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ASU achieves carbon neutrality, ranked among most sustainable universities in the world

April 21, 2020

After achieving zero greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations 6 years early, ASU earns AASHE Platinum rating

Carbon dioxide emissions likely will decrease in 2020 in the wake of COVID-19 and shelter-in-place orders. However, those emissions surely will rise again once the pandemic passes unless significant steps are taken to tackle human-caused climate change.

In 2007, Arizona State University was ahead of the curve when it came to reducing greenhouse gas emissions. That’s when ASU pledged to reach zero greenhouse gas emissions from campus operations by 2025. To underscore the urgency to act, ASU reached that goal six years early — on June 30, 2019.

Increased energy efficiency in both new buildings and campus retrofits; on-site solar generation; renewable energy purchases from large-scale, off-site generation facilities; and purchase of carbon offsets and renewable energy were all deployed while growing the student population and undertaking a physical expansion of all ASU’s campuses.

This action is one key element of many initiatives that have helped ASU also earn the STARS (Sustainability Tracking, Assessment and Rating System) Platinum sustainability rating from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education. STARS is a framework for colleges and universities to measure their comprehensive sustainability performance.

Platinum is the highest certification awarded in the STARS program and ASU is one of only six universities in the world to achieve the STARS Platinum rating.

“Our goal is to make sustainability innovation and leadership a hallmark of Arizona State University,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “ASU’s ambitious choice to pursue climate neutrality and our early realization of that aspiration, as well as our success in earning a STARS platinum rating, demonstrate the comprehensive commitment of our university community to lead in sustainability education, operation and practice.” 

“The commitment to reducing ASU’s carbon footprint is an important first step that already has significant impacts,” noted Peter Schlosser, ASU vice president and vice provost of the Global Futures Laboratory. “We are working to ensure that the combination of concrete action and increased awareness of our planet’s boundaries will rapidly translate into more meaningful action on a national and global scale.”

STARS evaluates emissions, facilities, operations, academics, research, planning, engagement, investments and more. Significant clarifications and improvements regarding sustainability in ASU’s academics and investments also contributed to earning Platinum certification, even as the rating system has become more stringent.

ASU has reduced total net emissions by 80% per 1,000 gross-square-foot of building space and 65% per student compared with 2007. Of note, the university has reduced carbon emissions while increasing building space on campuses by 39.5% and the number of on-campus students by 24.3%.

“ASU has a distinguished track record of climate action along with a vibrant culture of sustainability, from serving as an original signatory of the Presidents’ Climate Commitment, to establishing the first and largest School of Sustainability in the country, to playing a key leadership role in launching the commercial solar power purchase agreement marketplace in Arizona,” said Morgan Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer. “The elite STARS Platinum rating and climate neutrality are major milestones in ASU’s leadership in helping society move toward sustainability and thoughtful stewardship of our planet.”

Mick Dalrymple, director of University Sustainability Practices and a senior sustainability scientist, added that ASU will continue to seek out opportunities to strengthen its climate neutrality such as electrifying ASU’s fleet, exploring additional collaborations with utility and energy technology companies, expanding alternative transportation and telecommuting programs, planting a native forest carbon sink at ASU's West campus, and implementing a carbon neutral new construction policy.

ASU’s additional operational climate goals include reaching neutrality for emissions related to commuting and air travel by 2035.

With many other ongoing initiatives, ASU will also continue to work on improving its overall sustainability as measured by STARS and ASU’s eight sustainability goals.

“We seek to serve as both a ‘living laboratory’ and a living example of sustainability to demonstrate to our communities and the world what is possible with dedication and innovation,” Dalrymple said.

Green Building Infographic

Graphic by Alex Davis/ASU Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Science writer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU business school recognized for learning labs

April 21, 2020

Today, AACSB International — the world’s largest business education network — recognizes Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business among 25 business schools as a highlight of its Innovations That Inspire member challenge.

An annual initiative, the challenge recognizes institutions from around the world that serve as champions of change in the business education landscape. This year’s theme, “Catalysts for Innovation,” emphasizes business education’s efforts to elevate entrepreneurial thinking and new business creation. Interdisciplinary Applied Learning Lab Download Full Image

The W. P. Carey School of Business is recognized for its Interdisciplinary Applied Learning Labs, which is an immersive course that pairs full-time MBA students and non-business graduate students with local organizations to solve real-world problems in fields such as biomedical engineering, mechanical engineering, social work and public school financing.

“I’m so proud this course has been recognized,” W. P. Carey School Dean Amy Hillman said. “It represents the ingenuity and innovation that makes this university great — and it reminds us of the enormous impact a few good ideas can have when these creative qualities are put together in an entrepreneurial environment, in the hands of students with diverse backgrounds and experience.” 

Now in its fifth year, the Innovations That Inspire challenge has highlighted more than 120 business school efforts that exemplify forward-looking approaches to education, research, community engagement or outreach, and leadership. To date, members of AACSB’s Business Education Alliance have shared nearly 1,000 innovations, creating a robust repository in AACSB’s DataDirect system to inform and inspire fellow members and the industry.

“The demand for innovation that engages experts across disciplines and addresses the needs of both local and global communities has never been more apparent than in these unprecedented times,” said Thomas R. Robinson, president and CEO of AACSB. "We are honored to feature the W. P. Carey School of Business for its valuable role in elevating entrepreneurship through research, teaching and community engagement.” 

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


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ASU names new McCain Institute executive director

April 16, 2020

Former Ambassador Mark Green to head up Washington, D.C.-based organization

The Arizona State University character-driven leadership program based in Washington, D.C., has found a new chieftain.

Man in suit and tie with flag behind him

Mark Green. Photo courtesy of U.S. Agency for International Development.

ASU President Michael M. Crow and board chair Cindy McCain announced Thursday that Ambassador Mark Green will serve as the new executive director of the McCain Institute for International Leadership at ASU’s Barrett and O’Connor Washington Center in the nation’s capital. Green starts his new position on April 20.

“Ambassador Green’s selection continues our unwavering commitment to securing the absolute best talent available,” Crow said. “His leadership style, vision, and global success match up superbly with the ASU Charter.”

Green joins a long line of ambassadors at the McCain Institute, which is named for Arizona Sen. John McCain.

Green was the former administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) since August 2017. His other posts include heading the International Republican Institute, serving as ambassador to Tanzania from 2007 to 2009 and representing Wisconsin in the United States House of Representatives for four terms.

“Character-driven leadership, in America and around the world, has never been more important,” Green said. “At USAID, I helped strengthen our humanitarian and global development tools. At the McCain Institute, I’ll have an opportunity to reinforce the leadership needed to use these and other tools at a critical moment in our history.”

The selection comes after an extensive search facilitated by Korn Ferry and led by Fran Townsend, McCain Institute board member and former homeland security advisor. Cindy McCain, the late senator's widow, applauded the selection.

“Mark Green’s hallmark is inclusive, character-driven leadership that produces remarkable results,” said McCain, board chair of the institute. “I’ve known and admired him for a long time, and am so proud we now get to work with him directly as our executive director. I know my late husband would approve.”

Based in Washington, D.C., as part of ASU since 2012, the McCain Institute is a unique, action-oriented policy institution with major programs that advance character-driven leadership based on security, economic opportunity, freedom and human dignity.

Green holds a law degree from the University of Wisconsin Law School and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire. In 2012, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Science from Georgetown University’s School of Nursing and Health Studies. Two years later, President Jakaya Kikwete of Tanzania presented him with a special Presidential Certificate of Recognition and Appreciation.

Top photo: The Barrett and O'Connor Washington Center in Washington, D.C. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU spring 2020 graduation to celebrate student achievements virtually

April 2, 2020

Arizona State University's spring 2020 commencement and convocation ceremonies will have many of the familiar feelings as past commencements: Graduates will hear their name called; relatives will smile or cry, or both; and the moment will mark the end of one chapter and the exciting start of another.

And though many graduates will likely still decorate their caps and turn their tassels, this commencement will be unique. The May 11 event will be an online celebration, a break from tradition forced by the spread of the novel coronavirus that is making its way around the globe.

ASU President Michael M. Crow will provide opening remarks, and the ceremony will include virtual messages from commencement speakers, notable alumni and the undergraduate student government president.

“We may not be able to share the same space, but we will share the same spirit of accomplishment. Sun Devil Nation is going to celebrate,” Crow said. “We will continue with the same spirit that drove us earlier in the semester when classes were moved to an online format. We will continue to move forward.” 

In addition to the virtual ceremony on May 11, graduates will have the opportunity to attend future ceremonies in person if they choose, including the December 2020 or spring 2021 ceremonies.

Colleges and schools will also host virtual convocation ceremonies for their graduates and highlight their Outstanding Graduates for spring 2020. 

All ceremonies will be on YouTube where viewers can watch, participate and experience the event together.

