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Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.
Elana Quint grew up asking the big questions.
It starts with her family. Originally from the Soviet Union, Quint's mother immigrated to the United States in 1989 with her family. Not knowing a word of English, unfamiliar with customs and without any connections in the United States, they settled in Tucson, where Quint would eventually be born. Her family having come from a country with a turbulent government situation, Quint quickly understood the importance of good governance and the impact the law has on society.
“Ever since I was young, I have had an insatiable curiosity and love of learning. One of the most compelling dimensions of studying philosophy and law is that oftentimes there is not a 'right answer,'" she said.
This May, Quint will graduate from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts in civic and economic leadership, as well as a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy, a minor in business, and as a graduate of Barrett, The Honors College. Quint is also being recognized by The College as a Dean’s Medalist.
Her education won’t stop in May, however. Quint was one of only 24 students selected from around the country to participate in the Hertog Foundation’s seven-week political studies program, where she will study political philosophy, contemporary public affairs, economics and foreign policy. Quint plans to attend law school, clerk in appellate court and go on to a career as a lawyer.
When Quint walks across the stage in May, she will be the first student to graduate from ASU’s School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, which was founded just over two years ago.
“I carry a great responsibility to both represent the school well and carry on our mission statement,” Quint said. “I strongly believe in the importance of vigorous debate about issues facing our world and that studying great thinkers can provide useful insight as to how we ought to approach them.”
As the first graduate of the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership, Quint sets a high bar of achievement, something Paul Carrese, SCETL’s founding director, hopes other students see as a goal they should strive to.
“We’re delighted that talented students like Elana found us immediately and dove into our regular courses and broader experiential-learning curriculum,” Carrese said. “Our student cohort grows with each semester, and we think the school’s approach to developing students as leaders will continue to attract new students from various parts of the university who want to invest in a broader preparation for service in whatever career or life path they might choose.”
The School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership also will have several students graduate with a minor in civic and economic thought and leadership.
Question: What was your “aha” moment when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?
Answer: My academic interest in studying philosophy began my freshman year of high school when I joined the speech and debate team and has only grown since.
Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?
A: ASU has an incredibly diverse student population. Some of the most profound moments in my personal and intellectual growth resulted from my discussions after classes with my peers who may be considered nontraditional students. I do not think I would have these experiences were I to study at another university.
Q: Why did you choose ASU?
A: I chose ASU to stay close to home — but not too close.
Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?
A: At the end of my sophomore year I took a course with the theatre department in Acting Fundamentals. Dan Tobin taught me that we should take our life experiences and use it to connect more deeply with others. When he taught us how to act, he emphasized the importance of given circumstances so every moment we spent on stage would be a genuine and authentic expression of emotion.
Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?
A: Seek activities that push your thinking outside your comfort zone; take the remainder of the time you have in college to gain as many new experiences as you can.
Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?
A: The theater building, but generally the entire northwest artsy corner of campus.
Q: What are your plans after graduation?
A: After graduation I will move to Washington, D.C., to study law.
Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?
A: I would put $40 million dollars to solve substance abuse, such as drug and alcohol abuse. Addiction can take a terrible toll on families, which are our core social institutions.