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ASU honors graduate makes his mark as a student-athlete


Photo of Julian Hill

Julian Hill, a freestyler on the Sun Devil Men's Swim Team, graduated with a bachelor's degree in biological sciences.

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May 12, 2023

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

Julian Hill was a powerhouse in the swimming pool and in the classroom at Arizona State University.

The freestyle specialist on the Sun Devil Men’s Swim Team graduated this week with a bachelor’s degree in biological sciences (conservation biology and ecology) from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences with honors from Barrett, The Honors College.

He plans to stay at ASU to pursue a Master of Legal Studies with an emphasis on law and sustainability at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

Hill, who is from Gainesville, Florida, compiled an impressive swimming record as an undergraduate. He made the 2023 Pac-12 Winter Academic Honor Roll, which recognizes student-athletes with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.3 or above. He received the Stephen L. Estes Endowed Scholarship and the ASU President’s Scholarship.

His swimming bona fides include being a Pac-12 champion in the 800-yard free relay and an All American in the 200-yard free and the 800-yard free relay. His team also finished second at the NCAA Championships in March - the highest finish in program history.

He completed an honors thesis, titled "Sustainability of Desert Golf: An Assessment of Golf Courses in the Greater Phoenix Metropolitan Area and Plan of Action Moving Forward."

Hill took time out to reflect on his ASU experiences. 

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

Answer: My "aha" moment was in ninth grade when I took AP Environmental Science at my high school.

Q: What event or accomplishment helped to shape your ASU experience?

A: I think a major event that shaped my ASU experience would be just this past month getting national runner-up at the NCAA Men's Swimming and Diving Championships in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Q: You are a scholar and an athlete. How did you balance these two priorities?

A: It was definitely tough at times, but I put a big emphasis on getting better at time management in college. This has been so important to me and my success both in the pool and the classroom.

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

A: There are so many things that I have learned at ASU. I think I am a well-rounded student, and ASU has given me so many various viewpoints and curiosity.

Q:  Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU largely because of the swimmers, coaches and culture on the swim team. The team was really up-and-coming, and I believed in it. I also chose ASU because of the beautiful weather and campus.

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

A: Jianguo "Jingle" Wu has been so influential in my time at ASU. He has been my honors thesis director, and I had my favorite class while at ASU with him as well. He is a distinguished professor, author and editor. He is currently the editor-in-chief of the journal Landscape Ecology.

Q: What benefits did you derive from completing an honors thesis?

A: I never worked on a single project for as long as I did on this one. It taught me how to be resilient, as well as to plan long-term. I also worked with various programs, including R-ArcGIS, and did a lot of reading and research.

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

A: Enjoy it. It's over in a heartbeat.

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

A: My favorite spot on campus is on floor seven of the Life Sciences Center E wing. The views from up here are awesome.

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

A: If someone gave me $40 million, I would take steps to mitigate global climate change and instill sustainable practices across the globe.

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