“This is an important event for ASU to recognize student achievement,” Provost Mark Searle said. “It is the culmination of hard work, fulfillment of personal commitments and a celebration of significant accomplishments by our students.”

“This decision was inevitable considering the life-altering conditions we are facing, but it is still an outcome we wish we could avoid,” he said. “By our nature though, ASU is an optimistic community. We want students to know that we believe that the future will be better and we will not allow our current circumstances to stop us from celebrating your success.”  

If students choose not to take part in any ceremony and all university academic requirements are met, graduating students will receive their diplomas in the mail. 

“As we push forward to make this happen, I am mindful of the disappointment that graduating students and their families likely share in this moment,” Crow said. “As a first-generation college graduate who came from a family where college graduation was a life-changing achievement, I can appreciate the anticipation of reaching this defining milestone. This will mean celebrating our graduates in a different way, but we will be celebrating our graduates.” 

The virtual ceremony will include:

  • A “year in review” video including messages from students looking toward their futures.
  • Congratulatory video messages from high-profile alumni and special guests.
  • A virtual cap and gown photo.
  • A moment for each graduate with their name, photo, degree and a comment from them about graduation. 

The May ceremony will also highlight a diverse spring 2020 class that includes more than 18,000 graduates.

Find more information — including regalia ordering information and how to register for commencement — at and

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ASU passes milestone of 100,000 Zoom sessions in March

April 2, 2020

University community members finding their way to success in the transition to remote learning, teaching and working

For Leena Tohaibeche, an undergraduate student in the College of Health Solutions, ASU’s move to online modalities has meant attending class and working from home — alongside four siblings. Tohaibeche is among the more than 100,000 students relying on ASU’s array of convenient digital tools to keep students learning.

“All of my professors have been recording their lectures and posting (them) afterwards so that has been useful,” she said.

Tohaibeche also works at the University Technology Technology Office, where she continues to work remotely thanks to tools like Zoom, ASU’s universitywide video/audio conferencing solution.

March marked a milestone for surpassing 100,000 Zoom sessions, with the actual number to date now approaching 150,000. An equally if not more remarkable benchmark is the fact that 60 million minutes' worth of these interactions transpired throughout these nearly 150,000 Zoom sessions. That amounts to roughly 115 years of Zoom. Over this staggering period, the Sun Devils have been busy living out new possibilities for work and learning. 

“I miss the students and my studio, but I have to say I have been so pleased with how our Zoom delivery has turned out,” said Penny Dolin, faculty member at the Polytechnic School. “Students who may not have spoken up much before, appear empowered to do so now. I feel like we are laughing more and I get to see my students’ pets.” 

Each Zoom session — a class, a meeting, office hours, a virtual coffee catchup — has encompassed the learning experiences, collaborative strategizing and personal connections that have helped the university thrive during a challenging time. In a silver-lining turn of events, the move to online meetings has often fostered a greater sense of community than was sometimes possible face-to-face.

“Zoom meetings invite me into everyone’s dining room, thanks to all my colleagues for the fellowship and intimacy,” said Jennie Blair, an ASU adjunct instructor and the assistant director of Enrollment Services, where she oversees the strategic implementation of an integrated front-counter service.

For those who aren’t as keen on giving everyone a glimpse of their natural habitats, custom virtual backgrounds in Zoom are transporting Sun Devils everywhere — including on campus. The ASU Marketing Hub recently released more than 40 virtual backgrounds that capture ASU’s spirit. Regardless of the backdrop, community members are seizing this opportunity as a way to build camaraderie.

“It truly makes business personal when you can be natural and wearing a T-shirt and talk about our new world of work and how everyone and their families are doing before jumping into the project,” said Shay Moser, managing editor at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“I love using Zoom to meet with my employees one-on-one and to check in with them or meet their pets or children, which is something that was unlikely to happen in the former modality,” echoed Art Hernandez, customer service supervisor for the ASU Operations and Experience Center at the University Technology Office. 

In addition to helping community members form these closer connections, the accelerated use of Zoom is prompting people to rethink their meeting structures. Zoom allows for small-group breakout discussions, instant screen sharing, whiteboarding and more.

“I think that we have different meetings for different purposes: Zoom meetings for coffee talk, Zoom meetings for general updates and acknowledgements and then other meetings that are focused on getting projects done or figuring out how to solve an urgent need,” said Erika Lankton, learning services manager at the Polytechnic School.

