Student who withdrew from college twice returned to become Outstanding Graduate

Makiyah Murray succeeds through Starbucks College Achievement Plan

April 28, 2023

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

Makiyah Murray decided she was going to get a college degree — in part because so few people in her town had one. Makiyah Murray, social work, outstanding graduate, spring 2023 Makiyah Murray is the ASU School of Social Work’s spring 2023 Outstanding Graduate. Download Full Image

Murray, who is Black, said she grew up in “a tiny community" where less than 50% had college degrees. Of that, only 14% were Black.

“My mom was a single mom with two jobs and came from a disadvantaged and impoverished background. Being poor in a disadvantaged community, I grew up dealing with the child welfare system,” said Murray, the School of Social Work’s spring 2023 Outstanding Graduate. “At 16, I entered the foster care system until I aged out of foster care at 18.”

While in foster care, Murray described feeling disconnected from the caseworkers assigned to her, who all were white.

“They didn’t treat me badly. It just felt like they really couldn’t connect with me or understand what I was going through,” Murray said. “It’s not that they didn’t want to help; they couldn’t understand how to help.”

In fall 2006, the Ypsilanti, Michigan, resident started college in her home state but dropped out by summer 2007. She worked as a hairstylist for many years until recently, when she decided to try college again, encouraged by a therapist and psychologist who was also a Black woman.

“She challenged me to go back to school. She believed in me and in my story and could see that I wanted to do something bigger,” Murray said. “(Social work) is one thing I could do in life, without thinking: to fight for other people and help them navigate complex situations.”

Even then, as a 30-year-old Arizona State University student, she said she didn’t fully understand financial aid and was forced to withdraw from school after she ran out of money.

About a year later, still feeling “low and hopeless,” she was determined to continue her education at ASU. Murray found a way forward through the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. The plan, a partnership between ASU and Starbucks, offers 100% tuition coverage for eligible U.S. partners Starbucks employees are referred to as pursue their first undergraduate degree through ASU Online.

“I didn’t believe it was true, because it was ASU,” where she had just withdrawn. “I was astonished. I came out of my shock and applied and I became a partner,” she said. Murray also received the Tau Sigma Leadership Scholarship.

Murray is graduating with a Bachelor of Arts in community advocacy and social policy. 

Read on to learn more about Murray’s ASU journey:

Editor's note: Answers were edited for length and clarity.

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

Answer: That’s an easy one. I learned that I was capable of achieving greatness! For some, that may seem like a given but for me, it was a turning point in what I believed was possible. Coming from a small town in a community at the margins, I truly believed that my future was predestined to what I saw around me. Then, in the fall 2021 semester, I earned straight A’s after a withdrawal the semester before. A short time later, I was invited to join Tau Sigma Honor Society, challenging every limiting thought I had.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU for two reasons. The first reason is its reputation. Online education was the only way I could complete my degree. However, not all online programs are reputable. ASU programs, especially in the School of Social Work, had a spectacular reputation that was known and recognized nationally and globally. The second reason is the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. After depleting my federal financial aid at the beginning of my second year at ASU, I was forced to discontinue my courses. I was devastated and couldn't afford tuition costs, but I knew that ASU is where I needed to be. After discovering the plan, my dream seemed to come back into focus and I was able to continue pressing forward.

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

A: Judith Bass and Meka Allen taught me valuable lessons in challenging my thinking and exploring uncharted academic areas. Professor Bass, from whom I have had the pleasure of taking two courses, set me on a path to exploring career opportunities in statistical data and policy through great engagement and feedback in class. Professor Allen, in a single comment on an assignment, challenged my thinking and language around equity, giving me a deeper understanding of how to approach inequity. Although these moments may seem trivial to onlookers, for me, they guided me in the direction of deepened passion.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my support team, Ellen Lagerman (student support coordinator) and Danielle Winhold (academic advisor), who have been rallying behind me in some major ways to continue pushing me to the finish line.

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

A: Keep a routine that works for you. This is especially true for online scholars. A routine allows you to stay ahead of due dates and have time for extracurricular activities. For me, this meant starting my day at the same time every day and completing a small portion of all assignments for the week every day, no matter the due date. This allowed me to take more classes and have more time for self-care.

Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: As a Starbucks College Achievement Plan Scholar, my obvious favorite place for power studying was Starbucks. I loved studying at Starbucks because I could (get plenty of) caffeine, and it was just the right amount of background noise for focusing. However, during times when I needed hyper-focus to finish bigger projects, my local library was my go-to. There, I could reserve a quiet study space where there were no distractions.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: In fall 2023, I will start a dual master's program at the Brown School at Washington University in St. Louis. I will study for master’s degrees in social work and in social policy. Over the summer, I hope to volunteer with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) in St. Louis, to support our strained child welfare system.

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

A: I would fund transitional support programs for foster children who are aging out of the foster care system. Every day, children under state care turn 18 and may choose or are forced to survive as an adult. Lack of representation, funding and institutional structures all play a factor in transition outcomes. My funding would include a pilot program to employ equitable case management and innovative permanency planning for youths with an imminent trajectory to age out of foster care. If we can accept that adolescent minds, particularly the portion responsible for decision-making, are not fully mature until their mid-20s or later, then we must also be accountable for nurturing healthy development beyond 18.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU student is honored again as school's Outstanding Graduate

Cassie Harvey is 1st in family to earn master's degree

April 28, 2023

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

Cassie Harvey has navigated academia as both an Indigenous person — she is Navajo and Zuni — and the first in her family to pursue a graduate degree. Cassie Harvey, criminology and criminal justice, outstanding graduate, spring 2023 Cassie Harvey is graduating with a Master of Science in criminology and criminal justice from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and a Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. Harvey also was an Outstanding Graduate in May 2017, when she earned bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and in public service and public policy. Download Full Image

“That whole experience of moving away from home, seeking financial assistance – aid and scholarships – and learning all that,” said Harvey, the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice’s spring 2023 Outstanding Graduate. “I would not be here without the support I’ve had in my journey.”

Harvey also was an Outstanding Graduate in May 2017, when she earned a bachelor’s degree from the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, along with a bachelor’s degree in public service and public policy from the School of Public Affairs. The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Harvey’s journey has led to her work addressing the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous peoples, or MMIP, whose numbers in Arizona have increased over the past 40 years.

Harvey is from Lechee, Arizona, a small Navajo Nation community outside Page near the Utah border. She is graduating with a Master of Science in criminology and criminal justice from Watts College and a Master of Legal Studies from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Harvey said her master’s thesis is about “the resilience and protective factors of people who experience violence,” such as MMIP, which was a part of a larger research project within the Research on Violent Victimization Lab.

She said she is still learning about her own tribes and of others, including backgrounds, teachings, traditions, ceremonies and how culture is used to help people deal with negative experiences.

“It’s humbling. I’m in awe of all the students who participated in the research. One of the lessons, learning points, that even as a Native American, myself, I learned is we are very different, but in a lot of ways we are the same,” she said. “It involves fighting those stereotypes and dealing with people who don’t know anything about Indigenous populations. There are still a lot of people who don’t know or don’t understand. I try to enlighten people any way I can.”

Harvey said being involved in MMIP research has helped her become stronger and more patient.

“It helped me shape my craft and think of different ways to have conversations and address issues in positive ways to counter the negative experiences,” she said. “I am a reflective person. I obsess about conversations. I think about ways to make a conversation more effective. That helps me in where I am in life.”

Harvey said several organizations helped support her graduate journey, including ASU’s Academy for Justice, Navajo Nation Graduate Scholarship, ASU Law Scholarship, Frank and Thelma Caverly Scholarship and AmeriCorps National Service Scholarship. 

Read on to learn more about Harvey’s ASU experience:

Editor's note: Answers have been edited for length and clarity.

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

Answer: I always had an interest in law and criminal justice. After receiving my dual bachelor’s degrees in policy and criminal justice, it was just a matter of when I would come back to school. I chose my Master of Science in criminal justice program because as an undergrad, I knew I wanted to pursue research in this field, so that I could focus on Indigenous populations, youth and addressing violence within our communities. I also chose my Master of Legal Studies program because I have always been intrigued by law, business and policy. I eventually did an emphasis in business to learn the legalities of business organization, legal research, criminal procedure, contract law and employment law. I figured taking those classes would be beneficial in the future once I get over my fear of starting something of my own.

