ASU alum paving pathways for people with disabilities

Todd Lemay's gift of a TerrainHopper will enable disabled students to enjoy all adventures

October 31, 2019

Todd Lemay remembers longing for snowless days. The weather constricted the Maine native in ways others couldn’t comprehend. That wasn’t all; steps robbed him of his freedom. Beaches did the same.

“Every house, every apartment, even restaurants — they all have steps in Maine,” he said. Todd Lemay and Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell experiences the TerrainHopper with ASU alumnus Todd Lemay. Download Full Image

Lemay was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease that has led him to using a wheelchair for most of his life. He sometimes walked as a child, but that would only lead to more broken bones and more surgeries. He tired of it in his teens. “I decided it’s not worth going through all the surgeries just so that I can maybe walk 20 feet on my own,” he said.

Lemay, 48, figures he’s suffered more than 80 broken bones — a figure that quickly climbs into the 100s if he includes ribs. Those crack easily.

He doesn’t seek sympathy, though. Rather, he considers himself lucky.

“A lot of people out there are in much more difficult situations than I am in,” Lemay said. “So the fact that I can take care of myself and do so much, those are all blessings.”

Arizona opened his eyes to many of them.

A whole new world

After one of his friends talked up Arizona and urged Lemay to tag along on a trip, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the Valley of the Sun.

“I was just amazed at how flat everything was out here,” he recalled. “I fell in love with the weather, and I fell in love with how everything was just so accessible. I felt a larger sense of freedom.”

Lemay landed at Arizona State University in 1992, graduating three years later with a degree in accounting. He immersed himself in this work for some time before launching an IT management company.

A simple Google search led him to change careers.

Lemay was on the hunt for an all-terrain wheelchair and stumbled upon a company in the United Kingdom named TerrainHopper that was manufacturing exactly that — electrically powered off-road mobility vehicles that can conquer the type of challenging terrain a normal wheelchair can’t. Yet they weren’t shipping to the U.S. — that is, until Lemay persuaded them to send him one a year later.

For the first time in his life, when he returned to his summer home in Maine, he enjoyed beach trips in a way he only previously had in dreams.

“I didn't have to have someone push me and set me in one spot and that's where I would stay until they moved me,” he said. “I can go out on the beach with my wife and hold her hand. I was never able to do that before. I love the ocean, and for my entire life I’ve only been able to enjoy it from the end of the parking lot.

“It opened up a whole new world for me.”

Open for business

Everywhere he went with his TerrainHopper, he was routinely stopped. The same question always came: Why is there not something like this in the U.S.?

So Lemay again pleaded with TerrainHopper, this time for an even bigger ask. He requested licensing, manufacturing and U.S. distribution rights, insisting “that if they’re going to do something here in the U.S., I’m the right person to help them do that.”

Lemay opened his own shop in Tempe in 2017, replicating the work of his friends in Europe to create customizations that can accommodate almost every physical disability. TerrainHopper USA was born.

“We license the technology from them, so we don’t import anything from them, but we actually manufacture everything from the ground up here in Tempe,” he said.

Lemay, who has donated several of these vehicles to nonprofits around the area, was featured in an article in the Phoenix Business Journal around the time he started full production last fall, prompting ASU President Michael M. Crow to offer congratulations in a handwritten letter.

Shortly after the new year, a student convinced Lemay that ASU should have one.

Spreading the joy

Christina Chambers was already well-versed in the TerrainHopper. The ASU student was managing two of them while interning with Ability360, which offers programs to empower people with disabilities. Chambers was ultimately connected with Lemay, who requested her help with some photography. She, too, uses a wheelchair and sees life much like Lemay.

During a meeting one day, Lemay was pleasantly surprised to hear Chambers is majoring in parks and recreation — but also heartbroken to find that her disability prevented her from joining many off-site classes in different parks.

Hiking has become one of Lemay’s favorite hobbies since obtaining a TerrainHopper. San Tan Regional Park is a short drive from his house, and he frequents it often with his wife, Letitia.

“You look at that park with hundreds of acres and dozens of trails, and with the normal wheelchair you could probably access maybe 2% of that,” he said. “When I got my TerrainHopper, we started going out and doing a different trail every weekend and it turns that we can do about 95% of that park now.”

Lemay wanted Chambers to have that same experience. Chambers wanted it for every ASU student.

“One of the first classes we take in parks and rec talks about the important things everybody in life needs to succeed and be happy,” Chambers said. “The outdoors and nature are essential to happiness, and I was missing that component of my life for so long.”

Expanding possibilities

Chambers recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of what she calls her “Life Day.”

“It’s the day I celebrate being alive and accepting this as my new life,” she said. “I woke up one morning paralyzed from the chest down.”