For instructional designers at ASU, intentionally selecting a medium for any kind of experience is part of the daily job. The learning design community across ASU has been vital in helping to support faculty needing some guidance on how to leverage a combination of available tools to enable deep, interactive learning. 

“I like that Zoom helps keep me from having long ... conversations typing back and forth. A back-and-forth conversation on Slack or email can take 20 minutes, (whereas) I can accomplish the same discussion via Zoom in five minutes,” said Vicki Harmon, instructional designer and manager of professional development at ASU’s EdPlus. “So the question of synchronous benefits versus asynchronous benefits comes to play in each decision I make whether to Zoom, email or Slack.”

In the end, this is all in service of students like Tohaibeche, who admits that getting comfortable in the shift online took a couple weeks — but understanding faculty have made it easier. 

“My classes are in full swing and I have been able to manage my online classes to the best of my ability,” she said. “I understand that all of us are going through this together, and I thank and appreciate all the ASU professors who are trying their best to make this a smooth transition for their students.”

Faculty are finding new ways to encourage student agency and allow for deeper dives into learning materials, which has been a huge part of this transition.

“I get to watch the lecture videos even after the class (and) if i have any questions, this has been really helpful to go back and check what happened,” said RJ Gopinath, a graduate student in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and a student worker for the ASU Learning Futures Collaboratory. “The Zoom classes are more student-friendly; I can take small breaks when I want (and) that helps me keep focused in the class.” 

For ongoing guidance with Zoom and other resources, students and faculty can look to the remote teaching and learning pages hosted by the University Office of the Provost. Staff members can also get started right away by visiting and logging in with their ASURITE. Select the Meetings option on the lefthand menu to schedule a future session, or launch an instant meeting by navigating to the Profile section and finding your sharable Personal Meeting link at the top.

Written by Samantha Becker/UTO

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ASU receives 15 NSF CAREER awards

March 30, 2020

$9.5M in funding for research spanning robotics to locusts to augmented reality

Arizona State University has to date earned 15 National Science Foundation early faculty career awards for 2020. The awards total $9.5 million in funding for ASU researchers over five years.

The NSF’s Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Program identifies the nation’s most promising young faculty members and provides them with funding to pursue outstanding research, excellence in teaching and the integration of education and research. Often, these awards spur the creativity of the faculty member and helps set them on an innovative career path.

“The number of NSF CAREER Program awardees at ASU this year speaks to the excellence and creative aptitude of our junior faculty, from a range of academic disciplines,” said Mark Searle, university provost and executive vice president. “Each was selected for their innovative research and potential for leadership in their field. They are outstanding scholars, and their dedication and commitment to their research is rightly rewarded with these prestigious awards.”

This year’s ASU NSF CAREER award recipients to date:

Daniel Aukes, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This grant will make it possible to develop cost-effective, “specialist” robots that can be quickly prototyped by a non-expert. The goal is to make robots more ubiquitous; accessible and tunable for newcomers to robotics; and for applications in industry, education and academic research. The results will impact fields in which specialization is desirable, such as assistive robotics for the elderly, custom agricultural applications and trash pickup in smart cities. Access to robotics will also benefit education and provide higher access to robots and robotic technology.

Bruno Azeredo, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This grant investigates methods of scaling the production of three-dimensional structures in electronic-grade inorganic semiconductors. Patterning beyond two-dimensional structures is critical to enable the design of novel metamaterial-based infrared optical devices.

Samantha Brunhaver, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project develops the means to characterize, measure and promote adaptability as a key meta-competency for engineering graduates. Fostering adaptable engineers strengthens the economic competitiveness of the U.S. technical workforce and improves recruitment and retention for engineering, particularly among underrepresented groups.

Arianne Cease, assistant professor, School of Sustainability

This project will combine local and international educational opportunities, as well as lab and field research to test how nutrition, population density and historical habitat variability interact to affect migration, immune function and reproduction of locusts. The results will be used to develop sustainable management and policy recommendations and will be given to global partners to improve livelihoods and human and environmental health.

Richard Kirian, assistant professor, Department of Physics, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

This award focuses on the development of new biomolecular imaging techniques that exploit the unique capabilities of ultrabright X-ray sources. The research aims to enable broadly applicable methods of visualizing dynamic motions of proteins and other biomolecules in solution at physiological temperature. The research targets the general need for measurement techniques that can reveal detailed three-dimensional structures and functional dynamics of biomolecules such as proteins.

