Sustainability scientist serves ASU by championing complexity, disruption

February 27, 2017

Editor’s Note: This story is one in a series of profiles of individuals being honored as part of the ASU Alumni Association’s 2017 Founders’ Day celebration on March 16. Visit the Alumni Association’s website to read the entire series.

Manfred D. Laubichler, a theoretical biologist and historian of science, is being honored at Founders’ Day 2017 with the Faculty Service Achievement Award for his service to Arizona State University and to his profession. Gitta Honegger, professor in ASU's Herberger Institute’s School of Theatre and F Manfred D. Laubichler Download Full Image

Laubichler is a distinguished sustainability scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and a President's Professor in the School of Life Sciences. He is also an associate director for the Origins Project at ASU. His multi-faceted research involves tracing the role of gene regulatory networks in development and evolution, as well as studying the conceptual structure of modern and historical biology. He also studies the theory of Complex Adaptive Systems, focusing on complexity as a unifying principle in the social and life sciences, including applications in biomedicine, sustainability and the study of innovations. He is recognized as a positive “disrupter” in his work, identifying scientific and intellectual trends years before others do and working with others in a transdisciplinary manner to translate these insights into use-inspired solutions and collaborations.

“At most universities, someone like Manfred would be a forlorn voice whose advocacy for innovation and interdisciplinary research would be tolerated as an oddity,” said Dr. Randolph M. Nesse, a professor of life sciences at ASU and the founding director of the university’s Center for Evolution and Medicine. “At ASU, his contributions have been welcomed and (recognized as) central to ASU’s core missions.”

One of Laubichler’s most significant contributions was his role in the launch of the ASU-Santa Fe Institute (SFI) Center for Biosocial Complex Systems in 2015. The center aids scientists and policymakers in gaining a better theoretical understanding of the interconnections between complex biological and social systems, and in applying that knowledge to questions such as what happens to institutions, health care and human behavior as cities grow into megacities.

Another project that he was instrumental in orchestrating was the ASU-Leuphana Center for Global Sustainability and Cultural Transformation, in conjunction with Leuphana University in Lüneburg, Germany. The new center, created in 2015 and built on several years of joint projects, expands a shared focus at both universities on global sustainability, transdisciplinary research and education, including the creation of the first dual master’s degree in global sustainability sciences. Students attend and receive degrees from both universities.

At ASU, he has acted as a thesis advisor for many graduate students from a number of different disciplines as well as a select group of undergraduate students in Barrett, the Honors College at ASU. He also has served the university by participating in the Biology & Society Program steering committee and the School of Life Sciences Graduate Programs committee and its strategic planning committee.

Nayely Velez-Cruz, a doctoral student in biology at the ASU-SFI Center for Biosocial Complex systems, called Laubichler an “extraordinary” advisor.

“He has gone above and beyond to ensure that I have every opportunity possible to succeed and has taught me that I have the ability to learn and accomplish anything I set my mind to,” said Velez-Cruz, who is co-authoring a textbook with Laubichler on developmental evolution for Oxford University Press.

Univision Arizona, ASU Cronkite School partner to air 'Cronkite Noticias'

February 28, 2017

Univision Arizona and the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication have partnered to regularly broadcast a 30-minute news program produced by bilingual Arizona State University students on important Latino community and statewide issues.

“Cronkite Noticias” airs on Univision Arizona’s KFPH UniMás every other Friday from 4 to 4:30 p.m. during the academic year. The first episode aired on Feb. 17. Students report on the economy, education, sustainability, immigration and other issues important to the region’s Latino communities. Cronkite Noticias Univision Arizona and the Cronkite School have partnered to regularly broadcast a 30-minute news program produced by bilingual ASU students on important Latino community and statewide issues. Download Full Image

“Creating opportunities for young bilingual journalists and media professionals to sharpen their craft and to tell stories that are critical to our Latino community is more important than ever today,” said Roberto Yañez, vice president and general manager of Univision Arizona and a member of the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees. “It is with great pride that we kick-off this new partnership with the Cronkite School that will allow us to give a platform to the next generation of leaders in the field.”

“Cronkite Noticias” is part of Cronkite Noticias/Mixed Voces, a new multiplatform Spanish-language news operation at the Cronkite School, which began last month. It is made possible by the Raza Development Fund, the largest Latino community development financial institution that is dedicated to generating economic growth and opportunities for Latino families across the country.

Currently, a team of bilingual Cronkite students are producing a variety of in-depth, Spanish-language digital and video stories for, which houses the “Cronkite Noticias” program after airing on UniMás Arizona.

“We are thrilled to be partnering with Univision Arizona on this important endeavor to expand critical news coverage to the Latino community,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “We’re excited to share the outstanding work of our students, who regularly cover Latino issues under the guidance of our award-winning faculty.”

The “Cronkite Noticias” program is part of a growing constellation of classes and immersive professional experiences available to Cronkite students interested in Latino and borderlands issues.

Cronkite News, the student-staffed, professionally led news division of Arizona PBS, features a Borderlands Bureau in which students cover border and immigration issues in English under the guidance of award-winning borderlands journalists.

The Borderlands Bureau builds on a Latino seminar and a depth reporting class that takes students on a reporting trip to another country. Past projects have covered the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Nicaragua and Puerto Rico, among other regions.

The Cronkite School’s faculty includes three Southwest Borderlands Initiative professors, a faculty appointment plan designed to strengthen existing ASU scholarly and instructional resources on the Southwest and to enhance institutional recruitment and retention efforts toward building a faculty fully reflective of the Southwest borderlands’ diversity.

The Cronkite School is widely recognized as one of the nation’s premier professional journalism programs. Students participate in 13 professional immersion programs, guided by award-winning journalists and communications professional, applying what they have learned in the classroom in real-world learning environments.

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication