ASU's Project Humanities 'So Excited' to host conversation with Ruth Pointer

December 16, 2015

How does one find humanity in sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll?

Well, Grammy artist and singer Ruth Pointer is going to give it the old college try and explain it in her own words, and in person. A Conversation with Ruth Pointer Download Full Image

ASU’s Project Humanities is hosting “A Conversation with Ruth Pointer of the Pointer Sisters” as part of its spring 2016 kickoff for its campaign, “Humanity 101: Creating a Movement.” The event starts at 6 p.m., Feb. 11 at the First Institutional Baptist Church, 1141 E. Jefferson St., Phoenix. Admission is free and open to the public.

A limited number of VIP tickets will be sold, which includes a reception from 4 to 5:30 p.m., a signed copy of Pointer’s new memoir, "Still So Excited!" and a reserved seat for the main event. Go here to reserve your seat for either or both events.

During this campaign, Project Humanities will host a wide range of events and activities at the ASU campuses and at different community events around the Valley; bringing together students, staff, faculty, alumni, emeriti and the public to engage critically with these seven values — respect, integrity, compassion, forgiveness, empathy, kindness and self-reflection.

“We are extremely excited about and honored to host Ruth Pointer’s visit,” said Neal Lester, founding director of ASU’s Project Humanities and Foundation Professor of English.

“So many across the country grew up on the Pointer Sisters’ musical energy and admired their vintage dress style. It will be interesting to hear her story of triumph and challenge and triumph from an important perspective we don’t necessarily witness every day.”

Few musical acts have seen the extreme highs and lows of the Pointer Sisters. From their humble beginnings in West Oakland to the center of the pop music scene in the 1970s and 1980s, they’ve endured more than 40 years under the harsh heat of the media spotlight. Their music entertained and brought joy to millions of fans around the world, but for Ruth Pointer, the journey wasn’t always a happy one.

The group’s popularity and multiple hit songs (“I’m So Excited,” “Jump,” “Automatic,” “Neutron Dance” and “Slow Hand”) thrust the sisters into international stardom, winning four Grammy awards, a slew of MTV “Moon Man” trophies, and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

While their success may have served as an introduction to the good life, it was also the introduction to the "high life" of limos, champagne, white glove treatment and addictive habits that were the norm in the high-flying '70s and '80s.

Though it sounds like all the makings of a thrilling life, it was also one filled with heartbreak, inner demons and years of struggle for Pointer, whose devastating drug and alcohol abuse took her to the brink of death in 1984.

“There are certain truths we must all face about ourselves, and sometimes you don’t always like what you see when looking into the mirror,” Pointer said. “In my case, there were a lot of things I didn’t like in that reflection. I would like to say that I saw a stranger, but what I saw was a true reflection of who I was — an alcoholic and drug-addicted woman who was more concerned about getting high than tending to her family’s needs. But the beauty of being broken is that it allows you to pick up the pieces of your life.”

Pointer says she eventually found recovery through a pair of 12-step programs, embracing a sobriety through structure and measure that she has stuck to for more than three decades.

“Today my life is filled with both blessings and heartaches, but the blessings far outweigh the other,” Pointer said. “I’m so excited … and I just can’t hide it.”

Project Humanities is an award-winning university-wide initiative at ASU with the expressed goal to show the interactions among humanities and other areas of scholarship and human endeavor. Through public programming and scholarship, Project Humanities seeks to make visible locally and nationally the excellence, range, and impact of humanist thinking and practice.

For more information, call 480-727-7030 or visit

ASU honors students awarded scholarships for international research

December 16, 2015

Two Barrett, the Honors College students have been awarded prestigious scholarships that will allow them to travel the world next year to conduct research projects of their own design.

Carlyn Harris, a junior majoring in microbiology and global health, was awarded the Circumnavigators Club Grant. From May to August 2016, Harris will travel to Guatemala, Spain, the Netherlands, India, South Africa and New Zealand to research societal and cultural influences on antibiotic consumption and resistance. Carlyn Harris Carlyn Harris, a junior honors student majoring in microbiology and global health, has won the 2016 Circumnavigators Club Grant. Download Full Image

Brigitte Nicoletti, a junior majoring in history, received the Barrett Honors Intercontinental Study Award. Also from May to August next year, she will travel to Switzerland, Norway, Germany, Malawi and Japan to study compliance with international norms of restorative justice practices advanced by the United Nations.

Each award is worth approximately $9,000 and covers the cost of travel, lodging, and research materials.

Harris and Nicoletti were assisted in their application by staff in the Lorraine W. Frank Office of National Scholarship Advisement (LWFONSA) housed at the Barrett Honors College Tempe campus. LWFONSA assists students from throughout ASU with applications for significant scholarships including Circumnavigator, Marshall, Truman, Udall and Fulbright.

According to Kyle Mox, LWFONSA director, the competition for these awards was stiff. Ten applications — each requiring a five-page proposal and letters of recommendation — were submitted. 

From the 10 applications, five finalists were chosen for interviews by a joint committee consisting of members of the Circumnavigators Club — an organization which funds the Circumnavigators Award — and a contingent of staff from Barrett Honors College and LWFONSA. The finalists were then asked to revise their applications into fully-developed 10-page proposals.

"While the applicant pools were fairly small, the overall quality of the applications was extraordinarily high. Each of the students who submitted a proposal had done a remarkable amount of background research and legwork to establish contacts in the prospective host countries," Mox said.

“Carlyn impressed the committee with her eloquence and sophisticated understanding of this important public health issue. She had previously conducted similar research in Guatemala, and she did an excellent job of explaining how the proposed research would contribute not only to her honors thesis, but her post-graduate study and career,” he said.

“Similarly, Brigitte demonstrated an impressive depth of knowledge surrounding her project, and she conducted herself with remarkable poise and comportment. The committee agreed that she would represent ASU and BHC well during her studies abroad. Her project was interesting and compelling, and her research will contribute directly to her honors thesis,” he added

“I am completely amazed and humbled that I received the grant. I am beyond grateful. Putting together the proposal and establishing contacts around the world took a lot of work but I'm thrilled to travel to new places and learn from experts in microbiology and public health fields,” Harris said.

She said her ultimate goal in assessing sociocultural ties to public health knowledge of antibiotic resistance and consumption is to develop new educational initiatives and awareness campaigns.

Harris is no stranger to international travel. In the summer of 2015, she was a research assistant in the Arizona State University Global Health Medical Anthropology Field School in Guatemala, where she helped with the investigation of maternal health care systems and family size in rural areas of that country.

This time, her research will focus another public health issue that is spreading throughout the world.

“Culture plays an important role in how societies interact with the healthcare system and what public health information they receive. I decided to study cultural influences on public health knowledge regarding antibiotic resistance and consumption because antibiotic resistance is a current global issue threatening the treatment of serious bacterial infections. This is largely because communities are overusing and misusing these 'miracle' drugs and many do not understand how this can influence resistance,” she said.

The project also will allow Harris to blend her passions of microbiology and public health.

Harris currently is an undergraduate assistant in the Biodesign Institute, researching antimicrobial therapies against Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a strain of staph bacteria that has become resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat staph infections.

Harris is set to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in 2017. Her goal is to earn a master’s degree in public health and attend medical school. Her “dream job” would be as a medical officer for the World Health Organization or a medical adviser for a global health nonprofit benefiting underserved populations.

“For now, I'm just excited to learn all that I can and see where my experiences take me. This incredible trip will undoubtedly help me on my path and open up many opportunities,” she said.

Brigitte Nicoletti

Brigitte Nicoletti, a junior honors student majoring in history, has received the 2016 Barrett Honors Intercontinental Study Award.

Nicoletti's interest in law was sparked in ninth grade when she joined her high school's mock trial program. In eleventh grade, she began participating as a juror and attorney in Coconino County's Teen Court, a diversionary and restorative justice program for juveniles.

She brought that interest to Arizona State University where she took a class with law professor Anne Herbert called The Global Legal Community and directed a research project that examined international, regional and national approaches to juvenile justice to design a restorative juvenile justice model for Latin American countries. She is now Herbert's research and teaching assistant and is coauthoring a textbook with the professor in which she plans to incorporate her juvenile justice research. 

“I am incredibly excited to have won this award. I have been passionate about juvenile justice since participating in Teen Court back in high school,” she said.

Teen Court is not a court of law. Its goal is to determine a fair sentence for first offenders who have admitted guilt for low-level offenses rather than subject them to the mercy of the criminal justice system. In Teen Court, juvenile offenders are tried in a court of their peers that is presided over by a Superior Court Judge. The lawyers, jurors, clerks, and bailiffs are all teenagers. Sentences have ranged from referral to social services, community service, group counseling, or public apology.

“My experience with this program (Youth Court) taught me that one of the major problems with our justice system is that is fails to see juvenile offenders as individuals with the ability to grow and change. This is not only harmful to the kid, but also to the community as a whole, because it depletes it of its best resource; youth potential,” Nicoletti said

Nicoletti said she believes that by studying how other countries comply with international norms of restorative justice advanced by the United Nations in the "Convention on the Rights of the Child," she can help develop strategies for the implementation of restorative justice in the United States.

“I will examine how these international norms of restorative justice come to be incorporated in domestic legal systems. From this, I hope to gain an understanding of the reasons some countries successfully adapt international norms while others struggle to uphold even the most basic of human rights,” she said in her proposal.

“My goal is to cull best practices for international norm creation and domestic norm implementation from this research and further study how best to promote restorative juvenile justice in countries that do not meet international standards, beginning with the United States,” she added.

Nicoletti, who is set to graduate from ASU with an undergraduate degree in 2017, plans to pursue a joint juris doctorate and doctorate in criminal justice studies. "I plan to make juvenile justice my life's work," she said.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College