Jennifer Kitchen, assistant professor, School of Electrical, Computer and Energy Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project will employ a novel paradigm for automating the design of analog systems, in particular, integrated power electronics. The automation of these closed-loop systems will be achieved through novel analytical and statistical modeling of architectures and circuits, development of analog circuit component libraries, integrated built-in self-test to collect in-field data and update models, and development of a computationally efficient and accurate optimization approach.

Robert LiKamWa, assistant professor, School of Arts, Media and Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts 

An augmented reality (AR) system allows for virtual objects to be overlaid visually in physical spaces through the use of AR glasses or through the camera/screen of a mobile device. However, current AR systems suffer from high energy consumption and limited performance due to the high data rates associated with visual computing with high image frame resolutions and high frame rates. The proposed project aims to reduce the sensing data rate of visual computing, enabling more compact augmented reality devices with smaller battery sizes and higher precision placement of virtual objects in physical spaces.

Ariane Middel, assistant professor, School of Arts Media and Engineering, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

The goal of this grant is to advance understanding of how the built environment impacts heat and human thermal exposure in cities. The project will use MaRTy (a mobile weather station) and novel modeling approaches (deep learning) to assess how people experience heat in the summer. The work will reframe how heat is assessed in urban areas by using radiation-based metrics and indices. New academic-practitioner partnerships with cities will yield research that translates into best practices for infrastructure management and human-centric heat hazard mitigation.

Brent Nannenga, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

One of the most well-studied proteins that controls the growth of inorganic materials is ferritin, a protein responsible for controlling the growth of iron oxide nanoparticles and maintaining proper levels of free iron in the cell. This project will make significant contributions to both the understanding of how the ferritin protein functions and the general molecular interactions of biomolecules with nanomaterials.

Yulia Peet, assistant professor, School for Engineering of Matter, Transport and Energy, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The goal of this project is to develop new theories that help explain how the interaction between flexible surfaces and near-wall turbulence will change the structure of flow. Surfaces that deform under the influence of fluid forces occur in practical situations, such as those involving vibrations of aircraft wings, human blood vessels and compliant coatings.

Christian Rabeling, assistant professor, School of Life Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

This research will unravel the evolutionary history of a complex parasite-host system; specifically, ant species that are parasites of the colonies of other ant species. This parasite-host system has evolved many times across ant species, but it is unknown how this convergently evolved behavior has affected speciation patterns in the social parasites.

Abhishek Singharoy, assistant professor, School of Molecular Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

His research seeks to understand the chemistry of the molecular motor, and how it translates into cell function.

Barbara Smith, assistant professor, School of Biological and Health Systems, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

The aim of this research is to develop and apply a new technology that integrates photoacoustics (sound generated by light) and fluorescence to precisely target neurocircuits activated by addiction.

Xuan Wang, assistant professor, School of Life Sciences, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

Product export is an important but elusive research area for renewable biochemicals production. Characterization and optimization of product-export systems will help increase the production metrics of microbial processes and eventually enhance economic viability for microbial production of renewable chemicals. The goal of this project is to provide a systematic understanding of export and efflux systems in Escherichia coli for renewable chemicals, including short-chain mono- and dicarboxylic acids, as well as small aromatics.

Wenlong Zhang, assistant professor, Polytechnic School, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

This project addresses the challenges of physical human-robot interaction. The application is that of a powered knee exoskeleton used for gait rehabilitation. The goal of the project is to develop novel algorithms for the robot to estimate the user’s intent and signal its own strategy when physically interacting with the user. A key to this project is the creation of a framework that leverages models of human cognitive and motor dynamics such that an intelligent robot can dynamically adjust its behavior to simultaneously facilitate human learning and provide physical assistance when needed.

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Science writer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU’s W. P. Carey School announces STEM-designated MBA program

March 26, 2020

The W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University has announced a significant enhancement to its highly ranked MBA program. This week, the W. P. Carey MBA has been designated by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency within the Department of Homeland Security as a STEM-eligible degree program. This designation is effective immediately, giving those graduating in 2020 and beyond a STEM-designated MBA.

“This designation shows W. P. Carey’s continual focus on the growing worldwide demand for well-rounded, analytical thinkers in the workforce,” Dean Amy Hillman said. “As companies and our business partners rely more on analytics, we evolved our programs to stay future-oriented, making sure our students graduate with the technical skills employers need.” Download Full Image

The benefits of a STEM education are tremendous for international students, because it comes with up to 36 months of optional practical training, compared to 12 months for non-STEM degrees. That also means longer work authorizations and more opportunities to gain invaluable skills in the U.S.

The designation is also incredibly valuable for domestic students. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts that demand for STEM jobs will grow by 13% by 2027, with higher wages than non-STEM jobs: The national average for STEM salaries is $87,570, while non-STEM jobs earn roughly half as much, with an annual average of $45,700.

The new designation applies to all five W. P. Carey MBA platforms: full-time, professional flex, executive, online and the new fast-track MBA. Students interested in pursuing a W. P. Carey MBA should visit to learn more about curriculum, application deadlines and schedule choices.

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


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Access Zone training raises awareness of students with 'invisible' disabilities

Training helps faculty, staff support students with "invisible" disabilities.
March 20, 2020

ASU community becoming attuned to challenges of autism, anxiety, depression

Many of Arizona State University’s students face learning challenges that no one can see. These “invisible” disabilities can include anxiety, autism, processing disorders or diabetes.

A new training program called Access Zone is designed to increase awareness among ASU faculty and staff about different kinds of disabilities and how to create support for all students.

Developed last year, Access Zone is based on the same principles as the campuswide programs SafeZONE, for awareness of LGBTQ students’ issues, and Proving Grounds, which helps faculty and staff address concerns faced by military veterans, according to Chad Price, director of the Disability Resource Center at ASU.

“A lot of people are familiar with disabilities that are more visible, such as people who use wheelchairs or white canes,” he said.

“With the invisible disabilities, we would hear feedback from our students that, ‘They just don’t understand,’ and we’re trying to raise that awareness,” he said.

Students register with the Disability Resource Center to get services and request accommodations in class. The disability access consultants work with professors on supports such as notetakers, extended deadlines, access to oral testing, video captioning services, alternative formats such as text-to-audio, and many more options. The center is now working with faculty to make sure all course content is accessible on Zoom as learning takes place remotely this semester.

“The largest number of students who come to our office have hidden disabilities, such as learning disabilities or psychiatric disabilities such as depression or anxiety, or a medical condition, and when you first look at them you have no idea and even when you interact with them, it seems all is well,” Price said.

The number of students with autism has been increasing at ASU.

“A couple of years ago, it was 30 or 40 students and now we’re seeing a couple hundred students on the (autism) spectrum,” Price said. “That’s another question that we get from faculty: ‘How can we do our best work with students on the spectrum?’”

Overall, the number of students registering with the Disability Resource Center has more than doubled in the last five years, with more than 5,600 students registered in 2019.

“I don’t know if we have an answer why it’s grown other than that students are becoming more familiar as well as more comfortable with registering,” Price said.

“We believe that we’re low in our registrations, because when you look at the statistics in the United States of individuals who identify as someone who has a disability, it’s from about 12% to 19%. We’re at about 4% to 5% of total population of students.

“So I think we’ll continue to see an increase.”

Access Zone workshops are intended to increase faculty and staff awareness of all disabilities, including invisible conditions. The sessions are three hours, but can be modified to be shorter. An online version also is in the works.

The seminar covers history, law, the scope of the resource center and the complexities of supporting students with an invisible disability.

“Access is a right, a moral good and it’s federal law. We’re leveling the playing field, which is part of ASU’s charter of inclusion.”

— Jason Garcia, disability access consultant

Jason Garcia and Teddy Moya, disability access consultants with the center, recently held an Access Zone session for several faculty members. Moya helped develop the program along with Shanna Delaney, a project coordinator in the College of Health Solutions, and Elsbeth Pollack, formerly a disability access consultant at ASU.

“Disclosure can be a pain point,” Garcia told the group.

“Students must disclose their disability to the DRC to register for services, but they don’t have to tell their teachers. Then, when there’s an issue, the professor receives a vague letter from the DRC,” but without revealing the student. The center is prevented by law from disclosing a student’s disability.

“We encourage the student to have those deeper conversations with faculty and sometimes the notification letter can be the beginning of that,” Garcia said.

Access Zone also includes interactive exercises to give participants an idea of what it’s like to be challenged. For example, everyone is asked to quickly read a page of text that’s upside down and backwards, as a person with dyslexia might see it. Another exercise simulates how anxiety in a class full of peers can affect performance.

“It’s too nuanced to capture what a disability really feels like,” Moya said, “But these activities raise awareness about how a student with a disability might perceive a classroom task. Students with traumatic brain injury or learning disabilities process differently.”

