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Public Service Academy member engineers a new life after Hurricane Maria

November 8, 2018

Jairo Ramirez serves in the Next Generation Service Corps and hopes to use his experience to offer assistance to others facing disasters

If you had to choose one word to sum up the life of Arizona State University freshman Jairo Ramirez, it would be "resilience."

A little over a year ago, Ramirez and his family sheltered in their home for 11 hours while Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on their Puerto Rican neighborhood and went on to devastate the entire island. This year, he is attending his first year at ASU and upping his academic game.  

Despite the hurdles of striking out on his own, leaving his family behind and learning a new language, Ramirez is thriving in this new environment. And he wants to give back.

He is doing just that through ASU’s Public Service Academy, where he serves in the Next Generation Service Corps. He hopes one day that he’ll be able to assist others when a disaster strikes them.

ASU Now spoke to Ramirez about surviving Hurricane Maria and the new ASU chapter of his life.

Question: You and your family were living in Puerto Rico when Hurricane Maria devastated the country in September and October of 2017. Tell me about that experience and how it affected you and your family.

Answer: Getting news of a hurricane or storm coming was a normal thing during hurricane season in Puerto Rico, yet no big hurricane had hit us in decades. This made everyone overlook warnings, and Maria was no exception. People were not ready for it; I was not ready for it. The eye came in sometime around 6 a.m. and came out at around 5 p.m. Those were the longest 11 hours of my life. During the time of the hurricane, the wind made noises that will forever be etched in my mind. Water came into the house through every corner, and our street flooded about three feet. Once the winds started to calm down, we had to go into the street and unclog the sewage systems to prevent the flooding from increasing anymore. Once the winds stopped, there was just dead silence. I went out of my house and could not believe the magnitude of the disaster; I could not even recognize the streets I grew up on.

For a week we had no water, and for three weeks I could not attend school. For nine weeks we had no power. The first weeks were chaotic as there was no power anywhere, no communication, the lines for gas were at least three hours long. We knew it was bad, but we had no idea of the gravity, as there was access to absolutely nothing. My dad’s work as an insurance broker was probably one of the worst jobs you could have had after the hurricane because hundreds of clients were trying to make claims — and with extremely poor communication. It was next-to-impossible to work. Insurance companies were refusing to pay claims after the hurricane or were paying at a very slow rate and amounts smaller than what was needed, and now companies are raising policy prices or even denying lifelong clients. It has been a slow recovery, but I strongly believe that Puerto Ricans will rise stronger than before.

Q: Was it hard to leave your family to attend ASU, given that your country has not fully recovered?

A: I lived my whole life back in the island and leaving to pursue my education was something I always wanted to do. I knew leaving my country would be a very hard experience, and leaving it after the hurricane made it even harder. I finished my application to ASU about a month after the hurricane, and the opportunities of getting to work in the energy sector with the support of the Public Service Academy was something that made ASU stand out by the end of my application process. I wanted to help solve the energy crisis before the hurricane and seeing my country’s power system devastated after the hurricane made it even more significant to go into the energy field.

I had set my sights on ASU because of the great work being done in solar energy research, and then many other things, such as the PSA, made ASU the clear choice. I confirmed my enrollment sometime in March, and that was the first time I felt scared of crossing the ocean. During the summer, I would think about everyone I was leaving behind and how hard adapting would be. When I got here, it was relieving to see the community’s support and understanding, and I consider ASU my second home.

Q: Why did you join the Public Service Academy — given that you were living in a foreign country, speaking a second language and taking on a rigorous academic schedule?

A: I joined the Public Service Academy even though it was very far from home because I saw in it the potential to help me reach my goals and to help me serve while doing something that I love. I have always believed that the challenge I want to tackle, energy scarcity, is a challenge that needs to be attended by all sectors, not only the engineering one. Technology is there and ever-growing, but policy and education are big hurdles to the advancement of renewable energy sources such as solar power. The Public Service Academy has acknowledged this fact and seeks to create leaders that can bring all sectors together to work on a common goal.

I knew becoming part of this program while being an engineering major and being part of Barrett (The Honors College) would be a challenge, but I have always loved being challenged as it makes me grow as a person, student and leader. Back home I was part of the JROTC program in my school; once, a former battalion commander gave a speech to our battalion challenging us to go for the three diamonds, the highest rank in JROTC, and I did not make it to the three diamonds, but I became Battalion XO, the second in command of the battalion, and got two diamonds. It has been very challenging to adapt to this new culture, language and people, but I have slowly been adapting — especially to the new language. All in all, my life at ASU and the Public Service Academy has just started and I am very excited to see all the opportunities I will be presented here and I am eager to work on them.

Q: What specifically do you enjoy about being in the Public Service Academy?

A: Being part of the Public Service Academy has been one of the greatest opportunities in my life. In the Public Service Academy, I find myself surrounded by people that have the same genuine desire as I have of changing the world for the better. Being in a setting that nurtures service and focuses on creating character-driven leaders is what I like the most about the PSA. Having the support of faculty and peers is of utmost importance in staying on one’s track. Through the PSA, I have been learning that today’s challenges cannot and will not be solved by a single individual, rather by communities of service-driven leaders who come together under one single mission.

Q: Did the irony hit you that in the Public Service Academy you might be helping people like yourself in the wake of Hurricane Maria?

