Pardis Mahdavi joins ASU as director of the School of Social Transformation

May 3, 2019

The School of Social Transformation is excited to announce that Pardis Mahdavi has been named its new director.

Mahdavi is an accomplished social scientist with a strong leadership track record. She served as chair of anthropology, director of the Pacific Basin Institute and dean of women at Pomona College. And, most recently, she was acting dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver. Pardis Mahdavi will take the helm of the School of Social Transformation at The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences this summer. Pardis Mahdavi’s research focuses on societal issues including human trafficking, migration, human rights, sexuality and transnational feminism. Download Full Image

“Pardis Mahdavi will make a strong director of SST thanks to her combination of administrative style, leadership skills and scholarly reputation,” said Krista Ratcliffe, professor and chair of ASU’s Department of English, who served as chair of the hiring committee. “She is welcoming as well as insightful and incisive, with the ability to form direct and concise responses in terms of both concepts and concrete examples.” Speaking specifically to Mahdavi’s managerial and leadership acumen, Ratcliffe added, “She also has proven strengths in budgeting, conflict negotiation, defining visions, growing majors and building community partnerships, including fundraising.”

As a scholar and anthropologist, Mahdavi’s research focuses on societal issues including human trafficking, migration, human rights, sexuality and transnational feminism. And she has published extensively on these topics. “Her prolific scholarly record has garnered her an international reputation as a scholar and a public intellectual whose values fit well within SST,” said Ratcliffe.

Commenting on her recent appointment, Mahdavi explained, “I was so drawn to SST because it is such a unique school that truly lives into the values of intentionality, intersectionality, interdisciplinarity and inclusion. This is truly the school so many of us have been waiting for.”

When she assumes her new role on July 1, Mahdavi succeeds President’s Professor Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, who has served as the school’s interim director for the past year.

“Pardis Mahdavi is a lovely choice to be our next school director,” Brayboy said. “She is an accomplished academic who is internationally respected for her work in the Middle East and around human trafficking. She is a seasoned leader with great experience as an administrator. She also happens to be visionary in ways that enhance and facilitate success in our school. In short, she embodies what our leaders need to be successful: strong academic credentials and accomplishments, great management skills and innovative ideas. I'm thrilled for us!”

Brayboy recently reflected on his time leading the school:

“SST is a vibrant place, focused on addressing significant social issues, guided by larger questions of justice. It means that our students, staff and faculty are laser-focused on addressing the challenges and creating, with community partners, solutions to the challenges. My experience as the interim director has been filled with moments of awe, wonder and curiosity as I watch our school community do their important work. This is challenging — and meaningful! — work framed by long hours of trying to facilitate the many efforts of our faculty, staff and students.”

Although Brayboy occupied the director role for the past year in an interim capacity, the two leaders who have served officially as director at SST since its inception in 2009 have been women. Mahdavi’s arrival makes her the third woman to lead the school. And she’s joining ASU alongside two other new leadership additions within the social sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Communications specialist, School of Social Transformation


Mexico Fulbright Scholar recounts ASU journey

PhD grad passionate about human well-being when nation's implement new systems

May 3, 2019

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

When PhD student and Mexico City native Carlo Altamirano Allende earned his Fulbright Scholarship to study in the U.S., he had a tough choice to make — where to go to school. man's portrait Mexico Fulbright Scholar Carlo Altamirano Allende graduates May 5, 2019, with a PhD in social dimensions of science and technology. Courtesy photo

Arizona State University was one of his options, but the image of Arizona in Mexico at the time remained unflattering in the wake of an Arizona senate bill passed years earlier that was perceived by many as anti-immigrant.

“I knew nothing about Arizona,” Altamirano said. “In Mexico City, Arizona was very famous in the newspapers because of Sheriff (Joe) Arpaio and SB1070.”

Not deterred, Altamirano started reading more about Phoenix while also researching the types of work going on at different universities, including ASU.

“Yes, the city of Phoenix looked like a totally different world than Mexico City,” he said. “But then I figured, sure there are political issues but that also means that there are very interesting people there doing cool things.”

An avid traveler, Altamirano was looking for a temporary change in scenery and a more permanent change academically.

Altamirano had studied thermodynamics theory of complex systems, i.e. physics. He decided to shift gears after becoming interested in the inequality in distribution of resources among scientists that can exist in a society. That led him to ASU Professor Clark Miller’s work on the social dimensions of science and technology. Altamirano reached out and interviewed with Miller remotely. He earned entry into the program and arrived in Tempe in 2012.

This semester Altamirano earns a PhD in social dimensions of science and technology. His research has taken him back to Mexico to learn about the impact of the nation’s constitutionally mandated energy reforms on indigenous communities.

Here Altamirano shares insight into his ASU journey and where he hopes to go next.

Question: What has your experience been like at ASU?

Answer: It has been a wonderful and challenging experience. I feel very privileged to have the opportunity to be amongst amazing scholars within a great nurturing environment. It has been challenging. A PhD program like mine demands a huge commitment. Due to the interdisciplinary nature of it and of the entire university, within a world built on disciplinary grounds, I had to learn and unlearn a lot practices, methods and theories. This will help me be ready to go into the real world and contribute to solving some of the most pressing problems of our times from a perspective that I could have only learned at ASU.

Q: What has been your favorite part of studying in the U.S.?

A: My favorite part of studying in the U.S. is twofold: on the one hand, the multicultural aspect of the communities that make up this country and that is present in the university. On the other, all the contradictions that exist here as a very powerful and dynamic democracy. It is great to have a firsthand perspective of things that happen here and have a ripple effect in the entire world.

Q: Can you describe one of the most interesting aspects of the research you have conducted while at ASU?

A:  A very interesting aspect or lesson derived from my research is that technology by itself will not solve any problems related to achieving sustainable development goals. We need to look at the entire ecosystem of innovation and define metrics that take into account human wellbeing, human rights and inclusion. In the case of renewable energy technologies, I have found that some of the deployment of those technologies have failed to reduced inequalities, poverty level and increase energy access. On the contrary, technologies have enhanced some of these problems because of a failure to account for the metrics within the design of those systems. I focused on Mexico, which is experiencing one of the most aggressive energy transitions in the world.

Q:  What type of work do you hope to do after graduation?

A:  I hope I can find a job in Mexico City that allows me to apply everything that I learned during this PhD program … at a think tank or an academic position where I can be involved in the science-policy interphase.

Q:  What advice would you give to students from Mexico studying in the U.S.?

A:  To work hard and to always look for a community within the university or outside where they feel supported and where they can thrive.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations and Strategic Communications