ASU lecturer encourages students to become strong citizens at the New American University

Harry Boyte, founder of Public Achievement, spoke at ASU as the Institute for Humanities Research Distinguished Lecturer

March 26, 2019

In schools and community centers across the country, Harry Boyte notices a need.

“We see a huge hunger among young people for what we would call a different kind of politics,” said Boyte, an affiliate faculty member at the University of Minnesota and the founder of Public Achievement, a theory-based practice of citizen organizing to do public work for the common good. “It’s not polarizing. It’s not demonizing. But it’s effective and it’s clear and sophisticated enough in thinking about power, and different interests and the world as it is.” Distinguished Lecturer Harry Boyte Institute for Humanities Research Distinguished Lecturer Harry Boyte presents his lecture "Telling a New Story of Democracy: Public Universities, Democracy and the Citizen Professionals" at the Memorial Union Ventana Ballroom on March 20, 2019. Download Full Image

Boyte visited Arizona State University March 20 as the 2019 Distinguished Lecturer for the ASU Institute for Humanities Research.

He spoke to the audience about agency, or “the capacity to act.” He has taught this concept to young adults across the country by asking them two key questions. 

First: “Are there issues? Problems you worry about? Things you’d like to change? Things that make you mad?”

Second: “What are you going to do about it?”

When young people hear this second question, they understand that they have power — that regardless of age or circumstance, they have the capacity to act. 

Boyte recently witnessed the transformative power of this new understanding at a recent effort at the University of Minnesota. A student athlete expressed her frustration about a sexual harassment presentation she had attended.

“She said it had been horrible,” Boyte said. “It was like some old guy reading something from 1948 about a code of honor, and he didn’t even talk about sexual harassment. She said everyone was bored to death and it was ridiculous.”

Dennis Donovan, a professor at the University of Minnesota and one of the original organizers of Boyte’s Public Achievement initiative, responded to her frustration with a question: “What are you going to do about it?”

Under Donovan’s mentorship, the student and one of her peers put together a student training on sexual harassment. They facilitated open, deliberative discussions among peers and addressed the sexual harassment issues that the 650 athletes at the university faced. They discovered a different way of seeing these issues beyond reiterating abstract information on the topic.

Boyte has asked hundreds of young people, “What are you going to do about it?” and he has consistently been met with surprise. To many students, the idea that they have the ability to shape the world around them is foreign — but not at ASU.

“It’s really significant that ASU is committed to becoming a New American University able to act on public problems,” Boyte said, referencing ASU’s commitment to a sustainable future.

“Today I want to invite ASU to develop a comparable commitment to engaging the problems of democracy and argue that the problems and the crises of democracy are inextricably linked to the crisis of climate and the work of sustainability,” he said.

Educators can empower their students to take on the problems they see in the current state of American democracy by asking, “Are there issues?” and “What are you going to do about it?”

As Boyte said, “Strong citizens are not born — they are developed.”

Lauren Whitby

Communications Specialist, ASU Institute for Humanities Research


Music students receive inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award established by ASU alumni

March 26, 2019

Three music composition students in the School of Music in Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts are the honored recipients of the inaugural Mykytyn Distinguished Composition Award, established by ASU alumni Kathleen Mykytyn (Bachelor of Arts in education ’58) and Peter Mykytyn (Master of Business Administration ’81, Doctor of Philosophy in computer information systems ’85).

The endowed award was created in memory of former ASU music Professor Arnold Bullock's outstanding service and legacy to the School of Music. Kathleen Mykytyn, a composer, was a student in Bullock's studio. student composing music A music composition student plays the piano. Download Full Image

The $1,000 first prize went to Mohamed-Aly “Mo” Farag, doctoral student, for his composition “Rhapsody for clarinet, piano, violin, viola and violoncello. Second prize ($300) was awarded to Jacob Smith, doctoral student, for his string quartet composition “seep, unwrought.” Karl Stefans, master's student, took third prize ($200) for “Je t'adore à l'égal for Pierrot” for ensemble after a poem by Baudelaire.

“The competition was an opportunity to have my work as a composer presented and recognized,” Smith said. “It was also important that I would be able to share recognition with my fellow composers.”

Smith said his piece was originally composed in February 2018 as a part of the School of Music’s Visiting Quartet Residency Program. Composition students used inspiration from a work at the Phoenix Art Museum to create a piece for string quartet.

Remembering the School of Music as a place that fostered innovation and creativity, Mykytyn said she was inspired to provide recognition as well as a monetary prize to assist young composers in their study of music.

The annual cash award is for an original composition for a vocal or instrumental solo or chamber group, in any genre of music. The competition is judged by ASU faculty or distinguished guest judges and is open to all current undergraduate and graduate composition majors at ASU.

This year’s competition was judged by four School of Music composition and theory faculty: James DeMars, professor; Jody Rockmaker, associate professor; Rodney Rogers, professor; and Kotoka Suzuki, associate professor. 

Students must submit a description of their piece, a written score and a recording of their composition.

“The competition is a blind review,” Suzuki said. “We review all compositions submitted and look for originality, creativity and craftsmanship.” 

Rockmaker said that, in general, judges consider how well the composer expresses their ideas through their notation, how well written the work is for soloist or ensemble, and assess whether the music presents a unique voice.

“Composition students write in many different styles,” Rockmaker said. “It’s one of the most unique aspects of our program. We encourage students to enter all types of competitions as a good way to have their work and abilities as a composer recognized.”

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music