A: I was raised in a house and a country were serving others is highly valued, and throughout my childhood I had many opportunities to serve my community and even communities in other countries. I had my first big service experience in a mission trip I did to the Dominican Republic in which we helped two small towns close to the border with Haiti in the areas of health care and education focused on children. This experience shaped my life by opening my eyes to real poverty and how big the challenges that come with it are. After the hurricane, I felt compelled to help my country recover and I did so through the American Red Cross. I helped in a couple of supply distribution missions right after the hurricane and during this last summer I volunteered in the ARC recovery program. This program was an incredibly rewarding experience as I got to work in the logistics of installing solar panels in shelter schools, providing health care curriculums for children to small rural clinics, provide microgrants to small farmers and other great initiatives that have helped many people around the island recover. It has been interesting to see that a lot of the work done here at ASU and the PSA resonates with what I have done throughout my life and seek to do my entire life.

Q: What are your plans after you graduate ASU and the Public Service Academy?

A: Here at ASU I am studying mechanical engineering with a focus in energy and environment and I seek to continue in the accelerated program to have a solar energy engineering and commercialization (professional science master's degree). I will use the tools given to me by both ASU and the PSA to work towards the goal of making America and the world shift towards renewable energy, be it through research, education or policy. What I will do after college is uncertain in the sense of my exact path, but anything that helps achieve this goal would be something I would pursue. In any form I can, I will contribute to the public good in the U.S., in Puerto Rico and wherever I have the opportunity to.

Top photo: Engineering freshman Jairo Ramirez poses for a portrait outside the ASU Art Museum on Oct. 11, 2018. Ramirez chose to serve in the Next Generation Service Corps, a decision influenced by his family's experience with Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico in 2017. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

 
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Legacy Corps program that provides respite care for veterans now part of ASU

Legacy Corps program at ASU to offer respite care to families of veterans.
Program is accepting applications for volunteers.
November 7, 2018

Service program matches volunteers with veterans' caregiving families

For veterans, their time in the military is often a significant part of their lives, and nobody is going to understand that service more than another veteran.

A longtime respite-care program that connects volunteers to veterans is now part of Arizona State University and soon will be helping local military families.

The Legacy Corps for Veterans and Military Families has been around for 15 years and was previously at the University of Maryland. But when the professor who ran the program retired, the project — and the $6 million grant to run it — was moved to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU.

“We decided the program was too good to let go and it needed to continue on,” said David Swindell, an associate professor and the director of the Center for Urban Innovation in the Watts College. He had been involved with Legacy Corps as an evaluator and was instrumental in bringing it to ASU a few months ago.

Currently, Legacy Corps partners with agencies at 14 sites in nine states — but none in Arizona. Swindell is working quickly to change that.

“We desperately want one here because Arizona has such a large veteran population and ASU is committed to veterans, so this fits perfectly with our overarching mission,” he said.

“And respite care is a service that’s very underprovided.”

Here’s how Legacy Corps works: Nonprofit agencies that already offer respite care partner with Legacy Corps, which is part of the AmeriCorps federal service program. Volunteers sign up, get basic AmeriCorps training and are paired with a family in which either the caregiver or the care recipient is a veteran. There are no income restrictions. The volunteers spend about eight to 10 hours a week with the veteran, giving the caregiver some much-needed time off. The volunteers sign up for one year of service, which can be renewed for an additional year. Volunteers also get a small stipend to cover transportation costs.

Legacy Corps volunteers don’t have to be veterans, but Swindell said that’s the “sweet spot” the program is aiming for.

“They spend time with the recipient, and they love to talk. It’s cathartic to have this friend who understands,” he said.

Another benefit is that when their service ends, AmeriCorps volunteers receive an education stipend of about $1,600 that can be used to pay tuition, and volunteers over age 55 can transfer that money to family members.

Swindell said the 15 years of the program has produced a lot of research showing that the service increases community engagement among the volunteers — even after their term is over. Every volunteer is surveyed four times, before, during and after their term.

“We found that their sense of community attachment, and the social capital generated from training, jumps very high at the beginning,” he said.

“And after they leave the program, two years later, it goes down a little, but it’s still way higher than it was when they started,” he said.

“What that translates into is that these individuals, even after they finish their volunteer term of service with AmeriCorps, continue to volunteer. That means the dollars spent on their stipends by the federal government are getting a return on investment that’s much higher than what we’re spending.”

Surveys of caregivers also found high satisfaction with the program — a key element, according to Jack Steele, project director for Legacy Corps.

“The goal is to reduce the burden of stress and to stabilize or improve the emotional well-being of that caregiver,” he said. “Veteran and military families are heroes, and we’re trying to reach into their lives and improve their health.”

Linda Siegel, program manager for Legacy Corps, said that volunteers get training on how to interact with the care recipients.

“We do a lot on communication techniques and a whole curriculum on military culture,” she said. “They learn games and get tool kits so they can design their own way to approach this.”

There are more than 520,000 veterans in Arizona, according to the U.S. Census, and two-thirds of them are age 55 or older.

While Legacy Corps has not finalized a site in Arizona yet, Swindell said that the program is accepting applications for volunteers, and people who are interested should contact him.

“It would be great to have folks in the pipeline for when we get the site here running,” he said.

Top image by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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‘Stealth educators’ assist with ASU curriculum and big ideas

November 6, 2018

ASU’s Flag Officer Advisory Council consists of world-class leaders who assist at the highest levels

Arizona State University has a secret weapon: Distinguished military leaders who have served at the highest levels at home and abroad advise President Michael M. Crow on matters of national significance or importance.

Crow recently asked ASU’s Flag Officer Advisory Council, experienced in complex strategic planning, operational management and leadership and character development, to expand their duties.

This semester they have adopted new roles, advising ASU deans on curriculum and working as “stealth educators,” helping Crow implement big ideas and initiatives.

“It’s a great opportunity to bring to the university … all our operational knowledge from the military,” said retired Army Lt. Gen. Benjamin C. Freakley, a former commanding general who is now a senior adviser to both Crow and the McCain Institute for International Leadership. “We are racially diverse, gender-diverse, academically diverse and are global citizens because we’ve served around the world … we have remarkable leaders and we’re all trying to provide an excellent setting for our students to learn and grow.”

Tapping into a wealth of experience

Created in 2014, the council meets at least yearly and includes 14 active-duty and retired military generals from the U.S. Army, Marine Corps, Navy and Air Force.

These leaders have served to combat terrorism, respond to natural disasters and defend the homeland. They have also developed strategy, led diverse organizations and worked with national and international counterparts to address the nation’s most complex and critical problems.

They are experts in complex decision-making, strategic planning, business development, operational management, communications, health policy, disaster and crisis management, supply chain, leadership and character development, ROTC and student mentorship, and veteran legal advice — and they serve as expert lecturers.

Freakley said the military spends years grooming men and women to become an admiral or general, and at the peak of their careers, they are often forced to retire.

“ASU is now the beneficiary because these men and women still want to serve and they bring a body of practice that can’t be found in textbooks,” Freakley said. “They want to stay active and they want to give back.”

The leaders work with selected centers and institutes at the university such as the Center on the Future of War, the Global Security Initiative, the Center for the Study of Religion and Conflict, the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, W. P. Carey School of Business, the Public Service Academy and ASU Athletics.   

They produced a document for the National Security Council that was featured at the Future of War Conference in Washington, D.C., in March 2017. The document suggested several ways to address future conflicts through political, diplomatic, economic and informational power.

“The ASU Flag Officer Advisory Council is an extraordinary and innovative idea and have assisted our center by providing advice and guidance on programming and educational programs,” said Daniel Rothenberg, a professor of practice who co-directs the Center on the Future of War with CNN senior analyst and ASU faculty member Peter Bergen. “They have helped us enormously by making sure our work is informed by their many years of diverse command experience. We use interviews with members of the council in units on leadership in our online MA in global security. And, one former member, Lt. Gen. Robert Schmidle has joined our faculty and is a core member of our team.”

Applications across disciplines

The council isn’t just limited to curriculum designed for the military. Their influence is far-reaching, as evidenced by their recent interaction with two ASU colleges.

“We see using their expertise in many ways because — this is coming from the council — they wanted to engage the university in a more meaningful way rather than just visit and provide high-level advice,” said Patrick J. Kenney, dean of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and a Foundation Professor in the School of Politics and Global Studies. “They really want to get into the nitty-gritty.”

Kenney said he envisions individual council members interacting with students and staff on matters such as business supply chain, logistics, GIS technologies, internships, consulting and especially developing leadership skills.

“It’s an exciting possibility and we’re just starting to implement some of the ideas,” Kenney said.

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Carol A. Mutter wants to get into the heart of the matter with students. She served for 31 years and was the first woman in the Marines to be promoted to both major general and lieutenant general. Mutter said she joined the council because it was an opportunity to assist a university doing great things for leaders of tomorrow.

“Those who serve in our military learn the lessons that can be helpful to other young people,” said Mutter, who has served on the council since its inception. “We have many veterans continuing to serve in the reserves while going to school who face special challenges. And many veterans of the recent conflicts need help in returning to an academic environment. They can and will make terrific contributions to this nation in the future with some understanding and assistance.”

Retired Army Lt. Gen. Robert Dail was the senior military logistics professional in the Department of Defense when he retired in November 2008 after 33 years. He’s currently working with the W. P. Carey School of Business on curriculum for defense logistics that involves several major companies and small businesses throughout Phoenix. He said he joined the council because of ASU’s strong vision.

“ASU is producing leaders who will not only serve in the armed forces but will lead companies that will support them, educate its members and families and lead our public institutions,” Dail said. “The council is one of the many resources that ASU should use as it moves to achieve the vision of the New American University.”

Helping train a new generation of leaders

Retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. John F. Goodman “enlisted” with the council because it was a way to reconnect with his alma mater. Goodman graduated from ASU in 1970.

“I’m at a time in my life and career where it’s time to start giving back,” said Goodman, who was a starting quarterback under legendary coach Frank Kush. “I’ve been lucky enough to have good mentors and be there to help answer questions. I thought it was long overdue for me to take that responsibility, particularly toward the next generation of young Americans.”

In addition to being an advisory group to President Crow, Goodman says the council helps frame big ideas across all disciplines and brings them to scale for the more than 100,000 students attending ASU.  

“We’re able to do that because we’ve done it before — in my case 200,000 to 300,000 marines,” Goodman said. “We use our experiences to help execute ASU programs.”

Former Air Force Brig. Gen. Linda R. Medler, one of the newest council members, is bringing her years of cyber security to ASU. She said she joined because universities offer leading-edge research and take on some of our nation’s toughest problems.

“President Crow has shown a willingness to tackle these issues, particularly those requiring classified capabilities and inviduals who can work in a classified environment,” Medler said. “Those capabilities will help not only grow ASU but our state and nation in the process.”

Medler also likes the fact that ASU is a “veteran-friendly university” and has demonstrated an ability to understand and accommodate current and past servicemembers.

“Our veteran students bring a wide experience base, and can be a great resource for the university,” Medler said. “The Flag Council can also help advise and inform how best to tap into that potential.”

In addition to Freakley, Mutter, Dail, Medler and Goodman, the council includes retired Army Maj. Gen. Donna F. Barbisch, retired Army Maj. Gen Randy R. Castro, retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Mark C. Dillon, retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Vern M. “Rusty” Findley II, retired Navy Adm. T. Joseph Lopez,  retired Army Brig. Gen. Richard “Gregg” Maxon, retired Navy Vice Adm. John W. “Fozzie” Miller, retired Army Maj. Gen. Barrye L. Price, retired Navy Vice Adm. Ann E. Rondeau and retired Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Robert E. Schmidle Jr.

Top photo: Retired Lt. Gen. Benjamin Freakley (right) talks with College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean Patrick Kenney, in the dean's conference room, on Oct. 16, 2018. Freakley serves as the Professor of Practice of Leadership for ASU and as a special adviser to President Michael Crow for Leadership Initiatives. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

In celebration of Veterans Day, Arizona State University proudly honors veterans and active members of the military through Salute to Service. Your support helps veterans succeed. Text ASUVets to 41444 to donate to the Veterans Education Fund or visit veterans.asu.edu to learn how you can honor a veteran. 

ASU graduate student returns to Phoenix to head city arts office


November 2, 2018

Mitch Menchaca, a graduate student in Arizona State University's School of Community Resources and Development, will return this fall to Phoenix as the next executive director of the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

Menchaca, an ASU alumnus, has served in a number of leadership positions with various arts organizations nationwide. He currently serves as executive director of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras in Los Angeles. Previous, Menchaca was vice president of membership and chief operating officer at Chorus America and director of local arts advancement for Americans for the Arts, both in Washington, D.C. Mitch Menchaca Mitch Menchaca (center) at the 2018 annual conference of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras in Sacramento. Menchaca, a graduate student in the School of Community Resources and Development, is leaving the nonprofit to run the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Download Full Image

“The past 10 years I have served in roles where my work helped arts organizations manage through their capacity building from afar,” Menchaca said. “I am excited to come back to Phoenix and work with artists and arts organizations on issues and challenges that not only face them but that directly impact the community.”

School of Community Resources and Development Associate Professor Mark Hager first met Menchaca in 2011 when he was at Americans for the Arts and Hager was collecting data for a study on local arts agencies.

“His boss told me he was a recent ASU grad, so we had that point of connection,” said Hager, who co-directs the graduate studies in nonprofit leadership and management program. “When he applied for our master's degree last fall, I remembered him right away.”

Menchaca embarked on his graduate degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management to gain the knowledge and skills to make him a more effective leader. He says working on his degree reminds him that many of the issues facing arts organizations are the same struggles faced by his counterparts in other fields, such as challenges with board governance, fundraising and marketing.

“I have come to realize that some, especially small and midsized organizations, fumble through areas around human resources, nonprofit laws and compliance, and financial management policies and practices and turn to service providers for answers,” Menchaca said. “My education allows me to offer accurate technical assistance, but I also have the connections with experts to direct them to when questions are out of the scope of what I can and should provide.”

Nancy Pelosi and Matt Menchaca

Mitch Menchaca with U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the 2017 Arts Advocacy Day.

Hager is confident that Menchaca will provide the kind of leadership that will benefit the Phoenix arts community.

“Mitch has had a lot of great experiences in the arts and culture space, from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, to Chorus America, to the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, full circle back to Phoenix,” Hager said. “He’ll be a great re-addition to Phoenix as he works through the rest of his master's degree.”

Menchaca was chosen to replace the retiring executive director of the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. The department manages and promotes the city’s public arts programs and cultural facilities with an annual budget of almost $5 million.

“Phoenix's vibrant artists and innovative community organizations make the city a great place to live, and I can't wait to start work in December,” Menchaca said.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions

602-496-0001

 
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Ex-CEO of Planned Parenthood hopes empowerment movements are inclusive

Ex-CEO of Planned Parenthood tells ASU group that #MeToo needs to be inclusive.
October 25, 2018

Gloria Feldt tells ASU Lodestar conference that women should leverage communication, data

Gloria Feldt has been at the forefront of women’s empowerment issues for decades, and she hopes women can move past the current #MeToo movement to include men in the conversation about gender equity.

“The #MeToo movement has been incredible in giving women the opportunity to speak in their own voices, and Time’s Up took the next step,” said Feldt, co-founder and president of Take the Lead, a nonprofit launched in 2013 to help women take leadership roles.

“But mostly what they’re doing is suing people, and that’s adversarial. You can’t sue everybody,” she said, adding that both women and men should be part of the conversation.

“It’s easy to let people who are against us get into our heads. Keep your head clear and keep your vison clear for where you want to go and keep going toward that,” Feldt told several hundred people at the Nonprofit Conference on Sustainable Strategies in Phoenix on Thursday morning. The conference was sponsored by the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovations, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University.

Feldt, 76, was president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1996 to 2005. Married at 15, she had three children by the age of 20 before going on to earn a college degree in her 30s.

Feldt, the author of “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” said that two ways women can leverage power is through communication and data.

She teaches workshops on “gender bilingual communication” — the idea that men and women have been socialized to speak differently. For example, women often use more words and are less direct than men, but face harsh repercussions when they violate those norms.

“A woman and a man can use exactly the same words and be perceived differently,” she said.

lodestar conference

Iyamidé May, a community engagement and social media coordinator with Experience Matters, and more than 300 other people listen to "Take the Lead: A Conversation With Gloria Feldt" on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Sometimes women say to me, ‘Why are you telling me how to speak to men? Why aren’t you telling men how to speak to me?’ I think that’s a fair question.”

She compared it to learning a few words of another language when visiting abroad.

“The truth of the matter is that groups with less power have to be able to speak the language of groups with more power.”

The pay gap between women and men is an example of where data can drive change. Feldt said that when she was CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern Arizona, the organization did a survey.

“Lo and behold, the larger the affiliate, the more likely it was to be run by a man, and the salary disparity was huge — and that’s at an organization whose mission was to advance women,” she said.

“Having that data and presenting it to the board solved the problem in a few years.”

Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center, said that the definition of leadership can be difficult to pin down.

“Leadership is an action that many can take, not a position few can hold,” he said.

“That’s especially important in today’s political climate where we assume that if we’re not an elected official, we can’t be a leader.”

The conference drew several hundred people from the nonprofit sector, and Feldt told them to be courageous.

“You have to get to the point where you know it’s OK if you get fired for doing the right thing.”

Top photo: Gloria Feldt speaks with ASU Lodestar Center executive director Robert Ashcraft during the opening session of the 26th annual Nonprofit Conference on Sustainability Strategies at the Black Canyon Conference Center on Thursday. Feldt is a former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, a best-selling author, speaker, commentator and feminist leader who has gained national recognition as a social and political advocate for women's rights. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

ASU Alumni Association honors Sun Devil leaders with 2018 Homecoming Awards


October 25, 2018

The ASU Alumni Association will honor Sun Devil leadership during the upcoming Nov. 3 Homecoming game, which will pit Arizona State University against the University of Utah.

The Alumni Association will recognize George Dean, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League, with its Alumni Service Award, and Ray Schey, publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, with its Alumni Appreciation Award. George Dean Alumni Service Award winner George Dean graduated from ASU in 1970. Download Full Image

Ryan Abbott, the 2017–18 chair of the organization’s board of directors and National Alumni Council, also will be honored for his service to the organization.

Alumni Service Award: George Dean 

Dean, ’70 BS, is president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Urban League, an organization where he has served in various capacities for more than 26 years. Under his leadership, GPUL has focused on advocacy for issues affecting the African-American and minority community related to education, training, job placement and economic development.

In addition to his work at GPUL, he serves as chair of the board of directors of ASU Preparatory Academy, is a member of ASU President Michael M. Crow’s Community Council and serves on the board of the Center for the Future of Arizona.

He previously has served on the Dean’s Councils for three ASU colleges: the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions; Barrett, The Honors College and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Ray Schey

Alumni Appreciation Award: Ray Schey

Schey is the publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, a weekly business publication serving the Phoenix metro area, and is responsible for managing all aspects of the operation.

Schey is being recognized for his support of ASU through his service on the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees; support for ASU’s Founders’ Day awards program; continued partnership on Sun Devil 100, which honors ASU alumni entrepreneurs and innovators; support for the W. P. Carey School of Business’ Economic Club of Phoenix series and the Master of Real Estate Development Monopoly event; support for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s innovation event; partnerships with the ASU Foundation and internships for ASU students.

Prior to his role in Phoenix, he served as director of advertising at the Milwaukee Business Journal and the Rochester (New York) Business Journal. Schey has been involved in numerous community and charitable organizations in his career and is currently a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership and serves on the boards of the Arizona Tech Council, Visit Phoenix, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation Board and Arizona Food Marketing Alliance.

Ryan Abbott

Past President’s Award: Ryan Abbott 

Abbott, ’01 BS and ’08 MBA, is senior vice president and southwest district manager at Sundt Construction, Inc. He has played a key role in many notable ASU construction projects, including Lattie F. Coor Hall, the Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Building 4, The Biodesign Institute, the Downtown Phoenix Sun Devil Fitness Center and most recently the reinvention of Sun Devil Stadium.

He began his career at Sundt more than 17 years ago as a field engineer, working his way through every level of project management. Abbott earned his bachelor’s degree from the Del E. Webb School of Construction in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and his MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Prior to serving on the ASU Alumni Association board, Abbott was a member of the organization’s National Alumni Council and Arizona State Young Alumni Council. He also has served as chair of the Founders’ Day Committee responsible for all aspects of this university signature event.  He also serves on the boards of the Valley of the Sun YMCA and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

More: ASU Alumni Association’s celebration of Homecoming Week

 
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ASU's Morrison Institute a nonpartisan source for facts on propositions

ASU's Morrison Institute gives nonpartisan facts on 5 props on the AZ ballot.
October 22, 2018

Ballot measures address critical issues, but the wording can be confusing to voters

In addition to a full slate of candidates, Arizona voters will also consider five propositions on the ballot in the November 2018 general election.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University has examined each measure to offer voters an independent and nonpartisan assessment. David Berman, senior research fellow at the institute, examined documents and views expressed by subject-matter specialists and those who support and oppose particular measures.
 
The result is "Understanding Arizona's Propositions," which provides information on each ballot proposal, how each came about, what it would do if passed and its likely impact.

Four propositions call for amendments to the Arizona Constitution. The five propositions are:

• Proposition 125 addresses funding of the pension plans for corrections officers and elected officials.

• Proposition 126 seeks to avoid additional or increased taxes on some services.

