ASU philosophy student receives Dean's Medal

May 5, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Jacob Martin, a graduating philosophy senior, has made quite the impact on Arizona State University’s School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies. He will be receiving the Dean’s Medal at the commencement ceremonies this spring. To be chosen for this award is a great honor, as the recipient is selected by their department or school for demonstrating excellence to wear the medal with their graduation regalia and will lead their fellow graduates during the processional. Philosophy student Jacob Martin receives the Dean's Medal from Associate Professor of Philosophy Brad Armendt. Photo by Rachel Bunning Download Full Image

Martin is native to Arizona and has lived in Tempe his whole life. His Arizona roots go back generations, as his family is from Superior in the East Valley.

Despite starting off as a business major, Martin was able to find his passion with the help of the professors at ASU.

I've had so many great professors from whom I've learned so much.”

Martin answered a few questions about his ASU education.

Q: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study philosophy? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

A: On my dad's advice, I started out as a business major. I hated every minute of it. So I switched to philosophy, which I knew next to nothing about, but which seemed to me then as far from business as I could get. My first philosophy class was Philosophy 103 with Professor Cynthia Bolton. I loved it and I've been hooked ever since.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: I've taken several African and African American studies courses, for instance on the history of the slave trade, Caribbean political economy, and jazz, each of which has deeply influenced me. The first two radicalized the way that I think about the United States and its place in world history and politics. The last one introduced me to what is, at least in my amateur opinion, the greatest American art form ever created. Duke Ellington, Mary Lou Williams, Thelonious Monk, Max Roach, Charles Mingus, John Coltrane — the music these geniuses made continues to improve the quality of my life nearly every day. Kurt Vonnegut once called jazz 'safe sex of the highest order.' He was right!

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: My only advice is to read as widely and as often as you can. For philosophy students, I think this is especially important. Don't just read philosophy. Read literature, history, science, whatever interests you.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: I'm going to break the rule and name a spot near ASU but off-campus: Desert Roots Kitchen. It's a small vegan restaurant on Mill just after 5th Street. Great food and cool people.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: This summer I'm hoping to visit a close friend in Macedonia. I'm told I might get to see Croatia and Greece, too. In the fall I'll be headed to the graduate school at the City University of New York as a PhD philosophy student. That should keep me busy awhile.

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Mother and son in sync for ASU Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony, graduation

May 7, 2017

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

When graduating student and U.S. Air Force veteran Barbara Blanchard attended the Arizona State University Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony on Saturday, she was accompanied by another graduating student veteran she knows well: her son, Marine Corps veteran Rodney Buller.

In late 2016, Blanchard knew she was getting close to completing her bachelor of applied sciences in operations management degree.  So she checked her academic records to see how many credits she still needed, and that’s when she realized her requirements would be met the following spring. 

“I’m like, ‘Wow, I’m slated to graduate in spring of 2017,’ and then he said something like ‘Well, that’s when I’m graduating,” recalled Blanchard.  “That’s so awesome ...  we get to walk together.”

Blanchard, who joined the Air Force in 1981 and served for nine years, started her educational journey at a local community college after being laid off from Intel in 2009 when her job and thousands of others were shipped overseas to Ireland.  She then went on to earn a paralegal studies associate degree before finding out that she qualified for a federal program that provides education funds for those whose jobs have gone overseas.  

With funding available, the former Air Force administrative specialist turned to ASU in 2015 to begin her next academic journey. First she considered the W. P. Carey School of Business, but the course load did not fit with her full-time federal job. So she looked into ASU Online, and that’s where she found the right fit to balance work and school.

“I got my Phoenix College degree, and that transferred immediately [to ASU],” Blanchard said. “When I applied [to ASU], I got a call within one hour: ‘Yeah, we’ll take you.’” 

Buller’s educational journey started in the fall of 2013 shortly after leaving the Marines, where he served for 11 years as a helicopter crew chief. He grew up in a military family moving around the country, but eventually family ties brought him to Arizona and ASU appealed to him.

“I looked at the fact that it was a veteran-friendly campus,” said Buller, who will graduate with a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering systems. “Everybody’s out here supporting their veterans. I’ve never seen anything negative on the veterans. It’s always support, and there’s really a huge veteran population out here, too.”

Graduating with his mother was definitely unplanned, Buller said. He knew she was attending school at ASU but had no idea as to when she would graduate. 

“I honestly, deep down think I kind of motivated her to push it a little bit further,” he said. “I think she really hunkered down and started studying more when she saw that she was within the same time window of graduating.”

Buller is grateful but still seems surprised about the whole thing and hasn’t had much time to take it all in as he juggles finals and job interviews.

“I think it’s pretty cool,” Buller said. “Walking down the same aisle for the stole ceremony, and then potentially walking down our commencement. Yeah, that’s my mom.”

As Buller’s mom completes her current academic journey, she has some words of wisdom for others considering higher education.

“It’s never too late,” said Blanchard. “Don’t give up on your dreams.”

Top photo: Air Force Sgt. Barbara Blanchard and her son, Marine Corps Sgt. Rodney Buller, before at the Spring 2017 Veterans Honor Stole Ceremony at ASU Gammage on Saturday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications