A family that learns together, earns together

May 1, 2018

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement

Graduation. For many, it’s the culmination of four years of dedication, caffeine and great memories. For the entire Kolste family, it means so much more. Father and son in ASU shirts Father and son Doug and Brent Kolste graduate together in May when online student Doug Kolste travels to Arizona for the ceremony. Photo courtesy of Kolste family Download Full Image

In May, Brent Kolste, 28, will cross the stage to shake the dean’s hand and receive his bachelor’s degree in robotics engineering. At the same ceremony, his father, Doug Kolste, 54, will walk the same stage to receive his bachelor’s degree in engineering management, marking the achievement of a family dream over a decade in the making.

“I’ve been doing college on and off for a really long time now,” Brent Kolste said. “In that process, I got married and moved away from my family, and so I’ve always had school lingering. Graduation means that I have finally accomplished that [goal].”

After being in and out of school for several years, the younger Kolste was inspired by his family to return to college. Brent Kolste moved to Arizona with his wife nearly four years ago when she transitioned from community college to Grand Canyon University to pursue a degree in teaching.

With his educational goals back to the forefront, he chose to study robotics engineering at Arizona State University's Polytechnic School, one of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

His father, Doug Kolste, recalls a backpacking trip to climb Mount Whitney in California and the conversations he and his son had about selecting a good degree program.

“I knew Brent was smart enough. I knew he was capable,” Doug Kolste said. “Once he started down the road, with the science and the math, he got really excited about it, and I knew engineering was where he was going.”

Doug Kolste chose a similar path. When his sons were young, he began by taking classes at San Diego State University, intent on getting a degree in electrical engineering. For nearly four decades, he has worked with Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command, an information support organization within the Navy in San Diego, and for the past 15 years, he took classes on and off.

His son’s upcoming graduation renewed Doug Kolste’s dedication to complete his degree. Ultimately he chose ASU because of its great reputation and the flexibility it offered through ASU Online. This spring, he’ll graduate with a bachelor’s in engineering management.

“I’m excited for him because he’s been going to school for a really long time too — most of the time I can remember, growing up,” Brent Kolste said. “He’s been on and off doing his degree. I know how that feels now because I’ve been on and off with my degree too. It’s going to be really cool to see him accomplish that part of his past.”

With Doug Kolste already working in the industry, he found that what he learned in the digital classroom often paralleled his work. What he hadn’t learned in practice, the online program strengthened in his profession. However, he admits the online classes have not been without their challenges.

“You’re often an island by yourself,” Doug Kolste said.

Digital learning makes it difficult to interact with classmates, but learning alongside his family made it easier. Brent Kolste said he feels similarly.

“My whole family is doing school now,” Brent Kolste said. “It’s been kind of fun. It’s really easy when you know that everyone you love is doing what you’re doing.”

Education has truly become a family affair. Brent Kolste’s mother, Donna Kolste, returned to school approximately one year ago to continue her education in nursing, aiming for her bachelor’s degree at Chamberlain University. Younger brother Caylan Kolste will be completing his master's in applied mathematics from Washington State University in May.

Graduation season brings with it a lot of traveling for the Kolstes. Doug and Donna Kolste will first go north for the WSU graduation ceremony and then fly down to Tempe two days later for ASU’s Undergraduate Commencement and the Fulton Schools convocation ceremonies.    

After graduation, many changes await Brent Kolste, whose first child is due in August. He has a job lined up in Alamogordo, New Mexico, as an instrumentation engineer with the Air Force.

“It’s kind of a freedom for me that I’ve accomplished what I’ve set out to do, and now I get to move on to the next phase of my life,” Brent Kolste said. “I’m really excited about that.”

Meanwhile, Doug Kolste plans to retire from his current line of work with SPAWAR. His new degree will transition him to a new phase of his career, as he moves from civil service with the government to a commercial sector job. 

He is proud that he and the rest of his family are achieving their long-time aspirations.

“You can’t give up on your goals,” Doug Kolste said. “It doesn’t matter how long it takes.”

Student Science/Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

SILC faculty head wins prestigious Dean's Fellowship

May 1, 2018

Frédéric Canovas is the faculty head of the French and Italian department at the School of International Letters and Cultures at Arizona State University. The tenured professor is French but is also fluent in Italian and English. At SILC, he hopes to show students the tremendous value of going from monolingual to bilingual to multilingual.  

“I’ve always loved Italy and Italian culture, particularly art and architecture which have always been my true passion in life, even before languages and literature. … Lyon, my city in France, was founded by the Romans in 43 BC … so, I do feel Italian too, to some extent,” Canovas said. Frederic Canovas is the faculty head of French and Italian at the School of International Letters and Cultures. Download Full Image

He attributes his desire to learn languages from visiting southern France every summer and interacting with tourists from the United Kingdom, Germany, the Netherlands, and Denmark.

Canovas said that he was mesmerized by the many different spoken languages. He used to collect newspapers and magazines left behind by tourists, and was fascinated and frustrated not knowing what it was trying to say. 

“It was like some sort of a magic spell,” he said.

At ASU, Canovas recently won the Dean’s Fellowship. This prestigious award joins him with a group of six scholars across a variety of disciplines. The group talks about current research topics and presents excerpts of their work. Canovas stated that the fellowship helped him fulfill his academic needs and enjoyed hearing about topics outside of his own research.

“I have always considered that my graduate courses were some sort of a forum to test my ideas and interpretations of literature, like the lab is for the scientist. It was helpful to be able to present my work to nonspecialists and to get their feedback,” Canovas said.

Looking into his future at SILC,  he hopes to develop more courses integrating both Italian and French — like the one SILC currently offers relating Florence, Italy, to Paris. Canovas believes that France and Italy have a lot in common and that students could benefit greatly from learning both languages.

“Witnessing, on a daily basis, students’ excitement to learn languages reminds me of who I was as a young man and why I’m doing what I do,” Canovas added. “It really makes me want to go the extra mile to change students’ lives.”

Kathleen Leslie

Student communications specialist, School of International Letters and Cultures