ASU doctoral grad transforms communities with food knowledge


April 12, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

Paris Masek is graduating from Arizona State University this spring with a PhD in English literature. Paris Masek hauling veggies for Green on Purpose / Courtesy photo Graduate doctoral student Paris Masek is president of Green on Purpose, a food hub service delivering exclusively locally grown agricultural products to those who live and work in the greater Phoenix area. Download Full Image

That seems straightforward; however, like most of what Masek does, it’s not. That this Phoenix resident is earning his doctorate represents a circular, holistic journey, a repurposing of experiences and knowledge into something new — maybe even something transformational.

Masek is a specialist in indigenous American literature; his interdisciplinary research and work focuses on the importance of place. According to Masek, the materiality of food and animal inhabitants of the Southwest region are central to indigenous literature and to the food systems that function here. The written stories, oral narratives and cultural ceremonies speak to all those interactive relationships; Masek uses the term “transmergent.”

“Knowledge is power,” he said, “and food is medicine.”

Masek practices what he preaches. He is president of Green on Purpose Inc., a food hub service delivering exclusively locally grown agricultural products to those who live and work in the greater Phoenix area. He also heads the Pueblo Viejo Fields Project that infuses the power of food knowledge into the local community. The project was the first recipient of the city of Phoenix Brownfields to Healthfields Grant program in 2016 in conjunction with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

For his work, Masek was also a finalist for this year’s Graduate College Knowledge Mobilization Awards, which focus on translating research into real-life impact.

We sat down with Masek to learn more about his theories on interconnectedness.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? 

Answer: In my first foray into academia, I studied fish biology back in the 1970s. But my favorite subjects were literature and history. After being in the workplace for 30-plus years, I was laid off from my job in 2009. I decided to apply to graduate school in English literature after earning my BA in literature from ASU.

The last class I took as an undergraduate was Native American literature with Regents’ Professor Simon J. Ortiz, who really liked my writing. Everything at that point just seemed to fall into place at the right time: the past meeting the present and constantly moving forward into the future.

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: Never accept definitions or understandings as absolute facts. Always be open to other theories, opinions, perspectives … take your time before you express your own comprehension of those facts, and even then, keep searching for a better answer.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: It was in my backyard, so to speak. Growing up in southern California I had always wanted to go to ASU, it just seemed so far away for me back then.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: Simon Ortiz and Ron Broglio. See answer to “what I learned while at ASU.”

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: Never quit, never quit — no matter how upside down a situation seems to be.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

A: Labriola Center in Hayden Library.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: Continue my current course of study and work with indigenous culture and literature, animal studies, biology and food. They are all interconnected when you look close enough.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: I am the legal guardian for a person with developmental disabilities. I would set up a trust fund for (this person) and other individuals with similar cognitive and physical disabilities. The fund would cover the expenses of life that they could not afford under one stipulation: that they would be trained and put into jobs so they could earn income and meet others with similar challenges. This gives those individuals a sense of self-importance, gives them a sense of purpose, and makes them not 100% dependent on other entities for their support. Typically it takes $2.3 million dollars in support per an individual with these obstacles throughout their lifetime to survive. I would set up as many accounts as that would purchase.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English

480-965-7611

‘The world is my classroom’ — ASU Online grad uses her education in humanity


April 12, 2019

Editor’s note: This is part of a series of profiles for spring 2019 commencement.

She had the passion, but not the know-how. Brittany-Rose Tribulski / Courtesy photo "ASU taught me that the world is my classroom," said graduating MTESOL student Brittany-Rose Tribulski. "We are all teachers; we are all students." Download Full Image

Brittany-Rose Tribulski had been teaching English for some time already — even spending a year and a half in Thailand with the MediaKids organization. But the Riverside, California, resident recognized that to meet her goals as an English teacher she needed more: more expertise, more research, more knowledge. She wanted to do right by her students.

She discovered the online Master of Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages (MTESOL) at Arizona State University and it was a match made in cyberspace.

“ASU fulfilled all of my hopes,” Tribulski said. “Instead of demanding that I see education from the eyes of an American living in Arizona, my professors allowed me the opportunity to capitalize on my life in Thailand. They especially encouraged me to share my experiences in our classwork and to use it towards my education within the program.”

We checked in with Tribulski to learn more about her journey as she neared her graduation date this spring.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study in your field? 

Answer: I was sitting in a classroom in a rural, rice paddy village in Thailand. The classroom had no doors, no air conditioning, no screens on the windows and it was a cool 110 degrees with 100% humidity. After teaching my second graders how to identify letters, we were playing an extremely intense game of "letter bingo." After class, four of the boys ran up to me and said "Ready, set, go!" I had been teaching them English for over a year and we had an agreement that if they finished their work, we would race back to my office. More than 365 days of me teaching them English, and the only words they could say were "Ready, set, go!" The third  boy passed me, making me the second-to-last to the finish line ... and I was really trying. I breathlessly high-fived all the kids and set my box of English paraphernalia on my desk and realized, "I don't teach English ... I learn humanity!" I use English as my vessel to have an exchange with my tiny teachers. I never want to do anything else ever again!

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you, that changed your perspective?

A: ASU taught me that the world is my classroom, but research and studying from those who have researched and studied is how I can enhance my worldwide classroom. We are all teachers, we are all students, we are all researchers and we are all the better from learning from those who have transcended themselves enough to study other people. It's a bit convoluted, but ASU taught me that research is invaluable, and the more I study the better I am as a person.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

A: I chose ASU because they offered the specific TESOL degree that wasn't offered at many equally ranking universities. They allowed me to use my experience overseas to the classrooms and my credits, which showed how much they value my career and lifestyle choice of working outside the U.S.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

A: I loved all of my professors. They all taught me so much about literature, research, the ESL community and the type of professor I hope to be one day. However, one of my favorite classes was with Ruby Macksoud. She gave me so much autonomy in my endeavor to develop my teaching philosophy as well as creatively prepare my website as an online visual of my accomplishments. She was incredibly available and has become a resource and a distant mentor to me throughout my time at ASU. Her teachings went beyond the subject matter and into changing me as a person, from the inside out. I call upon her influence as my students come to me for help in different aspects.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

A: To those still in school, make sure you are studying what you love. Studying became my "me" time. Many people I know are looking to complete their degree and "move on." I believe they are truly missing out on the point of what they are doing. If you love what you study, you will love what you do. If you don't, then you won't.

It sounds insane but I could read about ESL topics all day because that's who I am now. I believe people should find out what they like to study first, then look for a career in that, instead of the other way around.

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

A: After I graduate I plan to continue my research on how to better serve the ESL community by working with study abroad or immigrant students here in the U.S. I hope to work for a university and give them an equally enriching experience here in North America as I have been lucky enough to have had in other countries. I also plan to continue my studies by meeting more students traveling Central Asia and understanding how English can assist them in their future endeavors.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

A: Currently, human trafficking is at the highest worldwide. Slavery is increasing yearly. I believe we cannot advance as a worldwide society without everyone free from bondage of forced work. Although there are many wonderful organizations that are seeking to free many individuals around the globe, all of the main governments have remained dormant on the issue. “We the People” need to prove to one another that slavery is not allowed in any country, of any people, for any reason.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English

480-965-7611