Editor’s note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2023 graduates.
Going to college has always been on Colton Cagle’s mind. He grew up in a single-parent household, and his mother, a teacher, always emphasized the value of education, even if money was tight.
“I knew that affording college would rely on fighting for opportunities to secure scholarships or taking out student loans,” Cagle said. “However, I was determined to go to college without acquiring large amounts of debt.”
Cagle was prepared for the financial challenges, but the mental aspect of being undecided in his major took him by surprise.
All of that changed when one of his mentors sent him an article on Elaine Welteroth, the editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue and one of the judges on Project Runway.
“I always had a deep passion for storytelling and media creation,” Cagle said. “I wanted to be the editor-in-chief of a fashion or lifestyle magazine, but I never thought it was realistic. I was a big fan of Elaine Welteroth, and she studied public relations and journalism in college. Reading about what she studied made me realize what other academic options were available to me.”
Reinvigorated, Cagle turned to the Starbucks College Achievement Plan. A first-of-its-kind partnership between Arizona State University and Starbucks, it offers eligible U.S. partners 100% upfront tuition coverage. Through the partnership, he was able to enroll in the mass communication and media studies degree program through ASU Online and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and seamlessly balance work and school life.
Cagle embraced the ASU community during his time in college. He was a senator for the Online Student Government Advocacy Group, participated in Undergraduate Student Government Downtown as the director of online student advocacy, and chaired the Online Student Advocacy Committee.
Through those experiences, Cagle acquired valuable skills he plans to implement as he embarks on his next chapter in media production.
We spoke with the Cagle about his experience with ASU Online and his plans for the future.
Question: What’s something you learned while at ASU Online — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?
Answer: My perspective on advocacy has changed dramatically during my time at ASU Online. Before, I never thought much about advocacy and considered it a more passive role. However, in my work with student government and fighting for online students to have more representation within student government at ASU, I learned the true power of being an advocate. Being an advocate means using your voice, privilege and power to create change based on your own experience but also the experiences of those around you.
Q: Why did you choose ASU Online?
A: I think ASU Online chose me before I chose it. When my initial college dreams didn’t come true, I thought that was it for me. However, ASU Online provided me with a fantastic college experience and education. I chose ASU Online because I was working at Starbucks, and it was an opportunity to get a free college education. Where can you say that in today’s climate? I also loved that I could complete the degree independently and from home, giving me the flexibility to work still and participate in other extracurricular activities.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU Online?
A: Christina Shockley is the professor who taught me the most important lesson while at ASU Online. She taught me the importance of my voice and presenting my authentic, unique voice to the world. She also emphasized the value of embracing my story and putting that into my voice. Her class was very meaningful.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Don’t give up! I know everyone says it, but you have to find the motivation within yourself to keep on going, even when you don’t want to. College is like a marathon, and you have to keep momentum as you go. Instead of getting overwhelmed by how much you have left, focus on small, tangible goals that focus on finishing the semester, session, or even the week.
Q: What was your favorite spot for power studying?
A: As boring as it sounds, my bedroom. During the pandemic, I bought a desk for my room and have loved completing my degree from home. In all honesty, my other favorite study spot is my bed.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: I plan to secure a job at a local news station within their production department. I love media production, and I hope local stations can provide me with the experience and networking to grow my career into larger-scale productions.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: What a tricky question to answer, but I would use $40 million to help combat misinformation in our society and provide the education needed for people to become more media literate. Across all demographics, misinformation is rapidly spreading and damaging people’s lives. As a society, I think this is an issue we need to address and tackle to avoid our continued polarization path.