ASU provides student the whole college experience – and more

Curiosity about college life turned into a quest for the complete college experience for Priya Nathan.  She wanted the whole enchilada – football games, dorms, meals in the dining hall, a big campus with unlimited opportunities to meet people.

“I wanted all of that, the whole thing,” says the Arizona State University marketing senior from Pleasanton, Calif. “I just didn’t realize I’d get so much more.”

ASU wasn’t at the top of her list, but she realized she’d fit in once she visited the campus in her senior year at Amador Valley High School, toured the W.P. Carey School of Business and met other students. The culture was similar to California, she says, and people were friendly.

She didn’t realize at that point that she would one day co-found a non-profit organization with another ASU student, and be recognized for it in a national magazine. She didn’t know she’d be a success as an event planner, leading other students as a peer programmer and orientation leader, eventually becoming a guru for a special event center.

Nathan and Nicollette Lewis, both Tillman Scholars in the Leadership Through Action program, founded a personal development program for teenagers in the foster care system, pairing them with college mentors who can share their experiences and help them prepare for adulthood. They knew that foster children who “age out” of the system at 18 lack family guidance and stability, and a high number become homeless or are incarcerated.

Their pilot program, Partnered for Success, offers personal growth workshops including college preparation, community service and mentoring. Nathan and Lewis won $1,000 for their idea from the ASU Innovation Challenge, which awards money for ideas that will help the local and global community.

In May they also were featured as Arizona’s best young innovators by Fast Company magazine, which recognized “bold ideas that promise to enrich our cities and economies.”

“President Crow even sent us a letter afterwards,” says Nathan. “I’ve done so many wonderful things here, things I didn’t think I would have the guts to do. Coming to ASU is the best decision I ever made. ASU doesn’t just award you a degree, they prepare you for how you’ll use it.”

Internships and networking through the business school have been key, she says. She interned at an event center in Phoenix last spring, then was quickly hired as an event coordinator, working mainly on weddings. She makes sure everything runs smoothly, organizing details of the ceremonies, working with nervous brides on the big day.

Eventually she’d like to run her own business, though she wants to keep working with her own nonprofit organization after graduation in May. She also may put in a couple of years with Teach for America.

And though she’s still active in the Tillman Scholars program and the Alpha Gamma Delta sorority, she’s had to put on hold her duties as a Devil’s Advocate, giving guided tours of the campus to prospective ASU students.

Busy or not, there’s one thing she’ll never give up: going to football games. She was a princess in this year’s Homecoming Court.

“I love that ASU is in a college town, and you can see people walking to the games, wearing their gold shirts,” she says. “I like the school pride, and I like hanging out before games and going out with friends afterwards. This is just the best place for me.”

Written by Sarah Auffret