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Sanford School Dean’s medalist aims to support children and families


Smiling woman wearing a blue dress and holding a bouquet of flowers.

Photo courtesy Rachel Collman

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December 06, 2022

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

Rachel Collman has always cared about people. She believes that no matter who you are or what you do, we all experience struggles and need support from those who care.

That’s why, when it came time to choose a college program, Collman decided to turn her empathy into action by pursuing a degree in family and human development.

Collman, who lives in Port Orchard, Washington, could have attended other, more local schools, but she wanted to attend ASU as an online student because it had both the program she wanted and a good reputation. As Collman continued through each class and worked with professors, she increasingly felt she had made the right choice in finding a program and school. The more she learned through her classes and teaching assistantship, the more passionate she felt about using her degree to help others. 

Balancing school with everything else in life was difficult at times, but Collman made it through with high grades and increased confidence. As the Dean’s medalist for the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, she has a lot to be proud of. 

We connected with Collman to ask her about the lessons she took from ASU, her future plans and the advice she would give to current students. 

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

Answer: I have always felt a drive to help other people. I chose family and human development because I knew this degree would allow me to help children and their families overcome obstacles they face in their lives. We all need a support system and people in our corner who understand what we go through.

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

A: That is really hard to choose! All of my professors have been incredibly supportive while attending ASU. As an online student, it can be challenging to find opportunities to be involved. Dr. Stacie Foster was willing to support my learning by allowing opportunities for personal and professional growth. I have been able to regain a sense of confidence in being able to help and support others through my role as a teaching assistant.

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

A: Balancing school, work and life can be challenging but don't give up. Develop a plan to stay organized and set aside time each day to work on homework. Taking small steps can still help you reach your goals!

Q: What are your plans after graduation? 

A: Currently, I am still considering several graduate programs and I am working on narrowing down my choices. I want to pursue a master's degree to further my education.

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

A: I would tackle the inequities faced by children and families that navigate challenges related to disabilities. Everyone is entitled to respect, dignity and a just system. As a society, we need to support all people, regardless of ability or disability, to live their best life and provide ample opportunities to do that.

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