Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.
In her journey to graduation from Arizona State University, Cassie Roose has built a network of support that has helped her to flourish.
Roose has been able to rely on her family, her professors at ASU and, especially, Chandler-Gilbert Community College, where she started her post-secondary education.
And next, after winning two of the most prestigious fellowships in the world, she’ll work toward helping other people.
“I had some life circumstances that made it impossible to go straight to university, and so I decided on community college because I was able to get a President’s Scholarship,” said Roose, who is graduating from ASU on May 8 with a degree in genetics, cell and developmental biology and wants to be a neurosurgeon.
“Without that scholarship, I would not be graduating from ASU.”
Roose’s mother was a single parent of four kids, and Roose worked full time at a movie theater. The scholarship, which she won by scoring highly on Chandler-Gilbert’s entrance exams, allowed her be in honors classes in the community college, which piqued her interest in medicine.
“I did honors’ projects every semester, and one of my favorites was in my anatomy and physiology class, where I presented a research project on Alzheimer’s disease,” said Roose, who graduated from Chandler-Gilbert with a 4.0 before transferring to ASU.
The community college faculty is still like a family to her, and one professor came to hear her defend her thesis for Barrett, The Honors College at ASU.
“They really did help me to gain confidence in myself and my intellectual capabilities.”
At ASU, she was able to help other students by working as a Supplemental Instruction leader at the Polytechnic campus, while she lived at home in Mesa.
“Living at home has made all the difference. It’s nice to wake up the morning and be around family,” she said.
Roose has won the prestigious Gilman International Scholarship, which will pay her expenses while she travels to Morocco this summer to learn Arabic.
She also won a Fulbright award, so in the fall she’ll travel to Belgium, where she’ll spend nine months teaching English at Ghent University.
“I’ll be excited to use my Arabic skills to work with Syrian refugee children who are in reception centers in Belgium,” said Roose.
When she returns, she hopes to attend medical school and possibly work with Doctors Without Borders.
“Wanting to be a doctor is a manifestation of the values my mom helped to grow in me, such as caring for people who are going through tough times, being humble and wanting to devote myself to a life of service.”
Roose, whose degree will be from the School of Life Sciences, answered some questions about her life:
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: During my junior year, I began interning as a CARE7 crisis responder with the city of Tempe. Through my experiences on call during the overnight crisis shifts, I began to grow in ways that I never could have predicted. Mother Teresa once said, “Do small things with great love.” In my naïve mind, I had always set my sights on doing big things. However, I am now able to recognize and appreciate the wisdom in her words. With every crisis call, I focus on the little things I can do to comfort those that are struggling.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose to attend ASU for many reasons, one of which is that it runs in the family! Both my mother and grandmother attended ASU. In addition, my older brother Austin is graduating from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law this spring and is a recipient of the prestigious Armstrong Award.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: There are three things I would love to share with current ASU students.
First, embrace your uniqueness and be kind to yourself. Do not get caught up in comparing yourself with anyone else. There is no one quite like you, and that is where your power lies.
Second, do not let any obstacle or challenge stop you from turning your dreams into a reality. Life can be tough, and sometimes it will knock you down. But no matter what life throws at you, keep pushing, keep fighting for what you deserve and what you have been longing for. If you remain fearless in the face of adversity, nothing can defeat you.
Finally, savor every moment. Be gracious to everyone that has brought love and light into your life. Take their kindness and always pay it forward. Stay true to yourself … and go kick some ass.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: As a Poly student, I loved studying in the library pods on Fridays. It is so quiet, and the pods are encased in whiteboard walls. This is highly advantageous for my “study type” because I love to write out all of my ideas. By the time I am done, all the walls are decorated from top to bottom!
In Tempe, I love to stop by the ASU bridge during my morning strolls to class or take a quick hike up "A" Mountain on the weekend. Both spots are peaceful places that help me to start off the day with a positive, energetic attitude.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: The first thing that comes to my mind is the issue of poverty in the United States. Poverty bleeds into and creates many debilitating problems in our society (i.e. violence, addiction, chronic health problems, high incarceration rates, stress on governmental funding). On a weekly basis, I teach biology and GED courses to maximum and low-level security inmates, tutor and mentor fifth-graders at a Title I school in Tempe and volunteer with the homeless. Although I serve very different populations of individuals, they are all impacted by the tough realities of poverty. Poverty is at the root of the damaging cycle that tears families apart and hinders our youth.
Although $40 million is nowhere near enough to solve this complex issue, it can provide a great start. I would devote some of the funds to improving prison education opportunities, behavioral and mental health counseling, and other rehabilitation efforts to decrease recidivism rates. In addition, I would fund programs that extend support to the entire family. Finally, I would put the largest amount of money into aiding the youth that is impacted by and living in impoverished communities with hopes of breaking the cycle.
Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now