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ASU class empowers health-care professionals to end human trafficking

August 10, 2017

Community focus offers outreach to local organizations fighting human exploitation

A patient enters an examination room. She is young —14, maybe 15. She is walking gingerly; wearing sneakers, baggy jeans and a sweatshirt — in 104-degree weather. A few steps behind her is another young woman, a little older, early to mid-20s maybe. She hands over a clipboard with the patient’s medical information and introduces herself to the attending nurse practitioner as the patient’s aunt.

A quick scan shows the document is missing an address and contact information. The aunt quickly explains that they are both staying with some friends in the area until they find a new apartment. The patient remains silent; eyes cast downward; she looks nervous. She speaks softly, offering just a few words about a sore throat and discomfort in her lower back when the nurse practitioner asks what brings her in today.

Standing in a corner of the room just a few feet away, the aunt’s anxious glances alternate between the back of the patient’s head and the examiner's questioning lips. Bruises dot the patient’s arm when she rolls up her sleeve to allow a blood pressure cuff to be wrapped around her upper arm. The nurse practitioner casually asks how she got the bruises on her arm. A tense silence fills the room. The aunt shifts her weight before reminding the patient of her recent mishap with the boxes they were moving.

The patient’s eyes meets the nurse practitioner’s eyes.

What the nurse practitioner decides to do next could be life-altering for all of the actors in this scenario. And that is just what Samantha Calvin hopes will happen after students take her new class through Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation this fall.

It’s called HCR 394: Fundamentals of Human Trafficking. One of the first of its kindCalvin says ASU is breaking new ground by offering a Human Trafficking class in its nursing school as few universities have this option in their nursing schools. HCR 394 is open to all majors. at ASU, Calvin says this class will educate present and future health-care industry professionals, like the nurse practitioner in the above dramatization, on how to identify and speak up for those who are unable to do so for themselves.

Samantha Calvin, HCR 394 InstructorSamantha Calvin

“Seventy to 80 percent of the girls who are being trafficked see a health-care professional at some point but end up going right back to the streets or the pimps because they are not identified as victims,” Calvin said. “There is room to stop the trafficking cycle during that visit, and that’s why a class like this is a good fit for a health-based college like the College of Nursing and Health Innovation.”

Calvin says Fundamentals of Human Trafficking will tackle the role of the health-care professionals by educating students on spotting signs of exploitation during encounters with patients; what questions to ask and how to ask them if it appears that a victim is unable to speak for themselves. Localizing the subject of human traffickingIn 2016 there were 457 calls and 151 reported cases to the National Human Trafficking Hotline in Arizona:, students will also have the opportunity to work with community-based nonprofits and assist in creating, solving or evaluating a problem or a program that the organization is doing around the topic.

With vocal support from the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU, Calvin’s class has been almost two years in the making — the result of the passion she has had for the subject since becoming a mentor for young survivors recovering from the trafficking trade.

ASU Now sat down with CalvinCalvin is a graduate student in the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, of which she is also a full-time faculty member. to discuss human trafficking, its impact on local communities and why the time is right for her new class at ASU. 

Question: There appears to be a growing interest and effort to take action against human trafficking more so in recent years than others. What do you attribute to the increase in awareness on the issue?

Answer: Media and pop culture have become strong drivers in the rise of awareness about human trafficking. When I tell people I do research in this area, many will bring up a documentary on human trafficking that they might have seen on Netflix, and in recent years we have seen more billboards going up in major cities that warn people not to buy sex from teenagers. We are also beginning to see anti-human-trafficking campaigns around sporting events such as the Super Bowl and the Final Four here in Phoenix. 

Q: How is human trafficking defined in the context of your class?

A: Everyone has a different construct of it — and then the lines of trafficking and prostitution can get very blurry. From a legal standpoint, anyone under the age of 18 who is trading sex for anything, whether it is clothing or shelter or money, they are being trafficked. It gets more difficult to define when that person becomes a legal adult because that line of when are you choosing to do something and when you are not becomes a little more unclear. Many pimps will use techniques — different forms of brainwashing and manipulation — that influence the victim’s belief that they are choosing to engage in this lifestyle.

