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ASU faculty find kindred community of educators in a far-off land

ASU faculty find community on other side of the globe.
July 9, 2017

Lindy Elkins-Tanton, Bert Jacobs lead 2-day teachers' workshop in Tanzania to help create students passionate about learning

Sometimes Arizona State University’s mission is carried out far beyond the boundaries of campus.

This summer two ASU faculty members — Lindy Elkins-Tanton, director of the School of Earth and Space Exploration, and Bert Jacobs, director of the School of Life Sciences — went to Tanzania, where they led a team conducting a two-day teaching workshop for 102 secondary school teachers.

What they found was, despite being on the other side of the globe in sub-Saharan Africa, they are part of a global community.

“What warmed my heart and made my hair stand up is they all want the same thing we want for our students,” Elkins-Tanton said. “We want our students to become passionate, connected, energetic, fair people who solve problems and have a sense of how to do it. ... We really are a global community with a purpose.”

Jacobs, co-founder of a nonprofit called HEAL International that has been teaching HIV/AIDS prevention in rural Tanzania for 10 years, arranged the workshop.

“Most of our work revolves around service learning,” Jacobs said. “We take ASU students to Tanzania, and they work with African students and teach basic public health and AIDS / HIV prevention.”

This is the first year HEAL International has done a teachers’ workshop.

“Since we had Lindy; myself; her husband, James; her son, Turner — all established people — we felt like we had a better chance of having an impact on teachers,” Jacobs said.

The June workshop was co-sponsored by Beagle Learning, a learning platform for managing online discussion- and question-based classes founded by Elkins-Tanton; her husband, James, a mathematician and teacher; and her son, Turner Bohlen, a technologist.

“We have this vision that I hold in common with my position at ASU and Beagle Learning: We want to help create a next generation of students who are passionate about learning,” Elkins-Tanton said.

She worked up a curriculum and a math lesson with her husband. HEAL International advertised for teachers to attend and found a workshop space. They warned her that people might not show up or that only a few might show up.

The teachers walked down dusty roads to a village and a market to buy paper and pens and found a little copy shop. The tables were set with supplies.

“To our great thrill, everyone showed up,” Elkins-Tanton said. “At first they were very shy.”

The team gave two one-day workshops, teaching math learning, HIV prevention and leadership.

“It ended up really positively,” she said. “I think it was a big success.”

“Most of the stuff that came up was the same stuff we hear in the U.S. what we want for our students,” Jacobs said. “It was quite remarkable.”

After the workshop, the team traveled to Dodoma, the capital, for a meeting with the minister of education.

“It was a short meeting, and it was very productive,” Jacobs said. “The ministry is interested in us expanding what we’ve been doing for 10 years and expanding it to other regions of Tanzania.”

Government officials want to ramp up STEM education in the country.

“They really think it’s their future,” Elkins-Tanton said.

The meeting had the potential to spark a new international partnership, Jacobs said.

“I think the potential is much larger to include all of ASU and what we do to help work with Tanzania to build their education system,” he said. “In my mind it’s critical.”

Elkins-Tanton has some education funding from NASA as part of her Psyche mission that could bring ASU online learning into Tanzania.

“I’m feeling grateful for being part of ASU,” she said. “The whole university really cares about this kind of thing and having this kind of connection.”

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Embracing a fuller Latino history for a brighter future

July 9, 2017

ASU alumni encourage students to fight for their rights at ASU-sponsored panel at National Council of La Raza conference

Update: The National Council of La Raza on Monday said it will change its name to UnidosUS ("UnitedUS").

Young Latinos need to embrace the history that has been denied to them in order to fight for their civil rights, according to a panel discussion at the National Council of La Raza conference in Phoenix on Saturday.

The panel, “The Making of America: U.S. History Through the Latino Lens,” was part of the “Líderes Summit” section of the conference, for young people. The session was co-sponsored by Arizona State University; the university was also one of the overall conference sponsors.

Two of the panelists, both ASU alumni, told the room full of young people that they didn’t learn the positives of Latino history when they were growing up in Phoenix decades ago.

Daniel Ortega Jr., a Phoenix attorney (pictured above), said he and other Latino children were taught that anyone important was white.

“We were raised to understand that they were smarter, they had more money so they could do whatever they needed to do and they had control of everything,” he said. “There was no sense that we were treated differently. That’s just the way things were.”

Although he got good grades in school, Ortega was told he would take shop classes once he was in high school. But he rebelled because he was ambitious and wanted to go to college. A turning point came when several Latino activists from ASU visited his high school and exhorted the students to demand financial aid, using him as an example.

“ ‘Enough with the burrito sales and car washes,’ they said. And it was about me,” said Ortega, who earned a bachelor’s degree in political science from ASU in 1974. In 1977, he graduated from what was then the ASU College of Law, and in 1984 he became a founding member of Los Diablos, the official Latino chapter of the ASU Alumni Association.

He told the teenagers at the session: “Never forget who helped you and who you will help. My commitment to my community came from that time.”

Stella Pope Duarte, an author and teacher at Phoenix College, said that when she was a child in South Phoenix, there a television show about her neighborhood that called it a “slum.”

“In school they didn’t let us speak Spanish, and I would get demerits. They were shaming us. When you take away someone’s language, you take away their identity,” said Pope Duarte, who earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees from ASU.

Pope Duarte said the exclusion of Latino history is continuing with the banishment of an ethnic studies course in the Tucson Unified School District — a move that is still being litigated.

“They went into the classrooms … and one of the books they pulled out was mine, ‘Let Their Spirits Dance,’ because I talk about our kids serving in Vietnam in much higher numbers than the general population,” she said.

“Our Latino people have always loved this country and been patriotic and been committed to serving.”

Pope Duarte is the author of “Raul H. Yzaguirre: Seated at the Table of Power,” a brand-new biography of the Texas native who, as president and CEO of the National Council of La Raza, built it into the largest Latino advocacy organization in American history.

Pope Duarte told the young people to get out and fight for their rights by organizing.

“Even as a young child, Raul Yzaguirre understood that,” she said. “Leadership is a life choice.”

After working at NCLR for three decades, Yzaguirre came to ASU in 2005 as a professor of practice and founded the Center for Community Development and Civil Rights at the Downtown Phoenix campus. He also launched the American Dream Academy, a program to help low-income families navigate the path to college.

ASU honored Yzaguirre’s work by naming a professorship after him — the Raul Yzaguirre Chair in the School of Politics and Global Studies. The first professor to hold the chair will be Rodney Hero, the former president and first Latino president of the American Political Science Association. He’ll be leaving the University of California, Berkeley, to come to ASU.

Yzaguirre was not able to attend the NCLR convention over the weekend, but Patrick Kenney, dean of ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, honored the civil rights leader as he formally announced the creation of the named professorship to the general reception at the convention.

“This chair extends and memorializes the work that Raul has done in his career,” Kenney said.

Kenney then showed a video (available below) about Yzaguirre in which ASU President Michael Crow described the importance of the endowed chair.

“Raul is a designer and architect and driver of change, an initiator of new solutions, working with everyone to design the future. At ASU, that’s what we’re about — designing the future, and improving that design by what we build, not what we talk about.

“So our charter is really driven towards the notion of taking on what we think a public university is supposed to do, what a public university is supposed to be, and that is to drive opportunity forward for all people. Not some people, not a select number of people, not a handful of people. All people.”

Top photo: Phoenix attorney and ASU alumnus Daniel Ortega Jr. speaks during the panel discussion on "The Making of America: U.S. History Through the Latino Lens" on Satureday at the National Council of La Raza converence in Phoenix. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now