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ASU joins network of universities focusing on technology for public interest

March 11, 2019

21 colleges and universities unite to develop generation of civic-minded technologists across disciplines

At a time when technology shapes every facet of our lives, there’s a growing consensus that its role should be evaluated in a social context so that questions of impact and consequences are considered from its very beginnings.

Colleges and universities have a fundamental responsibility to educate the next generation of leaders in the social context of technology, so that they can more fully connect considerations of technology to questions of individual rights, justice, social welfare and public good.

The new Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Arizona State University is one of the charter members of the network.

Convened by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and New America, the network combines higher education, philanthropy and public policy as part of a new push to define and build the public interest technology sector.

NEW YORK TIMES: ASU an 'early adopter' of interdisciplinary technology studies 

To facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas and expertise, the network includes individuals who approach public interest questions from a technological background, as well as those coming from other disciplines, such as law and the social sciences, who seek to understand, leverage and respond to the changes brought by new technologies.

Applying the model of public interest law to the technology sector, the network brings together colleges and universities committed to building the field of public interest technology, creating robust pathways for students seeking to pursue careers in public interest technology and fostering collaboration across the network. 

ASU also strongly associates public interest technology with related concepts such as responsible innovation and humanitarian engineering, both of which bring public interest technology cognates into the international context.

Public interest technology at work at ASU

While public interest technology activities are distributed widely across the university, one focal point is the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Created in 2015, the school is a transdisciplinary unit at the vanguard of ASU’s commitment to linking innovation to public value. Foundation Professor and Founding Director of the school Dave Guston will serve as a representative for ASU to the network. 

“ASU is particularly interested in extending and creating curricular and co-curricular activities that train students and build career pathways,” said Guston. “We are interested in the real-world outcomes of public interest technology, both in terms of influence on policy- and decision-making, but also in terms of the social, ethical and legal aspects of technologies that help constitute their public interest orientation, as well as in the design of technologies and systems with a holistic consideration of such aspects. We hope to develop partnerships across sectors, especially building technical capacity in nonprofit organizations whose work aligns with the ASU charter.”

In addition to degree programs and areas of study, ASU has several programs and initiatives that address the concerns and needs of those interested in technology for public good.  

Science Outside the Lab explores the relationships among science, policy and societal outcomes in a two-week workshop in Washington, D.C. Doctoral students from science and engineering disciplines meet and interact with congressional staffers, funding-agency officers, lobbyists, regulators, journalists, academics, museum curators and others.

Responsible Research and Innovation in Practice is a three-year project under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research program. It aims to understand the barriers and drivers to the successful implementation of responsible research and innovation; promote reflection on organizational structures and cultures of research-conducting and research-funding organizations; and identify and support best practices to facilitate the uptake of responsible research and innovation in organizations and programs. 

The Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation was created to accelerate the formation of a community of scholars and practitioners who, despite divides in geography and political culture, will create a common concept of responsible innovation for research, training and outreach — and in doing so contribute to the governance of emerging technologies. Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation facilitates collaborative research, training and outreach activities among roughly two dozen institutions across the globe.

Global Resolve began in 2006 working to help provide clean water in a Ghanaian village. Today the program encompasses projects ranging from prosthetic limbs to improved crop production with partners in 13 countries in Asia, Africa and North and South America. Global Resolve offers students a unique opportunity to bridge the global divide with sustainable and collaborative solutions to help relieve the effects of poverty in the developing world.

The Engineering Projects in Community Service program, known as EPICS, is an award-winning national social entrepreneurship program where teams design, build and deploy systems to solve engineering-based problems for charities, schools and other not-for-profit organizations. Participating students represent a variety of disciplines within ASU. A common theme through all projects is that of sustainability — finding environmentally friendly solutions to community problems.

Future goals

Through these activities, ASU is cultivating a new field of study to position the next generation of tech and policy leaders to design, build and govern technologies in ways that advance the public interest.

By offering a systematic way of studying technology in the world — including the unforeseen and adverse consequences of technology and methods to harmonize technology and society — educational institutions like ASU can train a new generation of graduates who have both technological literacy and a rigorous foundation to navigate the societal, ethical, legal and policy implications of our new technological age.