All accommodations are case specific, according to the needs of the student as well as the requirements of the course, Garcia said. And support goes beyond the classroom, including events and activities on campus.

“Access is a right, a moral good and it’s federal law,” Garcia said. “We’re leveling the playing field, which is part of ASU’s charter of inclusion.”

Troy McDaniel, an assistant professor in the Polytechnic School, attended the Access Zone training session last month. He researches haptic technology for people with disabilities, and so found the session especially relevant.

“I found Access Zone training very insightful and valuable,” he said.

“Most helpful was gaining a better historical perspective of disabilities, both in terms of how protection for individuals with disabilities has progressed as well as how disability has been approached, such as the various models from moral, to medical, to social, and so on.

“The activities were engaging and thought-provoking.”

Contact the Disability Resource Center for information on scheduling an Access Zone training session.

Top image: Jason Garcia, a disability access consultant with ASU's Disability Resource Center, leads an Access Zone training session at the Decision Theater on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Battling burnout and finding your 'core genius' at work

March 20, 2020

Americans are often stressed out by work. And given the current global pandemic and social distancing guidelines, workers might feel added pressure in the days or weeks to come. Fortunately, there are ways to battle the burnout, especially as more businesses transition into virtual work zones.

Sarah Tracy, a professor of organizational communication and qualitative methodology at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and co-director of the Transformation Project, hosted her first at-home webinar Thursday titled, “From Surviving to Thriving: How to Battle Burnout and Craft Meaningful Work.”

According to Tracy, stress develops when expectations are too high. “Sometimes those high expectations are given to us by our employers, but also, many of us just carry them on our back.”

For example, Tracy admitted she had to tell herself the webinar might not be perfect since she was home. It wasn’t void of distractions. Tracy’s dog interrupted at least once and her phone rang. She encouraged attendees to be honest and compassionate with themselves, which often means lowering personal expectations. Because as Tracy points out, stress leads to burnout — a three-pronged concept connected to emotional exhaustion, cynicism and inefficacy. In other words, Tracy said, “We can’t do what we think we are supposed to do.”

Signs of burnout:

  • Quick to feel irritation.
  • Chronic fatigue.
  • Frequent procrastination.
  • Impaired concentration.
  • Feeling emotional for no good reason.
  • Sense of detachment and alienation.

The triggers:

  • High expectations.
  • Social comparison.
  • Underpaid and in debt.
  • Constant evaluation/fear of rejection.
  • Uncertainty, lack of control, feeling overwhelmed.

As more workers navigate virtual work spaces for the foreseeable future, Tracy warned about one burnout trigger: social comparison. Even if workers aren’t in the office right now, they’re increasing screen time, and may start comparing their lives to their co-workers’ lives through social media. Instead, she suggests using online platforms as virtual dialogic spaces (water cooler spaces) by increasing interactions and commenting more; even scheduling one-on-one phone conversations to keep a sense of community alive in these virtual spaces.

“We as human beings are social beings,” Tracy said. “And we know from the happiness research that the most social people in the world are the happiest people in the world. And so, when people are working virtually, there is necessarily a decrease in that social time.”

ASU professor Sarah Tracy

ASU Professor Sarah Tracy

Finding your core genius

Tracy is a big advocate of saying “no to good, so you can say yes to great.” She believes tackling every small request stiffens a worker’s core genius — their core talent. If workers say yes to all the “good,” they don’t ever to get to focus on the “great,” which according to Tracy, often reveals a worker’s true talents.

Her reminder: “We are never going to get it all done.” In fact, she warns, thinking we’ll get it all done is a recipe for suffering. She encourages people to create a management system by structuring activities and making priorities visible in time and space. In other words, she suggests: One life, one calendar. Organize your priorities in one central location.

Lastly, Tracy is a proponent of sharing vulnerabilities, especially in this time of virtual work spaces.

“The kind of stress and uncertainty we are all feeling right now is beyond the norm,” Tracy said. “It’s a new context. But with any new context, there’s also some opportunity that comes with it.”

That opportunity presented itself during Tracy’s first online class this past week. During a short break, the microphones stayed on and students started singing and playing instruments, creating an improvised moment of humanity in a virtual setting. Tracy said that’s really important for social connection and belonging, which can stave off some of those triggers of stress and burnout.

It’s new territory for America’s workers, at least for now, and Tracy wonders if maybe forgetting to mute a Zoom meeting is all that bad in this new work space. She hopes adaptations will be made so people don’t lose moments of humanity like pet interruptions, laughter, and yes, even the occasional accidental burp.

