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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for fall 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.
Before Emily Carney left her hometown of Marion, Iowa for college at Arizona State University, her mom told her, “Make the most of your college experience — these are the memories that you'll keep with you forever."
At the time, Carney says she thought it was cliché, but now as a graduating senior with a Bachelor of Science in psychology, she not only believes her mom’s advice — she can truly say she has lived it.
Carney’s involvement at ASU began her freshman year when she joined the Pi Beta Phi sorority as a way to make friends. That decision indeed helped her form friendships, but it also gave her a vision for her future as a leader with a strong desire to impact her community.
Through Pi Beta Phi she was able to network with other women in the Panhellenic and local professional community. She was also able to cultivate her leadership skills by taking on executive roles for ASU’s Panhellenic Association (PHA), the governing council for the 13 National Panhellenic Conference sororities and two associate member sororities on campus. In 2016 she served as Vice President of Internal Affairs and interim Vice President of Judicial Affairs. In 2017, she was elected Panhellenic president.
As president, Carney led the coordination of programming and events like the PowHER Women’s Conference, Women’s Leadership Dinners and the Cinderella Affair prom dress donation event.
Carney also used her platform as PHA president to raise awareness about sexual violence, an important issue that had impacted her personally. As a student development coordinator for ASU’s Sexual Violence Prevention Program, she was able to share her knowledge and experience with the campus community.
“As a survivor of sexual violence, I found that my way of dealing with my past was to serve others, to help educate and hopefully prevent this from happening to others,” Carney said.
True to her mom’s words, Carney says that connecting with the ASU community created priceless memories and opened many doors, including jobs, volunteering and support systems.
“My involvement in this community has impacted me more than I can express,” said Carney. “I am so proud to be a Sun Devil, and I cannot wait to give back to ASU.”
Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: I decided I wanted to go into psychology while in AP psychology my senior year of high school. My teacher was very passionate about it and educated us about how psychology can be applied in nearly every field of work. Understanding human behavior is applicable whenever interacting with others, and being able to interact as well as possible is what I strive to do. The courses I have taken in my time at ASU have already found application in my life. I recognize myself often incorporating lessons into my daily interactions.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: My greatest takeaway from my time at ASU is the importance of exposure to other cultures. I came from a relatively small town in the midwest, where I had limited exposure to cultures that were not my own. I have been able to interact with people who come from incredibly diverse backgrounds. These experiences have influenced me to be more aware of the world around me. In the past three and a half years, I have become increasingly more invested in public policy and found a reason to care. As a middle-class white person, I did not face much adversity. My interactions with students and staff at ASU have challenged my views on various issues — that I need to use my privilege to serve, support, and advocate for those who are not born into my circumstances. Becoming friends with those who are different than me has impacted this thought process. Prior to ASU, I was not aware of how other people were impacted, nor was I able to connect with people different than myself. ASU has provided me the opportunity to expand my cultural understandings, which has influenced my daily interactions.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU as an opportunity to live outside my comfort zone. I saw ASU as a university that offered endless opportunities to students in their collegiate journey and beyond. I feel so honored to have attended a university in which the faculty provides endless opportunities to the students. At any given point in my three and a half years here, I have felt incredibly supported. The amount of resources ASU pours into their students is absolutely admirable. I have received an incredibly well-rounded higher education experience — inside and outside the classroom.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: My favorite spot, which subsequently was my most visited spot, was the third floor of the MU in the Fraternity and Sorority Life office. The FSL staff are incredibly hardworking staff members of the ASU community, and truly believe in ensuring the fraternity and sorority experience is the premier experience in the country. The staff consistently encourages students to live their values and hold their chapter and community accountable for the values we've committed to. My greatest experiences in college are because of my sorority experience, which is attributed to the endless hours of work that the staff and previous FSL members have served.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation, I plan to move back to Iowa and begin a job in behavioral health. My experiences in college have helped guide my professional aspirations. I feel so lucky to have had the exposure to so many opportunities that have challenged my initial vision of my future. I have had exposure to many fields in which my degree can apply, and it has allowed me to seek a career in which I will feel I am creating a positive impact on other's lives. Although I am moving away from ASU, I truly believe that I will return one day so I can give back to the university that provided me so much.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: If given $40 million to solve one problem, I would give it to communities that are underserved. I find it unbelievable that in the United States, we have a system in which work ethic is not the determining factor in maintaining a successful life. The area/zip code in which an individual is born and raised should NOT influence the opportunities available to that individual. Pouring funds into these communities to provide the resources that others receive will help to provide equity. Providing children with a public education that is equal to that of any other community is critical. In order to ensure the next generation is prepared to continue to advance society, we must provide the resources to them — regardless of how much money their parents make, who they know, or what community they live in. We need to create a community of care — we need to start caring about one another.