• Proposition 127 would amend the state consititution to require Arizona utilities to provide at least 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

• Proposition 305 seeks to expand the school-voucher program.

• Proposition 306 would curtail the authority and independence of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, a nonpartisan entity created by voters to provide education, campaign funding and enforcement of campaign finance rules.

Berman answered some questions from ASU Now about propositions:

Question: What is a proposition, and why are they important?  

Answer: We are talking about measures that are put on the ballot by lawmakers or citizen action through a petition drive. In Arizona, they have often involved major matters of public policy, such as women's suffrage, clean elections and term limits. Overall, propositions provide a democratic safety valve through which the voters can bypass legislative inaction, challenge governmental policies and require their consent before lawmakers can take various actions.

Under the Arizona Constitution, people can use the initiative to adopt laws and to amend the constitution. In Arizona, a compulsory referendum is used when, by law, certain propositions, such as a constitutional amendment or a bond issue, must be submitted to a popular vote. One also finds a veto, also known as a citizens' or protest referendum, through which a specific number of voters, through a petition, may force a measure passed by the Legislature to be submitted to a popular vote.

The initiative and referendum are also found on the local level, in regard to the basic documents called charters and local laws known as ordinances. Here one also finds bond elections and elections in which voters are asked to increase local budgets. In an override election, for example, voters are asked by a school district to allow an increase to their district’s budget to pay for such items as teachers' salaries and equipment.

Q: Sometimes it seems like propositions are very confusing. Why is that?

A: Voting on propositions can be challenging. They are often written in confusing legal terms, and voters often hear conflicting accounts of what they will do.

The complexity of the measures and the distortions caused by the media campaigns for and against certain propositions complicate the task of the voters seeking information. Voters are often faced with many technical questions about which they have been given little information. Unless well-known personalities or major issues are involved, elections of this nature do not draw much public attention or participation. Not surprisingly, 25 percent or more of the voters who make a choice among gubernatorial candidates fail to express their views on one or more of the propositions on the same ballot.

Q: What can we do about the information problem?

A: What we have tried to do at the Morrison is distill down a large amount of information to enable the voters to understand the background of the issues involved, the essential elements in the propositions, and arguments made both for and against their adoption. The idea is to help them make a more informed choice.

Learn more about the Nov. 6 ballot's propositions in the "Understanding Arizona's Propositions" report. Top image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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ASU professors tackle large-scale public health challenges in partnership with Dignity Health

October 19, 2018

Dignity Health and Arizona State University have announced the 2018 awardees of the Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program, which offers grants to ASU faculty and Dignity Health investigators for collaborative research projects that accelerate the health and well-being of the community.

Grant recipients will embark on projects that address an array of public health challenges — from diabetes to brain tumors to Lou Gehrig's disease — and will result in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices into public health, clinical practice and community settings.

“ASU’s partnership with Dignity Health reflects the spirit of collaboration, discovery and community impact that is central to the university’s mission,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “The work being done through these grants advances scientific inquiry and knowledge and also offers hope for solutions to some of our most pressing health challenges.”

Dignity Health and ASU launched the program in 2017 to advance joint research in key programmatic areas like population health, educating a prepared health care workforce and building a healthy clinical workforce.

“It’s exciting to see ASU faculty partnering with Dignity Health investigators as they work together on new ideas and concepts,” said Dr. Keith Frey, chief physician executive at Dignity Health and clinical professor in the College of Health Solutions at ASU. “The anticipated outcomes from this second funding cycle will add real benefit for our patients and the health of our community.”

Originating in 2015, the Dignity Health and ASU partnership is a vibrant, innovative collaboration, formed on the foundation of clinical and academic excellence.

The next funding cycle for the Dignity Health/ASU Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program is expected in spring 2019.

Program award recipients:

Shannon Dirksen and Liz Harrell

College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dignity Health Investigator: Nicole Piemonte, PhD

Project: Expanding impacts of student-run free clinics; the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) sustainability plan

Rodger Kessler and Siddhartha Angadi

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Edward Paul, MD

Project: The ASU-Dignity Health Type 2 diabetes medical and behavioral lifestyle management program  

Vikram Kodibagkar

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigator: C. Chad Quarles, PhD

Project: One-shot morphologic, hemodynamic and metabolic MR imaging of brain tumors

Julie Liss and Visar Berisha

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Jeremy M. Shefner, MD and Shafeeq Ladha, MD

Project: Speech analysis in ALS patients with and without cognitive abnormalities: Evaluation of sensitivity and disease progression

Kristin Mickelson

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Dignity Health Investigator: Claudia Chambers, MD

Project: Racial disparities in low birth weight: Discrimination, resilience and biomedical pathways in a sample of black, Hispanic and white pregnant women

Brent Vernon

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Mark C. Preul, MD and Andrew Ducruet, MD

Project: Multi-institutional program to translate liquid embolics to the clinic

Wendy Wolfersteig

Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, School of Social Work, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Anna Alonzo

Project: Assessing the effectiveness of the 2MATCH Project on social determinants of health and healthcare utilization

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

480-965-3779

 
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How would Arizona respond to a natural disaster?

How prepared is Arizona to respond to a disaster? ASU event examines all angles.
October 18, 2018

A complex network lies in wait for the inevitable event of a major disaster; ASU event examines state's role

A major earthquake that displaces a mass population of people. Widespread power outages that cascade through a metro area. Catastrophic droughts or devastating floods that strand people in their homes.  

