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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2018 commencement. Read about more graduates.
By the time Elizabeth Feathers started her journey at Arizona State University, she had been working in a professional setting for about a year. After noticing a difference in various leadership styles, Feathers was inspired to pursue her Bachelor of Arts in Organizational Leadership in hopes of someday becoming an effective leader herself.
“I knew that I wanted to lead people, not just manage them,” Feathers said. “I chose the field of Organizational Leadership because I want to be the change I want to see in the workplace.”
Her journey began with community college in her hometown of Normal, Illinois. Feathers moved to Phoenix in 2012 and started studying through ASU Online in 2013. Throughout the years, she stayed in college and maintained a 4.0 GPA despite moving all over the valley, getting married, traveling, working full-time, moving cross-country back home to Illinois, becoming a triathlete and even having a baby.
She notes, “The spring 2017 course started the day my water broke, and I still had my assignments turned in on time with a newborn!”
Feathers encourages prospective students to set small, attainable goals, show up for group projects, manage time wisely and organize assignments effectively.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: By the time I started my ASU Online career, I had already been working in a professional setting for about a year. In that time, I recognized a drastic difference between high-quality and low-quality leadership. I was inspired by my experience to study Organizational Leadership in hopes of someday being an effective leader myself. I knew that I wanted to lead people, not just manage them. I chose this field because I want to be the change I want to see in the workplace.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: One of the most eye-opening lessons from my time in the program was the effect of culture and its impact on behavior in organizations, from a norms and morals perspective, and in terms of organizational culture. In a time where we see Zappos hiring employees based on a cultural fit interview, Squarespace operating as a flat organization while also catering meals, offering 100 percent coverage of health insurance and monthly celebrations, or of course, Google allowing dogs in the office among a plethora of other amazing benefits, we see what an impact a positive and well-supported organizational culture can make on a company. Additionally, understanding that various cultural perspectives allow for less group-think, more collaboration, and a wider reach, resulting in more productivity and/or higher profits. We are all in this together!
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: At the time, I was living in the Phoenix metro area. I had always planned on being an online student as I worked a full-time job, but I wanted to have the option to participate in student events or visit the campus whenever I wanted. My first visit to the valley was visiting my best friend at ASU our freshman year of college. I stayed for five days and I completely fell in love with the campus, the camaraderie and the overall dynamic at the school. I knew then that I wanted to be a Sun Devil.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: Dr. Dave Thomas taught me the important lesson of time management and planning, for which I will forever be grateful. He was a fantastic professor that I had the honor of taking more than one course with. He was informative and friendly — the perfect combination for a professor! Jessica Hirshorn was also a notable educator in the program that I will always remember. She taught me the most about culture and diversity in organizations. As previously mentioned, this is the lesson that has had the greatest impact on my life since.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Keep going. I know school is hard and sometimes inconvenient in our busy lives, but there is a light at the end of that very long tunnel! It took me nine years to complete my degree, but here I am now on the other side! Additionally, give yourself small, attainable goals, show up for group projects, manage your time wisely and organize your assignments effectively.
Q: As an online student, what was your favorite spot to study or to just think about life?
A: For most of my college career, I sat on the couch. It wasn’t until I moved to the kitchen table did I realize that I could finish assignments in record time! I was too comfortable and easily distracted on the couch. At the kitchen table, I was more focused and eager to finish my work. My favorite place to think about life is at the gym.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I am still working full-time at the same company. In early 2019, I will begin the Preparing to Lead program, where I will complete the required courses and modules to move toward a leadership position within my organization. For now, I am enjoying my free time with my husband and our daughter!
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I may not be able to solve a problem for $40 million, but I could make a big impact. I would use that money to the help the disproportionally underserved LGBTQIA+ community. Specifically, I would like to help at-risk youth by donating to Live Out Loud and trans women of color by donating to the TransWomen of Color Collective.