Q: One of the unique components of HCR 394: Fundamentals of Human Trafficking is students getting the opportunity to create their own research projects. What might a research project in your class look like?

A: Students will be assisting local organizations that address human trafficking. They might be collecting and analyzing data and research for dedicated nonprofits that are lacking in funding and resources. We hope to bring these organizations together and discuss the challenges they face and ways they might be able to help each other toward the common goal of stemming human trafficking. We also plan to have regular dialogues with people who have been involved in human trafficking — people in social work and law enforcement, former johns, former traffickers and people who have been trafficked — to learn how the problem is viewed from different perspectives.

Q: What are some of the assumptions or misconceptions people have about human trafficking?

A: The first question I usually get when I say I do human trafficking research is “What country do you do it in,” assuming it could not be happening locally. Then, when I reveal that my research is based here in Arizona, many will assume it is related to the U.S.-Mexico border, which is also not the case because most of the girls I work with are U.S. citizens. Also, while a lot of the focus is often on young women, our class will address the fact that there are a great number of young men who fall victim to human trafficking, particularly within the LGBTQ community. The issue itself is so complex that even people who are medical professionals may be not be aware that human trafficking is a problem that they should be looking for. 

Q: What are some of the identifiers health practitioners are missing, or not acting on, when they come in contact with trafficking victims?

A: Trafficking victims might engage with health practitioners for a number of reasons. Often it’s something that prevents them from performing their “duties.” But traffickers might also send victims into health-care facilities to get checked for sexually transmitted diseases. In many of those cases, the trafficker, or a representative for the trafficker, might pose as a relative or a boyfriend, fill out medical paperwork for that person and remain present or close by during the examination. Health-care personnel should flag observations such as lack of identification or the patient’s inability to answer basic questions like a description of where they live, or the color of their room.

A patient who has been subjected to trafficking might have bruises and markings. In some cases, traffickers will brand their girls — so there are certain tattoos or numberings health professionals should look out for. If they are not sure what to do, health-care professionals should call the national hotlineCall the National Human Trafficking Hotline toll-free at 1-888-373-7888. dedicated to human trafficking if they suspect a patient is being trafficked.

Q: By the completion of this course, what should students have in their toolbox to help them address the subject of human trafficking?

A: They should understand how significant human trafficking is and what it looks like in Arizona, nationally and globally. I think they will also be able to understand the intersection of policy and cultural elements related to human trafficking. It could be as simple as rethinking the issue and being more available to ask someone if they need help — even if that person is not being trafficked. I think the person who completes this course will be more equipped to volunteer in their community around these issues and inform people who are unaware that trafficking is something that is happening locally, down the street. I think they will also know more about the theories about human trafficking, the psychology behind wanting to buy another human being.

If we want to put an end to human trafficking in any way, we need classes like this to help start the conversation that will help these students go out into the world and make a difference in their chosen profession. Because I think this issue is so complex and so interdisciplinary, there is not one profession or one space or corner of the Earth that it does not impact in some way.

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ASU's Tooker House is designed for inquisitive engineering minds.
Want to know when your laundry is done? Yeah, there's an app for that.
August 11, 2017

Everything at cutting-edge Tempe residence hall designed to enhance what Ira A. Fulton students learn in classrooms and labs

When Arizona State University’s latest crop of engineering students move this weekend into the state-of-the-art residence hall built specifically for their discipline, they aren’t living in just any old dorm.

They are living totally immersed in an engineering education experience.

Everything about Tooker House, a brand-new 1,600-student community for engineering students, is designed to enhance and extend what they learn in classrooms and labs.

