboration, global problems could be solved.

Written by Chad Hays, senior marketing content specialist, EdPlus at Arizona State University

ASU instructor's dedication to entrepreneurial advancements leaves lasting impact

May 17, 2022

Entrepreneurship activities weren’t typically part of Arizona State University’s academic curriculum in the 1980s. But that changed when Richard Filley, an instructional professional in the Technological Entrepreneurship and Management program, joined the university in 1985.

With years of industry experience under his belt, Filley felt strongly about broadening classroom curriculum beyond textbook lessons. He envisioned globally-driven curriculum and programming that put an equal emphasis on entrepreneurship, leadership and community service activities in partnership with local industry. Portrait of ASU Instructional Professional Richard Filley. Richard Filley, an instructional professional in the technological Entrepreneurship and Management program at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University, taught more than 140 classes during his 37-year career at ASU and won the 2011 IMPACT and Fulton Difference Award for outstanding innovation among various other awards. Photo by Sona Srinarayana/ASU Download Full Image

Filley incorporated this trifecta into the foundation of many entrepreneurial programs that he founded and co-founded within the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU. Engineering Projects in Community Service, or EPICS, the Corporate Leaders Program, the Global Futures Initiative, the Fulton Schools of Engineering Internship Program (a forerunner of the Fulton Schools Career Center), various global engineering and enterprise courses and the launch of the technological entrepreneurship and management program at The Polytechnic School, one of the seven Fulton Schools, were just some of the entrepreneurially-fueled programs that Filley helped spearhead during his time at the university.

“I believed there weren’t enough leaders within industry being cultivated and developed,” Filley says.

This sentiment motivated him to infuse entrepreneurship and community service into the engineering curriculum — rooting it in leadership principles.

Filley will retire in June but leaves behind a robust legacy in these areas. Part of that legacy is the Richard D. Filley Make a Difference Award that he established for ASU engineering students who have demonstrated entrepreneurial accomplishments and have future startup potential.

Merging engineering academics with corporate experience

One of the first programs Filley developed was the Corporate Leaders Program, which enabled engineering graduate students to develop and apply leadership skills through community service projects while simultaneously getting corporate experience through an industry sponsor. Students were able to directly apply the concepts they learned in the classroom to an extended environment.

ASU industrial engineering and Corporate Leaders Program alumna Jannine Prokop says one of the benefits of the program was that she was given a generous stipend by her industry sponsor for working part time so that she could go to school full time — a benefit offered to all Corporate Leaders Program students.

“Along with propelling me into my career, I gained an instant family in the program,” says Prokop, who is currently a chief of staff at NXP Semiconductors. “I’m still friends with many of the connections I made in the program.”

Filley was able to bring in a constant stream of industry funding to support the program due to its high success rate. He secured $18 million dollars over the 20 years that the program was active and says it benefitted both students and industry.

“One of the reasons we were able to keep the companies coming back year after the year was because they would hire close to 90% of the students they collaborated with,” Filley says. “One of Motorola’s plant managers at the time pointed out that they had almost 20 managers in that building from our program, and a similar scenario played out at Honeywell.”

When engineering directly impacts the community

EPICS was a program developed by Filley and Jim Collofello, vice dean of academic and student affairs and a professor in the School of Computing and Augmented Intelligence, one of the seven Fulton Schools, based on an opportunity at Purdue University. It is now a national, award-winning, social entrepreneurship program at ASU, enabling students to use their engineering skills to benefit the community. Filley directed EPICS for three years and continues to mentor students of the program.

Chemical engineering and EPICS alumni Taylor Barker and Lindsay Fleming designed a water purification system with a community partner during their time in the program. The device eventually ended up being deployed in an African community.

“Filley encouraged us by saying, ‘You can’t win if you don’t apply,’ and made sure we knew we were more than engineers and could think broadly about business concepts, too,” says Barker, who currently works for medical device and health care company Abbott as a product manager.

Globally effective engineering

As a student, ASU mechanical engineering and Global Futures Initiative member Holland Van de Krol heard about a new multidisciplinary program that combined engineering and international affairs and knew she wanted to be a part of it.

Filley says that the idea behind the Global Futures Initiative stemmed from “wanting to bring global perspectives directly to student projects.”

When it came time to learn about the African continent, a group of Global Futures Initiative students, including Van De Krol, virtually set off for Africa. They reenacted and modernized an actual caravan led by Airstream founder Wally Byam, traveling from Cape Town, South Africa, to Cairo, Egypt, in 50 Airstream trailers in the 1950s.

“We were tasked with trip logistics and successfully getting from destination to destination,” says Van de Krol, who currently works as a systems engineer for Arizona Public Service. “We also developed technology solutions for a rural community in Australia during my time in the program.”

Van de Krol says these experiences gave her the confidence to travel, and she ended up traveling to 24 countries in her first job out of college.

Traveling was a key part of Filley’s global curriculum. ASU sent him abroad more than 50 times to support students in gaining global perspectives. He spoke in 23 different countries on entrepreneurship and leadership over the span of his career.

Infusing entrepreneurship into the engineering classroom

Filley developed courses that infused concepts from the Corporate Leaders Program, EPICS and the Global Futures Initiative for undergraduate students at the Tempe campus and later at the Polytechnic campus.

He also provided guidance to students who designed projects for ASU Venture Devils, the Edson Student Entrepreneur Institute and various national and international entrepreneurship competitions.

One of those students is third-year computer information systems and technological entrepreneurship and management dual major Devarshan Patel. After taking a course with Filley, Patel decided to become an undergraduate teaching assistant for two of Filley’s courses. Through this experience, Patel honed his entrepreneurial skills, and this year he was in the running for two Venture Devils awards for his startup concepts, winning $20,000 for one of them.

“Under Professor Filley’s leadership, I was able to launch one of my startups in his course,” Patel says. “We do everything from ideation to execution and copywriting, copyrights, patents, legal formalities, building software, hardware, prototype graphics and everything else involved in a startup.”

Making a difference

After 27 years at the Tempe campus, Filley moved to the Polytechnic campus. As a founding director of the Polytechnic campus, he continued to bring industry and students together through various programs. In 2013, Filley joined the technological and entrepreneurship management program, where he became the lead faculty member for social entrepreneurship.

Over the course of his 37-year career, many of Filley’s graduates have gone on to start businesses that promote all kinds of innovation.

“I feel like one of my secrets to success is helping students believe that they can do anything they put their minds to,” Filley says. “I helped take away the barriers that students put up around themselves, and once they realized they could make a difference, they started to go out and do exactly that.”

This was a common theme through all of Filley’s successes during his career at ASU — making a difference. And it’s what he decided to title his award.

“Enabling and empowering students who have a great idea requires resources like this,” says Fleming, who currently works for Avient Corporation as a health care sales manager. “As students, we competed for awards like this, and it built our confidence beyond the skill set engineers have.”

Following retirement, Filley will continue judging for Venture Devils, Edson and other successor programs at ASU. He plans to guest lecture and stay active at campus events, while also writing his novel and enjoying spending time and traveling the world with his wife, children and grandchildren.

“I am grateful to ASU for giving me the freedom to create programs that attract change-making students,” Filley says. “It has been my privilege to work with incredibly talented students who want to make a difference and change the world.”

Sona Patel Srinarayana

Sr communications specialist, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts