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For Scott Lau, the decision to enroll in ASU Online’s undergraduate degree program in urban planning came after questioning the thought process behind a new bike lane in Sacramento.
“There was a road reconstruction project near my neighborhood that added a bike lane in between two lanes of road,” he explains. “Right in the middle, removing the original bike lane that was next to the sidewalk. I knew the area and knew I would be sure to look out for bikes, but what about if someone was coming from out of town and was frustrated with their GPS, and not paying attention to the road as well as they should be?”
He was intrigued enough by the problem to look up the resume of each of the city’s planners.
“They had a lot of experience, but were from cities that I felt were irrelevant to Sacramento’s needs,” he says. “I wanted to do it better, and it was during a time where I needed a degree.”
Although he was working toward becoming a police officer, he knew the selection process was competitive, and felt the flexibility of attending school online combined with the potential to earn his degree was well worth it.
“I had insomnia back then and thought if I can’t sleep in the middle of the night, I can watch a lecture,” he says. “But after I was accepted, I really followed through and put in the effort, and was able to graduate magna cum laude.”
Though many of his classmates were unable to attend graduation on campus in May 2017, Scott was pleasantly surprised by the networking events and opportunities to meet new people.
“I built friendships with people I would have never met were this online program not so organized and established,” he says. “What could have been a miserable experience not knowing anyone turned into getting to meet five new people and walk at graduation.”
He also credits ASU with helping him obtain his current role with the California Department of Transportation, or Caltrans.
“The one thing that made me more competitive than other candidates, many of whom had much more experience, was the fact that I had learned about geographic information systems — software that is important for use in planning and zoning a city,” he says. “Other candidates didn’t have that skill, and nowadays all city planning and urban development is switching to more high-tech types of work. ASU gave me a distinct advantage.”
He is currently shadowing coworkers to gain experience, meeting with politicians and other city officials. When it comes to long-term career goals, he has political aspirations of his own.
“I want to become a city mayor,” he says. “I adapt well and see current trends that need to be worked on. I want to do something remarkable in society, and I think no matter where I am, I could pick up the problems of a city and think of solutions to make things better.”
Note: This story was originally published on ASU Online's Newsroom site.