Natural disasters are an increasingly common reality for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and as climate change and urbanization amplify the frequency and intensity of these events, the response by communities, governments and private citizens is more important than ever before, according to Brian Gerber, co-director of Arizona State University's Center for Emergency Management and Homeland SecurityThe center is a research unit of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions..

But academics, government agencies and volunteers are rising to the challenge — developing critical disaster responses, participating in full-scale exercises and harboring cross-sector partnerships for the inevitable day a disaster strikes.

Those partners came together Thursday at a Sustainability Series event titled "How Will Arizona Respond to a Major Regional Disaster?" The event was presented by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainabilitythe Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.

Ramona Denby-Brinson, associate dean of research at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, spoke about how ASU's emergency management center is already making waves in the disaster response field, even though it was recently created.

“When I think about the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, even in its infancy … it is already making inroads and really living out the true testament of what our vision is,” Denby-Brinson said.

The meeting, which featured a slate of speakers and a panel of experts in different facets of disaster response, came after the participation of the center and other state and community partners in a statewide “National Mass Care Exercise,” aimed at developing a better understanding of the role and capabilities of voluntary, private and governmental organizations in responding to a regional disaster in Arizona.

The exercise, which took place in May, focused on a mock scenario where a major earthquake in California causes an ingress of displaced citizens to flood into Arizona, straining law enforcement and emergency response, clogging traffic and putting strain on day-to-day private facilities.

It brought together a huge coalition of state, federal and local agencies — with private partners and nonprofit volunteers to emulate the scenario.

Speakers gave a brief overview of the tenets of the program, followed by a panel that discussed different facets of what a mass care response would look like in such a scenario.

A man in an electric wheelchair sits by two women in front of an ASU logo

(From left) Lori Cunningham, deputy administrator, Arizona Department of Economic Security; April Bradham, director of field operations, Association of Arizona Food Banks; and Peter Fischer, Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for Phoenix. Photo by Isaac Windes/ASU Now

Peter Fischer, who works for the city of Phoenix as an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, discussed the steps required in preparing and executing accommodations for individuals with disabilities who were displaced in the scenario — as well as additional exercises to test and develop the city's disability integration capabilities.

“What I do ... is specifically for disability integration in the mass care exercise,” Fischer said. “The city did a bunch of different exercises outside of the national care exercise. … We opened a few shelters and tested that; we even had a drill at the airport for passengers who were stranded.”

In addition to the ordinary logistical problems associated with displacement, Fischer and other panelists stressed the importance and difficulty of communication between agencies, and with the public at large, during a disaster.

“The other issues we are really worried about is when we are having press conferences and we are having events … and these activities that are public knowledge — how are people with other disabilities being given that same information?”

April Bradham, director of field operations for the Association of Arizona Food Banks, talked about the importance of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOADs, in the larger statewide effort that would mobilize in the event of a disaster.

“Our VOAD in Arizona … is a range of organizations that are disaster-relief specific organizations like Red Cross, Salvation Army … and all these organizations that are actively involved in a task force,” Bradham said. "But then you also have this very large group of organizations that maybe disaster response isn’t even a piece of what they do, but they do support if a disaster was to occur. So, for example, our faith-based organizations that might provide spiritual care or volunteers, the emergency radio — so just a large mix of people.”

Arizona faces a particular challenge in preparing for a mass event like the one in the scenario because it does not often have to respond to natural disasters, unlike Texas and Florida that face a much higher frequency of mass care events. 

“We aren’t necessarily activated at a state level very often,” Bradham said. “Our county and our local VOADs are the most critical piece of that because they are the ones that know the immediate needs, they’re the ones that know the immediate resources in the area.”

Bradham said that the biggest takeaway from the exercise was that Arizona could benefit from planning. 

“I know it is easy to get a little bit apathetic because … we’re not faced with it every single day," she said. 

Lori Cunningham, a deputy administrator at the Arizona Department of Economic Security, spoke about the issues that would arise and need to be prepared for.

"The Department of Economic Security was very fortunate particularly with this exercise because we served in multiple capacities, so from a response perspective we were able to work with the Red Cross and actually be in the shelters identifying folks with special needs,” Cunningham said. “Understanding reunification, I was able to lead the reunification task force … when families are separated, and when caregivers are separated from the folks who need them the most, how do we get those back together.”

Robert Rowley, director of the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management and an ASU alumnus, spoke from the audience, pointing out that in the event of a mass care event, city and county officials don’t have reserve employees on hand to deal with such an influx.

“The biggest thing that we were thinking about during this process was, with the sheer number of people coming in, what realistically would we as local governments … be able to handle ourselves? And the answer is … not much,” Rowley said. “City and county governments operate with staff and materials sufficient to do their daily jobs. And we don’t maintain a reserve force of people that we can activate during a disaster to bring in and handle all this extra activity.”

The only government response that could do such a thing, Rowley said, is the military. But, “it’s about three days before federal resources, even the military, can be mobilized and in your area and starting to perform an operation.

“So what we have started looking at is what can we do for a period of three days, to take care of this massive influx of people.”

Rowley closed out some of his remarks with a statement that was echoed by many who participated in the program.

“That wasn’t answered by the end of the exercise,” Rowley said. “But the purpose of the exercise was to bring up those questions.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Isaac Windes

Reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

 
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Mindfulness curriculum abounds across disciplines at ASU

Mindfulness is a lifelong skill that transcends disciplines and lifestyles.
October 11, 2018

From social work to business to communications, students of any major can benefit from the practice

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and on the third floor of the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, a group of second-year Mayo Clinic students are learning to walk — or perhaps more accurately, re-learning to walk. This time, they're doing it mindfully.

