Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2018 commencement.
College is about more than academics, more than finding a career. For ASU digital culture student Samedi Johnson, who is graduating May 7, a big part of college was about finding community.
“The greatest motivation I’ve had to stay in school was knowing I wasn’t alone in pursuing my education with people that had similar mindsets and far-ahead goals they’ve set for themselves,” Johnson said. “I found so much community within the student engagement groups such as the Rainbow Coalition because I was around people who wanted to make a difference for the students attending ASU.”
Johnson, who uses they/them pronouns, has also made a difference during their time at ASU. They founded TransFam, a transgender-focused community organization, and wrote the Faculty Guide for Trans Student Inclusion in the Classroom, a student-developed guide for faculty and staff interested in fostering trans-inclusive learning environments that promote trans student retention, success and well-being.
“I have been with ASU ever since the beginning of my freshman year, and it has really opened me up as an individual,” Johnson said.
Johnson not only found community with the Rainbow Coalition and TransFam, but also found like-minded students in the School of Arts, Media and Engineering’s digital culture program in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.
Digital culture is Johnson’s third major. They started out as a business major, then switched to art studies. Then a digital culture student told Johnson about an upcoming Digital Culture Showcase, which is held at the end of each semester and showcases student projects.
“I took a shot and went to it,” Johnson said. “This was my ‘aha’ moment, because they were doing the real weird stuff I wanted to do with my art career path. I am utterly in love with the cross-disciplinary-ness this major offers me to explore art with its intersections of art and engineering. It feels like a home away from home.”
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
Answer: The one thing that’s really surprised me is the amount of people that come back to school to study art in any capacity even if they already have a bachelor’s degree in another major, or utilizing their GI Bill funds. I’m used to seeing young people in academia being the student, so when I did see someone who was significantly older coming back to school to study their passion — it really made me think that I could go back at any time I wanted. Education is not a race to the finish; it can be a journey if you want it to be. Enjoying what you are studying will always be more satisfying than grinding your teeth through something you can’t stand.
Q. Why did you choose ASU?
A: I won’t be the first to admit that I didn’t always want to go to ASU initially, but when they offered me the most scholarship and financial aid so I wouldn’t be in student debt after my academic career, I couldn’t say no to that opportunity. A full-ride bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is not something I’d want to scoff at.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: It’s taken a while for me to really find my spot, but I think I found it this year. I usually like to escape to the upstairs in the primary building my major is housed in. I like the quietness it gives me and the lack of people that pass by. I can really concentrate on all my homework up there and see the professors, along with the education coordinators, who are always lovely to have a chat with.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I have the biggest dreams of moving out of Arizona to join a company that will utilize my talents and what I’ve learned from my time at ASU. I’ve always been an independent person, which I will continue to strive for post-graduation.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would donate the money toward existing and in-development transgender-focused homeless shelters across the world.