U.S. Marine Corps veteran transitions from diplomatic security to real estate

May 2, 2018

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

ASU interdisciplinary studies graduate Thomas Quiroz said his decision to enter the military right after graduating from high school in Honolulu was influenced heavily by financial considerations.   ASU grad Thomas Quiroz in the hills of Guilin, China, during study abroad Interdisciplinary studies major Thomas Quiroz hikes in the hills of Guilin, China. Quiroz participated in two ASU Study Abroad partner-sponsored programs in China, in summer and fall 2017. Download Full Image

“College tuition was something my mother — a single parent — could never afford, so I joined the military thinking it might offer a career,” he said.

The first year of his Marine Corps duty he worked as a helicopter mechanic at the air station near Jacksonville, North Carolina, and as soon as he was able to, he began taking classes at a nearby community college.

When the chance to apply for an international diplomatic security post arose before the end of his first year, he pursued it but was pessimistic about his prospects.

“It’s an opportunity that many Marines reach for but don’t qualify for, because there are specific and selective physical and psychological requirements,” explained Quiroz. “I applied and screened for the program with the mindset that I'd rather regret failing than not trying at all. But slowly, through each phase of the training, exams and background checks, I incrementally managed to pass. I found myself graduating with a class of 30 Marines, whittled down from an original 200.

“Perhaps one of the best lessons learned from this was that I would've never known my potential if I had never tested and challenged it.”

Quiroz applied this same spirit to finishing out his military career over the next three years while also pursuing higher education.

He was first sent for 10 months to the U.S. Embassy in Monrovia, Liberia. That assignment was followed by seven months in Tokyo and then 10 months in Moscow.  

“In order to keep up with a new and unpredictable life schedule, I sought out colleges that could support my education needs,” Quiroz said. “ASU Online, according to a search I did, was one of the best and most supportive options. I was able to continue my education despite the many special assignments and duties I performed while overseas." 

He gained experience in operations training, planning, supervision, financial management and leadership in the Marines while completing a bachelor of arts in interdisciplinary studies, with concentrations in real estate and Chinese.

“I’ve really developed a passion for finance and real estate, and after graduation I’ll be going straight into the Master of Real Estate Development degree program in the W. P. Carey School of Business,” Quiroz said.

The nine-month program is offered in partnership with ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, and Del E. Webb School of Construction.

He reflected: “The field meshes well with my work in the military and years spent earning the U.S. government's highest levels of trust.”

Quiroz answered some additional questions about his ASU experience. 

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

Answer: I've learned that success is truly relative and that everyone has the right to be proud and empowered by what they've accomplished. The same principle applies with the individual struggles we each have. My proudest accomplishments in life aren't the accolades achieved in my service but in being able to successfully help my mother and father out of their poverty.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because the online degree programs allowed me to study while living in different countries. I've come to learn that ASU Online is among the best of its kind, and I was glad that it accommodated the life of this Marine. 

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

A: Transitioning from the online program to Tempe campus has shown me unique challenges. The freedom that came to me after military service was hard to get used to. I ended up getting distracted and sometimes too focused on little things to see the bigger picture. In the end I realized — and focused on — the underlying reason why I was here and what I wanted to accomplish. I think being able to take a step back, see the big picture and reassure yourself that you’re heading down the path you designed is important, too.

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 Small Gym E in the Tempe campus Sun Devil Fitness Complex. It’s there that I train in mixed martial arts with the MMA Club that I founded at ASU last year. Since then, I've come to meet a lot more friends who share the same passion as I do. 

Q: Did you do an internship related to your major?

A: Yes, I did. I kept myself busy. During my time at ASU Tempe campus I've done non-paid internships with a commercial real estate brokerage firm and a real estate finance company. And to keep up with the bills, I also worked part-time jobs at night and on weekends. 

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I would invest that money in a computer manufacturing company and parts recycling company. I would then make it a nonprofit organization that will provide computers for low-funded schools around the globe. Computers and even iPhones can be made very cheaply but are sold at high prices. Hopefully this business model can show that the cost of providing everyone a better education isn't as expensive as it’s made out to be.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


Eminent scholar gives $2 million to support industrial engineering at ASU

May 2, 2018

The world has no shortage of worthwhile causes to support. Diseases need cures. Environments need preservation. People need a higher quality of life.  

For Douglas C. Montgomery, an eminent scholar and statistician, supporting graduate student education in industrial engineering is his top priority. That’s why he’s making a personal contribution of $2 million to Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Portrait of Doug Montgomery in his office. Arizona State University Regents’ Professor Douglas Montgomery has established a charitable remainder trust to help fund graduate education and a new professorship in industrial engineering in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU Download Full Image

“Graduate student education is really important,” said Montgomery, a Regents’ Professor of Industrial Engineering in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering. “Industrial engineers play a vital role in a huge range of industrial and business settings, from manufacturing to health care. So, we should do whatever we can to improve graduate education and make it a good experience.”

