Angeleno makes fresh start at ASU Polytechnic campus


December 11, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.

When Nakia Gorden moved to Arizona to attend ASU, he had no car to drive and nowhere to live.  Nakia Gorden and his son show their Sun Devil pride and pitchforks with Sparky Interdisciplinary studies graduate Nakia Gorden and his son show their Sun Devil pride and pitchforks while flanking Sparky in the Sun Devil Fitness Center. Download Full Image

“I didn’t know anyone in Arizona,” explained Gorden, a full-time single dad of a son with a special need. “But my son and I needed a fresh start in a new place. I went through a divorce, selling my home and losing my grandmother within a two-month span. It was extremely difficult, but I had to figure it out.”

Gorden took advantage of the family housing options available at ASU's Polytechnic campus and worked part-time on campus while pursuing an interdisciplinary studies major in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, completing concentrations in history and African American studies and a minor in U.S. history.

Now, three semesters later, he’s graduating as one of the outstanding students from the College of Integrative Science and Arts and he and his son feel at home in the Polytechnic campus community.

“There are so many amazing individuals who work for ASU who have extended love and encouragement to me and I’m thankful: including my academic adviser, Linda Zygmond, who has encouraged me to be the best student I can be; La Christa Glenn in financial aid for helping make sure I took advantage of the grants and scholarships available to me; and all the staff with the landscaping department who go out of their way to talk with my son and me,” Gorden reflected.

He not only thrived in the family atmosphere at the Polytechnic campus, but in his course work he discovered his calling for teaching.

Gorden said that the “aha” moment came for him while participating in the pop-up museum assignment in one of Valerie Adams’ history courses. (For the pop-up museum, students across history courses at the Polytechnic campus curate and then showcase exhibits in a one-day public museum each semester.) 

“During my presentation that day, junior high and high school students who attended were drawn to my exhibit. Their eyes were glued to me and they were moved by my words — and I knew. At that same moment, Dr. Adams said, 'You're a teacher — look at how they're looking at you and how open they are to your words.'” 

Recently Gorden shared additional reflections with ASU Now about his undergraduate experience.

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

Answer: The people here are amazing! My academic adviser, Linda Zygmond, has been a consistent motivator and has laughed, smiled and cried with me during this process. 

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

A: FIGHT!! Fight through the tough moments. Fight through loneliness. Fight through financial difficulty. Fight for your future.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Valerie Adams is the greatest teacher ever and has motivated me to continue my education by obtaining my master’s and eventually a PhD. 

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

A: The fitness center and the library at the Polytechnic campus.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

 A: I will be pursuing my master's degree through the Teach for America program in May 2020 and teaching high school English.

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

A: Implement programs that focus on culturally diverse curriculum in secondary education. 

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts

602-496-1454