Online grads and families celebrate achievement

Dozens of online College of Public Service and Community Solutions graduates celebrated their accomplishments at a post convocation reception held at the Carson Student-Athlete complex next to Wells Fargo Arena. The event gave graduates a chance to meet their professors, advisors--and even ASU’s mascot Sparky--for the first time.  A total of 536 online students graduated with degrees from the college.

"I think the key to our success is the work that the students do with their communities, “ associate professor Brian Gerber told reception attendees.

Gerber is the senior academic director of the Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security.

College of Public Service and Community Solutions online student reception
Brian Gerber, senior academic director of the Master of Arts in emergency management and homeland security, congratulated online students and their families for earning their degrees.


“While we might appear on the screen for  your class, the one thing that is a real treat for faculty is the chance to meet you all in person,” Gerber said.

Nick Chestnut and his wife Brittany wouldn’t have missed the event. They traveled from Florida to attend graduation and the college convocation ceremony. Nick earned his undergraduate degree in criminology and criminal justice. The former military police officer is considering law school next.

As a ten-year-old growing up in Pennsylvania, Nick became a Sun Devils fan because of Sparky, the university’s mascot. If that bond and a high ranking of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice weren’t enough to convince Nick he made the right choice, the actions of his ASU Online success coach clinched it for him. Days before Hurricane Irma hit Florida last fall, the couple received a care package with ASU swag from Carol Fiedler.
“It came with a note that said: ‘Your ASU family is here for you if you need anything. Take all the time you need. I’ll talk to your professors if you need,’" said Chestnut. “Just having that support made me realize how much I picked the right school.”

Tricia Houghtaling
Tricia Houghtaling and her husband Pete attend the reception for online graduates of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.


Tricia Houghtaling came to the reception with her husband Pete. Houghtaling earned her master’s degree in social work. She already started work as a trauma therapist for a Flagstaff domestic violence shelter. She appreciates the opportunities she received as an online social work student.

“The whole thing was amazing,” said Houghtaling. “I was very blessed to have amazing field instructors and did two wonderful internships at a hospice placement before this one.”

Elias Benson came to the reception with his parents Leslie and Greg. He didn’t know what kind of degree he wanted after serving a two-year mission in rural Mexico with the Church of Latter Day Saints. Then he discovered the College of Public Service and Community Solutions offered an online Bachelor’s of Science in public service and public policy with an emphasis on emergency management and homeland security.
A highlight of his time in Mexico was helping local residents deal with flooding from major storms. He’s ready to use his new degree.

“I hope to work with the Red Cross or FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) or a local emergency management department,” said Benson. “I can’t wait to find my place and try to help out where I'm needed.”

Elias Bensen
Greg and Leslie Benson look on their son Elias Benson and other online students are congratulated by the dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions for earning their degrees.


Nicholas Costello attended the reception with his wife Whitney and mother Debbie. Costello lives in Frostburg, Maryland where he is a police lieutenant.

“The educational value is is top notch,” said Costello. “I learned a great deal--the course readings were exceptional, the instructors were highly qualified. The coursework was just right to really get you to engage the material and really really understand what you're reading and learning about. I've been very very pleased with that.”

Earning his online master’s degree wasn’t easy. Costello had to take time off at one point. But he found a way to embrace work and school at the same time.

“You know it's not something you just kind of jump into and coast through,” Costello said. “You have to discipline yourself--set aside time to work on it when you do shift work and all kinds of hours.

"It may be your night off, but if you're used to night shift you may be doing your schoolwork at three o'clock in the morning-- doesn't matter as long as you set aside that time to do it and you stay diligent with that.”

Nicholas Costello
Nicholas Costello with his mother Debbie and wife Whitney at the College of Public Service and Community Solutions reception for spring 2018 online student graduates.


Costello’s diligence paid off. The city of Frostburg recently selected him to become the next police chief. He says police officers have to continuously educate themselves and believes a post-secondary degree is worth it--be it an associate’s, bachelor’s or master’s degree.

”It's going to make you a better police officer. It's going to hone your knowledge and your skills. It's going to improve your communication skills,” said Costello. “And it's really going to give you a broader understanding of society, of people, of the issues and give you a little bit different perspective on things.”