Cancer fighter boosts edge with ASU degree
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Obstacles don’t do well in front of Grant Crim.
A brain tumor left him partially blind when he was only 2 years old. He’s been locked in a lifelong battle with the tumor and residual effects.
He has barreled through that barrier and many others. Now he graduates summa cum laude with a degree in organizational leadership from Arizona State University’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts.
His goal in life has always been to open and run a nonprofit that helps children facing battles similar to his. In two years at ASU, his mentors and teachers have helped him refine his plans and hone his education to make those plans reality.
Crim has been accepted into the master's in communication program in the Hugh Downs School.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: When I first decided to attend Arizona State University, I decided on organizational leadership because I had plans of opening my own non-profit to help childhood cancer patients and their families. I felt that the program (along with my minor in sociology) would be a great program to properly prepare me for that.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
A: “As I learned more and grew in the academic, personal and volunteer leadership areas of my life, it became apparent to me that I needed to separate out my professional and volunteer goals. Through my volunteer leadership with the American Cancer Society, I met a man who became a good friend. His name is Jeff Ross and he gave me some of the best advice I have ever gotten when we were talking about my life goals. He told me that I could always pursue my childhood cancer passion through volunteer work, but that it was also important to focus on a fulfilling professional career that would be able to support me, and eventually a family too. It changed my perspective in that it made me realize that I didn't really need to put all of my eggs in one basket but that I could, in fact, pursue both a fulfilling career, a stable financial future and my volunteer passion. Through my studies and personal growth, I realized that I had natural strengths in things like conflict resolution, communication, and public relations which gave me a strong basis to pursue a career in Organizational Leadership. The more I have learned at ASU and the more I have learned about myself, the more I realized that I absolutely love the public relations side of things. Because of that, I applied for graduate school.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: This question is easy! I chose ASU because of my friend Anna Wales who I met through my American Cancer Society & Relay For Life volunteer work. She is just about the most die-hard Sun Devil in existence and has devoted her life to ASU and its students. Her enthusiasm convinced me that it didn't matter that I was a coastal Oregon boy, because ASU was absolutely the place to be, and I have zero regrets about choosing it. I can't thank her enough for guiding and supporting me through my ASU experience, and I hope that ASU realizes how lucky they are to have such a dedicated employee and fan!
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: As I have worked to earn my undergrad, the staff and students have taught me a lot about life. That being said, Professor (Kathryn) Terzano instilled in me that there is more to life than academics, work or volunteering. Life is meant to be experienced and lived to its fullest during the short time we have here on earth, which is why finding your fit within an organization and having a work life balance, allows us to find fulfillment as we set the foundation for a bright future. Arizona State University has helped me to grow professionally and personally, because you never know how far you can go until you’ve tried.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I think the best piece of advice I could give to those in school, would be the same advice that Jeff gave me. To think about what you love, but also what will give you a stable financial future in regards to your career, and to continue to pursue all of your outside passions in whatever way will give you your most fulfilling life.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: This one is easy, although it isn't necessarily my favorite "spot," but more of my favorite event. I attended ASU Poly's Relay For Life event and was honored to be able to speak at their luminaria ceremony. A luminaria ceremony is a moment when we reflect on those who have battled cancer and remember the ones we have lost to cancer. Because of my own personal battle as a three-time battle with a brain tumor, and the loss of my best friend Natalie to osteosarcoma at 17, it is a very emotional thing for me. After I spoke, some of the students came up to me and were inspired to keep the event going in the future which warmed my heart more than you can imagine. Cancer is a disease that knows no age, no gender, no religion, no sexual orientation and no politics. At Relay For Life, cancer brings us together in a way we never may have wanted, but leaves us feeling supported and able to do something to fight back against a disease that can literally strike any one of us, at any time.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: My plan after graduation is to find a great organization that will lead to a fulfilling career in public relations — preferably where I can also focus on social good. Then I hope to do all of the things most people want. To pay off my student loans, buy a home, start a family and have a beautiful life. I also plan to continue with my volunteer work and to pursue my dreams of supporting childhood cancer patients.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: My immediate thought was to accomplish my dream of opening Ohana's Hope — my childhood cancer organization — but recently I have really been thinking about something that impacts everyone. I don't think $40 million would come close to tackling the issue, but maybe it could start things headed in the right direction. The issue is health care, and I will use myself as an example. I am a childhood cancer survivor. As a result of that, I am also visually impaired, and will require extremely expensive lifelong medications. In addition to being an insurance company's worst nightmare, it means that I may be limited in the freedom to choose a fulfilling career because nothing will be as important as having quality health insurance in my future. As of this moment, I am still eligible to be on my parent's health insurance plan, but I live in fear of ever being without it. The truth of the matter is, if I was ever to be without insurance, it could literally force me to give up any dreams of a fulfilling career in order to qualify to be placed on a government medical insurance program because no one could afford the medications I am reliant on, on their own. In a country such as ours, no citizen should have to be forced into not being a productive member of society, just to survive. I don't claim to have any of the answers to this problem and I know it is likely larger than all of us, but it's something that weighs heavily on my mind and will definitely impact any employment choices I make, and in turn, makes me feel a little like some of my freedom to pursue my dreams has been taken away.