For this ASU graduate, it’s all about stories

December 7, 2022

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

The advantages of accelerated degrees — or “4+1” programs, as they’re commonly known — cannot be overstated. These programs provide top undergraduate students the flexibility to begin taking classes toward a master's degree while still enrolled as undergraduates, maximizing time, effort and, for many, finances. Portrait of graduating ASU student Brady Thurman, who sits in a motorized cart in a gymnasium. "Don’t just find what you want to do for the rest of your life, find out who you want to become as the rest of your life unfolds," graduating master's student Brady Thurman advised. Photo courtesy Brady Thurman Download Full Image

For graduating Arizona State University student Brady Thurman, opting for an accelerated program in English was a strategic decision. After graduating this fall with a Master of Arts in English (literature track) — he earned his BA in English (literature) last fall — Thurman plans to teach in the Phoenix area. He’ll pursue a film career in Los Angeles in the summers. He explained that a balanced life, built and lived true to his ideals, is his ultimate goal.

“I’m someone who needs variation in my life and will never work a desk job for a living,” he said. “Who said you have to just be one thing for the rest of your life? If you have multiple interests and life goals, why not try a few different things throughout? The road will be challenging, on top of the fact that I’m physically disabled, but I want to define my life by my own terms; I don’t ever want to be labeled by the outside world. It’s not so much a question of can I do all of it? It becomes a question of how worth it is it to find my true self?"

Indeed. Thurman is already “doing it all,” with many proverbial irons in the fire. In addition to completing his degree, he is launching a disability-awareness podcast and continuing as a black-and-white-portrait photographer. It seems he won’t lack for pursuits that feed his creativity and need for variety. We sat down with Thurman to ask a few more questions about how he plans to live out his dreams.

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

Answer: I received a film production associate of arts degree at Scottsdale Community College after three and a half years, and being someone who is physically handicapped, I realized it would be extremely difficult for me to break into the industry without an established career to back me. I love stories from really any narrative medium (movies/TV, books, games, etc.) so English literature still satisfied that desire. I also came to the realization that teaching storytelling is still a form of teamwork, which is kind of what you do when you’re on a film set. Lastly, I realized that teachers have a lot of free time in the three months of summer, which is plenty of time to work on my film career in Los Angeles part time!

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

A: If you’re not careful, college can be a lonely place, even when you live near campus and go to a place with so many people. Befriend the people in your classes, join clubs and study groups, host and attend parties, grab a drink or a bite to eat with new friends or dates, go check out different local restaurants and bars, go to different school events and extracurricular events. Don’t just find what you want to do for the rest of your life, find out who you want to become as the rest of your life unfolds. And although grades are important and getting a high GPA looks amazing, internships and independent projects are far more valuable — a good company is far more likely to go for someone who did five different internships with decent grades versus someone who had one internship and perfect grades!

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose to enroll at ASU because of its increasing quality of education, my financial options as a student with a disability and its growing commitment to student diversity, and because it’s a major social center in the Valley. In other words, my desire to improve myself, my partial identifier due to my physical condition and my social needs — all pieces of my overall identity — seemed as though they could be increased and integrated at ASU. However, the truth is, although it seemed as though this school had everything I was looking for, I wasn’t sure until I came here. Everything at the end of the day is a leap of faith, no matter how sure you are; you never truly know until you’ve experienced it.

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

A: From (Professor of English) James Blasingame, I learned to take a deep breath and go easy on myself, especially during stressful times.

From (Faculty Associate in English) Michelle Glerum, I learned to allow others around me to take the lead; it will make you an incredible listener and earn you a lot of respect from your friends and peers.

From (Associate Professor of English) Melissa Free, I learned to teach others the things that you love and are passionate about, for it will always radiate to others and inspire them to do the same.

From (Associate Professor of English) Patricia Webb, I learned that the greater one’s reading and writing skills are, the more intelligent one will become.

From (Professor Emeritus of English) Robert Sturges, I learned to always look at all sides of an argument and to always ask questions from many different perspectives.

And from (Professor of English) Ronald Broglio, I learned to lean into what I want to get out of life; it will help you to find who you were always meant to be.

