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Always striving for more

Emma Fleming will graduate from ASU with her choice of four law schools.
ASU grad Emma Fleming advises undergrads to treat college like a full-time job.
December 9, 2015

Extraordinary ambition propels ASU honors student toward promising future in law

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

Deciding on which witty or insightful words to adorn one’s graduation cap with is a rite of passage. Whatever phrase is ultimately chosen will forever memorialize the moment one steps brazenly from one stage of life into the next.

Emma Fleming has got it down to two, and they’re both in Latin.

“The first is ‘vivamus atque amemus,’ which means ‘let us live and let us love.’ It is a line from a beautiful poem by the poet Catullus,” she said.

The second is “per ardua ad astra,” the motto of the Royal Air Force, and it means “through adversity to the stars.”

“I like how they are both quite optimistic and inspirational. My family [experienced] some adversity when we lost my father to cancer a couple of years ago, so it’s nice to think that no matter what you have been through you can still do great things.”

Already majoring in business law at the W. P. Carey School of Business, the Barrett honors student says she fell in love with Latin after a freshman year course inspired her to double major in classics at the School of International Letters and Cultures.

“I thought it would be kind of an interesting major to add because business is very practical but classics is very interesting, so they complement each other nicely,” Fleming said.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Latin also comes in rather handy when specializing in law. While interning this past summer at the Phoenix Federal Bankruptcy Court, Fleming often found herself fielding questions from her boss on legal terms whose Latin origins required further explanation.

That internship solidified her commitment to pursue law as a career.

“I think with law school, you’re really helping the world become a better place; you can be a force for justice in a world that is often unjust. And I think that that’s a really good way to spend your life,” she said.

“Also, when I [interned] this past summer, my boss said that he loves his job because every day, with every new case, he’s learning something new. ... So I want a job where I’ll not only be helping myself to grow and get better, but hopefully be helping the community around me.”

At just 20 years old, Fleming was the first intern for the Phoenix Federal Bankruptcy Court who wasn’t already in law school. By this time next year that will no longer be the case; she has been accepted to several law schools — including ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. She also recently interviewed with Harvard Law School via Skype but won’t hear anything final until January 2016.

All that’s left then is to make a choice.

Before any decisions are made, though, she must graduate. And when she does, on Monday, Dec. 14, she will do so summa cum laude from the W. P. Carey School, as a Dean’s Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures and a member of the classics honorary society Eta Sigma Phi.

If that sounds like a lot of honors, that’s because it is. And Fleming has worked hard for them.

For as long as she can remember, she has taken her academic career very seriously. Originally from Scotland, Fleming attended Rancho Solano Preparatory High School in Scottsdale, Arizona, where she was involved in the National Honor Society, student government, Key Club and was the founder of her school’s French club. She also served as her class valedictorian.

In her downtime, she studied ballet, read voraciously and unwound with yoga.

That penchant for a jam-packed schedule followed her to ASU, where she eschewed bouts of leisure for activities like mock trial, eventually serving as the team’s vice president.

“I don’t really like to have a lot of free time, because I feel like I haven’t accomplished anything yet,” Fleming said.

Others may disagree. Upon defending her honors thesis at the end of her junior year, Fleming’s thesis director Pamela HarrisPamela Harris is the assistant division director for Teacher Preparation in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at Arizona State University. suggested she see about publishing it due to its unprecedented nature, which consisted of an elementary school Latin curriculum.

“Most Latin curricula are very academic since Latin is such a tricky subject,” Fleming said, “but my Latin curriculum, since it was for elementary school students, had to be quite fun in order to keep them engaged. So every lesson plan had some kind of fun project for them that would also help them practice vocabulary and grammar.”

For a woman of such accomplishment, Fleming comes off as humble and reserved. Diligence, she says, is just something that came naturally from life experience:

“I think growing up in an immigrant family forces you to be independent-minded. ... But mostly, growing up between Europe and America makes you really appreciate the incredible opportunities for upward social mobility that you can find in America. I think the states are much more of a meritocracy, and if you are willing to put in work, you will be rewarded.”

Because she is graduating a semester early, Fleming will have an entire semester to herself before starting law school in the fall of 2016, and she already has plans to keep busy.

The elementary school where she taught Latin for her honors thesis has asked her to continue teaching the curriculum she developed there part-time, and she agreed. Auditing a few classes isn’t out of the question either.

“In ancient Rome, they had an idea called ‘otium,’ which means a temporary leisure in which you focus on reading, writing and studying by yourself. I think I’d like that kind of break, because I know I will be so busy in law school!”

Looking back on her time at ASU, she says what she’ll treasure most are the memories of the people she knew here.

“I’ve studied under some really incredible people at ASU, and I think that’s what you remember. You don’t remember every class you took. You remember the people that were around you,” she said.

People like her Latin professor Lidia HabermanLidia Haberman is an assistant professor of Latin in the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University., whom Fleming calls “a wonderful professor and a wonderful person.”

