Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.
Gina Bounds already had a 20-year career in the tech industry before she came to Arizona State University.
The Colorado native loved learning the ins and outs of business from a young age and recalls being inspired to pursue her business skills in middle and high school. She even plotted out her high school and college trajectory in eighth grade after attending an event at her school’s Career Enrichment Center.
“I found a connection to something bigger in the business courses I took each year,” she said. “I remember learning how to type on a typewriter, working on an early Mac, and finding jobs after school at insurance companies and a credit union.”
After graduating high school, Bounds moved to the Bay Area in California where she quickly kicked off her career at the tech company Oracle, putting college on the back burner.
Taking college courses on the side, it was becoming difficult to find the time and flexibility to continue as her family grew. A move to Phoenix with her husband and 2-year-old daughter invigorated her focus on pursuing her degree.
“I left my career as a senior program manager and started attending Paradise Valley Community College (PVCC) full-time,” Bounds said. “It was a perfect way to transition back into school, especially since the campus wasn’t too far from home. With several online courses to choose from, I was able to find the school-life balance I needed while also providing a great example for our kids.”
At PVCC, she was introduced to MyPath2ASU, ASU’s transfer admission guarantee, dedicated to ensuring that the courses students complete at a community college align with ASU’s requirements, as well as identifying the courses that directly apply to their chosen degree.
Thanks to her personalized pathway, Bounds earned an associate degree from PVCC and enrolled in the organizational leadership–project management degree program offered through ASU Online and the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.
“Completing my general education at PVCC and transferring to ASU Online was one of the best decisions I have made,” Bounds said. “It was cost-effective and provided a simple segue from community college to state university.”
While an online student, Bounds founded AZ Digital Devils at ASU Online, a community for fellow online students near and far.
“The club will help all online students feel more connected to ASU, and it is incredible to me to think that this club will go on beyond my time here,” she said.
Bounds is graduating this December with honors and is ready to start the next chapter of her career with a newfound level of confidence.
“I’m prepared for whatever the future holds, whether returning to tech or starting my own business,” she said.
We spoke with the new graduate about her experience with ASU Online and her plans for the future.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: My “aha” moment when I realized I wanted to study organizational leadership–project management was when I met with my academic advisor at PVCC. Going through the degree programs ASU offered, I immediately found a pathway to something I had worked in most of my career: project management. I am very detail-oriented and organized, but often felt I was missing a proper foundation of education in this area. Reading through the course requirements, I knew this degree was a great fit for me. Especially when I realized I already completed the necessary math for this degree and could focus my energy on subjects I really enjoyed.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: One of the great things I learned while at ASU Online is that there are so many nontraditional students returning to college for the same reasons I did: to finish something we started, get a great education as a foundation we were missing, and connect with others in a different way than we had before. I no longer felt like I was the only person that chipped away at my education over time. Hearing so many similar stories gave me the motivation to keep moving forward. Especially with fellow parents that wanted to provide a lasting example to their children, by showing the value of higher education and resilience.
Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?
A: My husband attended ASU, so I knew ASU was where I wanted to get my degree. But it wasn’t until I found the ease of creating a pathway and the courses offered that I knew ASU Online was the place for me. Just like I did in middle school, I was able to easily plot out my entire education path from PVCC to ASU Online. I had great advisors along the way that I reached out to every semester to make sure I was on track.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?
A: Honestly, I have had fantastic professors at ASU Online — to choose just one is tough. I would have to say, Dr. David Corlett with the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts was the one professor that stuck out the most. Dr. Corlett was the first of my online professors who said he was available to meet in person or virtually. I decided to take him up on the offer to meet in person so that I could see the campus. Dr. Corlett was so accommodating and kind with his time; he showed me around campus and allowed me to feel more a part of the ASU student body. That was the moment I decided that other online students would benefit from being able to feel more connected to ASU life, which eventually led to my founding the AZ Digital Devils at ASU Online. Dr. Corlett’s sponsorship of the club and personal involvement has taught me a great deal about project management, how to build personal relationships with faculty and students beyond the classroom, and ASU in general.
Q: What was your favorite or most meaningful course and why?
A: OGL 340 Topic: The Aikido Way to Conflict Transformation with Professor William Erwin. Even though the course was a degree requirement, I loved the connection Professor Erwin made between conflict management and the martial art of aikido.
Professor Erwin’s approach to this difficult topic, conflict management, was brilliant. By incorporating martial arts, I was able to quickly understand the concepts and techniques to help manage conflict. Our family has practiced martial arts for years, so I was immediately drawn to this course by its title alone. But this course also came to me at a time when I was dealing with a very difficult friendship and needed to find a healthier approach to manage our conflict in an effort to save the friendship. So many of the papers and discussion posts I wrote for this course revolved around this friendship, as I struggled with the emotions associated with the conflicts of the relationship.
Through the course, I was able to not only understand aikido (at a basic level) but also how the principles of aikido can be applied to any conflict. As a way of managing the conflict and taking care of each person within the conflict, I finally found a way to communicate what I was feeling in our friendship, and to have a conversation about it face to face. I was able to set and stick to boundaries, as well as redefine those boundaries over time, with the help of Professor Erwin. His encouragement was felt in each assignment he graded, as well as fellow classmates who encouraged me in discussion posts as well.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Regularly meet with advisors to make sure you are on track with your degree, and utilize all of the resources and services available, including ASU’s Mindfulness Center. Also, try to connect with as many people and clubs as possible to have the best and unique experience while attending ASU.
Q: When was your favorite time for power studying?
A: Shhhh … they’re sleeping!! (I’m writing this as the kids are sleeping. This is when I power-study.)
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: Savor the moment, relax (finally) and reflect on what I’ve accomplished. As far as the next chapter of my career, I’m still trying to decide if I’m going back to tech or starting my own business. More than anything, I’m going to take some time to decompress.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Sadly, $40 million isn’t really enough to solve a global problem; however, it could make a serious dent in, or even fix, a local one.
I would love to start a foundation that’s fully dedicated to making sure that all underprivileged children in Arizona have the tools they need to be successful in school. That would be enough money to kick-start a foundation that provides school supplies for any Title I student and classroom, incentives to teachers and possibly even a number of scholarships to children who make it through these schools.
This foundation would also provide a personalized pathway for each student to map out their college and career goals throughout their education. Allowing them to see their potential, breaking down the barriers that exist and providing ongoing encouragement and guidance is key. Forty million dollars would allow this type of foundation to be created and start a donation process that would ensure the program could go on in perpetuity.
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