Geography Dean’s Medalist Student Mapped her Own Path at ASU

Amy Berry is an avid learner. Entering Arizona State University as a freshman with 50-plus college credits, Berry utilized her academic flexibility to explore different courses and majors until she found the right fit for her: Geography. 

“I had a lot of college credits and I had a lot of room to explore,” Berry said, who is graduating this May from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning with a bachelor of arts in geography and a double minor in sustainability and urban planning. “Geography really fit the bill for everything I wanted to do. It had a lot of environmental aspects, it had a lot of social aspects, I also have done a lot of coursework in Geographical Information Systems and I found a real passion for that.” 

Berry’s passion has shown through her dedication to her studies. She is this semester’s selection by the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning for the Dean’s Medalist Award from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, a recognition reserved for the highest achieving students from the social sciences, natural sciences and humanities. 

“Amy is one of the top-performing graduating seniors in our school, making the Dean's list every semester,” said Ron Dorn, professor of geography in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Faculty in our school speak glowingly about her as an elite student who performs at an exemplary level in her courses. We will all miss her and wish her the very best as she moves forward as an alumnus of (our school)” 

Beyond academics, Berry credits ASU for instilling a new sense of confidence in herself. 

“ASU taught me to not be afraid of making mistakes, to go ahead and put myself out there,” Berry said. “I'm very naturally shy, but because of ASU -- doing group projects, class presentations and working my job on campus --  I've become more outgoing. I've learned how to speak to people, and I’ve really come out of my shell.”

Her advice to other students: Don’t be afraid to venture outside of the box. 

“Don't be afraid to put yourself out there and take a class or something that might not be directly within your degree program,” Berry said. “Take something that's a little outside the box and explore. Maybe you'll find something that you like.” 

Ahead of commencement, we asked her a few questions about her time at ASU:

Why did you choose ASU?

ASU is where my sister went. I love Arizona. I want my career to be here. ASU had in-state tuition and I was able to live at home and I had my support team here. I got to go to an absolutely great university. It was really my only choice even in high school.

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

Professor Elizabeth Larson taught me the most important lesson: do not be afraid to speak up and express a different point of view or point out bias. She would always say that we should never be disrespectful or rude, but that it's okay to ask questions if you do not understand or have a different opinion. She would also say that she did not know everything and we should not take what she, or anyone else, said as the absolute and unbiased truth.

What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life? 

There’s this grassy area over by the Student Services building and the Discovery Hall building. There are rose gardens and grass and shade. It's this really pretty area. I would take a blanket and go out and stretch there. 

What are your plans after graduation?

If you were to ask me a week ago I would say I would be trying to look for a job in urban planning, but now I'm thinking about going to graduate school at ASU and starting an application in either the Master in Urban and Environmental Planning or the Master of Advanced Study in GIS and wait a little while to start my career. 

What is your dream job? 

The dream job would absolutely be something in sustainability where I could use all of the skills I have gotten. Something where I could help people to be more sustainable, hopefully in a city or municipality like Phoenix. 

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

I would probably try to find some way to make solar more affordable for Arizonans and for people in general. 

What’s the biggest take away for you from your time here at ASU? 

I think it's don’t be afraid to venture outside the box. Take on a couple of risks and take on a couple of challenges. Maybe you don't think you'll succeed in it but you’re going to try anyways.