And to those undergrads still working their way toward a degree, she bequeaths the following advice:

“One of my accounting professors had a good philosophy on college: You have to treat it like it’s your full-time job. ... So you have to be on time, you have to be prepared. ... And just do your best, because that’s all you can do.”

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Fall commencement 2015: Student profiles

December 9, 2015

A look at some of the stand-out students from ASU's fall 2015 graduates.

ASU grad Sam Teegarden

Scientist's passion rooted in Arizona's ecology

It took time for ASU life sciences student Samuel Teegarden to find his way in school, but once he discovered a passion for ecosystems and making a difference, he was unstoppable.

ASU grad Carlos Melendez

In a crisis, a community comes through

Carlos Melendez came to ASU from Venezuela. Due in part to the political turmoil in his home country, Melendez went from having a comfortable lifestyle to barely having enough money to eat. Then the Thunderbird community stepped up to help.

ASU grad James Cornelison

College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalists

During its fall 2015 convocation ceremony, the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences will honor their best and brightest undergraduates from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities.

ASU grad Priscilla Guadarrama

ASU grads committed to community solutions

Four women from the College of Public Service and Community Solutions are being recognized as outstanding graduates  — and exemplify a commitment to public service, innovative thinking and finding solutions for the issues in their community.

ASU grad Emma Fleming

Always striving for more

When Emma Fleming graduates on Dec. 14, she will do so summa cum laude from the W. P. Carey School, as a Dean’s Medalist for the School of International Letters and Cultures, and as a member of the classics honorary society Eta Sigma Phi.

ASU grad Justin Peterson

Urban planning graduate focuses on community

Working at Escalante Community Garden and studying urban planning as a student led Justin Peterson to the path he’s pursuing now — a career in which he can help shape a community with which he’s deeply involved.

ASU grad Jasleen Rooprai

Family inspires ASU grad to earn teaching degree

ASU graduate student Jasleen Rooprai's first teacher is the one who most inspired her to become a teacher herself: her mother. Now she's graduating with a master’s degree in secondary education and a teacher’s certificate from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

ASU grad Carolina Moreno

ASU education grad takes teacher role to heart

Carolina Moreno takes her role in the lives of students seriously. Moreno, who graduates with an secondary education degree in Spanish, grew up in Mexico where she had some very influential teachers who helped her realize the important role teachers play.

ASU grad Kaitlyn Fitzgerald

Ready to heal the world

When she was a child, Kaitlyn Fitzgerald took on the responsibility of helping to heal her family. Now the ASU grad is setting her sights on repairing the world. She will earn two degrees and give two commencement addresses before working for social justice.

ASU grad Emily Kaba

Geography student tackles earth puzzles

Emily Kaba came to ASU from Dubai, and the desert environment around campus intrigued her — especially the distinctive rock formations at Papago Park. That led her to study similar-looking rocks from three sites, including some she collected in Oman.

ASU grad Honor Soluri

Taking the scenic route

In 2010, Honor Soluri was out of a job and out of options. After serving in the U.S. Army and enduring a nine-month deployment in Kuwait, she made her way back to the States and to ASU, where she will graduate with a bachelor's degree in English.

ASU grad Eric Escoto

Going below the surface

After a break between high school and college, ASU graduate Eric Escoto dove into his studies about the earth's geology, particularly volcanoes and magma.

ASU grad Desiree Graham

Passion for working with children drives ASU education grad

Desiree Graham has always had a passion for working with younger people. This, coupled with the frequent moves her family made, which built a foundation for teaching, accepting new people, and immersing herself in new cultures and situations, helped the ASU grad decide on a teaching career.

ASU grad Ashley Peatross

Sparked by film's impact

After earning her film degree, Ashley Peatross is moving to LA but keeping her connection to ASU through Film Spark. Ultimately she'd like to one day direct and produce a major feature from a major studio that is an action/thriller.

ASU grad Curtis Gokcen

Faster than a speeding couplet

After overcoming addiction, ASU English major Curtis Gokcen sped through his online coursework at a rare rate. Since enrolling in ASU’s online program in October 2014, he has completed 22 classes. Now, Gokcen is the proud owner of a bachelor's degree.

ASU grad Sara Santos

Appreciating her parents' sacrifices

First-generation ASU grad Sara Santos reflects on how her family helped her succeed by ensuring she had a foundation for success. Santos is graduating with a nursing and health innovation degree is receiving an award at ASU’s Hispanic Convocation for her service to others in the Latino community.

portrait of ASU grad Brianna Wang

A heart for misunderstood kids

Brianna Wang has a real heart for kids. As the 22-year-old psychology major receives her undergraduate degree this month, she wants to act as an advocate for children and others with developmental disabilities who are too young to help themselves.

top ASU engineering grads at commencement

Top ASU engineering grads receive honors

Each of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering select one undergraduate student in each of its academic degree programs as its Outstanding Program Graduate. A number of other students are honored as Distinguished Graduates for their notable accomplishments beyond the classroom.