"Public interest technology is a critically important area for our attention," said ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle. "As technology becomes more ubiquitous, it is essential we consider the impacts on people, whether unintended consequences or designs that exclude certain groups or disadvantage them in some way. This is not just an issue for the developed world but also one for the developing world, and so bringing ASU’s expertise to bear is part of our commitment from our charter to be inclusive and take responsibility for the social, economic, cultural and overall health of the communities we serve."

Top photo: Students collaborate at one of ASU's innovation spaces. Photo by ASU

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Hungry for knowledge? These fall 2019 courses at ASU English look delicious

March 11, 2019

If you’ve returned from spring break in a panic because you haven’t yet made your fall 2019 class selections, we can help.

The Department of English at Arizona State University has a veritable smorgasbord of fall course offerings, serving up something for nearly every palate. Have a taste for refined flavors? Shakespeare might be your thing. Boredom allergy? Check out the film and media studies "Star Wars" course — it’s certified boredom-free! Craving some couplets? Intern as a reader for Hayden’s Ferry Review to get your verse (or prose) on.

We’ve listed those and a few other standout choices here — but there are even more options in the ASU class schedule (search by “ENG,” “FMS,” “LIN”  or “APL” prefixes). The courses include online offerings as well.

1. FMS 394 — Star Wars Universe

That’s right. We said Star Wars. You don’t have to travel to a galaxy far, far away to get schooled in the cultural phenomenon of this canonical film franchise. Star Wars at ASU is a team-taught, multidisciplinary course with presentations by top faculty in film and literature.

Using a range of films, lectures, scholarly readings, clips and short videos — and, presumably, The Force — the course examines the fabric of the Star Wars universe from a variety of perspectives to explore its unprecedented impact on film and popular culture.

Topics and lecturers include “Star Wars Toys and Action Figures” (Kevin Sandler), “Star Wars: The Alt-Right Strikes Back” (Lee Bebout), “Star Wars and the Female Action Hero” (Aviva Dove-Viebahn), “Star Wars as Brand (Failure)” (Julia Himberg), and “The Hero’s Journey and Storytelling Structure in Star Wars” (Christopher Bradley) — among others. The course is moderated by Taylor Nygaard, a lecturer in film and media studies at ASU.

If you register: Star Wars Universe (class #90826) is offered through ASU Online in Session B. It is open to any currently enrolled online student.

Roast Gammon with Ginger Beer, Ginger Glaze and Clementine Relish (by Jane Charlesworth on Flickr under 2.0)

2. ENG 321 — Shakespeare

But Obi-Wan is not our only hope. Professor Jonathan Hope, ASU’s “literary linguist,” is gifted in the ways of … Shakespeare’s language.

The author of “Who Invented 'Gloomy'? Lies People Want to Believe about Shakespeare,” Hope expertly guides ENG 321 students through six of the Bard’s plays with the aim of giving tools for understanding and (gasp!) enjoyment.

“Why does everyone think this guy’s so good?” asks Hope. Students work through various modes of literary, historical and performative analysis to answer this question for themselves.

Sneak peek: One analysis will focus on the word “gammon,” a recent political insult in the U.K. that refers to a person’s “meaty” complexion. The class will discuss Shakespeare’s use of the word in “The Merry Wives of Windsor.”

“You don’t need to have studied Shakespeare before,” said Hope. “Just bring your enthusiasm and curiosity.”

If you register: Shakespeare (class #80349) meets Tuesdays and Thursdays from 3 to 4:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Life’s a beach but watch where you step / Photo by Peter Goggin

3. ENG 371 — Environmental Rhetoric & Sustainability: Constructing the Future

To be sustainable or not to be sustainable? Does the way we talk about the environment change how we relate to it? Peter Goggin, an associate professor of English and senior sustainability scholar in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, thinks so. In this “Constructing the Future” course, he introduces students to the rhetorics and discourses of sustainability.

According to Goggin, the natural world is often defined and (mis)understood as a humanistic endeavor; this has enormous impact on current and future conservation strategies. Students in this course will explore a variety of texts and interpretations of sustainability, “from Plato to Palin, Orr to Gore, Leopold to Le Guin,” Goggin said, as they learn how environmental theories, practices, philosophies and policies are constructed and communicated.

