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Not sure where you’re going in life? Start with the basics.
Mary Foote is the Director at Pipeline AZ and Director of Industry Engagement at PEI, Partnership for Economic Innovation. She earned her Bachelors of Interdisciplinary Studies and Masters in Public Administration from Arizona State University. By all accounts, Foote is focused, dedicated, and driven, but this wasn’t always the case. Foote dropped out before completing her high school education; community college was the perfect place to persevere and begin making her dreams a reality.
The summer after Foote’s senior year in high school, she began attending classes at a local college. While the experience was positive, she transferred to Scottsdale Community College (SCC) after one semester. “SCC had a more collegiate feel,” said Foote. At the time, Foote didn’t know what she wanted to do — which career path might be a good fit for her. Her goal was to complete her general education requirements while raising her GPA. “I received great instruction. It was perfect for me, for where I was in my life.”
Foote focused on gen-ed classes: biology, English, psychology. She still remembers the individual attention provided by her instructors, both in and out of class. Her English teacher explained different citation methods, which allowed Foote to raise her grades. Her psychology instructor had every student in the class take a polygraph to demonstrate the inaccurate nature of lie detector tests, a lesson so memorable that Foote thinks of it even today.
Although her studies at SCC weren’t yet focused on a specific degree, Foote found the community college experience very rewarding. “There are many paths to a degree. The more options that are available to students, the better. College is such an important part of life. You don’t have to know exactly what you want to do — part of it is just attending school and getting some critical thinking experience.” However, Foote cautioned, “If you aren’t sure what you want to do, don’t spend a ton of money at a four-year school.”
After a few semesters, Foote relocated to Oregon. Her credits transferred easily to Portland State, and then on to ASU when she moved back to Arizona. She received her BA in 2005, then worked in finance until 2008. After the market crash, Foote realized she was less interested in studying the stock charts of individual companies and more interested in learning why the market had crashed. She returned to ASU for her Masters, focusing on economic policy.
Now, after a decade in economic development, Foote still recommends community college. “I’m so appreciative of SCC. For nontraditional students and kids who come from different backgrounds, community college really offers solutions.” And don’t worry if you aren’t sure exactly what you want to study.
“Some people take longer to bake,” Foote said. “I took longer to bake. I didn’t know where I was heading, and Scottsdale Community College offered an affordable option to dip my toe into higher education — to see what made sense.”