ASU Online history grad stays close to home while pursuing academic dreams


Photo of Tallis Spalding

Tallis Spalding

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

Tallis Spalding was listening to a friend talk about pursuing a career as an archivist when a spark of curiosity zapped her out of the rut she had been trapped in for a while. 

Her friend ended up abandoning the pursuit, but for Spalding, it seemed as if she finally had a path forward and a goal in mind. She changed her major and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in history at a university in her home state of Utah. 

“It felt right,” Spalding said. “For the first time ever, I really felt like everything in the world had aligned, and I was where I needed to be. My love for knowledge and the world of academia only pushed me further and convinced me to apply for a master’s degree in American history.”

So she applied to ASU Online to pursue her graduate degree through the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies because she wanted to stay close to home while her family was going through a difficult time. 

“It was exceedingly important for me that I was able to be present (for my family) and offer my support and help,” Spalding said. “ASU's online program was the perfect choice for me, given that it allowed me to pursue my academic goals while also prioritizing my family.”

Here, she talks about her ASU experience. 

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

Answer: Something that changed my perspective here at ASU is that you are not always going to love or be happy with your work. However, you shouldn't let yourself be bogged down by that negativity. It's fine to be unhappy with your work or feel like you could have done better because that means you're improving. It means you have the ability to look at your work objectively and improve on it so you can craft something even better next time. This mindset has encouraged me to take pride in what I've done and where I've been, but also to look forward to how I grow and develop in the future. There will always be uncomfortable moments where I feel like my work wasn't the best, but it just means it has the opportunity to become better. 

Q: Which professor taught you one of the most important lessons you've learned at ASU? What was the lesson?

A: Professor James Dupey taught me one of the most important lessons here at ASU, whether intentional or unintentional: You don't always have to follow a rigid procedure for research. It's okay, and often necessary, to start elsewhere in the process and let everything else come naturally.

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

A: I would probably spend $40 billion on accessible education. Open access to educational archives and websites, better and more expansive funding for schools, generating more accessible and interactive teaching methods, etc. Education shouldn't be a slog, nor should it be something only a select few are able to have. Learning can be and should be fun and interactive for everyone, from children to adults. When people are educated and armed with knowledge, it becomes difficult to oppress them.

Q: What are your current plans after graduation?

A: Currently, I'm angling for a spot as an intern at my state archive after graduation. I'm also working on getting an associate teaching license so I can work at my local high school teaching history.

Q: What's the best piece of advice you'd give to other students?

A: The best piece of advice I can give is that you shouldn't focus on the letter grade; focus on the skills you develop and improve upon in your courses. Solidify your strengths and improve upon areas where you struggle — the rest will come in due time.

Q: Is there anything else about your time as an ASU student that you would like to share?

A: My time at ASU has greatly improved who I am. Over these past two years, I have grown so much as a person, even as an online student. I've developed an entirely new skillset and honed many of the skills I started with. I'm a better researcher, a better writer and a more adept person overall. ... My master's in American history will always be one of the best decisions I've ever made.

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