If you register: Environmental Rhetoric & Sustainability: Constructing the Future (class #90209) is offered on the Tempe campus as an iCourse during Session A.

Full cover of Hayden's Ferry Review issue 63

4. ENG 484 — Writing Internship: Hayden’s Ferry Review

No need to be an English major to try out your prowess at poetry or fiction criticism. Students enrolled in this internship serve as “first readers” for Hayden’s Ferry Review, a well-regarded, internationally distributed American literary magazine. Published semiannually by ASU, the review was founded in 1986 and is supported by The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. It is primarily edited by MFA students in the Department of English’s creative writing program.

Review staff member Katie Berta, herself a writer, serves as mentor for HFR student-readers. Interns also maintain the journal’s databases and library, table at events around the Valley and embark on a special project according to their interests.

If you register: Writing Internship: Hayden’s Ferry Review (class #70854 — instructor of record is Ruby Macksoud, English’s internship coordinator) meets according to student schedules and requires five office hours and five out-of-office hours per week. Students can apply by sending a statement of purpose (no more than two pages) and writing sample (up to 10 pages) to

World Map Percentage English Speakers by Country (by Felipe Menegaz, Peter Fitzgerald on Wikimedia under 4.0)

5. APL 518 — World Englishes  

Englishes? No, that's not a typo. Can English really be plural? Associate Professor Aya Matsuda answers this last question with a resounding “yes!”

Matsuda is a specialist in applied linguistics, or the study of language issues in real-life contexts. She is passionate about the pluralization of English. Did you know that English has varieties? There’s Australian English, Indian English, American English, Singapore English, Kenyan English and more.

“The field of world Englishes is interdisciplinary, heterogeneous and diverse,” said Matsuda. “I like that the course makeup tends to be that way, too, whenever I get to offer it.”

Topics addressed in this globally focused seminar include language change, language policies, language and identity and linguistic imperialism. While taught at the graduate level, APL 518’s interdisciplinary nature makes it accessible by those outside applied linguistics. It may be of particular interest to students working on 4+1 degrees.

If you register: World Englishes (class #90117) meets Mondays and Wednesdays from 10:45 a.m. until noon on ASU’s Tempe campus.

Materials for ASU's "Teaching Texts" class / Photo by Jessica Early

6. ENG 486 — Teaching Texts

Language arts teachers want their students to love literature, right? ASU believes that teaching reading doesn’t have to be dull.

This secondary education course is designed as an exploration of activities and philosophies for building a reading curriculum that’s both strong and exciting. Instructed by award-winning classroom teacher Kate Hope, now in ASU’s English education doctoral program, the class features an array of strategies for engaging both reluctant and enthusiastic readers, including literature circles, books of choice, literary tea parties, digital reading portfolios and final projects.

“The topics for this course tie in beautifully with my goals as a teacher educator,” said Hope. “As a former secondary English Language Arts teacher, I am quite familiar with the struggles and the joys that come with choosing texts that middle and high school students connect with.”

If you register: Teaching Texts (class #90280) meets Mondays from 4:30 to 7:15 p.m. on ASU’s Tempe campus. For questions about prerequisites, please contact

This list is just a sampler of what’s on tap in the Department of English, an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, during fall 2019. Taught by award-winning faculty from myriad specialties, the courses cross disciplinary boundaries and are designed to reach students where they are.

Image information: Roast Gammon with Ginger Beer, Ginger Glaze and Clementine Relish (by Jane Charlesworth on Flickr under 2.0); Life’s a Beach but Watch Where You Step (by Peter Goggin); full cover of Hayden’s Ferry Review issue 63; World Map Percentage English Speakers by Country (by Felipe Menegaz, Peter Fitzgerald on Wikimedia under 4.0); and books used for ASU’s “Teaching Texts” class (by Jessica Early). Top photo: A TIE Fighter pilot keeps an eye out at ASU's Ross-Blakley Hall on the Tempe campus, home of the Department of English. During ASU's 2019 Open Door event, English promoted its "Star Wars" experts and hosted costumed characters. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

communications specialist , Department of English