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May 1, 2017

Students from the resource 'island' of Phoenix enlisted to help create strategy

Update: The team featured in this story, led by ASU Professor Darren Petrucci and Assistant Professors Chingwen Cheng and Paul Coseo, all from The Design School, took top prize in the University of Hawaii's "Make the Ala Wai Awesome" competition; in addition, the team was awarded the American Society of Landscape Architects' award for Excellence in Landscape Architecture. The winners of the international student design competition were announced June 18 at the opening ceremony of the World Youth Congress, at the University of Hawaii at Manoa.

Hawaii faces a range of sustainability threats: The state can’t grow enough food; it imports 90 percent of its energy and water; coral reefs are disappearing; the islands are being overrun by invasive species; and because of global warming, residents are increasingly vulnerable to flooding, hurricanes and tsunamis.

It might seem like an unlikely pairing, but students from the desert have been enlisted to help.

“Phoenix is ostensibly an island, and the way resource allocation occurs is not much different than Hawaii,” said Darren Petrucci, a professor in Arizona State University’s Design SchoolThe Design School is an academic unit within the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and offers programs in architecture, environmental design, industrial design, interior design, landscape architecture, urban design and visual communication design.. If the Hawaiian Islands can become a sustainable, then “all of the other islands in the world can do it.”

In an example of interdisciplinary problem solving, ASU students and faculty from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, the School of Sustainability, and ASU’s LightWorks energy center worked recently with a Hawaii public-private partnership network to find new answers. 

The ASU teams developed a four-tiered strategy, focusing on flood mitigation, community education, economic health and overall resilience. They incorporated plans from wetland filtration on a municipal golf course to creating a boardwalk for flood control.

“The big idea of this project is to empower local neighborhoods to find their own solutions,” said Paul Coseo, an assistant professor in landscape architecture in The Design School.

Students work together
The three professors working with the Hawaii sustainability project give advice to students in the graduate design studios. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now


The project is the sort of thing that ASU has become known for. ASU has positioned itself as a pioneer of interdisciplinary learning and a leading center for entrepreneurship and innovation. The university was the first in the nation to offer a degree in sustainability and has been involved in partnerships including solar power and waste reduction. Also, the Herberger Institute pushes students to revitalize communities and transform neighborhoods.  

“Designers don’t engage in problem solving the way an engineer might look at things because we always start with the human condition and how it engages with nature,” Petrucci said. 

To that end, many of ASU-led proposals focus on neighborhoods and residents. Homeowners would learn to remove asphalt, build rain gardens and install green roofs to reduce storm water runoff, said Kristin Antkoviak, a former microbiologist studying landscape architecture.

“If everyone did just a small intervention,” she said, “it could make a great impact.”

Many strategies could be planned within a year and completed shortly thereafter, depending on funding, Coseo said.

ASU’s involvement began when President Michael Crow met with Hawai’i Green Growth leader Celeste Conners. They, along with faculty and staff from LightWorks and the School of Sustainability, discussed a statewide initiative to achieve environmental, social and economic prosperity for future generations.

LightWorks enlisted help from The Design School, which turned it into a class project for graduate students in design and sustainabilty, to address climate change, water, food, energy and natural resources sustainability on the Ala Wai Watershed, an 11-square-mile boundary on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu.

Images of Hawaii taken during the trip to Hawaii
Images from the ASU Landscape Architecture social media accounts (@asulandarch) documenting their exploratory trip in Hawaii in spring 2017.


ASU teams visited Hawaii in the fall of last year and the spring of this year to listen to stakeholders and create strategies.

They found a familiar story of indigenous people living sustainably and industrial development throwing the ecosystem off-kilter.

“We have a global economic system that’s based on a growth model, which is completely incompatible with sustainability,” said Leah Gibbons, a second-year doctoral student in the School of Sustainability.

People, in general, have become “disconnected from nature,” creating a “downward spiral," she said.

At this point, even a simple thing such as a rainfall can have negative consequences, said Chingwen Cheng, an assistant professor of landscape architecture at The Design School.

“Storm water runoff from the ridge flows downward and flushes silt, oil from cars and other pollutants into Waikiki Bay and contaminates the ocean, killing the reef,” Cheng said.

O'ahu's mountaintops receive about 150 inches of rainfall annually, and a particularly heavy storm could flood about 40 percent of the areas around the Ala Wai canal if something isn't done, according to the Army Corps of Engineers.

