Important life lessons learned at ASU

Portrait of ASU grad Claire Cerniglia.

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

Claire Cerniglia, a recipient of the New American University President’s Award, came to Arizona State University from Colorado Springs, Colorado, to pursue her bachelor’s degree in biochemistry with a minor in business. This week, she is graduating from the School of Molecular Sciences.

“My dad got his MBA with W. P. Carey in 2011, and he wanted to go to ASU since he was a teenager, even though he ultimately studied his undergrad in Pennsylvania,” Cerniglia stated. “I applied for ASU initially as a backup option, but because of the great scholarship I received and proximity to my home state, I found ASU to be my best option financially, and my dad got to see me enjoy my undergrad at his favorite school as a bonus.”

Cerniglia enjoyed the challenging coursework, having prepared well in high school. What she, and many others were not prepared for, however, was the impact the pandemic and lockdown would have.

“My time at ASU has radically changed my attitude towards the future,” Claire recalls. “In high school, the culture surrounding success placed a heavy emphasis on high grades and low awareness of mental health, so naturally, during the pandemic I suffered when my mental health fell to a low and so did my grades. Moving past this negative mindset has been a huge challenge for me, but my fears surrounding my future, my education and my abilities have dissolved as I do my best to tackle the hardships that come my way.”

Cerniglia, who is highly creative and outgoing, credits her tenacity and a strong network of friends for her success.

“I realized that no matter how challenging the course content was, I had a strong community of like-minded students," she said. "I have never regretted my decision to study biochemistry because my learning experience was made invaluable due to the people around me, and my love for all things science grows every day.”

Initially, Cerniglia was a student at Barrett, The Honors College at ASU, however, she withdrew after three years so that she could graduate early. After graduation, Cerniglia hopes to continue following her passion for science, applying for jobs in biochemical research. Her career preparation at ASU has developed her into a talented young professional with skills in science, marketing and business.  

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

Answer: The professor who taught me the most important lesson at ASU was Dr. Redding. When I was in Biochemistry 1, I got extremely sick at the end of the semester, right before the final. Dr. Redding showed so much empathy and understanding for me, I learned a valuable lesson about being lenient with myself when it comes to my health and well-being. Being shown that kindness will always remind me to be empathetic toward others going through a tough time, and recovery time is just as important as all the work that you do.

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

A: My advice for other students is to learn how to study and what method works best for you. I found that using a planner and breaking up tasks with a lot of wiggle room helps me finish my assignments without the stress and anxiety of looming deadlines. I would also advise (them) to take every day slowly and to enjoy the moments in between the speed of life.

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

Answer: When I was in Barrett, the balcony above Honors Hall was my favorite spot to study. It was out of the way, but still public, so I had few distractions in my workspace. I tend to switch things up constantly, so in the past few years, I like to find a quiet spot in the library, a coffee shop or on a lawn with a blanket where I could just enjoy my time doing what I wanted to do.

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

A: With $40 million, I won’t have the funds to reverse climate change or end world hunger, but I would have enough to set the example for other larger projects by funding the cleanup and preservation of natural spaces in the States. While the ultimate effect of climate change impacts our national parks at an alarming rate, we should still try to curb the damage of thousands of park visitors from pollution and the shrinking of wildlife habitats. The importance of wildlife to me is extremely important; I believe in the accessibility of public spaces for people to enjoy the beauty of nature and the intense amount of education required to keep the parks of America clean from litter and erosion from heavy tourist foot traffic. If I had the funds to allow for a comprehensive education on the ecology of the land, I would make sure every visitor understands the importance of preserving the world for future generations.

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