Arranged in a circle in the large communal room at the offices of Arizona State University’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, they move clockwise, each step slow and thoughtful, taking their direction from Angie Haskovec, alumni coordinator for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, who stands just outside the circle, gently guiding them.

“Think about all the muscles that go into taking each step,” Haskovec says. “Notice all the sensations in your feet. The temperature, the texture of the carpet.”

The students listen, eyes trained on the floor beneath them as they continue in their silent march.

This is day two of a four-day selective course developed by the center specifically to introduce Mayo Clinic medical students to the concept of mindfulness and related practices so they can incorporate them into their schooling and later, their careers.

Haskovec is the instructor for today’s Koru Mindfulness lesson. Developed in the mid-'90s by two psychiatrists at Duke University, the Koru Mindfulness curriculum is geared toward students and young adults, applying such practices as breathing techniques, visualization exercises and guided meditations to the specific context and challenges of the college environment.

After the exercise, the students head back to the more intimate conference room, where the rest of the day’s lessons will take place, to reflect.

“I can see why it’s so hard to program a robot to walk,” said Ryan Smith. All joking aside, Smith reported that it forced him to quiet his mind and focus just on the present moment and what was happening in it. “All the little things involved in just taking a step is something you’re not typically conscious of in day-to-day life.”

Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer and founding director of the Center for Mindfulness, said she particularly likes the mindful walking practice because it’s “sneaky” in that you can do it without anyone noticing, unlike other practices that might require you to sit down and close your eyes for several minutes or repeat a mantra aloud.

Pipe, who also serves as a research professor at CONHI, designed the four-day selective along with the center’s executive director for university engagement, Nika Gueci.

“Mindfulness practices,” Pipe said, can help those in the medical field to better deal with stressful situations, such as a patient dying, “by strengthening their disaster-preparedness beforehand, ensuring they have the skills to cope while the stress is occurring and afterwards, to regroup and rejuvenate so they’re ready to go back to work the next day and be a full person, and not get burnout or suffer from chronic fatigue of compassion.”

But as several ASU faculty can attest, the benefits of mindfulness extend to more than just medical students.

Barbara Crisp, an adjunct faculty member with The Design School, began teaching a mindfulness fundamentals course there a few semesters ago in which students hear from guest speakers and learn skills that range from breathing techniques to meditation to body scanning.

“I’m trying to give them a well-rounded approach to what mindfulness is and how it’s really important as a lifelong skill,” Crisp said.

During the second semester teaching the course, an error was made in the catalog that allowed students from any discipline to sign up.

But, Crisp said, “It was a lovely accident because when we get out of school, we work across all disciplines.”

Now, in addition to the mindfulness course she teaches for design students, Crisp teaches Koru Mindfulness classes to full-time graduate students at the W. P. Carey School of Business. She said students have reported benefits that include communicating better with their partner and performing better on tests and assignments.

“There is so much talk about excellence in academia, but without stillness (and) silence, we cannot build resilience nor can we access our innate wisdom,” Crisp said. “Resilience arises from silence — meaning you can bounce back from challenges and cultivate the ability to cope with whatever comes your way. And that silence also gives rise to our innate wisdom and the potential to achieve another level of excellence.”

School of Social Work faculty associate Jeffrey Woolley agrees that mindfulness is one of the best ways to work on yourself and achieve personal growth. A psychotherapist, Woolley became interested in the practice during his college years in the 1980s and has been formally practicing meditation for 31 years.

At ASU, Woolley teaches his social work students three mindfulness courses that make up part of the Integrative Health Certificate: “mindfulness and quality of life,” “treating the whole person” and “holistic therapies for modern living.”

“In our classes, we apply mindfulness directly to clinical rapport,” Woolley said. “It helps greatly in that regard by being present and open and receptive.”

All things that translate to exemplary communication, regardless of the nature of the relationship.

When Douglas Kelley, a professor of communication studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, participated in couple's counseling, he realized that such mindful concepts as being present and aware of one’s feelings can better facilitate reconciliation and forgiveness.

Now Kelley regularly incorporates mindfulness into his classes and often asks students to try various techniques out at home. Once, he asked his students to engage in mindful listening during a conversation over the weekend, focusing on being present and nonjudgmental of what the other person was saying.

The following week, a previously skeptical student reported having used the technique while listening to his mom complain about his dad — something he’d usually just tune out — and came away with a deeper appreciation for her feelings and situation.

“I just wanted to grab him and hug him and say, ‘That’s it!’” Kelley recalled. But, he tempered, “the object isn’t to come away with a new insight, it’s simply to be. And that theme carries through my courses: the idea of transformation through presence. I believe that we’re transformed through being present with ourselves and each other in a nonjudgmental way.”

The existing recognition of mindfulness as a powerful life tool at ASU underscores the value of having a place like the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience that can act as a hub for the emerging phenomenon.

Since its launch over a year ago, there have been several promising developments at the center, including a series of online health and wellness courses created in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and EdPlus.

And registration is now open for the center’s second annual conference, “Water and Stone: The Power of Mindfulness for Social Change,” which will take place Feb. 28 through March 1 as part of its Equitable Mindfulness Initiative, with Rhonda Magee of the University of San Francisco and Kamilah Majied of Howard University as keynote speakers.

Top photo: Second-year Mayo Clinic medical student Ryan Smith takes part in a meditation exercise as part of a four-day selective course offered by ASU's Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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