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ASU Online student one of the first to graduate through PLuS Alliance program

ASU Online student and 2021 graduate Lauren Manchego.

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable spring 2021 graduates.

With grandparents in Tempe, Arizona, Lauren Manchego grew up visiting Arizona State University. In fact, her grandmother hoped all her grandchildren would attend ASU. “While I’m not physically on campus, it’s so meaningful to my grandmother that one of her grandkids is attending ASU. They’ve lived in that house my entire life.”

While Manchego was an emergency medical technician in San Diego, she gained valuable life experience and saw patients from all walks of life. At the same time, she saw how different socioeconomic statuses can affect how a patient is perceived. This made her think about public health on a larger level and how she could fix these issues. After doing some research, Manchego found ASU Online’s Bachelor of International Public Health degree program.

In Manchego’s classes, professors helped her understand what she experienced as an EMT. “We learned about how your socioeconomic status affects another person and the care you receive. I definitely felt like I could add a variety of real-world examples for these discussions.”

Offered in collaboration through the PLuS Alliance, a partnership between ASU, UNSW Sydney and Kings College London, the international public health degree program integrates jointly developed curriculum and courses among both ASU and UNSW Sydney. Through this unique learning experience in being able to take courses online at two different universities, Manchego enjoyed a broad range of perspectives when it came to public health. Although challenging, it was interesting having to interact with a variety of time zones. “It’s really amazing when you see the final product. You’re up at 3 a.m. to collaborate with another student who is working on the Google doc at 5 p.m. their time. I believe Sydney is 18 hours ahead so it’s funny to be working together at the same time.”

During her capstone, Manchego found her mentor, Myra Schatzki, a clinical associate professor, a valuable resource. “She is incredible. She guided me through my capstone. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to interact with her.” 

In regard to ASU-based resources, Lauren connected with fellow students and important job listings on Handshake. “It feels like everyone at ASU is on Handshake. It’s been very helpful when they send job recommendations since I’m graduating soon.”   

After graduation, Manchego plans to pursue her master’s degree at the University of San Diego. With her undergraduate studies and experience as an EMT, her goal is to be in the public health nursing field. 

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: Honestly, public health is so important, especially now that we’re experiencing a global pandemic. Being in this field now has allowed me to gain more insight. My real "aha" moment was when I learned about things that applied so much to the world and society today and learning those things on a global perspective. It makes it so real. 

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

A: Yes! My professor and the program coordinator, Dr. Lauren Savaglio Battles. She guided me through everything. I’ve had several courses with her and she knows how to help guide you in the best way possible. She’s very good at giving constructive criticism and allowing you to do better the next time, which is amazing for me. She cares about the students and the program. She truly puts her all into it. She’s busy, she has children and a life of her own, but she makes time for every student. She’s selfless and it’s great to have that in an instructor. 

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

A: Truly, my best piece of advice would be to find your purpose. Whether that be throughout the curriculum, or you already have something that you’re passionate about, make sure you’re using that passion to guide you through the program. Ultimately, if you have something that you’re passionate about and you want to do, you’ll get there. 

Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?

A: I do the best at home. I have a quiet space where I’m able to do that efficiently. Sometimes, if I feel like I’m stuck, I’ll go to Starbucks. I worked there for so long and it connects me to ASU Online. It is a great spot to go when I’m feeling like I’m having mentor fog or just need to get my focus back. 

Q: What inspired/motivated you to pursue your degree?  

A: As an EMT, I worked with a lot of interesting people. Everyone I worked with was going to school to be a firefighter, a nurse, or PA. While talking to them, it reminded me how important it is to continue your education. It really gave me the kind of push I needed. I had a partner in the ambulance and she was always reading. I would ask her, “What are you reading?” She would give me an entire breakdown of her textbook and how certain diseases manifest. I thought it was all super fascinating and something I should look into. Public health is a great way to learn about how vaccines work and how communicable diseases spread. 

Q: Tell us about your best Sun Devil moment or experience.

A: For me, it’s been collaborating with other students and understanding how certain topics or subjects apply to them. Not being in a classroom setting, we engage online. There are specific students that have been with me throughout the entire program. We know each other and we’re able to connect regularly to see how we’re doing on assignments or just catch up. 

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

A: Tough question. There’s so many things that need to be fixed from climate change to racial injustices. Ultimately, I would say addressing mental health and allowing people to receive proper care for PTSD, childhood trauma, neglect, abuse and racial injustice. What you face in life is what shapes you. If you experience something as a child that affects you now, as an adult, you won’t function the best you can. If we don’t have good people on this planet, we’re aren’t going to get far by fixing other issues. Especially now when we are transitioning from a generation that bottled everything up and would never go to a therapist to now, where it’s OK to go to therapy. Losing that stigma is so important, especially for future generations.  

Written by Tuesday Mahrle, earned media specialist for EdPlus at Arizona State University