Michelle Laws: Embracing life-changing experiences

Staff Sketch

W. P. Carey International Programs Coordinator Michelle Laws has always valued the growth that comes from study abroad opportunities.

“I feel so lucky to be able to do the job that I do. I studied abroad as a student myself and I know how life-changing that experience was for me. To be able to pay it forward and give that back to students is just a dream come true.”

Michelle has been with ASU since 1999, when she began her Sun Devil career as an academic advisor. In 2013, she became the international programs coordinator.

“It was a combination of the two jobs I love: academic advising and study abroad,” she says. Since then, Michelle has helped the study abroad program expand beyond its original boundaries.

“One of my favorite professional accomplishments was planning the Costa Rica program, because it was our first Global Intensive Experience. We’d never done one of these before because it’s a shorter program over spring break. It was unique in the fact that we partnered with Starbucks, and we were able to tour their farm in Costa Rica. Since the program started, about half of the students have been online majors. It was really cool to give non-traditional students a traditional student experience,” Michelle says.

W. P. Carey offers a winter break study abroad program, in addition to summer and semester-long opportunities.

“One of the most rewarding things about my job is seeing a student before they go abroad and after because their growth and how they’ve changed is super evident.”

While she loves to travel, she says the best part of her job is really the people.

“We spend so much of our times at work that they are like family to me. I think especially working at W. P. Carey, you always have people who will lift you up. We work really hard and have a ton of students we have to serve, but we’re always there to help each other and that definitely makes it even better.”

Professional

What do you like about your job?
Everything. I am really lucky to have my job and I love it. I would say one of the most rewarding things is seeing a student before they go abroad and after. Their growth and how they’ve changed is super evident, and it’s fun to have them come back in and tell me about their experience and how it changed them.”

What’s your favorite W. P. Carey School event?
It’s got to be convocation. Doesn’t matter how many times I’ve heard all of the speeches I get weepy every time. I love seeing all the students come full circle and see how happy they are and that they’ve made it.

Have you ever received especially good advice?
One of my mentors told me once ‘you can’t be in charge of other peoples’ crazy.’ So the way I interpret that is to control what I can control, and that serves me everyday.

How has a “failure” set you up for later success?
I was in the honors college and had a scholarship my freshman year but I didn’t do well academically, so I ended up losing the scholarship. I was no longer a part of the honors college and I had been really successful in high school, so finding my way back from that and realizing that it wasn’t life ending. I like to share with my students that if you get a C or a B in a class it’s not the end of the world. They will bounce back from them.

What advice would you give to a smart, driven college student about to enter the “real world”?
Be kind. Always go through life with that lens. When in doubt be kind to people because it will always work out better. Don’t feel like you have to compare yourself to anyone else, your journey is your own so just keep on what’s going to work out best for you.

Personal

What is the most adventurous thing you’ve ever done?
Most recently I climbed the bridge in Sydney Harbor. It was awesome. I was kind of nervous about it and they say, ‘you regret the things in life you don’t do more than the ones you do’ so I told myself I’m doing it.

If you could be in any other career, what would it be?
Librarian. I would still like to help people, but I could be around all of the books.

If you could visit anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?
There’s so many places that I love that I’ve traveled too, but there’s so many places I’ve yet to go too. I’ve always wanted to visit South Africa, but that will probably change tomorrow.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?
I love hiking, reading, and traveling, of course!

What movie can you watch over and over?
A Christmas Story.

If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things would you have?
My family, definitely a kindle with lots of books on it, and coffee.

Preferences

Salty or sweet? Salty
Coffee or tea? Coffee
Soda or energy drink? Water
Cat or dog?
Dogs
Truck or car? Bike
Board games or video games? Board games
Fiction or non-fiction? Fiction
Facebook or face-to-face? Face-to-face
Breakfast or lunch? Lunch
Morning person or night owl? Morning person