ASU Law faculty, staff, community raise over $2.5 million, provide employment opportunities for students during pandemic


September 4, 2020

In a world that is changing every day, the faculty of Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University stepped up to support its students in multiple ways while providing the most exceptional legal education possible.

ASU Law’s generous donors, including faculty members, have contributed over $2.5 million in financial support during the pandemic. These donations have provided ASU Law students with public interest fellowships, first-generation and diversity scholarships, externship stipends, experiential learning opportunities and support for essential needs. photo of ASU Law students Cecilia Nieto, David Campbell, Phillip Tomas, Riggs Brown and Lori Rutten From left: ASU Law 3Ls Cecilia Nieto, David Campbell, Phillip Tomas, Riggs Brown and Lori Rutten are among 81 students who participated in summer internships and externships that ASU Law faculty created to provide them with paid, unique employment when other opportunities were canceled due to COVID-19. Download Full Image

And over the summer when student employment opportunities were canceled or cut short due to COVID-19, ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester called on faculty to create innovative, paid internship and externship opportunities for students. Quickly stepping in, faculty launched a highly successful program, with 81 students participating in these special summer work opportunities while earning more than $220,000 in paid stipends from ASU Law.

ASU Law also awarded nearly $13 million in scholarships to incoming JD students for fall 2020, and the college gave more than $50,000 to students needing extra support due to COVID-19.

This support is part of ASU Law’s continuing spirit of generosity with more than $80 million in donor gifts, close to $5 million coming from faculty and staff, raised in the last decade.

ASU Law also did not increase tuition this year and has the second lowest tuition in the top 25 law schools nationally. And with three modalities for students to choose how they attend classes — in person, online or a hybrid of both — ASU Law professors are tailoring the educational experience to every student’s personal preference to provide an even more valuable environment.

“Now more than ever, our students need ASU Law to not only give them the best law school experience possible, but the genuine support of helping to ensure their personal needs are met through financial contributions, meaningful ways to engage in innovative programs inside and outside the classroom, and unique work opportunities that will position them for rewarding legal careers,” Sylvester said. “The safety and well-being of our students, faculty and staff continue to be our top priority as we work to provide the best legal education for our students.”

ASU Law faculty creates innovative, paid summer work opportunities

Diana Bowman, ASU Law’s associate dean for international engagement and co-director for the Center for Smart Cities and Regions, worked with 14 students as part of the summer internship program.

Bowman, ASU’s lead on The Connective, a collaboration of ASU, the Maricopa Association of Governments, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Institute for Digital Progress and the Partnership for Economic Innovation, engaged the students in practical, problem-solving work with broader exposure to The Connective’s partners. The students’ efforts will be part of this year’s Smart Cities/Region Summit, to be co-hosted by ASU Law, ASU’s University Technology Office, the Arizona Commerce Authority and The Connective.

The students, who had the opportunity to partner with companies like AWS, Dell and Sprint, will be participating in a data exchange workshop being hosted by the Amazon Web Services Cloud Innovation Center in September.

Trevor Reed, an associate professor in ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program, was originally planning to have one or two students work with him on Native American intellectual property initiatives. When asked if he could take on more, he said, “I can take as many as you need.”

Reed’s 10-student team is developing an online handbook that will help tribal creators, artists and entrepreneurs understand their rights to the assets they create and navigate the steps necessary to register, license and potentially defend their work. The project has involved collaborating with numerous tribal artists, entrepreneurs, arts organizations and business incubators to identify specific IP needs tribal creatives have, followed by extensive legal research, tailored writing and graphic design to produce a useful resource that will serve those needs.

In addition to providing support to tribal creators, students have also begun to develop an online database of existing Native American intellectual properties currently held by museums, universities and other institutions, which tribes and their members can access to help them locate, reclaim and manage these valuable cultural assets going forward.

Victoria Ames, Arizona Legal Center president and managing partner and ASU Law assistant dean of legal projects and external engagement, initially thought the center would take on five to 10 extra students to support its massive spike in requests for help when the pandemic hit. The center ended up with more than 30 students who worked on the front lines of providing general legal information to the community, worked with Arizona Legal Center volunteer lawyers and staff to provide legal advice and assistance to callers and helped develop and present know-your-rights forums in a number of legal areas as quick reference guides for the community.

Additionally, the students worked with multiple municipalities and offices as they fielded calls from the COVID-19 hotline that the state bar and the governor’s office recently launched.

