Mother, community, service inspire 2022 grad

Portrait of ASU grad Arianna Tillman.

Arianna Tillman is graduating from ASU with a bachelor's degree in medical studies and plans to apply to medical schools. Photo courtesy Arianna Tillman


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

Arianna Tillman was inspired by her community and her mother to pursue a bachelor’s degree in medical studies at Arizona State University.

“I realized that I wanted to be pre-med when I learned about the many health care disparities that affect Black Americans,” Tillman said.

“Along with those health disparities, my other motivation to pursue pre-med was my mother. She is a nurse practitioner, and hearing her speak about her job and how she helped her patients really inspired me,” she added.

Tillman will receive a Bachelor of Science in medical studies from the ASU College of Health Solutions with honors from Barrett, The Honors College in December. After graduation, she plans on working as a medical scribe and applying to medical schools.

Tillman combined academics with service while at ASU. She served as the Downtown Phoenix campus representative on the Barrett Honors College Council for two years, as an Undergraduate Student Government senator and as public relations chair for the Black Medical Students Association.

“During my undergraduate studies, I had the opportunity to form lifelong friendships with my classmates through classes like humanities and campus activities like Fall Fest. I was able to further help my peers by advocating for them through my involvement in undergraduate student government and the Black Medical Student Association,” she said.

Tillman, who is from Glendale, Arizona, said she decided to join Barrett Honors College because a close family friend and Barrett student highly recommended it.

“Upon further research, I became aware of the many unique opportunities that Barrett has to offer, like the Premedical Scholars program with the Mayo Clinic. Also, being in the honors college enhanced my ASU experience because, due to the small class sizes, I was able to establish strong relationships with my honors professors,” she said.

She also had the opportunity to complete honors contracts and an honors thesis, participate in interesting special topics courses – including one about gender, race and sexuality in Western films – and take the honors college’s signature course The Human Event.

“I absolutely loved The Human Event. It taught me to think more critically. I enjoyed the challenge of being an honors student. It showed me that I am more capable than I ever imagined,” she said.

For her honors thesis, Tillman conducted research on the success of Black science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) students who attend a predominately white institution (PWI).

“It was my goal to analyze if race-based trauma and access to Black STEM mentors had an effect on success. I chose this topic because, as a Black STEM student, I have seen many of my peers struggle with feelings of isolation and a lack of guidance from faculty. I wanted to see if this feeling of isolation was widespread,” she said.

Tillman took time out to reflect on her undergraduate experience at ASU. Here’s what she had to say.

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

Answer: Being at ASU, I definitely learned the importance of community. I was able to become as successful as I was as an undergrad because of the many friends and professors that encouraged me. During times of struggle, it is necessary to reach out to those who know more than you.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the proximity to home. I’m originally from Glendale and it’s only 30 minutes from there to the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

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

A: My organic chemistry professor Dr. Jason Houtchens taught me one of the most important lessons I learned as an undergraduate. The lesson was, sometimes you have to give up temporary happiness for success. At the beginning of the semester, he mentioned to us that we needed to be studying organic chemistry every day. I thought that this was an exaggeration before the first quiz. But once I started doing deliberate practice, my quiz grades improved significantly. 

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

A: I would tell students who are still in school to take full advantage of all the resources and events that are available on campus, especially because they’re paying for them with their student fees! 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, for studying, meeting with friends or just thinking about life?

A: My favorite spot on campus was the library in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. It is the perfect space to study. 

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

A: If I had $40 million, I would want to tackle homelessness. Living downtown, you become painfully aware of the homeless epidemic that exists in Arizona.

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