“Innovation has a new home address at Tooker House,” said Kyle Squires, dean of the Fulton Schools of Engineering. “This mixed-use living and learning facility sets a new standard in engineering education and reflects the breadth and depth of the student experience at the largest engineering school in the nation.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The fully Wi-Fi-accessible facility has enough bandwidth to accommodate four devices per resident. There are seven social lounges, seven study lounges and six academic success centers.

“Everything in here is built with the mind-set of engineers,” said Bradley Bolin, assistant director for residential life at the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “If you look at the ceilings, they look like they’re unfinished, but this is the finished product. They know engineers want to see not just the surface, but what’s beyond the surface. Where does water run? Where is the electricity? What kind of materials did they use?

“If you walk down the hallway, you’ll see where the hot water line is and where the cold water line is. You’ll see where Internet is placed. Our electrical room is all glass on the hallway side. Students who are interested in that type of engineering can walk down to what is running our building and look through and see actual engineers using the space.”

Engineers love to know how things work, and how things are put together.

“To see the inner workings of a building kind of kick-starts peoples’ imaginations,” said Pedro Giorge, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering who lives in Tooker House. “It’s really cool to see an application of what we learn in school actually applied. When you’re in your books and you’re concentrating on your work and the theories behind really don’t make a connection until you actually see something like an electrical system or a mechanical system. It’s just really cool to see that at home for a lot of these students.”

The vast majority of Tooker House residents are first-year engineering students. (The first and second floors are dedicated to upper-division students.) They run the gamut: civil engineering, mechanical engineering, material management engineering.

“Any type of engineering taught at Fulton, they can live at Tooker House,” Bolin said.

Two makerspaces outfitted for engineers provide a collaborative environment where students can work on projects, develop new technologies and have access to tools like 3-D printers and laser cutters. The spaces are also equipped with video chat, adjustable tables, soundproofing and lockers for projects.

“Engineers go through a lot of classes, and they have to do a lot of group work,” Bolin said. “What’s awesome about Tooker House, there’s plenty of group spaces where students can come together and use the floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall white boards. They can write out their big equations like they do in the movies. We created spaces like that just for them to walk down the hall with their roommate or someone who is in the same class with them and utilize the space we have here for them to work on their projects together. And, with the academic success centers in Tooker House, they have direct access to tutors, who are sophomores, seniors and sometimes grad students.”

Other amenities in the residence hall include a full-service, 14,000-square-foot, 525-seat dining facility; recreation center with modern student lounges, billiards and ping-pong; a modern fitness center with cardio machines and strength equipment, and a convenience store.

It’s a gated community with 24-hour campus security and front-desk services; live-in residential staff; and a courtyard with a sun deck and outdoor gathering pavilions.

Suites are fully furnished apartments with adjoining bathrooms, hardwood-style flooring, solar blackout shades, USB outlets and ceiling fans.

On-site laundry facilities with Bluetooth washers and dryers notify students when cycles are complete. 

“We have 130 washers and dryers to accommodate (students),” Bolin said. “They are on the second, fourth and sixth floors. There’s a really cool app. If a student doesn’t want to get out of their room, they can check the app to see when a machine is available and when their laundry is done.”

The new residence hall is named for Diane and Gary Tooker. Diane Tooker is an alumnus of ASU’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and a former business owner and elementary school teacher. Gary Tooker is an alumnus of the Fulton Schools of Engineering and a former CEO of Motorola.

Together, the couple has made contributions to ASU through the ASU Foundation for more than 30 years, including support for the university’s teaching and engineering programs and the endowed Diane and Gary Tooker Chair for Effective Education in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. Gary Tooker’s contributions to fostering Arizona’s tech sector were recognized with a lifetime achievement award presented at the 2012 Governor’s Celebration of Innovation.

“Diane and Gary Tooker are not only longtime supporters of ASU, but of innovation and education. Tooker House epitomizes the best of both,” said Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of ASU Foundation. “We are grateful to them, and for the opportunity to bring new spaces and modes of learning to our Fulton Schools of Engineering students.”


Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now