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Indefatigable PhD grad inspired by mother to accomplish, give back

May 05, 2011

The student that President Michael Crow once called a “nuclear reactor” of energy is achieving her dream of earning her second graduate degree from ASU.

Elodie Billionniere was raised in Paris, France by a French West Indian mother who worked two jobs as a nurse to provide for Elodie and her brother.

Although Billionniere’s mother never finished high school, she dreamed that her children would aspire to higher education. Elodie credits her indefatigable energy and work ethic to her mother. “She told me ‘you are blessed, and you need to give the blessing to other people as well. Help educate others.’”

Arriving in America in 2001, Billionniere earned a bachelor’s degree in computer science and mathematical sciences from the University of Montana.  Deciding she wanted a "warm" state to pursue her graduate studies, ASU became one of her top choices because of its engineering and computer science departments.

At ASU, Elodie has supported herself with work and merit-based scholarships. Following her mother’s encouragement to help others, she volunteered countless hours in public service for Big Brothers & Big Sisters, YWCA, Florence Crittenton of Arizona, American Diabetes Association, ASU MLK Committee, ASU Community Service Program, and HandsOn Greater Phoenix as well as through her Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

She has served as mentor and advisor to undergraduate student organizations and committee member for diversity, leadership, and mentoring programs. As president of the Black Graduate Student Association, she created the ASU Annual Women Empowerment Series and founded the community service project for the homeless WE Care: YOU Care.

Numerous awards for her service include the 2009 and 2008 President’s Volunteer Service Award, the 2009 Martin Luther King, Jr. Student Servant-Leadership Award, and the 2011 Outstanding Achievement and Contribution Award from the Commission on the Status of Women. She has also just been named to the Phoenix Business Journal’s Forty under 40 for the class of 2011.

All this she accomplished while earning a master’s degree in higher education (awarded in spring 2009) and a Ph.D. in computer science and engineering this spring. She plans to utilize the leadership and educational skills acquired with her master’s degree to work towards a position as a researcher in technology and policy.  She has been offered career opportunities in the US and Europe.   

Her immediate plan after commencement is to “go on vacation. I have not been on vacation since 2005, so I am looking forward to travel, relaxation and reading non-academic books.”

“I have accomplished everything, and even more, that I had on my checklist when I came to ASU,” she continues. “I am the first in my family to attend college and thus graduate with an advanced degree. I acquired my degree while working part-time and volunteering part-time, so I am grateful that I was able to balance my professional commitment with my commitment to the community.”

After a 10-year separation, Billionniere’s mother and brother will travel to Arizona to proudly cheer her on as she accepts her doctorate on May 11.

Contributed by Michele St. George, Graduate College