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‘Never too late’: ASU student earns degree, turns 50 same week


Kristen LaRue

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2017 commencement. See more graduates here.

Hailing from Salcha, Alaska, 40 miles south of Fairbanks (“very cold!” she says), Karol Pomplin is currently living in New Iberia, Louisiana, about two hours west of New Orleans (“very Cajun!”). Moving frequently with her family (her husband works in the oil industry), Pomplin thought she’d have to put off completing her college degree indefinitely.

Then she heard about Starbucks’ partnership with Arizona State University, and applied to Starbucks as a barista. Her application to ASU soon followed.

For the past two years, when not serving up Frappuccinos, Pomplin has been immersed in reading and writing for her online bachelor's in English. Among her favorite literary works? Bram Stoker’s “Dracula.” “My reading tastes tend to lean toward the macabre,” she says. After she graduates this spring, Pomplin looks forward to “tackling” some Toni Morrison titles as well.

We caught up with her to find out what else is on the horizon.

Question: What was your "aha" moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? (Might be while you were at ASU or earlier.)

Answer: When I was in high school, and teachers would ask about my life goals, I had a stock answer. I wanted to be a writer. I nearly finished college in my early twenties, but life happened. I detoured through parenthood, but my dream of finishing college persisted. Today, my stock answer is the same.

I want to be a writer.

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

A: Learning a foreign language online is challenging. The classes were very time-consuming and demanding, but I’m grateful for this experience. Even after two years of study in Spanish, I am far from fluent. However, it provided me with an enriched appreciation for how difficult it must be for those living in a country that does not speak their first language. I had always considered myself sensitive to this issue, but had no way to grasp the level of difficulty in learning a second language.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: We move a fair amount due to my husband’s career. It made it difficult to establish residency in one state and reside there long enough to finish. I heard of the college achievement plant through Starbucks and applied as a barista. I’m very thankful. I consider the opportunity to finish college a true blessing.

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

A: Never give up and try not to delay. When you take time away from school, it’s not always easy to find your way back, but it’s never too late. I am graduating from college and turning 50 within the same week. I often tell my son, who is currently serving in the military, as well as my fellow baristas, always accept every opportunity to learn and further your education.

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

A: I’m an online student and have never actually been on campus. I did drive through Arizona once when I was 15, does that count?

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: This fall, I plan to take a few classes pertaining to editing. Learning more about this skill will help to improve my own writing. I would also like help other writers achieve their dreams to see their work published. I also hope to volunteer to help tutor students working to obtain their GED.

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

A: It’s a difficult choice. As a parent, I always want to fix everything. However, base needs of survival would take priority for me. Poverty and hunger are such critical issues in our world today. No one should ever have to go without a meal. It’s such a basic need that most of take for granted.