ASU neuroscience graduate learns good leaders build relationships that empower

April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

When Hannah Jackson chose to attend Arizona State University, she wanted to experience life outside her hometown of Lake Havasu City, Arizona. What she discovered was a diverse community filled with new friends from different cultures and perspectives, all contributing to her success as a Sun Devil. ASU grad Hannah Jackson learned the value of leadership during her time as a Sun Devil Hannah Jackson Download Full Image

Jackson, a recipient of both a Sun Devil Award and the President’s Award – New American University, will receive her Bachelor of Science in neuroscience from the Department of Psychology in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Her quest of understanding how the brain works cemented her drive to major in the study of the nervous system, and all it regulates. Both daunting and fascinating, she said her studies became an “aha” moment for her while at ASU.

“(That moment came) when I realized everything we have ever thought, felt, tasted, seen, and heard is all possible because of our nervous system,” Jackson said. “There are about 86 billion neurons in the brain and even more connections and chemical reactions that occur that allow me to do something as simple as type my response to a question. The brain is truly as complex as it is beautiful.”

In addition to her studies, Jackson also worked on campus at Sun Devil Fitness as part of the Health Promotion and Prevention team. There, professional staff mentored and taught her valuable life lessons about leadership that she says will guide her interactions for many years to come. These include how to build respect among fellow team members, as well as what makes a great leader.

“While I have learned so much from my professors over the years, I have to say that the most important lesson I learned at ASU was from the professional staff in the Health Promotion and Prevention team at Sun Devil Fitness and Wellness,” Jackson said. “They taught me that being a good leader doesn’t come down to being the smartest or loudest one in the room. A good leader builds relationships that empower others and are authentic. And in doing so, you create a community within your team where people respect one another, and creativity can thrive.”

After graduation, Jackson plans to move to Virginia this fall and find a PhD program that fits her love of neuroscience. Here, she shares a few thoughts about her time at ASU.

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

Answer: I would say listening and learning about the experiences and ideas of other students. There are students from all over the world at ASU, and learning about the different cultures of the friends I’ve made has been really amazing.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU mostly because it was close to my family, and after these last four years, I don’t know where I would be right now if I hadn’t had them. ASU’s huge and diverse community was also an important factor for me. I grew up in a smaller town, so I really wanted to go somewhere where I would actually have the opportunity to explore and learn about different communities and cultures.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?

A: Be open to change, and be okay with saying I don’t know. If you had asked me freshman year what I would be studying or what my goals would be in three years, young me would probably be completely off. So much change, both welcomed and uninvited, has happened throughout my time at ASU. Learning to adapt and embrace it however you can will only help you keep moving forward. The second half is simple: it is okay to not know! I can promise you that you are not the only one.

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

A: The Social Sciences Building with the huge atrium in the middle. It always feels a couple degrees cooler in there during the summer months, and it is my favorite place to enjoy rainy weather. If you like to be surrounded by plants, this is the perfect spot for you.

Christine Wolfe

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services

Online sociology student to graduate at age 14

Sociology major to be Sanford School’s youngest-ever graduating student

April 24, 2023

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2023 graduates.

By age 14, most students are in the ninth grade — learning algebra, writing book reports and trying to navigate high school life.  Person typing on keyboard Download Full Image

Gavin Munson, however, isn’t like most students. This semester, he’s set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in sociology at age 14. He will be the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics’ youngest graduate to date and one of the youngest ASU Online students to graduate.

Munson began his higher education journey at age 10 through an accelerated program from Los Angeles Mission College. The program allowed Munson to earn dual enrollment credit toward an associate’s degree while continuing his regular studies. 

His first course in the program was a memorable one, he says. Sitting in the front row, he felt the stares from curious peers wondering what such a young student was doing in a college-level class.

“It did not bother me, but I did not understand why I was getting so much attention, especially when called to the whiteboard to solve problems in front of the class,” Munson says.

What made that class especially memorable, though, was the advice the teacher gave to the class: “He told the class that if you set your bar high, you will aim high; if your bar is low, you will only do the minimum. That phrase has always stuck with me since,” Munson says.

A high achiever, Munson indeed continued on with that advice in mind. In June 2021, at age 12, he completed high school at the top of his class and with two years of college credits under his belt. One of his dual enrollment credits was a life-changing sociology class taught by a passionate and engaging teacher, which sparked his interest in sociology as a college major.

RELATED: The humanity in data analysis

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Gavin Munson

After graduating from high school and getting his associate’s degree magna cum laude, Munson transferred straight to Arizona State University's sociology program as a junior, opting for ASU Online due to the flexibility of remote learning. 

Throughout his courses at ASU, Munson, who has always been fascinated by social behavior, has enjoyed learning about society, its development and how people function within it. He has also taken advantage of the flexibility in electives, with his favorite class being PSY 335: Positive Psychology, a class about handling stress effectively and keeping a positive outlook to achieve personal success. 

In fact, his advice to other students is the advice he took away from that class: “You can achieve whatever you put your mind to,” he says. “If you put in the work, you will succeed, but you must try and keep a positive mindset. If you say you cannot succeed, you will not, but once you start saying ‘I can and I will,’ that is when you will see a change.”

As graduation approaches, Munson is looking forward to figuring out his next move in academics. But first, he is taking a well-deserved gap year to travel, experience other cultures and enjoy the fruits of his successes.


Jennifer Moore

Communications Specialist Associate, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics