A military man embraces a life of the mind

ASU graduate Lane Hiser, who stands smiling and wearing his military uniform.

"I would say I owe my academic success to the teachings of my military lifestyle regarding hard work," said graduating ASU student Lane Hiser. "I also think I will owe future success to my literature background because I have learned new creative ways of thinking, read books about different cultures to understand people and have developed an analytical process applicable to military strategy."


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

Although Lane Hiser intends to make a career in the military, he’s keeping his options open. This Arizona State University student is rounding out his experiences in the physical, precise world of Army ROTC with a walk on the “softer” side: a degree in the humanities.

Hiser, who is originally from Frederick, Colorado, is graduating from Arizona State University this fall with a 4.13 GPA, earning a Bachelor of Arts in English literature and a minor in military leadership. He was also selected as The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Department of English, an honor bestowed on the most outstanding graduate in the unit.

It’s clear that Hiser got here by dotting all the “I”s and crossing all the “T”s. “At ASU, Hiser has played an active role in the ASU community by playing intramurals, working on campus and participating in ASU ROTC events. As a student, Hiser has been on the Dean's list for all four semesters,” wrote the Dean's Medalist selection committee in its justification.

Hiser funded his studies with a Green to Gold Hip-Pocket Scholarship from the Army ROTC, which he earned in a rigorous and competitive scholarship application process. He credits the leadership experience he gained in the Army and in ROTC with spurring his interest in teaching and mentoring. “I love training, teaching, and leading anyone and everyone, especially cadets/soldiers,” he said.

Upon retiring from the military, Hiser said that he would like to write a novel and teach English to share his love for writing and literature with others. We sat down with Hiser to learn a bit more about his ASU experience before he’s off to his next post: officer’s school.

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

Answer: Long story short … I wanted to be a writer and have always loved words. Unfortunately for me, there are so many talented writers at ASU that I was not one of those selected into the creative writing focus. As a result, I switched over to the literature side of the English degree. My first semester of the degree, I had 24 books to read in four months. Despite the stress of reading and the work that comes with it, I absolutely fell in love with the feeling of absorbing knowledge while reading. I was never a big reader growing up, but something inside me clicked — now reading four books at once — and everything about literature became so interesting. I fell in love with the writers, the words, the stories, everything.

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

A: In my ENG 332 Jewish Writers and The Cold War class, I had a bit of a revelation. This class was unbelievably inspiring. The writers we talked about can only be defined as geniuses. The revelation came in the word these writers often used: “intellectuals.” Intellectuals, as presented by these writers, were the upper echelon of thinkers who did not conform and sought excellence. I found a bit of a home in this word and found myself striving to think like an intellectual might.

Q: What’s it like to switch between such a physical, practical discipline — the military — with the intellectual and creative discipline required for your English literature degree? Is there a disconnect?

A: There is definitely some disconnect between the two, but they also translate nicely. The military is a very structured and precise organization. Leaving that lifestyle does not always go well for some as life outside the military can be very chaotic and unfocused. Being in ROTC helped because there was still a small trace of that disciplined structure even though academics are the main focus instead of military operations. That being said, the military does rely on intellect and creativity, but it is in a different way.

Where English lit focuses more on the imagination and analyzing of thematic purpose in literature, the military is more about creative problem-solving and focused decision-making in planning. I will say, having a military background did help me to focus and push myself in my studies. I woke up at 5:30 a.m. every day of school; gym at 6 a.m.; classes throughout the day; work before, after or weekends; I did homework whenever I had free time; and I was typically always asleep by 10:30 p.m. It might sound crazy to some, but the routine is normal and crucial to service members.

I would say I owe my academic success to the teachings of my military lifestyle regarding hard work. I also think I will owe future success to my literature background because I have learned new creative ways of thinking, read books about different cultures to understand people and have developed an analytical process applicable to military strategy. The English department and its professors have benefited my experience greatly.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because my family moved to Arizona. I had not seen them more than one week every year due to being in the military for four years. The ROTC program at ASU is also one of the most elite in the nation, ranking in the top eight of all programs. Additionally, ASU is one of the biggest, most well-known schools in the country, and I still cannot really believe that I am about to be an alumnus of this amazing university.

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

A: I would be remiss if I didn't mention two professors here. First, (Assistant Professor of English) Brian Goodman is one of the most interesting professors I have ever had. His passion and expertise were so refreshing and inspiring to experience. He brought out a love for reading in me and made everyone feel comfortable in sharing their observations no matter what they were. I would also like to mention (Professor of English) James Blasingame. After the military, I want to teach English, and he made learning so fun. His love for teaching was beautiful to be a part of, and I hope to bring that energy to my classroom. Both of them taught me that it is okay to think differently than those around you because your way of thinking is unique to you.

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

A: The best thing I can say is just to relax and try to breathe. School can be hard, and life does not always make it easier. When things get hard, just take a step back and breathe. You can do this; just be the best possible version of yourself, and give it your all.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I kind of studied all over actually. I typically wrote essays at home, but sometimes I would end up in the library to write. As for reading, pretty much anywhere outdoors where there weren’t too many people at one time. The Secret Garden is nice, but so is the beautiful scenery inside the Farmer Education Building. Just watch out for mosquitoes!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I will be commissioned into the U.S. Army as a second lieutenant. I will go to Fort Sill, Oklahoma, to my basic officer leader course for the field artillery branch. I plan to make a career in the Army and serve for as long as I can. While serving, I plan to pursue my master’s degree in hopes of bettering myself to one day teach English in high school or potentially at a college.

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

A: There are so many issues in our world that need our attention, but if I had $40 million, I would put it all toward saving animals on the brink of extinction. The reality of that mostly means saving their habitats — from the humid, beautiful rainforests to the cold landscapes of the arctic. The good news is that saving them likely means the world is being saved, too. So, I think it is a good place to start because of the positive effects it could have on everything else in the world.

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