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Masters in software engineering graduate Stefano Chang poses for a portrait outside the bookstore on Tempe campus April 20. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow

By Scott Seckel, ASU Now

Stefano Chang of Maricopa had a good job in his field and was one class away from a master’s degree in software engineering from Arizona State University.

Then his vision went wonky.

He saw double because of a tumor in his head. Work, school, and everything else came to a screeching halt as he went to Mayo Clinic for treatment.

While he was there he wondered if there was a way he could take his final class online. He asked Kevin Gary, the graduate program committee chair for software engineering, about it.

“I didn’t want to delay more than I already did,” said Chang, the first in his family to earn a college degree. “It was the only thing I could do in terms of moving on.”

While enduring eight-hour treatments, he hunched over his laptop, wrapping up his degree.

“It felt good,” he said.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I always knew I wanted to get into computers, and that’s what I did. I had zero programming experience coming in. I moved here when I was 15, and I didn’t know anything about this country. … My school didn’t offer anything.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: It takes a lot more effort to finish grad school, knowing that you already have a degree and might not necessarily need it. I already had a job; I was already working before I graduated. This doesn’t really give me a pay bump or anything like that. It’s a lot more than taking exams or reading books; it shows a lot of determination, that you can finish something that you started.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: My brother, my dad and I moved here (from Paraguay). I don’t think my dad finished high school. Nobody had an education, so to say, in my family. It was just me figuring it out. My high school counselor said, “Just apply.” I applied — all local colleges. I got accepted to all three major ones. I was reading the brochure for ASU in computer science. It had a bullet point list of things they specialized in. None of the other colleges had it, so I thought, “OK — I’ll go to ASU.”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t quit. You’re going to look back and you’re going to say, “I was wise about that,” once you get through it. It’s just like my treatment. I look back on it and say, “It was a piece of cake. Nothing.” But at the time…

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The Brickyard building. That’s the computer science building.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I started my LLC while I was going through treatment. I didn’t want to waste (time usually spent in school) once I graduated. I thought, “I’ll start my own business and make it work.” I took on some contract jobs. It’s a software consulting business.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I think getting autonomous cars to the point where they’re fully autonomous. I don’t think $40 million would be enough. If it’s fully autonomous it’s a lot safer.

Reprinted by permission from ASU Now. Chang is a graduate of Maricopa High School. Photo by Deanna Dent of ASU Now.

Submitted photo


More than 550 Butterfield Elementary students attended an Arizona State University Women’s Basketball game Friday at Wells Fargo Arena in Tempe.

Submitted photo

The field trip is part of a partnership between ASU and the local elementary school that began two years ago to promote higher education. Second through fifth grade students were accompanied by teachers and more than 120 parents.

Second-grade teacher Allie Krigbaum, an ASU alumna, first connected the university with her elementary school two years ago with the Sparky Caravan – a pep assembly at Butterfield that featured appearances by ASU coaches Bobby Hurley, Todd Graham and Charli Turner Thorne, as well as players, athletic trainers and school mascot “Sparky.”

It’s the second consecutive “Sparky’s Kids to College” field trip the school has taken to Wells Fargo Arena.

Krigbaum said the event is a way to get students thinking of college at an early age.

“Many of our students in Maricopa don’t think college is an option for them, so starting them thinking about attending college at a young age is really important to us,” she said.

Although the Sun Devils fell to Utah 58-56 Friday, Krigbaum said the experience is an unforgettable event because it’s the first time many students have attended a collegiate  game.

“We really noticed that not only is this field trip really fun, but it emphasizes the college experience and encourages our kids to excel in education,” Krigbaum said. “Exactly what we feel our kids in Maricopa need to see.”

Butterfield students helped caravan staff teach about good character traits. Photo by Raquel Hendrickson

Butterfield Elementary was one of only six schools in the state treated to a visit by the Sun Devil Caravan’s Sparky Tour this week.

While the tour later had a service project at Copper Sky Regional Park and a meet-and-greet at Ak-Chin Southern Dunes Golf Course Tuesday, it was a Butterfield where the Arizona State University mascot was welcomed by hundreds of screaming fans.

The tour brought coaches Charli Turner Thorne, Bobby Hurley and Todd Graham along with Athletics Vice President Ray Anderson, band members, athletes and other students and staff to Maricopa. At Butterfield, they used the mascot Sparky to teach life lessons at an energetic, all-school pep rally.

Teacher Allie Krigbaum was credited with persistently asking the caravan to come to Butterfield until ASU made it happen.

After the visit to Butterfield, the caravan went to Copper Sky, where the participants pulled weeds and trimmed vegetation. They then traveled to Ak-Chin Southern Dunes, where they were greeted by Chairman Robert Miguel.

This is the third year of the caravan, which is intended to build rapport between ASU and surrounding communities and give some of the university’s most notable figures some face time with potential future students.