Outstanding grad Victoria Crynes embraced travel, community service
Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
For Victoria Crynes, it’s all about the perfect fit. She knew Arizona State University could offer what no other university could, and she was right.
Crynes, who knew about ASU because her brother graduated from the university in 2012, is graduating with a degree in global politics in business from the W. P. Carey School of Business, where she is the outstanding graduate. She’s also in Barrett, The Honors College.
“When I was touring other universities, they talked about their honors programs and it was not nearly the same as Barrett,” said Crynes, who is from Tulsa, Oklahoma.
“I knew I wanted to do international law, and Barrett has Project Excellence, where you can take law courses. I wanted to do a mix of business and international and the global politics program was perfect for that.”
Crynes also wanted to do a lot of community service. During her college career, she was named a Pat Tillman Scholar, Gammage Scholar and McCord Scholar.
“As a Pat Tillman Scholar, you have the option of doing a venture project and I had already been thinking about what I wanted to do,” she said.
“Growing up, my mom worked with minority students, helping them get into college, so I had a lot of knowledge of how I could help,” said Crynes, who worked with students at Phoenix Collegiate Academy, a charter school in Phoenix.
“I thought it would be fun to combine a prom dress and suit (donation) drive with an educational component of preparing for college. That way the students are earning this fun prize at the end of working hard.”
She was able to collect more than 140 dresses and suits, plus accessories — enough for the entire junior and senior class.
“I told the students that they can get to college, but it’s a lot of work. And for the Hispanic students, there are a lot of resources to help.”
Crynes also helped to organize a “prom” for residents of the Veterans Administration home in Phoenix during her sophomore year, with a swing band, corsages and a photo booth.
“Just seeing their eyes brighten was one of the best feelings. I’m huge supporter of the military and I know how much they’ve given. So being able to show that the community cares was important to me.”
Crynes wants to be a diplomat, so travel was a crucial part of her time at ASU. As a sophomore, she spent a five-week Fulbright immersion in Scotland just after the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union.
“It was the perfect time to be there and experience a country reacting in the face of massive transition that they hadn’t supported but were being dragged along on,” she said.
Days after her return, she left for a semester in the Czech Republic.
“I experienced things I hadn’t expected. I’m an American, I believe in democracy. And I met people who supported communism. To me that was mind-blowing,” she said.
“They had been poor their whole lives and when communism came it was relief and they felt like they had food and their lives improved,” she said. At the same time, one of her professors there grew up protesting communism.
“It really changed my perspective.”
Crynes said she saw kindness in action during a trip to Taiwan, where a man befriended her group of American college students, teaching them tai chi and taking them camping.
“Someone willing to take that much time is not something you find on a day-to-day basis,” she said. “It inspired me to create that sense of home for people who are here. I recently met a Czech student and I’ve been dragging him along to everything. It’s because so many people have taken care of me.”
She credits staff and faculty at ASU with helping her along the way.
“I think one of the amazing things is the staff meets you where you are and helps you meet your goals and then they help you go further.”
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: Growing up, my family hosted students, athletes and business professionals from around the world. I was captivated by culture and travel. However, it wasn’t until high school that I defined my role in the international sphere. “The Infidel” was the book that opened my eyes to a personalized story of hardships occurring internationally. It was through this book that I knew I wanted to become a global changemaker. Interestingly enough, I was reading this book during my first visit to ASU.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or that changed your perspective?
A: During my time at ASU two things surprised me.
1. The power of mentorship and the willingness of individuals to mentor. Time after time I have met phenomenal professors and alumni each willing to provide mentorship. I think often the person we most want to be mentored by is someone we look up to and in turn is incredibly intimidating to approach. Yet, each time I’ve overcome my timidity I have been rewarded with incredible mentorship.
2. During my four years I was able to study internationally on three occasions. It was through these travels that I realized the disconnect between local citizen voices and government. In Scotland it was a glaring chasm created through Brexit. In Czech Republic generational differences and a desire to preserve culture were dominant themes. In Taiwan aborigines were working to regain recognition and support from the government. Here in the U.S. we face countless problems, and we, like the nations I experienced, must step up to vote, to pass out pamphlets, to run for office, and ultimately to change the future that we will pass to the next generation. Because what resolves the disconnect between government and people, is people.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU for Barrett and W. P. Carey. I knew that these colleges prioritize a personalized and intimate college experience. Barrett offered the Office of National Scholarship Advisement and my college goals included getting a Fulbright. I knew that they were qualified and willing to help me reach that goal. Through the Project Excellence Program I was ecstatic at the future of pursuing law courses as an undergraduate student. I have a goal of becoming an international lawyer and sitting in law classes of a top 20 law school, I was confident would better prepare me for that future. In W. P. Carey I knew that the quality of education was phenomenal, the staff supportive, and that I wanted to become a member of the Tillman Action Through Leadership Scholars Program. On top of this, ASU recognizes National Hispanic Scholars and provides scholarships from the business school, ASU and Barrett.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: As soon as you can get out there and do it!
Don’t wait to get involved and don’t get involved trying to fit that “successful student starter pack.” The best way to be successful is by taking initiative to do what you are passionate about. For me that meant starting my own outreach project and a new on-campus organization. If you don’t find the perfect fit, create a space to pursue your passion whether it is volunteering, research, or a professional venture!
Secondly, study abroad is an amazing opportunity and there are an abundance of scholarship opportunities. Study abroad widens your perspective and places you in situations that can be uncomfortable or unknown. Further, it helps you understand the importance of befriending international students at ASU.
Go beyond your comfort zone!
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus is the staircase by Galvin Playhouse. It is perfect for quiet, outdoor tai chi. I love the shade, the awesome architecture, and not many students go there. I also just discovered the art museum downstairs! Other than that, I would have to say the very cliché ASU fountain. I love cutting through the Old Main courtyard for my early morning class and getting a quiet view of the fountain. Lastly, and most importantly, the offices of David Stuempfle, John Eaton, and Michelle Hollin. They have created a home for sharing my victories, my defeats, and inspiring me to push onward.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: During the summer I will attend the Hansen Summer Institute on International Leadership and Cooperation with students from 20 countries. In the fall I will attend the University of Cambridge to pursue a master’s degree in international relations and politics. For fun, I will be repurposing old furniture and crafts.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would create a foundation for transitional homes for youth phasing out of foster homes due to their age, Foster to Freedom. The foundation would help with college and career readiness while providing a home and community for the young adults.
Top photo: Victoria Crynes is an outstanding graduate from the W. P. Carey School of Business. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now