Attorney and Impact Award winner gains electrical engineering skills

April 28, 2023

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

Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Impact Award winner Jonathan Ko faced a unique challenge as an electrical engineering student — he lives with a disability. He is paralyzed from the neck down and unable to use his hands or feet. He uses a dictation program for typing and operates his computer with a joystick using his mouth. Portrait of Jonathan Ko sitting in a chair and wearing a tie, smiling. Attorney Jonathan Ko hopes to make the world better with his new bachelor's degree in electrical engineering either by pursuing a career in the field or sharpening his patent law skills. Photo courtesy of Jonathan Ko Download Full Image

While working as an attorney, Ko decided to pursue electrical engineering to advance his career in the patent field or pursue engineering outright. He was inspired by both the advances in the field that have made it possible for those with disabilities to live fulfilling lives and a fascination with learning more about computers and how they work.

When figuring out how to follow this dream, Ko discovered ASU Online's electrical engineering program, the only ABET-accredited Bachelor of Science in engineering offered online.

“I remember being excited as I read about ASU’s program online, thinking to myself, ‘Maybe this is an area where I can contribute,’” he says.

After enrolling, Ko got involved in not just his courses, but also the Online Undergraduate Research Scholars (OURS) program and the ASU chapter of the Eta Kappa Nu electrical engineering honor society. He connected with ASU’s Student Accessibility and Inclusive Learning Services and continued practicing law while in school.

During his electrical engineering studies, Ko was surprised by how much humanity understands electricity, from the simplistic to the highly detailed quantum level. He even worked on the Agave supercomputer to learn how quantum modeling worked at a molecular level. 

He names electrical engineering Associate Professor James Aberle as one of his biggest inspirations in the program and academic advisor Allison Walls as one of his most important supporters.

“Dr. Aberle taught me the basics of how computers work and made me believe that I could actually finish this program, and Allison offered encouragement and direction when I was getting lost,” Ko says. 

Associate Professor Jennifer Blain Christen, Assistant Teaching Professor Ahmed Ewaisha and Professor of Practice Olin Hartin, all electrical engineering faculty members, were also instrumental in his growth.

“Professor Ewaisha would host marathon help sessions that would not end until everyone had their questions answered,” Ko recalls. 

After graduation, he hopes to use his new electrical engineering knowledge to fulfill the imperative often attributed to Ralph Waldo Emerson: “to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know that even one life has breathed easier because you have lived — that is to have succeeded.”

More practically, he hopes to gain a job that allows him to support the caregivers who assist with his day-to-day needs.

Ko praises ASU’s accommodations for students with disabilities. He says that ASU provided him with the best online learning platform he has used, and he recommends the university to others “without hesitation” — noting a particular experience of meeting another electrical engineering student who also has a disability and wanted to complete their studies. 

He says, “In some ways, I feel my story demonstrates that if I can do it, anyone else can.”

Read about other exceptional graduates of the Fulton Schools’ spring 2023 class here.


Podcast: Hidden Brain or Freakonomics.

Book: "The Disappearing Spoon" by Sam Kean or "The Language Instinct" by Steven Pinker.

Movie: "Shawshank Redemption" or "The Martian."

Activity: Daydreaming or designing.

Hobby: Trying to make gaming accessible or trying to cook.

TJ Triolo

Communications Specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Medallion Scholarship Program made grad's dreams come true

April 28, 2023

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

If not for the ASU Alumni Association Medallion Scholarship, Sierra Lockett would not be graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology this spring — for her, the scholarship made college possible.  Headshot selfie of Sierra Lockett in graduation cap, in an outdoor setting. Sierra Lockett, departing president of the Medallion Scholarship Program’s Leadership Council, is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in psychology. Download Full Image

“Not only was I accepted into a program that could make my dreams a reality, but I was also accepted into a group where I felt I belonged,” said Lockett, who is graduating from the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts. “The Medallion Scholarship Program is a group full of service-driven, highly intelligent go-getters. They have inspired me to work harder, to be a better human being for myself and the community.” 

Medallion Scholars are chosen from incoming Arizona high school students who have received the New American University Scholar Award (which recognizes academic achievement) and who apply for the Medallion Scholarship Program selection process. More than 200 students apply to the program each year, and final recipients receive a four-year, renewable financial award of $4,000.

To renew the award, the scholar must actively participate in regular meetings and activities, community service and maintain a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average. Students must successfully complete a minimum of 30 ASU credit hours for the academic year.

Through the program, Lockett said she not only grew into a leader but also a leader who can lead other leaders, which she did in her role as president of the Medallion Scholarship Program’s Leadership Council.

“The benefits of this program are endless,” Lockett said. “I have grown into a confident young woman who believes not only in her work but also in the work I can do for others. I have a circle of support from this program that provides friendly faces that want me to succeed. The program's advisor wants every member to succeed. 

“Really what this program is about is seeing not only yourself succeed but watching others grow and succeed, too. The friendly atmosphere helps when life and school are stressful, and the community of the Medallion Scholars is one of the reasons I can say that (I'm graduating) with a great GPA.” 

Lockett said her college experience would not have been possible without her parents, fellow Medallion Scholars and scholarship advisor James Randall, ‘09 BA, ‘11 MEd, ASU Alumni Association director of student engagement. 

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

Answer: My "aha" moment came after choosing my major (in psychology). I realized during the pandemic that isolation can be hard, and sometimes we need someone to talk to in such confusing times.

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

A: I learned much about myself through classes and my connections with such diverse people. I learned to accept myself and who I was.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because I wanted to follow in my mother's footsteps, as she was the first college graduate in her family. I wanted to start a legacy of Sun Devils.

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

A: Association Teaching Professor Kathleen Waldron (School of Social and Behavioral Sciences) taught me so much about life and how we choose to live it. Through the ups and downs, we can still achieve a life we can say we are proud of. We have to remember to take care of those around us and ourselves.

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

A: You must remember to enjoy life — college goes by extremely fast, and we only get to be this age once. Of course, make sure to study and do well, but talk with classmates, take care of yourself and make sure that the life you live now is something you can be proud of!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I will be helping people's dreams come true as an engineer for a local sign company. I work with the machines that provide the designs for commercial signs that will be made for public display.

Laurie Merrill

Marketing Copy Writer , ASU Alumni Association