Top photo by Getty Images/iStockphoto

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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ASU celebrates 50 years of Earth Day with 50 days of sustainability events

ASU community asked to take carbon-free pledge for Earth Month 2020.
March 10, 2020

University community urged to pledge to make an adjustment, big or small, for Carbon Free Day on April 15

The first Earth Day in 1970 was catalyzed at college campuses.

The event was launched after Americans were horrified by a massive oil spill off Santa Barbara, California, that killed thousands of animals, as well as the publication of the ground-breaking book “Silent Spring,” by Rachel Carson.

The date of the first Earth Day — April 22 — was chosen to express this newfound environmental awareness because it fell after spring break and before final exams, according to the Earth Day Network. Thousands of protests were held that day, with many on college campuses.

As the world marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day this year, Arizona State University is taking 50 days to celebrate the beginning of the modern environmental movement. A new website lists events by and for the entire ASU community from March 12 through April 30, plus news stories, a historical timeline of Earth Day and a place to make a pledge for ASU’s Carbon Free Day on April 15, happening in conjunction with the Earth Day Festival on the Tempe campus. Visit and scroll down for a day-by-day listing of events.

The Earth Month 2020 events, held across ASU’s campuses, range from one-hour webinars on sustainable bathroom practices to a "trading post" clothing swap, a chance to test drive electric vehicles at the West campus, an edible landscape tour and a discussion of the epically tree-hugging book “The Overstory” by Richard Powers. At the April 15 Earth Day Festival, student organizations and community partners will gather near the Memorial Union to showcase their work and celebrate the collective efforts of the ASU community. 

Everyone in the ASU community is asked to make a pledge for Carbon-Free Day on April 15, with options in travel, food and energy, according to Susan Norton, program manager for University Sustainability Practices at the Polytechnic campus.

“Throw away the right stuff and recycle the right stuff.”
— Michael Dalrymple, director of sustainability practices at ASU

“You could do ride sharing with co-workers, or using alternative transportation such as biking or bus or the light rail, if that works for you,” Norton said.

“You could create a meal plan for the week so you’re not doing those last-minute runs to the grocery store. Small things can add up.”

Moving toward a more plant-based diet and away from red meat is another way to reduce carbon, according to Michael Dalrymple, director of sustainability practices at ASU. The industrial production of beef in the U.S. adds to methane in the atmosphere as well as groundwater pollution.

One way to try a more plant-based diet is to experiment with some of the ethnic cuisines that are flourishing in the Valley, he said.

“There are a lot of cultures that put less emphasis on meat,” he said. “... It’s an opportunity to go out and try those plant-based foods that have lots of cool, different flavors where there might be some meat but it’s less.”

Dalrymple is also urging everyone at ASU to be more conscious of recycling.

“We can’t expect people to recycle if we don’t have the infrastructure, so now we the infrastructure and we have to get them to use it the right way,” he said. “Throw away the right stuff and recycle the right stuff.”

Even without deliberate effort, everyone living and working on ASU’s campuses is part of the university’s sustainability efforts, including the 90 solar panel arrays that not only generate power but also provide shade, cooling the campus. Other recent changes include:

• The university has been gradually converting patches of grass that are unused into low-water-use landscapes. “If the grass is providing a space for an event or for students to hang out, it hasn’t gone away. But those odd-shaped pieces that don’t serve any purpose have been converted,” he said.

• By Earth Day, on April 22, Aramark will eliminate all plastic straws on campus, switching to paper straws at all dining halls and Memorial Union vendors.

• The Orange Mall space outside the Student Pavilion has become the first fully SITES-certified landscape in Arizona, designed to reduce water and energy consumption, collect stormwater runoff and increase outdoor recreation opportunities.

• The university has just completed a two-year project to install 56 electric-vehicle charging stations.

Campus mall with solar panels

Solar installations around campus not only generate power but also provide shade, cooling the campus. Photo by ASU Now

Dalrymple recommends one small adjustment to get started on being more sustainable.

“We’re all hypocrites, not doing all the right things like walking or biking everywhere or being vegan,” he said.

“A lot of people don’t start because they think, ‘There’s no way I can live like that.’

“Don’t feel guilty. If your goal is to be a tiny bit less hypocritical every day, it’s amazing how much your life changes. Something that seemed daunting suddenly, six months later, doesn’t seem daunting anymore.”

Top photo: Solar panels cover the parking lot outside of the Desert Financial Arena on ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now