ASU graduate finds opportunity to help others, provide disability education
Haley Andresen believes if there is one sign language phrase everyone needs to learn, it should be, “Nice to meet you.”
She is one of a set of triplets, joined by her brother and sister. Born and raised in New Jersey, she and her brother, like her mother, were born with hearing loss and are legally deaf, speaking sign language at home.
“My parents always instilled in me the importance of helping others,” she said. “Growing up, I volunteered for different things such as fostering dogs for a pet rescue and riding on my town’s ambulance corps.”
Andresen knew she wanted to pursue a degree in psychology. Initially committed to attending an in-state college, the Starbucks College Achievement Plan offered the Starbucks partner an opportunity to earn her undergraduate degree through ASU Online.
The Bachelor of Science in counseling and applied psychological science turned out to be a perfect fit for her.
“I felt so grateful for the opportunity Starbucks gave me,” she said. “When I started at Arizona State University, I instantly loved how inclusive ASU Online is and how they are always celebrating everyone from all backgrounds and stages of life.”
Andresen’s focus on community continued to thrive during her time at the university. In addition to joining the Sun Devils Connect and the Starbucks College Achievement Plan Partners groups on Facebook, she was also part of the disability network at Starbucks.
“I am starting a Deaf Coffee Chat that will happen this summer to invite people who are deaf, hard of hearing, or want to learn, to have a place to connect,” she said. “I want to educate people about deaf culture, and Starbucks has given me that platform to embrace that.”
Starbucks provided other opportunities, as well. Andresen was honored to win Partner of the Quarter twice and Partner of the District. Moving from a low-volume store to a higher-volume store gave her the opportunity to flex her leadership and communication skills. Currently, she’s a shift supervisor at a Starbucks Reserve, notable for offering extra brewing methods and an expanded selection of premium coffees in addition to the usual Starbucks menu.
“I was up for the challenge and I learned how much I love leading a team,” she said. “I learned to be calm and thrive under pressure when a million things are happening all at once. I always try to make the environment positive and stay calm, because that transfers to the other baristas. Also, working at my store can get very loud and hard to hear at times with my hearing loss. I have learned to embrace my hearing loss by being more open.”
Andresen shared her ASU Online journey as a transfer student and as a student with an invisible disability.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I was very interested in psychology and how the mind worked, but I always felt this major was very broad. When I saw ASU offered counseling as a major online, and I read the description, it felt like an “aha” moment about what I wanted to pursue and what I was passionate about. This degree focuses on psychological well-being, and I am passionate about mental health and how it is so important to receive counseling. This major also focuses on improving people’s well-being, which is something I have wanted to pursue since I was young, and this major is a stepping stone to learning the skills I need to help those around me.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: What surprised me the most was how supported I felt even though I was attending a school that is across the country from me. I had a success coach that reached out to me in the very beginning. I loved how many resources I had from day one. I always felt like I was checked up on and supported. I was surprised by how much support I got from the faculty, too. Pursuing a degree with ASU Online through Starbucks has allowed me to obtain many benefits that I would not be able to receive anywhere else.
Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?
A: I chose ASU Online since it was a huge benefit to be able to obtain college for free. I am forever grateful to have my tuition paid for, especially being a triplet. This allowed me to gain work experience while also actively being a full-time college student. ASU Online has challenged me to be the best possible student I can be and it has been a rewarding experience.
Compared to my in-person college experience, I felt I had more resources attending ASU Online. I felt with my hearing loss, it made it a lot easier to be able to do ASU Online without worrying about what I would be missing in an in-person class setting.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?
A: I feel that my counseling internship with Dr. Cheryl Warner, and my TAs, Sean Spille and Larren Winn, has been extremely rewarding and has made me want to continue my education and pursue a master's. The whole experience allowed the students to have a safe place to practice counseling and receive important information about counseling. I have reflected inwardly on my cultural identity throughout this internship.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you would give to students?
A: Life is hard and things happen, so try not to be hard on yourself. I always have to remind myself that it is okay to not know it all. A college student is not one definition; being a commuter or an online student does not make you any less of a college student.
It’s okay to get the resources you need when you need help, and it’s not something to be embarrassed about. I have around half my hearing left, and that number will continue to decline as I get older. I struggled at a young age with hearing loss because I did not want to stick out in a crowd. I also did not want “special treatment” since in school I was given access to sit in the front row and get notes from teachers. Now, I understand the importance and difference between equality versus equity when it comes to disabilities.
Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying and why?
A: I loved going to new coffee shops around my area and enjoyed seeing new places where I lived. I thrived off of being surrounded by other people who were doing laptop work, whether that be a college student or someone working remotely.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan on gaining experience in different cultures by traveling to new parts of the world and being part of a volunteer group. Next year, in the fall, I plan on pursuing a master's in counseling to further my education. I’m really interested in the field of counseling, and I have been able to gain a lot of insight from current master’s and graduate counseling students.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I had to pick one problem to use that money for, it would be to make mental health services accessible for everyone and promote the idea that mental health is just as important as physical health. I would want to promote education about mental health and make mental health accessible to everyone.
Written by Margot LaNoue for ASU Online.