Montgomery’s passion to help graduate students develop their research interests has motivated him to become an investor and partner in their quest for knowledge, skill and wisdom. He has made several contributions over the years to ASU and his alma mater, Virginia Tech.

This year, Montgomery’s gift in the form of a charitable remainder trust will provide additional funding for his prior investments, which include the Bert Keats Fellowship, the Douglas C. Montgomery Endowment Fund and the Dr. Connie Borror Achievement Scholarship. It will also establish the Douglas C. Montgomery Professorship in Industrial Engineering to recruit a senior scholar in industrial statistics to continue Montgomery’s legacy.

“Doug is fueled by a sincere commitment to scholarship at the highest levels in his teaching, service and research,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “He embodies the core tenets of the New American University and his impact on the next generation of thought leaders in industrial engineering has been, simply put, top of class. His investment is instrumental in elevating the profile, potential and contributions of our learning community in the Fulton Schools.”  

As a renowned expert in quality engineering, Montgomery has contributed significantly to the design of experiments and statistical process control. He has published 16 books, more than 180 technical papers and over 270 journal papers. He has received nearly $4 million in research funding from the National Science Foundation, the Department of Defense and NASA. He has also served as a consultant to more than 100 companies. 

Montgomery’s professional accolades are numerous. He was elected an honorary member of the American Society for Quality, the highest grade of membership, given to only 25 members. He’s a fellow of the American Statistical Association, the Royal Statistical Society and the Institute of Industrial Engineers. He also received the Shewhart Medal, the Brumbaugh Award and the Hunter Award, among others for outstanding contributions to his field.

Among his long list of accomplishments, Montgomery is most proud of his doctoral students who have found success. Throughout his career, Montgomery has mentored 68 doctoral students, with four students under his wing currently.

“I’ve been quite fortunate to work with excellent research students,” said Montgomery, who teaches mostly graduate-level courses in industrial engineering. “I’m really proud of every single one of them because they’ve all gone on to do really great things.”

Montgomery’s doctoral graduates are on the faculties of many leading universities in the U.S. and around the world. A fairly sizable number of graduates he mentored are in influential positions at major companies and national labs, such as the RAND Corporation and the Battelle Pacific Northwest National Laboratory.

“The benefits of Doug’s teaching and research are widespread,” said Rong Pan, associate professor and program chair of industrial engineering and engineering management. “He has inspired and defined the research agenda of numerous researchers, not only his own extensive set of doctoral students, but also the many authors who have studied and cited his research publications.”

Montgomery’s first doctoral student at the Georgia Institute of Technology was Professor Ronald G. Askin. Montgomery continued to mentor Askin as his career progressed through various professorship roles at the University of Iowa and the University of Arizona.

“Doug is the kind of adviser and faculty mentor you want to emulate. He’s been my role model for how to be a successful classroom instructor, a high-impact researcher who combines technical depth with real-world relevance and impact, and a graduate adviser,” said Askin. “He has an amazing ability to see difficult topics clearly and convey intuition as well as technical detail to students. He is a storehouse of knowledge and insight that makes for a valuable resource for the budding researcher.” 

In 2006, Askin joined Montgomery on the Fulton Schools faculty as the chair of the industrial engineering program. Askin went on to serve as director of the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering from 2009 to 2016. 

“I always tell people you should be very good to your doctoral students because you might end up working for one of them,” joked Montgomery of his former student. “If you didn’t treat them well, it could be a bad experience.” 

Montgomery is very active in recruiting students and faculty into the industrial engineering program. During his sabbatical this academic year, he has traveled to multiple universities throughout the country to recruit students to the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering's graduate program. 

Among the enticements for prospective faculty and students are the textbooks Montgomery has authored, “Design and Analysis of Experiments” and “Introduction to Statistical Quality Control,” both of which are leading textbooks in his field.  

“We’re honored to have Doug serving the industrial engineering program for nearly 30 years,” said Pan. “He’s made so many contributions to the growth and quality of our program. And a certain portion of our graduate program’s excellent ranking, 17th by the U.S. News & World Report, is due to him.”

Montgomery lauds the faculty in the School of Computing, Informatics, and Decision Systems Engineering and the industrial engineering program for their broad range of specialties and research interests. He said interacting with his colleagues has been extremely beneficial for his own research ventures by enabling him to gain diverse perspectives on how to approach various problems. 

“I think we’re trying to do some really outstanding things here at ASU,” said Montgomery. “As faculty, we all benefit from our careers and time at this place. I think it’s only reasonable that if we can find some way to give back to the university, we should do it.”

Amanda Stoneman

Senior Marketing Content Specialist, EdPlus