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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2019 commencement.
Mia Reza, who is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in social work in December from the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, has spent her time at ASU working to improve the overall heath of her communities.
Reza has been involved with the Public Service Academy through the Next Generation Service Corps, where she supported individuals experiencing homelessness and substance use disorders in Maricopa County. She was also a student adviser for the Sun Devil Movement for Violence Prevention at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, where she educated and trained students interested in sexual and relationship violence prevention. Reza also worked as a peer educator for the organization. She helped expand and shape the program by facilitating trainings, supporting survivors and more.
“I do know that students who have experienced sexual or relationship violence have a more difficult time succeeding in their classes, and upon learning the rates in which sexual and relationship violence happens I decided to commit myself to helping these students succeed,” she said.
“I wanted to ensure that students know the resources available to them, teach people about consent and what healthy relationships should look like and create the community of care that I know ASU is all about.”
In the future, Reza plans to continue working within the realm of sexual and relationship violence prevention.
Reza spoke with ASU Now about her ASU experience, what advice she’d give to those still in school and what the future looks like for her.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I have had experience with the social work field my entire life. Something that my mom always emphasized to me was to be grateful for what we had, even when it seemed like what we had wasn’t very much. From a young age, I volunteered at soup kitchens and made it a point to give back to my community. I didn’t realize that this was within the realm of social work until years later.
I originally came to ASU as a speech and hearing science major. The summer going into my second year at ASU I received an internship at a U.S. Naval Hospital in Yokosuka, Japan. There, I worked in the Education and Developmental Intervention Services program, helping children with developmental disabilities work on their language development. I really enjoyed the work there, and speech and hearing will always have a place in my heart, but when I met the social worker on our team and began to understand her role I made the connection to my previous experience and I knew that social work was where I needed 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 learned a lot about the importance of empathy. Empathy is something that we talk a lot about in social work classes. Within social work, in order to truly be helpful to clients, it is important to take the time to think about how people’s experiences have shaped who they are and the decisions they make. Empathy is a practice that I carry with me in my daily life. I find that it is harder to be mad or frustrated with people when I try to understand their point of view. This practice has honestly brought a lot of peace to my life.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I always wanted to attend a big university, and I initially chose to attend ASU because of the big sense of community it provides and the programs that were offered. Even though I ended up taking a different path with the programs I chose, I have never once doubted my choice in ASU.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: During my time in the social work program at ASU I have had so many wonderful and caring professors. I can truthfully say that each one has provided me with unique insights into the field of social work. Their knowledge and expertise shaped me into the social worker I am today and has given me a vision of who I would like to be in the future.
An example of one of these amazing teachers is Lilly Perez-Freerks. Lilly was the first Latina woman who I had as a professor and having class with her has helped me to be confident in myself and take pride in my experiences and culture.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: The best piece of advice I would give to those still in school would be to really take the time to practice self-care. The college experience can be very difficult, and students can sometimes take pride in the stress they carry.
I often hear people comparing the little amounts of sleep they get or the ways that the work/school/life balance is too much to handle. I have definitely fallen into this type of behavior before but learning how to set your own boundaries and stick to them is so incredibly important. Remembering that it’s OK to say no to going out with friends or learning to ask for help when it’s needed are great ways to keep yourself from burning out.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot on campus has been the student center at the post office on the Downtown Phoenix campus. There is a nice lounge area on the bottom floor with arcade games and couches. I spent a lot of time there studying and hanging out during my longer breaks on campus.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduating, I will be pursuing a master’s degree in social work with a concentration in policy, administration and community practice. I will also be working with CARE 7, the city of Tempe’s crisis response team, where we respond to 911 calls in Tempe and help to support and provide resources for victims of crime and people experiencing crisis situations. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be pursuing a graduate degree and working with such an amazing organization.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If I was given $40 million to solve one problem, I would begin to tackle the implementation of equitable education. This is a very complex issue, and addressing it would help to provide equal access to all levels of education for children in marginalized communities, including indigenous peoples, people with disabilities and children in low-income areas.
There are many factors as to why education is inadequate in certain communities. Some of these disparities in education come from a lack of training for educators, learning materials that are not adequate, poverty among students and discrimination based on race and gender. This problem is very important to me because equitable education would provide more nurturing environments to ensure the success of students. I believe that these environments should be available to all children regardless of their background.
Written by Austin Davis, Sun Devil Storyteller