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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Phoenix native Zoe Isaac graduated with her degree in political science and a minor in justice studies this month, but she found plenty of passions outside the classroom in her time at Arizona State University.
Isaac made a difference on campus by working with ASU Sexual Violence Prevention as a peer health educator, where she gave presentations on topics like healthy relationships, sexual violence and survivor support.
Isaac also helped run the Sorority Sexual Violence Prevention and Leadership program, which she described as “by far one of the most fulfilling experiences I had at ASU.”
Isaac said that she is inspired to work on this issue because of how universally important and vital relationships are.
“Relationships are the one thing we all have in common, and it’s the one thing we all have to figure out how to do. But we’re not really prepared or educated on how to do it,” she said. “Navigating friendships, dating and sex are such huge parts of the college experience, and I think working as a peer health educator was an opportunity for my own education as well.”
Isaac was also involved with BridgeASU, a club on campus committed to civil discourse and ideological diversity. Heading into the world after college, the only thing Isaac knows for sure is that her path probably won’t be linear.
“No matter the path, I just want to make sure the work I do always feels meaningful. I sometimes get bogged down thinking about whether or not the changes I’m making are big enough. Do I tackle the community, the state, the world?” she said.
“I’ve sort of settled on a compromise with myself: I just want to be of service. I want to feel useful in anything I do, no matter how large or small the impact. I have no guesses of what long-term looks like, but I can’t wait to see.”
Isaac spoke with ASU Now about her college experience, what the future looks like for her and what advice she would give to current students.
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I declared my political science major coming into college on a whim. I loved to read and write and had recently become engaged in politics. During my first semester, I noticed I was talking about my classes outside of my classes all the time. My classroom environments were engaging, and the material felt important. I felt like I was learning with real purpose, so I knew I was where I was supposed to be.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: I think I’ve been lucky enough to have my perspective changed constantly throughout college. I often left classes more unsure about my opinion or a perspective I previously had, which I always consider a win.
I think college has allowed me to be comfortable living in the “gray” zones. I’ll never forget my intro to justice studies class with Professor Rashad Shabazz; it quite literally blew my mind. I left every class questioning what I really knew about myself and the world around me. It created a curiosity and open mindedness that prepared me to dive deeper academically and personally.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU because it was nearby and made my college experience affordable. In all honesty, coming to ASU didn’t feel like much of a choice in the beginning. I had my sights set on getting far away from Arizona and going to a small school. Instead I ended up 20 minutes from home at one of the largest universities in the country. And now, three and a half years later, I’m so happy I did. I don’t believe everything happens for a reason, but I can think of so many reasons I was supposed to end up here.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: I’ve always felt so proud to be a part of a political science department that has so many incredible female professors I’ve been able to learn from, like Professor Gina Woodall and Professor Tara Lennon. I’ve been really lucky to be surrounded by so many role models who are constantly achieving and contributing to the communities around them. An invaluable lesson many of my professors throughout my college career stressed was the importance of learning for the sake of learning rather than receiving a grade. This always served as an important reminder of why I was in the classroom.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: I think the most important opportunity college provides is the chance to learn how to build your own community. I think that’s a skill that we’ll carry with us into every new phase and transition of our lives, so it’s important to take advantage of that learning opportunity now.
Adulthood is weird, and finding a community to experience and navigate all that weirdness with is what makes it manageable. And building community especially at a big school like ASU can be hard. It took me a lot more time than anyone ever told me it would, so be patient with yourself.
Looking back on my college career, I can pinpoint singular moments that built my community and changed the course of my college experience for the better. All of those moments were when I invited people in or invited myself in.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: It’s not the most unique, but I love the MU (Memorial Union) Starbucks patio. I love when people are playing music on the stage nearby, and I always love knowing there is a good chance I’m going to run into someone I know. Many of the best impromptu coffee and study dates happen there.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I wish I had a clear answer to this! Honestly, I’m not sure yet. I want to continue my work with BridgeUSA as well as sexual violence prevention and curricula. I’ve been lucky enough to find a couple of issues that I can’t stop talking about, so I don’t plan on stopping.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: Well, the planet seems like an obvious answer. Without tackling climate change, the other issues I care about won’t really have the time or chance to get solved.
Written by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller