Barrett sophomore Alexis DeVries aims for success in academics, sports and life
Many years ago, a young Alexis DeVries watched longingly as the neighborhood boys in Yuma played war with their Nerf guns, walkie-talkies, and fancy code words. "Girls can't shoot," they told her, so DeVries walked outside with water balloons and showed them just how much of a good shot she was.
“By the age of seven, I was outside throwing sloppy roundhouse kicks, pretending Christmas ornaments were gas bombs, much to the displeasure of my mother, and using sticks as throwing knives with my new best friends,” she said. “Even at a young age, I knew I deserved every right to have as much fun slaying imaginary zombies as they did. I made it a personal goal of mine always to defy the odds, and nothing was going to stop me.”
In fifth grade, a flyer promoting karate classes at Activstars was placed on her desk, and she begged her hesitant mother to let her join. The one class she signed up for turned into many more.
Today, DeVries, a sophomore in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, is a martial arts instructor and judge at Activstars, which provides youth recreational sports programs in Arizona, Texas and the Midwest. The Arizona Martial Arts Tournament League ranks DeVries second among female karate competitors throughout the state.
“I learned that karate was more than hitting things; it was a way of life,” she said. “I found peace in calming meditation and structure in strict etiquette. I gained a family with my teammates as we competed in sparring one minute and clapped each other on the back the next. As I got older, I started volunteering to teach some of the younger classes, and my heart filled with pride every time a defenseless child turned into a trained warrior. I was able to create the same memories for students that I had growing up.”
She continues to practice and teach karate while majoring in computer information systems in the W.P. Carey School of Business, serving as Director of Service Events for the Business School Council, being the philanthropy researcher for the Women’s Business Leader’s Association, and Vice President of Panhellenic Relations for the Greek organization Alpha Delta Pi.
DeVries said she chose Barrett because it offered her the chance to have resources she never had access to before. She also got to experience diversity for the first time, since she grew up in a very small town where she felt isolated from the world.
“Because I’ve always been limited in what classes were available to me, I didn’t really know what I liked or where I belonged,” DeVries said. “The honors college allowed me to explore all my interests - not just one. Having daily conversations with people in Barrett who have different interests and perspectives on life encouraged my personal growth.”
She also said she’s drawn to the atmosphere at Barrett because she’s around students who have high achieving goals like she does.
“I enjoy challenging myself, and Barrett allowed me to be around fellow scholars who value learning and to join honors classes that enrich my college experience,” she said.
After enjoying being part of student council at her high school, DeVries knew she wanted to join the business school and found that a lot of the skills needed for both are similar. Both require you to show leadership, work in teams, manage a budget, plan events, use your creativity, listen to criticism from your audience, and maintain a positive attitude in high-pressure situations.
DeVries also became interested in computers because her mom works in a computer lab, and she grew up watching her mom code and write cool programs. Her mom even helped DeVries make websites in elementary school for fun. As DeVries read up on the growth of careers in computer information systems, she felt like it was the perfect fit for her.
“It wasn’t until I joined the Women’s Business Leaders Association that I became interested in management,” DeVries said. “We had a meeting with a couple of female business executives from around the Phoenix area where I had a fantastic conversation with a chief information officer about how she defied the odds to get to where she is now and the tasks that she does on an everyday basis. I had never heard of this job before and was immediately intrigued. I researched and found many computing firms need project managers who are familiar with the material.”
Now, DeVries is looking to add management as a second major.
She has learned a lot about leadership through her involvement ASU student organizations. Through her position as Director of Service Events in the Business School Council, DeVries said she learned that the true meaning of leadership is to set a positive example. You must be doing the dirty work just as much as everyone else and practice what you preach.
As philanthropy researcher for the Women's Business Leader’s Association, DeVries gained the opportunity to uplift other women in business, learn resume and interview skills, and network with female executives in local companies.
In Alpha Delta Pi, the oldest collegiate sorority in the U.S., DeVries found opportunities and acceptance.
“Through A D Pi, I have gotten the unique opportunity to join a group of women centered on the values of leadership, responsibility, academics, and sisterhood,” she said. “This organization made it much easier for me to find like-minded friends and adjust to college while being far away from home.”
DeVries has continued to stay in shape and keep her karate skills sharp by visiting dojos in Tempe and attending tournaments on the weekends. She has been training in the Chinese martial art of Shaolin Quan Fa for 10 years.
DeVries has won first place in multiple tournaments throughout her martial arts career. 2020 was her first year competing in the category for competitors 18 years old and up. She accumulated enough points by competing in tournaments throughout 2020 to earn a No. 2 ranking overall in Arizona.
Her advice for busy students like herself is to value their mental health just as much as their education.
“Your self-worth is not defined by your productivity,” DeVries said. “Being in higher education can be demanding, but we are also adults now, so sadly, tragedies can happen. You must take care of yourself, talk to your loved ones often, and get enough sleep, exercise, and (good) nutrition. With excellent mental health, you can better focus on your studies and make the college experience even more enjoyable.”
DeVries aims to graduate from Barrett, The Honors College and W. P. Carey School of Business with a double major in computer information systems and management at a 4.0 GPA or higher. Then, she wants to become a project manager for a well-known computing firm like Google or Microsoft and work her way up the ladder to become a Chief Information Officer someday.
“Most of all,” DeVries said, “I want to make my family proud and ensure that they never have to worry about financial issues ever again while still being able to do something that I find exciting every day.”
Story by Ranjani Venkatakrishnan, a May 2020 Barrett, The Honors College graduate who is currently pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at the ASU Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.