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

A: Don’t just study all the time or just party with friends all the time — find a good balance between working hard and playing hard. College is where you set yourself up for your future, yes, but you’re likely only to be in college once, so make sure you have both a successful and a good time. Get involved and try new on and off-campus experiences. You might surprise yourself with what you’re capable of. Stay hungry with an open mind, because what you get out of college is what you put into it.

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: Either Hayden library, the MU or my own nearby apartment. I like to vary between studying surrounded by people and by myself. It’s important to get used to any environment when you’re focused on something; it makes you more comfortable in any social setting or situation.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I’m going to teach at charter and private high schools, Maricopa Community Colleges and hopefully at Arizona State eventually. In the summers, when there is little to no school, I will stay in Los Angeles for three months at a time to continue my work in the film industry. My hobbies, which consist of black-and-white portrait photography, writing science fiction and fantasy novels, and doing a podcast to spread disability awareness (called "Visible" — keep an eye out for the first few episodes soon!) will hopefully become other avenues to spread my creativity and further monetary success.

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

A: I would either contribute the money to education reform or technological development. There is a limited amount of access to both education and technology in the world today, and the road to greater knowledge of how the world works, and thus to greater personal success for individuals, is deficient in the U.S. and around the world. I believe that if the opportunity to succeed was given to more individuals in regards to their own separate goals and dreams, as it has so fortunately been given to me, then society as a collective could succeed by working together rather than competing with one another. Not only is this what I would do if given this money, but through my own pursuit of teaching, filmmaking and writing, I can hopefully not only improve myself (but also) inspire others to pursue their own dreams in the process.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

Manager, marketing + communications, Department of English


Early Start Program gives incoming ASU freshmen head start on academic, professional success

December 7, 2022

Arizona State University graduate student Judah Waxelbaum is a long way past that anxious time before his freshman year as an undergrad, but he still credits much of his academic success since to the School of Politics and Global StudiesEarly Start Program he participated in then.

“Even now, while getting my master’s of public policy, I owe so much to Early Start,” Waxelbaum said. Group of ASU students posing for a photo and making the pitchfork symbol with their hands. Fall 2022 Early Start Program participants. Photo courtesy the School of Politics and Global Studies Download Full Image

“Students not only get credits before starting their first semester, but make connections that will give them a massive edge over their peers. I would recommend Early Start to any student looking to not only hit the ground running but succeed in college.”

The program, this year led by Gina Woodall, teaching professor, and Kristin Cochran, political science PhD candidate, emphasizes personal success to students, who participate in a two-week immersive program designed to jump-start their academic journeys ahead of their first year at ASU.

“It’s about two things,” Woodall said. “The first is preparing them and making sure they are up to par academically and getting them some experience in the changing level of academics from high school to college.

“The second is to get them really comfortable and acclimated to a collegiate environment.”

Students achieve that through participation in thought-provoking activities, making connections with professors and learning about pathways for their desired endeavors.

This fall, that included a tour of the Arizona Capitol and the Maricopa County Tabulation and Election Center. Students also had the opportunity to meet with various alumni and professionals who could offer guidance as they start college, such as former Early Starter Waxelbaum. He encouraged them to work hard, build and maintain relationships and be friendly with those who have opposing political views.

Current freshman David Montes said that, while he was initially intimidated by the Early Start Program, it turned out to be an enriching experience for him.

“My biggest takeaway from the Early Start Program was the concept of grit,” Montes said. “I was so afraid of failing college, but having professors teach you that it’s more vital to keep trying than giving up definitely helped my journey as a Sun Devil.”

While the program is designed for first-year students, the benefits and networking from the experience lasts well beyond two weeks.

“Ninety-nine percent of the people who have gone through this program would say it was absolutely worth it because the connections really do last a lifetime,” Woodall said.

Other students who have gone through the program claim that it gave them the resources they needed for support.

“I chose my Early Start professor, Dr. Woodall, to be my thesis director for my senior thesis, because we are both familiar with each other,” current junior and former Early Starter Analeigh Lerma said. “It's going to be a blast working together.”

Student Journalist, School of Politics and Global Studies