Sigma Lambda Gamma president used ASU resources to sharpen her leadership skills

October 13, 2021

As she set off on her adventure as an ASU graduate, Cassandra Ortiz, 25, took with her a wealth of knowledge and skills that she is putting to good use in her professional career. 

The Chicago native, who earned a bachelor’s degree in applied biological sciences with an emphasis in natural resource ecology, looks forward to helping the marine and wildlife of our planet. 

To do that, Ortiz is using what she learned as a TRIO student to differentiate herself from the rest. TRIO is a set of federally funded programs designed to support low-income students, first-generation students, students with disabilities and veterans in pursuit of a college degree.

ASU Grad Cassandra Ortiz poses at her favorite spot on the Tempe campus.

ASU grad Cassandra Ortiz at her favorite spot on the Tempe campus

“It has allowed me to grow professionally, as a leader and personally. It has also presented me with unlimited opportunities. I love what TRIO is about and the kind of support it provides with real-world education, support in academics, and so much more, Ortiz said. 

She was also a student worker for TRIO, which allowed her to help other students by sharing her experiences.

Ortiz was also a part of the ASU Greek community since fall 2019, when she was initiated as a member of Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority. In April 2020, she was elected president of the chapter, which is part of the Multicultural Greek Council. She credits the organization with allowing her to grow as a professional and leader.

“I have also learned a great amount about myself and my potential. As a president I faced many challenges and had many opportunities to give up, but it taught me strength and how to believe in myself. This was with all the help of my chapter advisors and mentors,” Ortiz said. 

As she celebrated her graduation, Ortiz reflected on her time at ASU and shared advice for current Sun Devils.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: I just began to do a ton of research on marine and wildlife biology and realized that this was what I wanted to do. The adventure in collecting data out in the field and helping our planet was something that meant a lot to me and sounds exciting to me. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective?

A: My first semester at ASU I had an experience in the classroom where I learned that not everyone may understand the conditions of where we come from and that’s OK. But it is important to educate others with an open mind. I also learned to have patience with others and to be able to listen before I speak. 

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because Arizona is a beautiful state. The weather and sunshine makes me feel good and starts my day off with a positive energy. When I came to visit Arizona I just knew that I had to move. 

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

A: My professor Carlos Velez-Ibanez taught TCL 332: Mexican American History Since 1900. This course alone gave me a glance at who my people are, where they came from and the amazing things people who look like me have accomplished. 

Growing up, when I would open a history book I never saw anyone who looked like me or knew that many Mexican-Americans also were involved in the building of America. Through my professor’s stories, lectures, readings and vulnerability, he taught me that you really need to appreciate and love every part of yourself no matter what the world may think. He also saw more potential in me than I saw in myself throughout this very challenging semester, and I really appreciate that. He is an amazing professor. 

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: There is a lot of pressure, and oftentimes we associate who we are with how well we are doing. Courses are challenging, and this is and has been a challenging time for everyone. Your GPA and grades don’t define you as a person. You don’t have to be perfect; you just have to be committed. 

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

A: I love the new library in Tempe. I am a Poly student but when I would visit the library I was able to really focus and dive into my work. I also just love the Hayden garden with all of the pink flowers; it is so beautiful. 

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: I plan to hopefully work in higher education and then go for my master’s. I also want to gain more experience in the biological research field. I want to start working toward my dream of marine/wildlife biology. 

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

A: I would tackle the issue with endangered species on our planet. This is something I actually hope to do in my future career, help better maintain and preserve ecosystems.