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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


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Do you speak volcano? ASU prof working to be fluent, able to predict eruptions.
July 11, 2017

Supported by an NSF early-career grant, Christy Till embarks on 5-year study to take some of the mystery out of eruptions

From Italy to Iceland to Indonesia, volcanoes have been worshipped and venerated for centuries, seen as the abode of angry and capricious gods mollified only by fish, pigs, and holy relics.

It’s human nature to ascribe divinity to mysterious natural processes, and to want to make them go away with a chicken or a lock of hair. No one, even scientists, really knows what the signs of an imminent eruption look like.

On Savo, an island in the Solomon Island archipelago, the local volcano has erupted at least three times in recorded history. The 3,000 inhabitants keep oral traditions of history. They know that when a major eruption is imminent, the crater fills with water, earthquakes and tsunamis occur, and vegetation dies off.

An Arizona State University assistant professor is embarking on a five-year study to take some of the mystery out of volcano eruptions by identifying coming eruptions.

Christy Till, an igneous petrologist in the School of Earth and Space Exploration, has been awarded a grant from the National Science Foundation for about $575,000.

Earthquake prediction is extremely fuzzy.

“We’re even a little further behind in volcano studies,” Till said. “We don’t even have early warning systems yet.”

What causes bodies of magma to form? What causes them to erupt? Scientists have notions of what those processes are, but they don’t know where they fit in the time frame of an eruption. Till will search for markers in her study.

“We’re still trying to understand the science,” she said. “What are the events that head up to the eruption, so we can look for them on the surface. ... We have all those clues about how to look at volcanoes, but we don’t know how to decode them very well yet.”

Till will study past eruptions as clues.

“Those have already erupted, and they’ve had the same series of processes happen to them, those marker events that caused them to erupt,” she said. “We want to go and use them to decode that information so we can say, “OK, at this type of volcano this is what happened and this is how long it took. And at that type of volcano this is what happened and how long it took. And we can see how those compare and how similar and different they are if we look at a bunch of volcanoes.”

ASU Assistant Professor Christy Till in her lab
ASU Assistant Professor Christy Till (shown in her lab in Tempe on June 8) is embarking on a five-year study to take some of the mystery out of volcano eruptions, supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Early Career Development (CAREER) Program. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

When magma erupts, it’s a combination of hot liquid, solid rock incorporated into the liquid, gases and crystals that formed when the magma was in the subsurface and cooled down.

The crystals have concentric zones in them, like tree rings. And, also like tree rings, they hold a huge amount of information.

“These crystals are time capsules of information and they tell us about the composition of the magma they were growing from, the temperature of the magma,” Till said. “If there was a sudden event in the magma chamber, they recorded that and we can use that to construct the life history of the magma leading up to its eruption when the crystal was erupted onto the surface.”

Volcanoes are somewhat like people. Their stories vary throughout their lives, and they are very different from each other.

“They’re not all the same,” Till said. “Trying to understand why those variations exist and what they mean about the likelihood of an eruption is something we spend a lot of time thinking about.”

The grant will also be used for an education component in science communication.

The NSF Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program offers awards in support of early-career faculty who have the potential to serve as academic role models in research and education and to lead advances in the mission of their department or organization.

Fourteen ASU faculty won the award this year. Typically the NSF funds about 350 CAREER faculty each year.

The awards are not aimed at one specific question.

“They’re more of a vision of a direction for you to take your research for the next five years,” Till said. “You’re defining a body of work you’re going to do, not just one project.”


Top photo by Pixabay

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now