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

A: I am thankful I got to see a whole research project through, from beginning to end, from the development of the instruments to the institutional review board process, to the collaborative recruitment efforts with student-serving organizations, to the analysis, writing and the dissemination.

Being a first-generation college student and the only one in my family that is involved in the world of academia, I was not sure what to expect. But I was completely in awe of the work, dedication, diligence and team effort it takes to do research with Indigenous populations. This process helped me learn so much about myself, the research process and my passions. I learned I am particularly interested in the dissemination process and finding ways to take traditional research (i.e., reports and manuscripts) and incorporate innovative, creative and culturally competent ways to tell stories using the data. At times this process was discouraging, but I continued to keep an open mind.

As an Indigenous person in criminal justice, I have always been a bit uncertain of research due to the history between Indigenous peoples, academic institutions and lack of representation in the field and the literature. However, being exposed to the world of research and academia has definitely been an empowering experience that broke down those barriers of uncertainty.  

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because of the research opportunities I knew I would have here. So many of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice faculty are doing amazing things, which did make it hard to narrow my research focus, but I managed to get into the Research on Violent Victimization Lab, which is where I am now. There were other schools on my list, but my primary decision for choosing ASU for grad school was because I knew I wanted to conduct research in my home community of Arizona.

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

A: This is a hard one. Even though this may sound like a politically correct response, each of my course professors has taught me important lessons and has had an impact on me. How do I know this? Because I’m an over-thinker. I most likely obsessed over assignments, their feedback, and did some self-reflection after the course was over. So, for that, I’m sure each has taught me a lesson in one way or another.

Additionally, several professors in the school took time to provide opportunities, guidance, support or words of wisdom. This list includes Kate Fox, Stacia Stolzenberg, Shi Yan, Adam Fine, Cody Telep and Ed Maguire. These faculty members, among other ASU faculty and staff, have taught me valuable lessons about research, navigating academia and life.

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

A: Develop a routine that prioritizes your health and surround yourself with a supportive network of people who understand your responsibilities.

Q: What was your favorite spot to study, meet friends or to just think about life?

A: When I was on campus for meetings, work events or class, it was almost always in University Center – sixth floor.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Where do I even begin since there is so much that I would like to do? Immediately after graduation I will start a certificate course on data visualization. I want to merge my skills, creativity, passions for research and desire to be community-embedded by honing into data visualization. Being able to effectively visualize data enhances the meaning of the research and makes it digestible for the community outside of academia, which is why I want to further my expertise in this area.

I see myself continuing the work I have been involved in regarding missing and murdered Indigenous peoples and support research that address other issues impacting Indigenous communities. I also have ideas brewing regarding a possible nonprofit that focuses on providing victim support or court-related services for those who experience violent crime or domestic violence. Like I mentioned, there is just so much I would like to do, but I am confident that it will happen, because I have an amazing support system and people behind me that have similar passions.

Overall, I am open to new opportunities, connections and experiences in this next chapter of my life. Eventually, I do see a PhD on the horizon, but I just want to make sure I am in the right headspace and have the financial capacity to take on that commitment.

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

A: I would tackle the issue of violent victimization. I did my thesis that focused on resilience among Indigenous college students who have experience with victimization, because I am particularly interested in the ways in which people overcome and cope with violence.

So, if I had $40 million, I would love to start an evidence-based program that provides support services for Indigenous people impacted by violent crime. I would have various components to this program, one part that focuses on building resilience and dealing with the impacts of victimization. Another area would focus on helping survivors navigate the various systems (i.e., criminal justice, child welfare, social services, etc.), including tribal entities. Indigenous peoples face unique systemic and cultural barriers to address crime due to the complexities of jurisdiction, geography and overall lack of knowledge of Indigenous peoples by non-Indigenous professionals. Although this plan is not completely fleshed out, this would be the first problem I would tackle.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions