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Student finds renewed passion in justice studies

Head shot of Alayna Taylor

Alayna Taylor

November 22, 2023

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

Over a thousand miles away from her home in Georgia and facing the peak of the pandemic, Alayna Taylor’s freshman year was more difficult than she had anticipated.

“Navigating college life without a physical support system felt impossible,” Taylor said. “However, as I became more comfortable with Arizona and ASU, I made friends and was able to create a chosen family.”

Alayna Taylor did not let the struggles of freshman year hold her back. On top of creating a new community, she yearned for something more. Her current major was not fulfilling enough, so she met with her advisor to reevaluate. After discussing long-term goals and passions, she switched from a political science major to justice studies and African and African American studies within the School of Social Transformation, part of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

“(Initially), I did not know ASU offered these majors. I thought my options were limited to poli-sci, and once I realized that there were more options, I began to care about what I was learning. There was passion behind my studies.”

Taylor expressed her appreciation to those that supported her at ASU and was ecstatic to share that her learning only continued to grow each year.

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

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

Answer: This semester I learned how to ask more questions. I know that may sound silly, but I think as students, and as a society, we do not ask enough questions. Questioning the norm or stating things that may seem obvious is the basis for change or deeper understanding. There was once a time when asking questions made me feel that I was not smart. But now I believe asking questions is the foundation of obtaining knowledge. 

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

A: As cliche as it sounds, the best advice I could give to students is to get out of your head and get out of your way. We always think someone is watching us or judging us when in reality that is not the case. If you have the smallest inkling to join a club, go to an event, or wear an outfit, just go ahead and do it. Do not limit yourself to the expectations of others. Do what will make you happy and bring you the most joy. You are in college for four years; make the most of it. 

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

A: I spent a lot of my time in the Durham Hall study rooms. They were always quiet, and it was easy for me to stay focused. They even have light dimmers, so it was cool to be able to set the mood for study time. In my sophomore year, I spent the majority of my free time between classes on the second floor of the MU. This was another quiet place for me to get work done and eat lunch when there were no seats on the bottom and first floors. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After graduation, I am going to take some time off. I have been in school since kindergarten, and I am ready for a small break. I plan on doing some light travel and maybe doing some internships before heading off to law school. 

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

A: This semester I read "Torn Apart" by Dorothy Roberts. Many of the families that were broken apart by the child welfare systems were broken apart due to what they lacked. Instead of providing families with what they need, the child welfare system resorts to taking kids away from their homes and putting them into the system. I would use the $40 million to provide families with what they need so that they are not targeted by the system. 

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