No longer in the wilderness

ASU at Lake Havasu grad Lauren Haugen followed her passion, and the trail led to a job with Arizona State Parks and Trails


Woman behind brush

ASU at Lake Havasu student Lauren Haugen is a park ranger specialist with Arizona State Parks and Trails and will graduate in May with a degree in environmental science. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News

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Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2024 graduates.

COVID-19 dramatically changed the world, altered societal norms and shifted many priorities. In the case of Lauren Haugen, it forced her to take a hard look at her academic career.

Haugen was looking to attend another university and study marine biology but said the pandemic made her stay put in her hometown of Lake Havasu City. She said it also helped her appreciate the environment where she grew up.

She changed course and decided to attend ASU at Lake Havasu for her first two semesters. Haugen enjoyed the close-knit community of the campus, her instructors and her peers so much she decided to stay and major in environmental science.

“Looking back on the pandemic, I now view it as an opportunity where I got to explore a part of my life that led me to where I am today,” said Haugen, who is a park ranger specialist with Arizona State Parks and Trails and will graduate in May.

Haugen spoke with ASU News about her last four years, her passion about the environment and her plans after graduation (she will participate in an ocean plastics recovery project in Alaska the following month). Here’s what she had to say:

Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study your particular major?

Answer: Being born and raised in Arizona, there wasn’t much to do during the summer with the blazing heat, so my parents would take us on weekly trips to the library. When there I would pick up every National Geographic book on the shelves. At this point I wouldn't be surprised if I had read all that our local library has to offer. These books inspired me to spend as much time as possible outdoors, so I would walk around washes in my neighborhood trying to find new things that sparked my interest and steal my parents' point-and-shoot camera to take photos of the wildlife I would see on the way.

As I got older, I started to watch documentaries on some of the environmental injustices that are occurring around the world, and that is truly when I knew I needed to play a role in conservation and/or educating others on its importance. I ended up picking environmental science specifically because of the mass amount of education I felt as though it would cover, and I am so happy I did. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU?

A: When deciding to attend ASU Lake Havasu over the Tempe campus I had no idea how much I would learn about the place I was born and raised in. In my four years attending the college I feel as though I have covered so much ground, so it is really hard for me to pick just one thing.

However, there is one thing that was so unexpected that really stuck out to me: a community. Attending a smaller ASU campus allowed me to have a close-knit relationship with my peers, professors, ASU staff and the organizations we worked closely with. I never realized just how much the community can play a role in someone's success.

Because of the community here I was able to make many lifelong friends that have challenged me and inspired me to learn, and I can truly say I would never be half that student I was without them. Professors like Kerrie Anne Loyd showed so much support by connecting us with people in federal organizations and consistently sends out job opportunities or internships for us to apply to. Most importantly, ASU helped me get a job opportunity with Arizona State Parks and Trails. This has helped me take a massive step into my future and gave me so much experience with the parks system.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I was originally planning on attending school outside of Arizona because I have a lot of interest in marine sciences, but graduating in 2020 put quite the damper on my plans. Being a hands-on learner, I knew I needed to attend in-person courses to get the best education possible. ASU at Lake Havasu having such small class sizes made socially distanced classes possible, so I decided to spend my freshman and sophomore years there with the intent to transfer to the Tempe campus for my junior year. By the time my junior year rolled around I had a job I love, friends who shared similar interests as me, and professors who truly wanted me to thrive. I knew it would be a mistake for me to leave, and I stand by that to this day. 

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

A: I would tell all my fellow Sun Devils, no matter what campus you attend, use all the resources possible and take every opportunity that presents itself. To other students who attend different schools, I would give them the advice of once you find something that truly motivates you or makes you happy, throw yourself into it. This will open new doors and teach you so many new things. 

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus?

A: My favorite spot on campus was the student center. This is where I became friends with so many great people, where we would host our ECO (Environmental Community Outreach) club meetings and where me and my friends would spend hours on end doing homework. So many memories were made there, we would even make jokes about owning the couch in the student center for a solid two years. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I have applied for many federal organizations and other environmental outreach programs. I want to try so many things it’s hard for me to just pick one, but I want to stay in a parks system for at least a year or two. If I feel as though the park systems are not fully fulfilling me, I plan on going to graduate school to pursue my interests in marine sciences. 

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

A: On a general playing field I would want to tackle climate change, but there are just so many ways to go about it and so many aspects to the problem at hand. This being said, I would love to put a humanitarian element to this issue by education in places such as Third World countries to help them solve their issues locally (and) help improve the planet overall.

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