ASU tourism students learn how smaller communities deal with large influx of visitors

November 18, 2019

Hiking through hidden caverns bathed with rays of sunlight from above and exploring a traditional Navajo hogan were among the many ways more than 20 Arizona State University tourism students learned of the impacts of tourism in local communities during a recent visit to the windswept rocks and plateaus near Page, Arizona.

The Nov. 1–3 trip offered the students the chance to learn firsthand how social media has driven huge increases in the numbers of visitors at iconic places such as Antelope Canyon and Horseshoe Bend, said Claire McWilliams, tourism development and management instructor and adviser to the ASU Tourism Student Association (TSA). Jing "Viona" Fang visits Antelope Canyon near the Arizona-Utah border with about 20 other ASU students in early November. Jing "Viona" Fang walks through Antelope Canyon near the Arizona-Utah border with about 20 other ASU tourism students in early November to learn about how smaller communities deal with large numbers of visitors. Photo courtesy Claire McWilliams, School of Community Resources and Development Download Full Image

Tourism development and management major and TSA member Raquel Bigman, a Page resident, assisted the club in creating a learning-intensive itinerary and connecting with key community members.

Upon arriving in Page, on the Utah-Arizona border, the students were taken by guides to Upper Antelope Canyon. Guides described the environmental, cultural and practical value of these locations, as well as the challenges of adapting to visitor totals that have grown exponentially in recent years, McWilliams said.

Navajo tribal members and business owners Tina Mountain, Jazzlyn Begay and Richardson Etsitty shared perspectives about how their community is impacted by tourism and equitable access barriers to resources like water, electricity, funding and permitting.

“I think that this trip was important for us (students) to learn about tourism from a completely different perspective,” said TSA member Jade Gray. “The Navajo, the Native people of this land, are trying to develop their own communities while at the same time welcoming more and more outsiders into their land. It was very humbling.”

TSA member Genna Oppasser agreed.

“What I found of value on this trip was that when a community is involved in tourism there can be heartbreak and pain and joy and pride, all at once. It made me acknowledge the access to resources that I have taken for granted,” she said. “I also see that through my career and how I travel I can help people in places just like this to enjoy more of the benefits of tourism and less of the problematic aspects. I learned you can never truly know until you learn the story of someone who is living it every day."

Students also toured the Antelope Hogan Bed & Breakfast, built and owned by Etsitty, and learned about his approach to offering traditional hogan (pronounced, hoh-GAWN, or hoh-guhn) lodging that looks out onto a stunning vista. Etsitty described his mission to provide his guests with access to authentic storytelling, foods and harmony with the land. 

“What I learned from our trip to Page was the word ‘connection.’ I really liked what Jazzlyn, on our panel, said: ‘Culture ... home ... we are tethered to them. When you are far away, their tendrils will pull you back’,” said TSA secretary Shiyu Qiao. “I am from China, and I feel the same way when I am in the United States sometimes. Connection exists between Navajo and nature. Navajo children have nature as their playground. They follow the sunlight as they enter the hogan. There is connection between Navajos and their ancestors all around them. I learned that sustainable tourism development is really important to preserve this."

Big-picture community development is important for students in building their future careers, said Mark Roseland, director of the School of Community Resources and Development at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Roseland reminded the students about how those residents impacted by tourism should properly fit it into the overall plan for raising their quality of life.

Brooks Reece, TSA president, said traveling to Page was the highlight of many educational opportunities gained from TSA membership.

“Learning about the Navajo presented us with the reality that their resources and culture are the central draw to the area, and a challenge: How can tourism models be developed that more equitably and positively impact quality of life for all involved?" Reece said.

“From the Page, Arizona, trip I was able to see such a clear illustration of everything I have been learning about in the tourism development and management program,” said TSA member Paige Corbin. “It was such an amazing opportunity to see how the concepts I learn about in my classes translate into real life. The lessons that I learned on the trip were so powerful and I look forward to being able to share my experiences with others about how to be a conscientious tourist.”  