ASU’s teams hope their plan — which has been incorporated into a 36-page e-book and 10-minute video — will be implemented by Hawai’i Green Growth to make a difference.

“I feel fantastic knowing something we’ve developed as a class can make the world a better place," said Nicholas Knoebel, a candidate for Master of Landscape Architecture. "More habitable with fewer problems."

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Seven of the graduate and doctoral students working on the sustainability project gather at their table in the graduate design labs on April 26. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now


Top photo: Darren Petrucci, a professor in ASU's Design School, looks at the display board of the project area on the Hawaiian island of O'ahu. Petrucci is also the coordinator for the Master of Urban Design (MUD) program and works with the landscape architecture studio. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

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Only 20% of students from Arizona migrant farmworker populations attend college.
CAMP among several ASU programs that remove education barriers, director says.
May 1, 2017

Federally funded program at ASU helps students navigate university life, learn about leadership and find a place to belong

Growing up, Dyan Urias took it as a given that one day she’d go to college, but it wasn’t until high school that she began to understand how tough it would be.

Urias (pictured above), the daughter of a migrant farmworker, would have to leave her small town of San Luis, figure out how to pay for school and navigate everything from getting admitted to scheduling classes. 

She made it to ASU this fall but was having trouble adjusting — until she heard about the College Assistance Migrant Program.

CAMP is “like a family,” Urias said. “It gives you that moral support.”

The 45-year-old federal program, housed at the School of Transborder Studies, helps students from migrant and seasonal farmworker backgrounds in their first year of college with academic, personal and financial support. In the fall of 2016, ASU was awarded its first CAMP grant of $2.1 million from the U.S. Department of Education to support 160 students over five years.

“ASU CAMP Scholars is a much-needed program that enacts ASU’s charter of inclusion,” said Seline Szkupinski-Quiroga, program director for CAMP.

“Even though Arizona has the eighth-largest population of migrant students in the U.S., only about 20 percent make it to college. CAMP is here to remove barriers to higher education for migrant students, and provide them a ‘home’ here on campus where we understand and value their background while helping them navigate the university.”

CAMP is one of many ASU resources for underrepresented student populations. Others include the Inspire summer camp, a college-readiness program for American Indian students from tribal nations in Arizona; the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, which boosts student veterans, active-duty military members, their spouses and dependents; the DREAMzone initiative, which provides support for undocumented students; and the Women of Color STEM Entrepreneurship Conference, an annual event geared toward women and specifically women of color in higher education.

Since being accepted to CAMP, Urias no longer has to worry about tuition or textbook expenses and she has a place she can go where she feels at home. She went to high school in San Luis with several other members of the current cohort. They meet every Sunday for study hall and catching up.

Those meetings have also served as a place for the students to learn more about university resources, such as financial aid, internships, jobs and community service opportunities.

It’s how electrical engineering major Juan Cardenas found out about Devils in Disguise, ASU’s annual student-led day of service.

“It helped me get involved, and I became a site leader,” he said. “That was really fun because I got to take care of 20 people and got to know them.”

Juan Cardenas
Electrical engineering major Juan Cardenas is pictured in the offices of the School of Transborder Studies on ASU's Tempe campus, where CAMP students meet once a week. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


This year, CAMP students attended two leadership conferences, one in New Mexico and one in California. For many, it was their first time on a plane and their first time traveling outside Arizona.

“That was an excellent opportunity,” said CAMP student adviser (and founder of DREAMzone) Davier Rodriguez. “And I got to spend time with students, not just sitting in my office talking about academic stuff — but talking about things like leadership and the philosophies behind it.”

Such discussions are one of Cardenas’ favorite things about the program. Rodriguez and Szkupinski-Quiroga “are always here for us with open arms,” he said.

CAMP serves approximately 2,400 migrant student participants annually, with more than 50 programs in 15 states. Each year, every program chooses one student to apply for an internship in Washington, D.C. This year, Urias was chosen for the position and will be spending two months in the nation’s capital, working alongside Arizona Congressman Raul Grijalva.

“He’s from Tucson, so we’re kind of from similar areas,” Urias said. “So I’m really excited.”

When she returns in the fall, she plans to continue on a path toward a career in child counseling.

There are still spots open for the fall 2017 CAMP cohort. Those interested can send an email to or apply online at


Top photo: Psychology major Dyan Urias pictured outside the Interdisciplinary B building on ASU's Tempe campus, where CAMP students meet once a week. Urias was chosen from ASU's CAMP group to spend two months as an intern in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now