Quadruple major graduates with plans of helping people with disabilities

November 28, 2022

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

As a fourth-generation Arizonan, Nathaniel Ross always knew he wanted to stay in the state for the long run. So in 2019, when he was one of 20 high school seniors from Arizona selected for the Flinn Scholarship, which is a full ride to any in-state university, it was the perfect opportunity to stay.  Nathaniel Ross wearing a dark blue suit with a light blue shirt and a dark blue tie Nathaniel Ross is graduating this semester with four degrees and one minor. Download Full Image

“When considering which university to pick, ASU offered the greatest variety of opportunities, and I fell in love with the campus and its people when I visited,” Ross said. “I believe this was the right choice, as ASU has supported me in ventures that few universities would.”

Those ventures include participating in five clubs and organizations, including Embryo Project Encyclopedia, Luminosity Lab, Devils Dancesport, Undergraduate Student Government and GreenLight Solutions, as well as majoring in four disciplines and one minor. 

When Ross started out at Arizona State University, he never thought he would have four degrees by the time he graduated, but he took advantage of all the classes offered.

“I quickly found that if I kept up my pace of courses, I could do enough to complete multiple majors,” Ross said. “For me, following through with the plan helped me ensure that I was well rounded and equipped to work at the intersection of science and policy.”

Ross has been named The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences fall 2022 Dean’s Medalist for the School of Life Sciences and the School of Politics and Global Studies. He is graduating this semester with concurrent degrees in biological sciences with a concentration in biology and society, political science, history and applied quantitative science and a minor in dance

“Most semesters, I took at least 30 credits in order to graduate within four years, which required sacrifices in other areas of life, since I still wanted to sleep,” said Ross. “Doing so was worthwhile in my case, but it all comes down to your goals and whether doing a quadruple major will help you achieve those goals.”

During his time at ASU, Ross was awarded many scholarships, including the coveted Rhodes Scholarship, the Udall Scholarship, the Critical Language Scholarship Spark in Russian and the Flinn Scholarship. He was also a finalist for the Marshall Scholarship and a Harry S. Truman Scholarship.

When reflecting on his time at ASU, Ross had the following to say:

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

Answer: I came to ASU as a pre-med biology major. Growing up with several health issues and disabilities, I wanted to be a physician that truly understood what it was like to be a patient. However, I soon realized that many of the most significant obstacles facing people with disabilities are not medical but rather structural. Policies made by organizations like governments, businesses and schools cause the vast majority of inequality in the disability community. Luckily, policies can be changed, and I want to help make that change possible. This is why I focus on disability policy, with an emphasis on emerging technologies, since I believe that is where I can make the biggest impact for disabled people in my community and globally. 

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

A: I have had many professors who helped shape me into who I am today. If I had to pick a single most important lesson, I would say that Dr. Jane Maienschein helped propel me most on the path of studying science and society. In her class, I became a better researcher, and her mentorship is one of the biggest reasons I found the academic and career path I did.

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

A: It is never too early to start networking and building relationships with those around you. I came to ASU fairly reticent of talking to classmates, professors and others based on the sheer size of ASU being so daunting. Don't let the size of ASU intimidate you. Instead, see it as an opportunity to meet many people with unique backgrounds. Most people have heard about the value of going to office hours, but I will also emphasize this since so many people never go. Your professors are a wealth of knowledge, not to mention cool people in their own right, and you will never have a better time to talk to them than while you're still in school.

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

A: I have a lot of top places on campus, but the top-floor balcony of Life Science E is my favorite. You can see a great view of campus, Tempe and the mountains. It's a great place to think and reflect, and the sunsets are also amazing from up there.

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: I will be attending University of Oxford for the next two years on the Rhodes Scholarship. There I will be pursuing master's degrees in comparative social policy and history of science, medicine and technology.

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 try to partner with a large technology company such as Microsoft or Apple on a long-term project involving making technologies more accessible for people with disabilities. Microsoft has many ongoing projects at the intersection of AI and other emerging technologies, so it would be an excellent opportunity to work with their teams on my own project. 

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

World War II studies graduate looks to bring new perspective to the past

November 28, 2022
Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2022 graduates.

Gerald Sayles III has been interested in many aspects of World War II including the social conditions in the U.S. at the time and various myths about the war that have defined an entire generation of Americans.

His interest led him to enrolling in the online master’s in World War II studies program at the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at Arizona State University in partnership with the National World War II Museum. ASU master's student Gerald Sayles III Gerald Sayles III is graduating this semester with his master's in World War II studies. Download Full Image

I wanted to channel that interest into something, but I knew I was missing some intricate parts to the war, so I looked for somewhere that can fill those gaps,” said Sayles. “Admittedly, that strong desire that I had coming into this program has grown after every course I have taken over this past year.”

While in the program, Sayles wrote a paper on the National World War II Memorial for a memory and monuments project. In his paper, he deconstructed collective memorialization of the war and added nuanced insights into the importance of individual lived experiences of the conflict.

“I wondered how a single monument could speak for the diverse experiences of World War II veterans,” Sayles said. “Understandably, this is a very admired generation for their bravery and sacrifice, but going into this project I thought of the minority soldiers that had very different experiences than their white counterparts. 

“I thought of why these soldiers went to war, for social progression in the United States, and I wanted to see how well that was represented in the memorial. What I found was that although the monument does well in capturing and displaying the importance of the war, it is very broad when it comes to the individuality of the soldiers themselves.”

Sayles is now graduating from the program, and he took some time to reflect on his studies at ASU.

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

Answer: Discovering and exploring the social impact of the second World War in American society during my time as an undergrad was my “aha” moment. To have an opportunity to expand upon the moment that I became interested in World War II in the form of an education was something I felt should not go to waste. I have no regrets.

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

A: I would have to say that my world view has changed for the better since I have joined ASU because of the peers I had a chance to work with. When studying the second World War, the purpose and impact of public monuments and statues and genocide, you gain a different perspective of the world that you did not have before. That perspective is then grown even further when you interact with peers of different ages and places of origin than yourself. In undergrad, you tend to interact with people that are closer to your age. Personally, I went to a small school in southern Maryland for undergrad in which a large portion of my classmates were from either Maryland or Virginia. Being in the master’s program at ASU, interacting with people from different backgrounds, from different parts of the country and that are twice my age was a learning experience that I enjoyed and will not forget any time soon.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because the World War II program is directly linked to the National World War II Museum in New Orleans, Louisiana, a place that I really hope to visit, and maybe work at, one day.

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

A: I would not say there is a specific lesson that I learned from him, but Dr. Jacob Flaws has been the most impactful figure in my time here in the WWII studies program. He helped me put together some parts of my monuments and memory project, and his feedback is the most memorable when it comes to reviewing my papers and projects.

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

A: Practice your writing. The skill of writing is the most important tool a student can have at any level. Clear and well-done writing allows you to present new ideas, which is key in being noticeable in almost any academic or professional setting. Clearly presenting your thoughts, ideas or analysis through a compelling form of writing is the best way a student can showcase control and understanding of a topic or subject. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I get my best work done at the desk in my room. I have two extra monitors that I plug into my laptop so that I am able to separate my work and not overwhelm myself with a single screen. This is easily my comfort zone when it comes to getting work done or studying.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Not entirely clear as of right now, but I would like to be a part of some research project or employed with a historical organization that focuses on the second World War. Eventually, I do want to continue my education in a PhD program and then enter the world of academia as a scholar at the college or university level.

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

A: I would focus that money on the teachers in Prince George’s County public schools in Maryland, the county I was born and raised in. With 198 schools and centers in the county, that's about $200,000 per school that can go towards the needs of teachers. Providing teachers with the supplies they need to do their jobs without having to use their personal money or old supplies would go a long way in the quality of learning. Not that the quality of education in the county is bad, I just believe that if the teachers are taken care of then they will take care of the students, and better conditions for the students lead to a higher-quality education.

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies