ASU alumni share career experiences with incoming freshmen

By

Matt Oxford

Career outlook can be an important factor when choosing a major out of high school. Those considering political science may look to pursue foreign service or working on a campaign, or find a role in a government office or in law.

This year’s group of Arizona State University freshmen participating in the Early Start Program within the School of Politics and Global Studies got some guidance from two alumni who serve on the school’s Alumni Advisory Board, who spoke to the students about their career paths.

The Early Start Program helps prepare incoming freshmen for their transition to ASU. From listening to notable guest speakers to visiting the Arizona State Capitol, students experience a lively, engaging and thought-provoking program design to create a pathway to success.

The first alumni to speak was Danny Mazza.

Mazza, an ASU political science alumnus, is an attorney at law with Mazza Law Center, PLC. He spoke with the group of freshmen about working on campaigns and advice for getting started on the right foot. Mazza, who got credit for interning while at ASU through POS 484, suggested students take advantage of the course.

“If you guys have an opportunity to intern for somebody, I think that is definitely life-changing,” Mazza said. “You are getting college credit for it [and] you’re getting this invaluable real life experience that you don’t necessarily get in the classroom.”

Students also wanted to know more from Mazza about what it was like owning his own law firm. He shared that initially he was working in a stressful environment for a small firm. Mazza wanted to become his own boss but the fear of failure was a big impediment. Through the support of friends and family he decided to make the leap.

“The only regret I had was I didn’t do it sooner,” Mazza said. “I don’t know if owning your own business is for everyone, but it has been really fun for me.”

Later in the week, political science alumnus Akshai Patel came to speak with the Early Starters. Patel is currently the chief strategy and outreach officer with ASU Preparatory Academy.

Patel shared with the group that he initially thought he was going to go to law school.

“I wanted to go to law school — not necessarily be a lawyer,” Patel said. “I wanted to change the world.”

ASU Early Start Program 2018
ASU alumnus Akshai Patel speaking with Early Starters.

During his time at ASU he was approached by a recruiter for Teach for America. The recruiter suggested to Patel that he didn’t need to go to law school to make an impact, that he could start changing the world that summer.

Patel started teaching for Teach for America in South Phoenix. Wanting to make a difference in the quality of education in the area, Patel later co-founded Phoenix Collegiate Academy in 2009 with 57 sixth graders. Now a full K–12 school that has merged with ASU Prep, almost all graduates from the school go on to postsecondary education. Patel said this was four times the rate of high schools in the area.

Patel also encouraged students to get involved and try out the different programs the school offers such as the Arizona Legislative Internship Program, Capital Scholars or Junior Fellows. No matter which opportunity they choose to do, Patel emphasized the value of building a network.

“How many in this room do you think you’re going to talk to in 15 years?” Patel asked. “What’s crazy is maybe one of these people is going to be the person who gives you a job, finds you a connection or helps you do something important.”