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ASU transfer student hopes to apply environmental conservation knowledge on Navajo Reservation


Portrait of ASU transfer student Callie Edgewater wearing a graduation gown, cap and stole and holding up her ASU degree.

Callie Edgewater earned an environmental engineering degree from ASU in the spring 2023 semester. Photo courtesy Callie Edgewater

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August 25, 2023

As a member of the Navajo Nation, Callie Edgewater witnessed firsthand the hardships her people faced, particularly the lack of access to clean water. This profound challenge ignited her passion for environmental engineering, inspiring her to pursue a Bachelor of Science in the field at Arizona State University.

Thanks to the MyPath2ASU program and ASU's partnership with Central Arizona College, Edgewater seamlessly transferred to ASU for her Bachelor of Science in environmental engineering (BSE) within the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Her choice was influenced by the program's focus on water reuse.

ASU's Fulton Schools, known for their innovative curriculum and student support, empowered Edgewater to pursue her engineering dreams.

“The opportunities and experiences ASU has provided outside of the traditional curriculum have prepared me for a successful future,” she said. 

For Edgewater, a highlight of ASU has been collaborating with like-minded students and exceptional professors who share her passion for engineering, all while expressing and embracing her Native American heritage. 

Edgewater's commitment to her field extends far beyond her academic pursuits. Her involvement in clubs and organizations such as the Society of Water and Environmental Leaders (SWEL) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES) allowed her to explore her interests further and contribute to the welfare of her community. She also secured an internship with the Central Arizona Project, which provided her with invaluable real-world experience.

Having successfully navigated the transfer process, Edgewater offers this advice to fellow transfer students: "Never forget that you went to this college for a purpose and that you deserve to be there, so don't hold yourself back. Get involved, take initiative and, most importantly, believe in yourself and your abilities."

After graduating in the spring of 2023, Edgewater is planning to pursue a Master of Science in civil engineering at Purdue University, aiming to bring engineering expertise back to the Navajo Nation for environmental stability and conservation.

ASU News spoke to Edgewater about her transfer experience.

Question: What inspired you to pursue higher education? 

Answer: As a young woman who was born and raised in a small community on the Navajo Nation, I witnessed the hardship and tribulations that my people faced. One of the biggest challenges on the reservation is the lack of access to potable water. It was through this challenge that I discovered my passion to improve the quality of living for my people by creating a framework for reliable water delivery and sustainable management. This was my primary motive in pursuing my bachelor’s degree in environmental engineering at ASU. 

Q: Why did you decide to attend community college?

A: I chose a community college since it was more affordable and had smaller class sizes. Attending a community college is a great way to explore and test out the higher education waters. Despite having an idea of what degree I wanted to pursue, I had the freedom to pursue my hobbies without financial or academic pressure. ... Lastly, I went to a small high school on the Navajo Reservation. Attending a community college, I reasoned, would make it easier to acclimate to college life.

Q: Were you involved in any clubs or organizations at your community college?

A: I was a part of the STEM club at Central Arizona College, where I was able to further my interests in science and engineering by working on projects and forming relationships with other STEM students. I also competed in the Grand Canyon Region of the National Intercollegiate Rodeo Association as a member of the CAC Rodeo Team.

Q: Why (and when) did you choose your major?

A: The Navajo Nation faces a significant challenge in terms of environmental stability and conservation. So after graduating from high school, it was something I was interested in as I began my undergraduate studies. The BSE degree program in environmental engineering at ASU focused on complex environmental concerns and the design of systems at the human, urban and planetary scales. Air quality monitoring and pollution control were among these disciplines, as were analyses of pollutant fate and transport, the application of sustainable design principles, the design of solid waste management systems, the design of hazardous waste contaminant systems, and the remediation of contaminated soils, sediment and water. ASU's program also covered water and wastewater treatment system design and operation, water quality, water conservation and water reuse — which sparked my interest and drove me even more to attend ASU.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I selected ASU because of its cutting-edge curriculum, adventurous learning experiences and supportive services. The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering offer one of the largest and most comprehensive engineering programs in the nation. They prioritize commitment to ongoing innovation, student success, faculty excellence and the promotion of a diverse, equal and inclusive environment. I chose ASU because I knew I would be able to pursue a career in engineering and be inspired by innovation. 

Q: How did MyPath2ASU help you?

A: MyPath2ASU was a very helpful resource and played a significant role in my success as an ASU transfer student. MyPath2ASU supplied me with great transfer resources as well as rigorous academic pathways. The program assured that the courses I took at Central Arizona College were transferable to ASU. The planning tool helped me save time and money by identifying the courses that are specifically relevant to my ASU major, assuring a seamless credit transfer process. The ability to access academic and transfer guidance, career exploration and university transfer support was particularly helpful, especially for an engineering pathway. It was helpful to develop a personalized plan for university transfer because engineering degrees frequently have unique course outlines. As a result, I was able to complete my bachelor’s degree at ASU in two years after transferring. 

Q: What have you enjoyed most about your ASU experience so far?

A: Being a part of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering community has been my favorite ASU experience. The community is incredibly inviting, and it is a great place to create unforgettable memories. I believe the opportunities and experience they have provided outside of the traditional curriculum have prepared me for a successful career. Being able to collaborate with other students and outstanding professors who share the same enthusiasm for engineering has been exceptional, all while expressing my Native American heritage. The excellent connections and tools that ASU has to support its students’ success are one of my favorite aspects of the university.

Q: Are you involved in any clubs, organizations, research or internships?

A: I have participated in a variety of groups while attending ASU, including the Society of Water and Environmental Leaders (SWEL) and the American Indian Science and Engineering Society (AISES), where I served as a regional student representative for AISES chapters in the states of Arizona, New Mexico, Utah and Colorado. In addition to my academic obligations and extracurricular interests, I was able to work as an undergraduate teaching assistant with the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and was an intern with Central Arizona Project. 

Q: What is one piece of advice you would give to a new transfer student?

A: When you transfer to an institution, you might worry that you are slightly at a disadvantage compared to the standard four-year students. Your time at the school will be shorter, and you might feel like you need to make up ground on your classmates. But, if I were to offer transfer students one piece of advice, it would be to never forget that you went to this college for a purpose and that you deserve to be there, so don’t hold yourself back. Get involved, take initiative and, most importantly, believe in yourself and your abilities.  

Q: What are your plans after you graduate with your bachelor's degree?

A: I intend to continue my education by pursuing my master’s degree in civil engineering with Purdue University’s online program. After I graduate, I want to use the knowledge and expertise I've gained to go back to the Navajo Reservation and apply engineering principles related to environmental stability and conservation. I think the civil engineering program will be a fantastic opportunity to increase my understanding of these engineering fundamentals and will provide me with a wider range of abilities that will be useful in my future undertakings. Because of the online program, I will have more freedom to pursue a full-time opportunity and work towards obtaining a professional engineer (PE) license.

Q: Is there anything else that you would like to share with us?

A: I enjoy running, hiking, horseback riding and spending time with my family, for which I am extremely grateful. School might be challenging, but it is a lot easier when you have an incredible community behind you. I attribute my accomplishments to my family, friends, professors and mentors, for all their encouragement and support during this adventure. I am beyond thrilled about the next chapter of my life and the challenges that await me.

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