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Jim Blakely had never set foot in Arizona when he started thinking about attending Arizona State University.
He thought of the Grand Canyon state as the “wild west” and a place where he could make a name for himself. His parents, both Texas natives and University of Texas graduates, thought otherwise. They were disappointed when their son, who had been accepted into UT’s business school with a scholarship, decided to become an ASU Sun Devil.
“The only way I was able to convince my parents that ASU was the best fit was a promise that I would keep up a high grade point average and get into Barrett Honors College. In fact, my father drew up a contract that said as much and made me sign it,” he said.
Blakely began his business studies at ASU in 1998 and joined Barrett Honors College in 2000. He received a bachelor’s degree in marketing and entrepreneurship with honors in 2002.
He is now a partner in a Scottsdale, Ariz.-based financial planning practice called Blakely Walters. He co-founded the firm with Sloan Walters, who also is an ASU alumnus. Blakely also is a partner in Planning Grounds, a business that provides financial planning as an employee benefit to workers in several of Arizona’s largest companies. According to Blakely, Planning Grounds and Blakely Walters provide financial planning as an employee benefit to more than 30,000 employees nationwide.
Blakely took time out of his busy schedule to reflect on his Barrett Honors College experience. Here’s what he had to say.
How did you decide to attend ASU and Barrett?
I knew that I wanted to be an entrepreneur and therefore should attend a solid business school. Growing up I lived all over the country. I lived on both coasts, in the north and the south, and in-between. Having moved around so much I quickly made the decision that I wanted to experience someplace that I had never been before.
At that time I had never stepped foot in Arizona and still thought of it as a kind of wild west and a place where I could still stake a name for myself.
I read lots of reports that ASU had a great business school and then one of my best friends made the trip out to ASU (he wanted to be an engineer and ASU engineering also had a great reputation) and he fell in love with it. After he told me how great his visit was I convinced my parents to take me out to visit as well.
It wasn’t the wild west that I imagined but it was still a big town without the huge city feel and I just fell in love with the idea of going to ASU.
What activities were you involved in at ASU and the honors college?
I played rugby for ASU and that was an awesome experience. While in the honors college I participated in the study abroad program in Paris and had a great time there and visiting the surrounding countries and areas over the weekends. I really enjoyed my experience in Paris, France. If I could do the same exact trip/experience over again I would.
How would you characterize your Barrett experience? Was it beneficial? Why?
Since I didn’t get into Barrett until my junior year, I was able to experience what it was like to be in the general student population and then see what it was like to be a Barrett Honors student in my junior and senior years. The extra break-out sessions and (personal) attention made a huge difference in my focus on studies and expressing creativity. My only regret is that I did not apply to Barrett as a freshman.
How did Barrett help you get to where you are now?
Barrett helped me gain the confidence that my dreams can come true through hard work. It also taught me to work outside of my comfort zone. My study abroad experience in Paris forced me to learn to break down perceived barriers and be comfortable with being uncomfortable. I also made many lifetime friends while at ASU and Barrett. Without their support I never would have been able to launch my career.
If you were speaking with a prospective honors student and his/her/their parents, what would you tell them?
I’d tell them that they are crazy if they do not at least apply. You never get what you do not ask for and the benefits of being a Barrett Honors student are tremendous. Getting first choice during class enrollment alone is worth it!
I’d also tell them ASU is a huge university and there are many benefits of attending a huge school, but that when you are a student in Barrett you also get to have the personal attention that many experienced in grade school through high school. You get the benefits of a large university and a small university all wrapped in one. I’d also tell them the Barrett name carries a lot of weight. It’s not bad being a part of the No. 1 honors college in the country!