Julie Tenney

Interim Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

Religious studies PhD candidate wins Fulbright fellowship


September 4, 2020

Fourth-year religious studies PhD student Blayne Harcey is the recipient of a Fulbright-Hays Doctoral Dissertation Research Abroad (DDRA) Fellowship. The fellowship is designed to enhance foreign language and area studies for future educators in the U.S. by supporting their dissertation research abroad.

His current research project is titled, "Locating Lumbini: Transnational Buddhism and the Construction of World Heritage in Nepal," and it engages the Buddha’s birthplace at Lumbini as a case study for exploring the complicated material outcomes of Buddhist encounters with modernity.  Blayne Harcey Religious studies PhD candidate Blayne Harcey. Photo courtesy of Blayne Harcey. Download Full Image

The Fulbright will support him for 12 months of research in Nepal and India as he conducts interviews and collects archival materials to support his dissertation.

“My research attempts to explore how the process of rediscovery, excavation and development of the Buddha's birthplace has been shaped by, and is shaping, global Buddhism and its transnational movement of ideas, commodities and people,” said Harcey, a student in Arizona State University's School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

“Central to my investigation is a focus on the shifting material effects engendered by the logics of development operative within organizations like the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization that have underwritten these projects of development in ‘third world’ Asia.”

The Fulbright-Hays DDRA program favored Harcey’s research because it touches on the processes of international development in Nepal. Thanks to FLAS funding from ASU’s Center for Asian Research, he has spent the last three years learning Nepali, which is indispensable for conducting research at Lumbinī.

Harcey originally applied to the Fulbright Student Program in fall of last year, but found the Fulbright-Hays Fellowship would be better suited for his research.

“The Fulbright-Hays is a far more intensive application process, which requires a 10-page statement of purpose and outline of the research to be conducted,” Harcey said. “I think that my application was successful because I had gone through the process of drafting and defending my dissertation prospectus to my committee just a few months before applying.”

His dissertation committee consists of Juliane Schober, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies faculty professor of religious studies, Gaymon Bennett, associate professor of religious studies, and Anne Feldhaus, emeritus professor of religious studies, who helped him with the application process.

“Blayne is a highly motivated young scholar with a promising career path in Asian religions and in the anthropology of religion,” Schober said. “His project will construct the historical genealogies that shape a complex and transnational quest for Buddhist origins; it is at once an ingenious and long-overdue undertaking. I am delighted that Fulbright-Hays now recognized the importance of his work by investing in Harcey's academic future.”

Harcey started his academic journey as a philosophy major at Colorado State University, where he was introduced to Buddhist philosophy in a course that looked at a wide range of philosophical thinking from Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism and Confucianism.

“The more I was exposed to Buddhism the more interested I became,” Harcey said. “I ended up taking five classes which covered Buddhist ethics, metaphysics, epistemology, ontology, cosmology and even consciousness studies.”

He went on to be accepted to the University of Chicago master’s degree program in Buddhist philosophy, but was ultimately drawn to the Iliff School of Theology in Denver. While he was there he was drawn to a more anthropological and historical approach to the subject. 

“At Iliff I switched my focus to sites of modern Buddhism, those pilgrimage destinations that have become ‘world heritage centers’ in the modern era,” Harcey said. “While my background in Buddhist philosophy has been extremely helpful, I am increasingly interested in the ways that humans form and inhabit diverse social worlds that consist of various institutional and communal formations of power.”

After graduating with his master’s degree in religious studies, Harcey knew he wanted to continue his research and decided to apply to ASU after a year out of school.

“I ultimately decided to add ASU to the list the following year for two main reasons. First, the diversity of the faculty and their research interests and second because Dr. Juliane Schober’s work in Theravada Buddhist traditions aligned nicely with my own interests in Buddhist pilgrimage and relic veneration in South and Southeast Asia,” Harcey said.

Harcey plans to return to ASU once he has completed the fellowship to continue working on his dissertation. He intends to continue to incorporate his experiences in South Asia in the classes he teaches at ASU and to bring his knowledge to future jobs in academia.

“I am beyond grateful to all of those individuals who have helped me achieve this level of success,” Harcey said. “I plan to take every opportunity possible to extend that privilege to the wonderful assistants and collaborators who continue to be the driving force behind the research, and eventually to my students in the classroom. As a scholar in the humanities I firmly believe that my task is to empower students to think critically about the ways in which humans form and inhabit diverse social worlds.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies