image title
Stress abounds; ASU's helping thanks to the university's chief wellbeing officer
Dean Teri Pipe named Chief WellBeing Officer at ASU
Student-recommended position to help balance personal, academic goals at ASU
January 1, 2016

Teri Pipe named Chief WellBeing Officer at ASU

College students tend to focus more on learning and expanding their minds than staying healthy: lab instead of lunch.

Faculty and employees often worry about their job and their mission more than their stress level.

Arizona State University is seeking a balance between individual needs and academic or professional needs. A strong GPA or a pay raise should not come at the expense of the digits on a bathroom scale or blood pressure monitor.   

Toward that goal, ASU is naming Teri Pipe as the university’s first Chief WellBeing Officer. She is charged with creating an environment that supports students, faculty and staff in the idea that they, like all creatures and machines, need maintenance.

“Students and employees at a university, as with all humans, operate in an outer world and an inner world,” said Pipe, dean of ASU’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, “and they can only succeed by tending to both. We have a wonderful opportunity to build upon ASU’s rich legacy and develop a creative approach to wellbeing that will both aid the members of our campus family now and prepare them for the future.”

Pipe’s role, which was suggested by students, will include shifting the mindset among students and employees alike to know that they succeed only with strength in all parts of their life. ASU knows that its students, faculty and staff remain its greatest assets

“Dean Pipe will lead this initiative because of her strong commitment to wellbeing that extends beyond the absence of illness to the enhancement of the total person,” said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost. “This is the goal we seek to achieve for both students and employees. She will work closely with our colleagues in Educational Outreach and Student Services on student-based initiatives and will collaborate with Human Resources on efforts aimed at staff and faculty members.”

Pipe, who has served as dean of the College of Nursing and Health Innovation since 2011, will assume the new role while continuing to lead the college. She will report to Searle and to Jim Rund, senior vice president for Educational Outreach and Student Services.

“This was a student-led priority,” Rund said, “to appoint an institutional leader who could champion positivity, personal balance and healthfulness. The students’ hope is that ASU becomes a national leader in student well-being.”

Pipe emphasized that wellbeing is dynamic. It means something different for everyone, whether that involves eating, sleeping, exercise, social interaction, quiet stillness or a variety of other elements in university life.

Students practicing yoga in an ASU Art Museum

Jillian Farland and
Ivelisse Chaug during
Yoga at the ASU Art
Museum. The class
provided the chance to
experience the serenity of
movement within the
stillness of the galleries.

Photo: Charlie
Leight/ASU Now

“Productive goes beyond producing term papers or research,” said Pipe, who served as director of Nursing Research and Innovation at Mayo Clinic Arizona before coming to ASU. “It includes the ability to interact with people and affect them in a positive way.”

For students and employees alike, developing habits that aid wellbeing create positive patterns for the rest of their lives.

“We expect our students to become leaders,” Pipe said. “Wellbeing and resilience are key competencies to being better employees, better leaders and better people in society.”

Pipe joined the College of Nursing and Health Innovation as interim dean in 2011. She is an expert on nursing leadership, interprofessionalism and mindfulness, which is an approach that helps people increase their well-being and performance by being fully present, focused and aware. Her research interests include resilience in professional and clinical populations, health promotion and wellness, positive coping and stress management, oncology and gerontology.

Pipe’s many honors and achievements include:

• Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Executive Nurse Fellow.

• American Association of Colleges of Nursing Futures Task Force.

• Mayo Clinic Care Network Chief Nursing Officer Consortium.

• Sigma Theta Tau Advisory Council on Excellence in Nursing Education.

• Arizona Health Improvement Plan Steering Committee.

• Phoenix Business Journal Health Care Hero in 2014.

She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Iowa, a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and doctorate from Pennsylvania State University.

image title
ASU students craft a song, with the help of a pair of pet rodents.
"Ratsputin" isn't just a clever name, it's music created by rats and humans.
January 4, 2016

ASU students create music with a pair of rats, and it sounds pretty interesting

The song that filled the room in ASU's Stauffer Hall with psychedelic drones, atmospheric bleeps and ethereal cries wasn’t exactly jazz, or pop.

But, sonically, the composition could have been mistaken for the Beatles’ “Revolution 9” or even a more dissonant take on Bjork’s “Biophilia” album.

It sounded nice, if not interesting.

Which could be surprising considering half of the musical quartet was vermin. And we’re not talking about street punks or rat finks, but actual rodents named Gus and Izo.

The rats, pets of ASU student Andrew Sanchez, were enlisted as part of a musical project called “Ratsputin.” The project was headed up by Sanchez and Jennifer Anderson, digital culture students in Arizona State University’s School of Arts, Media and EngineeringThe School of Arts, Media and Engineering is part of both the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

It’s understandable if you recoiled a bit at the mention of rats making music. The public’s unfavorable perception of these rodents was the driving force behind the project.

“The general public views rodents unfavorably, and even going as far as labeling these animals as a second-class set of species. We wanted to change the perception of that,” Sanchez said. “Rats are as intelligent as any dog or cat and can be easily trained. If they’re out of the cage and they’re nice enough, they will come to me if I call them.”

And in December, they responded to the call to produce sounds for an experimental piece for their Collaborative Projects and Research class, which Sanchez says he stumbled upon by accident.

“It came to me one night when Gus was out of the cage and crawling around on my iPhone. I noticed his hands and feet affected it, and I thought, ‘If Gus’ paws could have an effect on an iPhone, then it could have an effect on an iPad,’ ” Sanchez said. “I figured this would be a worthwhile opportunity.”

So did Sanchez’s mentor, Garth Paine, a professor of sound and interactive media.

“There’s value in interspecies communication, and animals definitely use sound to communicate,” Paine said. “The intention here is not to do a full empirical study because we’re making music with them. It’s more about the interspecies level of communication and what it means to be autonomous agents into the musical world.”

It wasn’t the first time rats and music have been used in an academic setting. In 1998, Francis Rauscher, a cellist turned psychologist, played a CD of Mozart for rats in an experiment she conducted in a University of Wisconsin lab. She suggested the famous composer’s music stimulated specific neuron connections in the abstract reasoning center of the brain, making rats scamper faster and more accurately through a maze. The experiment and a series of others conducted by Rauscher coined the phrase the “Mozart Effect.”

Sanchez and Anderson sifted through mountains of research on interspecies performances but could not find any evidence where rats actively participated in the creation of the music.

“I’m a classically trained musician, so the prospect of doing something like this just seemed wild and fun,” Anderson said. “We knew the rats couldn’t sing or play an instrument, so we had to come up with an idea that made them not only active participants but actual leaders.”

This was achieved by placing four Apple iPads at the bottom of an enclosed wooden crate. The rats crafted sounds by their movements on the tablet, which was then run through a Kaossilator Pro, a palm-sized synthesizer that features a wide array of sound and loop recordings. Once Gus and Izo began to perform — thanks to a decent supply of kale and cucumbers — Sanchez droned on his bass while Anderson filled in spaces of silence with carefully chosen sounds and effects on her synthesizer, adding textures and timbres that complemented and played off their smaller counterparts.

For Anderson, jamming with Gus and Izo was not much different than performing in a classical concert.

“As a violinist I have to watch the conductor to see what the cues are and where I should be in order to follow,” Anderson said. “The same concept sort of applies here. We can have all the structure we want, but it’s really up to Gus and Izo and how playful they feel. They lead the way whether they know it or not.”

No idea if the Gus and Izo are Rolling Stones fans, but they certainly helped these two students achieve total “Ratisfaction.”

The image of the rat Izo at the top of the page was photographed by Charlie Leight/ASU Now