Study abroad, honors thesis and disability advocacy highlights of 2020 Barrett grad Cuitlahuac Aguilar’s ASU experience

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December 11, 2020

Two things stand out in Cuitlahuac “Cuity” Aguilar’s undergraduate experience at Arizona State University – a study abroad trip to Ireland and his honors thesis. 

Aguilar came to ASU as a junior transfer from Northland Pioneer College in Show Low, Ariz.

He was a recipient of the All-Arizona Academic Team Tuition Scholarship provided by Phi Theta Kappa. He also received the Ethelmae S. Merriam Endowment and support from the C.R. Krimminger Fund. 

“I am grateful for all of these scholarships and for the generosity of the donors,” said Aguilar, who considers Gila Bend and Avondale his hometowns.

Aguilar graduates this month with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the W.P. Carey School of Business with honors from Barrett, The Honors College at ASU. 

He has ankylosing spondylitis, a rare form of arthritis that causes fused spine vertebrae and back stiffness, and uses an electric scooter and cane. 

In 2019, Aguilar wasn’t sure he would be able to participate in a Barrett, The Honors College summer study abroad trip to Ireland. 

With funding from the Barrett, The Honors College Travel Scholarship, assistance from ASU’s Disability Resource Center, and support from honors faculty, Aguilar was able to spend a week in Ireland. Read about his experience here.

“That was the cherry on top of my Barrett experience, it was awesome! I mean, come on! Among a sea of awesomeness were the moments where I drank a Guinness beer in Ireland and got the chance to hold an Irish lamb!” he said. 

Aguilar’s honors thesis titled “Accessibility Services Feedback and Recommendations: The Experience of a Sun Devil at ASU” focused on accessibility concerns at the ASU Polytechnic campus and recommendations to alleviate those issues. 

Concerns outlined in Aguilar’s thesis included incompatible D.A.R.T. hours and class hours, D.A.R.T.’s range of operations, parking lot design flaws, flaws in elevator placement at Peralta Hall, and the inter-campus shuttle’s lack of clearly visible Americans with Disabilities Act compliant signage. Aguilar also suggested that Zoom and ASU Sync be incorporated with a closed circuit video feed system. 

“I hope that my thesis will help increase the accessibility of the Polytechnic campus for those with disabilities. My recommendations, should even one be implemented, have the potential to help students in the future,” Aguilar said.

We asked Aguilar to reflect on his years at ASU. Here’s what he had to say.

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

I started out wanting to major in business, but then the calculus requirement scared me off, resulting in pursuing an arts transfer degree from Northland Pioneer Community College in northeastern Arizona. But then after some research, I figured that if I was going to achieve my ultimate goal, I would need to conquer calculus (I got a B+, which ruined my 4.0 GPA) and learn the art of business and how to make money in that field. My ultimate goal? To one day have the means to become a generous philanthropist, so that I too can contribute to scholarship funds and other charitable deeds.

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

I always viewed negotiations at a zero-sum situation; that there would be a winner and a loser. However, in my negotiations class (MGT 430), I learned that yes, there are situations like that, but that most of the time, negotiating requires that the end result is a win-win, meaning that both sides are happy with the result. This will allow the parties to establish an amicable relationship and to look forward to further negotiations in the future. This really changed my perspective.

Why did you choose ASU?

My choice was between Northern Arizona University, ASU, or University of Arizona, the universities where I could use the All-Arizona Academic Team Scholarship. NAU was way too expensive and I have no family in the Tucson area. The main factors that I considered all pointed towards ASU: W.P. Carey ranked than the business schools at U of A and NAU. In addition, ASU had a prestigious honors college, Barrett. So, the natural choice was ASU. The question was which of the four metro campuses? The final decision was between West and Polytechnic. What tipped the scales was a notification at the last possible second that I got into a unit at ASU’s family housing at Poly when I was about to sign a lease for a house near West.

Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU? What was that lesson? 

This fall semester my COM 230 professor, Dr. Steven Garry, allowed my teammates and I to learn a valuable lesson: do something for others. We were to engage in gaining social capital by doing a service project. What we ended up doing was teaming with a non-profit named Paper-Bridges, a student-run organization that facilitates sending inspiring letters to orphanages. They were also holding a fundraiser through GoFundMe to provide foster homes with child sized facemasks. The goals of our seven-member team were that we would each write eight letters and raise $50 with the help of family and friends. In total, we wrote 56 letters and raised $368. Indeed, this taught us all a valuable lesson: to think of others, not just ourselves.

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

If you need help do not hesitate to ask for it, whether you seek accommodations or other forms of help from ASU or help from professors and/or fellow students with assignments. And if you feel that you don’t need help, do not hesitate to offer it or provide it when asked. It is an important interpersonal skill that will go a long way in their leadership development.

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

At Poly, the patio area outside of the student union building. During the spring, it turns into a beautiful yellow paradise.

What are your plans after graduation?

I plan to begin my career. I will hopefully have something lined up soon, if not, I will continue to search for employment until I am successful. I will most likely conduct the job search from the West Valley or from the Show Low area.

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

I would use those funds to help alleviate poverty. There is a story out there that says you don’t give a hungry person a fish, you teach them how to fish. Thus, I would use the money to establish centers of education that teach people in poverty-stricken areas how to help themselves and begin the cycle of self-sufficiency through education and/or learning a trade that is or will be in demand in their area.

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