Students also enjoyed Page's annual Balloon Regatta and even helped a balloon crew prepare for launch, enjoying a sense of community resulting from experiences beyond the walls of a classroom.

"I really enjoyed people-watching at Horseshoe Bend from a tourism perspective. It was fascinating — and alarming! — to see how tourists pushed boundaries to take an epic photo,” said TSA member Savannah Stratman. “It was also fun to interact with local vendors at the Balloon Regatta about how many people come into town just for this one event and how much economic impact can result from having the event in their town.”

“Antelope Canyon really hit me! All I could do was surrender to its beauty and touch every line with awe. The workmanship of nature is far beyond human reach,” said Jing ‘Viona’ Fang, a student in Hainan University-Arizona State University Joint International Tourism College in China. “This trip is also the first time I saw stars all over the sky. In my urban city, the sky above is divided by tall buildings. I was so grateful to see the stars shining all over sky — far away from urban areas.”

Creating a sweeter and healthier future

ASU psychology alumna's donation to fund research on sugar reduction

November 18, 2019

Added sugar is one of the most common ingredients in the American diet and is featured in most processed foods, fruit drinks, sodas, cookies and candy. But it is also present in foods like ketchup, pasta sauce, bread and packaged meats. The average American consumes 76.7 grams of sugar — or just under half a cup — every day. This amount is double the recommendation of the American Heart Association.

In response to this important public health issue, Arizona State University Department of Psychology alumna Carol May is working to change how Americans approach sweets. May is the chair and CEO of Wisdom Natural Brands, a leading producer of the natural sweetener stevia. two people posing next to conference room sign Carol May and Steve Neuberg, chair and Foundation Professor in the ASU Department of Psychology at the Armstrong Hall conference room naming. Photo by Alisa Reznick Download Full Image

May donated $275,000 to the Department of Psychology as part of her new initiative: The Carol May Reduce Sugar Consumption Research Project.

“This initiative is a large effort that has the potential to extend our understanding of the impact of excess dietary sugars on the body and also to develop more effective prevention techniques to support individual goals for improved health and longer and happier lives,” May said.

The May initiative will fund a research project led by Michelle “Lani” Shiota, associate professor of psychology. Shiota will study how to better reduce the consumption of added sugar among ASU students, faculty and staff.

A high-sugar diet is linked with obesity and diabetes, and contributes to negative heart health. Studies from the Journal of the American Medical Association have also shown that there is an association between a high-sugar diet and an increased risk of dying from heart disease.

“With the May initiative project we aim to encourage healthier dietary choices among members of the ASU community, while also learning more about behavior change techniques that can promote healthy lifestyles,” Shiota said. “Carol’s desire to help improve people’s lives is deeply heartfelt — and infectious! She’s been a national leader in this endeavor, and her support and encouragement give us an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s well-being, here at ASU and beyond.”

Beyond sugar: Thinking about the future

May’s generous contribution was honored with the naming of the “Carol A. May, Wisdom Natural Brand Conference Room.” Her passion for the health and futures of ASU students made the room a natural fit in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Armstrong Futures Center, which was designed to prepare students for life after graduation by offering resources like practice interviews, resume advice and career workshops.

“I’m so grateful to be honored by this privilege of having my name attached to this immense opportunity to do good for thousands of people,” May said. “This isn’t just the headquarters of The College, this is the beginning of futures. With over 25,000 students right now in The College, the futures of countless people will be blessed by the contributions of those students.”

May, who was named one of the 50 Most Influential Women in Arizona by AZ Business Magazine, added that she is proud to promote the role of the Department of Psychology in career-focused innovation at ASU. And, says Steven Neuberg, Foundation Professor and Chair of the Department of Psychology, “the Department is thrilled to be working with Carol. Her passion for improving public health, and for the well-being and long-term success of our psychology students, is inspirational. Her engagement embodies our Psych for Life initiative, and we couldn’t be more grateful.”

Related: Psych for Life initiative illustrates myriad ways ASU psychology degree translates into career success

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology