Tohono O’odham Nation commits $1M each to ASU, UArizona for COVID-19 research

Funding from shared gaming revenue grant program will assist efforts to combat pandemic in Arizona

October 20, 2020

The Tohono O’odham Nation announced on Monday that it is contributing $1 million each to Arizona State University and the University of Arizona to support their world-renowned medical researchers’ efforts to combat the COVID-19 coronavirus. The funding will come from the nation’s 12% gaming revenue grants required under its compact to be shared with local community programs.

Both universities will use the funds to mitigate the impact and disruptive consequences of COVID-19, including new testing methods and tools to enable the effective and equitable deployment of emerging technologies. Tohono Oodham gift to ASU and UA (From left) Legislative Chairman Timothy Joaquin Gu Achi, Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr., University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins and Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow at Monday's announcement of the tribe's $1 million gift to both ASU and UArizona to support COVID-19 research. Photo by Arizona Board of Regents Download Full Image

Under the tribal-state gaming compact, the nation and other tribes are required to share a percentage of gaming revenues with local governments and qualified nonprofits. The nation has awarded more than 500 of these grants since enactment of the compact in 2003 and, with large awards such as these, the program allows for funding to come from multiple fiscal years.

Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. said, This virus is showing no signs of letting up, and until we have better testing, treatment and a vaccine, our communities remain at risk and our economy will continue to falter. That is why the nation made the decision to contribute these funds — which we were already committed to share — to support the world-class research taking place here in Arizona that is working to overcome the pandemic.”

“Our success at Arizona State University is closely tied to our partnerships in the community, and we are grateful for the support of the Tohono O’odham Nation, whose gift today will enable us to intensify our efforts to manage the complexities of this pandemic and prepare for future public health emergencies by investing in scientific preparedness,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “This generous investment will be put to use to help serve communities across the state.”

"The University of Arizona is proud to partner with the Tohono O'odham Nation, particularly as our main campus is located on their ancestral homelands,” said University of Arizona President Robert C. Robbins. "As Arizona's land-grant university, our mission is to serve the entire state, and the nation’s support will allow this work to continue and expand, and help Arizona emerge stronger from this pandemic."

The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally recognized tribe with more than 35,000 enrolled citizens. The nation has the second-largest tribal land base in the United States, with more than 2.8 million acres of reservation land in central and southern Arizona. The Tohono O’odham Nation operates casinos at three locations in southern Arizona (Tucson, Sahuarita and Why) and one in the West Valley near Glendale.

School of Arts, Media and Engineering creates replica ASU building for students, faculty in Minecraft

October 20, 2020

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, universities have had to find and adopt new ways of building, maintaining and creating communities for students to flourish in and remain connected through. The School of Arts, Media and Engineering at Arizona State University has taken a creative approach to solving this issue.

Daniel Jackson, a staff member at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, decided to lead an operation to help strengthen the school’s community by developing a server on the video game Minecraft where students, staff and faculty can co-mingle and build replica ASU environments. With the approval to build this server, Jackson enlisted the help of several digital culture students over the summer to design and recreate the Stauffer B building on ASU’s Tempe campus, where the majority of digital culture classes are held.  Mock up of Digital Culture Equipment pool in Minecraft Mock up of Digital Culture Equipment pool in Minecraft. Download Full Image

“With the approval of a new concentration in Games and Interactive Media, the expressed interest among (digital culture) students and at the request from the (Arts, Media and Engineering) executive team, we decided now would be a great time to launch a Minecraft server,” Jackson said. “With many students spending much of their time in isolation, my hope is that by creating this virtualized environment and the associated Discord server, students will be able to connect in a more intimate environment and perhaps recreate, to some degree, the creative, collaborative digital culture community.”

After several months of working within the server, it is now open and ready for students to join in and start creating together. This server is currently limited to digital culture students and faculty, but the team hopes to welcome people from all over the ASU community as they grow.

On top of developing and designing the server, Jackson and his students have also developed an easy to navigate hubspot where new players to the game can learn the basics and receive guidance, while returning players can have access to collaborative opportunities within the server to help build and design new environments. By leveraging the platform Canvas, they have designed an easy way to navigate around and join in the fun without feeling lost. Jackson and his team will have moderators on the servers to help guide people through the experience.

We spoke with one of Jackson’s students, Mia Ramos, a sophomore at the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, who has been with him since inception, about the process and what she hopes this community server will provide.  

Question: How long did it take to recreate Stauffer B? What are some of your favorite areas you created?

Answer: We started around the beginning of September. My favorite area right now is the Equipment Pool, because it was the first room we started with.

Q: How do you see this server impacting the School of Arts, Media and Engineering community? What are your hopes for this server?

A: I see this server bringing the AME community together during these hard times. I hope that this server will bring some joy and some smiles to our community as we all face the pandemic. 

Q: What are your future plans for this server?

A: My future plan is to expand the building even further, adding titles, fun plugins and mods for the community, and maybe some NPCsnon-player characters of some of the faculty/ staff such as Althea Pergakis, Kayla Elizondo-Nunez and tech team members.

Q: What was the hardest part about building this server and designing the building? How did you overcome it?

A: The hardest part was the beginning; it started with a small group of people just brainstorming. Not all of us knew how to use Minecraft or how to create a server. There were days where Dan and I were troubleshooting the server on our own. But those days helped out in the end! We eventually got the hang of the server controls.

Designing the building was hard at first. I started with one room at first, then realized just how big the actual building was. I couldn’t do it on my own. Dan suggested getting volunteers from AME, and they’ve been such a huge help! It’s thanks to our community that the building exists in Minecraft now. 

Q: Do you think this exercise helped to strengthen any of the skills you are learning at ASU and the School of Media, Arts and Engineering?

A: Creating and building the server has definitely helped my design skills and my leadership skills.

Q: How can people join if they want to help build/play together? 

A: Due to limited resources and server capability, the initial launch will be for AME/DC students. The DC Minecraft Server Community will be accessed/ hosted through a Canvas Org. DC/AME students who would like to join can email Dan Jackson or Mia Ramos

Q: Who helped build Stauffer B? 

A: We have a small group of wonderful early adopters that are helping create Stauffer B so far:

  • Daniel Jackson, digital culture technical staff/lead.
  • Mia Ramos, digital culture (film).
  • Danielle George, digital culture student and consultant.
  • Julianne Wilde, digital culture (graphic information technology).
  • Jacob Lyons, BS in informatics with a focus area in digital culture.
  • Dakota Kantner, BS in digital culture (media processing).
  • Angelo Bolam, BA in graphic design (BA).
Megan Patzem

Multimedia specialist, School of Arts, Media and Engineering