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ASU's Herberger Institute fosters creative community

Creative Fellows live in Arcadia Residential Community on ASU Tempe campus.
ASU students learn to become inspirational and emotionally intelligent leaders.
September 30, 2016

10 upper-level art and design students enter residence hall, plan events and programs to create inspiration incubator

There’s something transformative that comes from a concentration of talent, especially when it comes to the arts. It's not tough to find examples: the Harlem Renaissance, the Beat Generation, Motown, the British Invasion, the Chicano art movement, the pop art movement and graffiti culture.

In its own way, ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts is seeking to leverage the power of concentration by plugging 10 upper-level undergraduate artists, designers and musicians into a residence hall to create an incubator where art begets art and inspiration is everywhere.

“The Herberger Institute is all about the crazy, wild, innovative and cool ideas that really help our students,” said Megan Workmon, student engagement coordinator for Herberger.

The institute’s Creative Fellows reside within the Arcadia Residential Community on the ASU Tempe campus, where they work to foster creative programming directly related to arts and design while also serving as inspirational, creative mentors.

ASU as a university seeks to put students with similar academic interests together. Journalism students live in the same dorm on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Sustainability students live together in Tempe, and future teachers live together on the Polytechnic campus.

But the Herberger Creative Fellows model takes it a step further, functioning almost like an academic cohort. The fellows will come up with their own programming model, including themes they would like to address through programs they coordinate as a team. They aim to host about a dozen events and activities to cultivate community spirit among Herberger students and create a greater understanding of how their particular academic pursuit fits into a larger world of arts and design.  

“The hope is students who attend these events will be inspired, feel that spark, and take that moment to put it back into their academic and creative work,” said Workmon, who based the Creative Fellows model on her ongoing doctoral work around inspiration.

ASU fellow Zachary Porterfield

Arts, media and engineering major Zachary Porterfield. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now



She enlisted upper-division Herberger undergraduate students ranging from sophomores to seniors, majoring in photography, museum studies, music, film, art education and digital culture media processing.

They take a one-unit course with Workmon in the fall and the spring, which is centered around creating communities of practice as well as learning how to become inspirational and emotionally intelligent leaders.

“I think we were selected because all 10 of us had shown leadership skills and a passion for the arts and creativity,” said Emily Johnston, a 20-year-old junior and Photography and Museum Studies Fellow (pictured above).

Workmon has teamed the Creative Fellows with artist-entrepreneur Daniel Bernard Roumain, who was named a Herberger Institute professor in May and is the Arcadia Residential Community’s Faculty in Residence. He’ll work with them to act as inspirational guides and role models for other Herberger students, and help them develop a season of offerings for the academic year.

Roumain is an Emmy-nominated composer and violinist who has performed at Carnegie Hall and the Library of Congress. He is considered a national leader and often mentors students on how an enterprising musician works in the 21st century.

“Daniel is awesome because he is teaching all of us to think on a wider scope beyond Herberger students,” said Zachary Porterfield, an Arts, Media and Engineering Fellow. “He wants us to reach out to other ASU students, graduate students, the homeless, firefighters, police and the general public.”

Activities are starting to roll out. The fellows recently hosted the “Creative Family Dinner,” where fellows and students shared a meal to introduce themselves, develop camaraderie and spell out their mission.

Anna Dong

Design management major Anna Dong. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


On Oct. 15, they’ll host “CreateFest,” an event aimed at teaching students about time and stress management, artistic confidence, and tapping into their inspirations and creation. Design Management Fellow Anna Dong called it a “stepping-stones program that will allow design and arts students to explore various options to enhance their college experience.”

In November, they’ll unveil “STEAM Stories,” an interdisciplinary program geared toward exploring STEM fields with the addition of arts. Creative Fellows are working to bring together students from across academic schools in order to collaborate on this event. 

The artistic vibe in the complex has already been magnified by these events, said Latavia Young, a 19-year-old Film Creative Fellow in her sophomore year. 

“I love walking past the design studio and seeing people using the light tables, or hearing music from the dance room, or singing from the music room,” she said.

“It makes me feel as if art has a place in this world.”


Top photo: Museum studies and photography major Emily Johnston. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


A partnership in plant biology and conservation

New ASU master’s degree joins forces with Desert Botanical Garden to grow the pool of plant experts

September 30, 2016

Quick — without thinking about it, name an endangered animal. Name two, three or even four. Easy?

Now, name an endangered plant. Two? Three? For many people, that’s not as easy. New ASU Plant Biology and Conservation MS degree Kimberly McCue (left) and Tyna Yost discuss a research project at the Desert Botanical Garden. Photo by Sandra Leander/ASU Download Full Image

These basal organisms on the tree of life provide us with practically everything we need to survive in some way or another. However, in the field of biology, the importance of a particular topic doesn’t necessarily mean the general public will pay much attention.

Plants and their conservation lack a certain “sex appeal” in the mainstream. Over the past several decades, this has been reflected at many universities as botany degrees have declined and interest has shifted to the study of plants at a molecular level.

But the demand for botanists and experts in endangered plant species has not waned. Indeed, there is an even greater need as the world faces the effects of global warming.

“Plants are an incredibly important part of the ecosystem,” said Julie Stromberg, professor with Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences. “Unfortunately, people don’t really think about the fact that plants contribute oxygen, the food we eat, the materials and fibers we use, as well as medicines. As a society, we need to look at plants as the key elements that sustain us, spiritually as well as in more tangible ways.”

To address the shortage of plant experts, the school recently launched a new master’s degree program in plant biology and conservation. The program is part of a national trend, where a leading botanical garden partners with a university’s biology department to offer unique teaching and hands-on research experiences.

ASU is on the cutting edge of that trend, joining forces with the Desert Botanical Garden to offer the new degree. Now, plant conservation may find some revitalized support.

“This seems like a real ‘win-win,’” said Kim McCue, co-director of the degree program and program director of Conservation of Threatened Species and Habitats at Desert Botanical Garden. “By having a university collaborate with a botanical garden, we have greater ability to train people in the botanical sciences, and we know firsthand that these people are worth training. We live in a unique ecosystem in the Southwest — the Sonoran Desert. It makes sense to offer a master’s degree in plant science in a place that has such value,” she added.

endangered plant species

Many endangered plant species are studied and cared for through the ASU/Desert Botanical Garden master's degree program partnership. Photo by Sandra Leander/ASU


Botanical garden researchers can share their knowledge through guest lectures, lab experiences and graduate committees. These resources are unique and would be difficult to obtain anywhere else. The students can obtain practical experience while getting their feet wet in real-world research projects.

Tyna Yost, a recent graduate of the program, has already secured a position with the U.S. Forest Service, focusing on aspects of the National Environmental Policy Act.

“I started taking classes for the nursing program and quickly discovered that plants are much better patients. I like to say that they’re smarter than us,” said Yost. “They can make their own food, depending only on light and carbon dioxide. Their chemical defenses and rate of adapting to different environments is just amazing. So I call them the higher species.”

Stromberg, ASU’S director of the program, stresses the importance of offering a master’s degree in the field of plant biology and conservation. While doctorate degrees are important, she said master’s programs like these are excellent options to gain experience and move into the workforce more quickly. Many jobs in the plant world are fit for graduates of master’s programs, such as those offered by state and federal agencies.

“There are several strengths to our master’s program,” said Stromberg. “First is our focus on endangered plant species. If you look at the IUCN Red List of threatened species, you will find that most plant species have yet to be assessed. Many are declining, but few are being tracked.

“Second, we focus on restoring plants and habitats — in particular, endangered ecosystems. The Desert Botanical Garden can participate by providing seeds, propagated plants and botanical expertise.

“Third, our program is strong in systematics and understanding phylogenetic relationships, as well as in ecophysiological studies — examining the roles plants play in their ecosystems and the mechanisms that adapt them to their environments. We also focus on ethnobotanical studies — understanding how people and plants are co-evolving through time.” 

Degrees like this are good news in the world of plant conservation. They provide companies and organizations with more knowledgeable people who care about securing the future of plants.

Also, Stromberg and Yost agree that too much conservation attention is focused on issues such as invasive species. They argue that endangered species as well as dominant plants that do most of the work” in ecosystems should have more of the botanical limelight.

“It’s easy to point the finger at certain plant species and say they are the cause of adverse changes, when instead, they might simply be a reflection of broader environmental changes such as climate shifts or increasing urbanization,” Stromberg said. “It’s time to move beyond eradicating so-called ‘bad’ plants and preserving ‘good’ ones. We need to recognize the value of all plant species and embrace the complexity of the ecological relationship between plants and people.”

Yost specializes in endangered plant species. She hopes that with the knowledge she gains from the new master’s degree, she will be able to help maintain these life-forms that selflessly provide for us and help cultivate greater attention to the fact that we must work harder to conserve these valuable resources.

“I think it goes back to that awareness and where our priorities are,” said Yost. “Even with all our technology, when it comes down to it, as a species we need certain things to survive. Food, water, medicine. Plants are a part of all that. We have to keep that in mind.”

McCue agrees.

“We can do all the great science in the world, but if the greater public doesn’t know why it’s important or how amazing these plants are, they won’t care. And if they don’t care, you’re not going to get anywhere,” McCue said. “Our partnership with ASU is a major component of that, and I’m just thrilled by it.”

Written by Devin Phillips

For more stories like this one, see the ASU School of LIfe Sciences Magazine.