Her immune system attacked her spinal cord, causing permanent injury when she was 12. Looking back, she believes that’s when she was given her purpose, even though she didn’t know it at the time.

“I was meant to be in this community and help out those in my community and kind of introduce them to all that they are capable of,” Chambers said.

For Chambers, who will graduate in December, Lemay offered the same for her. She admires the immense joy he brings, “in his own life, in his own acceptance, and in his own journey.”

She wants to help him spread that.

“It’s contagious,” Chambers said. “I post on social and I'm like, come visit me, stay at my house, we will go hiking, I will take you out on the TerrainHoppers.”

Kelly Ramella, an associate instructional professional serving as the coordinator of the therapeutic recreation program and faculty with the School of Community Resources and Development, has witnessed the impact this vehicle has had on students like Chambers.

Adventure is now accessible for all.

“She wanted to be a part of everything that all other students have an opportunity to do, even climbing “A” Mountain,” Ramella said. “Her being able to use the TerrainHopper to experience ASU like everyone else was really quite emotional for me because it's something that's really important for all of our students. We want to ensure that we’re being as inclusive as we possibly can.”

In September, Chambers and Ramella were on hand when Lemay gifted a TerrainHopper — they start at $18,000  — to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and invited Dean Jonathan Koppell to get in the driver’s seat.

“You realize what it gives individuals is independence,” Ramella said. “It gave them the ability to navigate the outdoors in their own way and at their own speed.”

Bridging the gap

Chambers was recently hiking the Buffalo Park Loop in Flagstaff when she met a man who had sustained a broken neck and a brain injury in a dirt bike accident, changing the way he experienced the outdoors. He missed the old way. 

Chambers got him on the TerrainHopper, which introduces a sensation similar to riding a dirt bike, and took in the biggest smile.

“He was crying,” she said. “His girlfriend was crying, because here he is hiking and off-roading just like he used to. That is why I advocate for this, because it not only changed my life, but I see the opportunity for it to change so many lives.

“You don’t look at it and think, that’s a wheelchair, or that’s a medical device. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s really cool. I want to try it.’ I think it bridges that gap of how people view disability and what it actually is.”

 Jane Lee

Copywriter, ASU Enterprise Partners


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October 30, 2019

Tradition points to ASU’s commitment to all who serve, national defense

Arizona State University has a long history of supporting those in uniform, but the stance became university tradition in 2011 after the first Salute to Service was held to celebrate active duty military members and veterans.

This year Salute to Service runs from Nov. 1–11 with events scheduled across all ASU Phoenix-area campuses. Event organizers invite the campus community and the public to get involved.  

The event theme — “Salute to Service through service” — points to a broadening of the idea of service beyond the military, said Steve Borden, director of ASU’s Pat Tillman Veterans Center.

“Few actions in life are more honorable than dedicating your life to serving others,” said Borden, a retired U.S. Navy captain and co-chair of the Salute to Service committee. “Whether you served in uniform as a member of the military, as a first responder or as a civilian dedicating your life to public service or helping those in need at home or abroad, it is all these selfless endeavors that we strive to recognize during Salute to Service.” 

RELATED: 6 ASU veterans share the keys to their success in college

ASU contributes in the veteran, service and national defense space through robust academic and support programs, and other far-reaching initiatives. To gain perspective on the range of the university’s military focus and achievements, here are 10 unique ASU facts:

1. The Pat Tillman Veterans Center supports more than 9,200 military-affiliated ASU students.

In the past five years, enrollment of student veterans and other military-affiliated students using GI Bill and/or Department of Defense tuition assistance benefits has more than doubled. Per capita, ASU boasts more military-affiliated students than most other universities, ahead of schools traditionally known for military friendliness, such as Syracuse, Texas A&M and Colorado State.

2. ASU faculty includes more than 150 members who have served in the U.S. military.

Over 460 military veterans work at ASU, including 151 in the faculty and 312 who are university staff.

3. The first and only university Public Service Academy in the nation to date resides at ASU.

The Public Service Academy, a unit of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, prepares students for careers in public service through a challenging program that provides unique education and service opportunities with the goal of building character-driven leaders. Established in 2014, the academy graduated its first student cohort in May 2019. 

4. Every year ASU researchers work on vital defense projects.

In fiscal year 2019, ASU researchers submitted $186 million in proposals to the Department of Defense, received more than $50 million in award obligations and reached more than $36 million in DOD-funded research expenditures. 

5. ASU researchers are helping the U.S. Army discover how best to use pollen to trace origins of explosives and other materials.

With support from a Department of Defense Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative grant awarded by the U.S. Army Combat Capabilities Development Command’s Army Research Laboratory through its Army Research Office, faculty with ASU’s Center for Spatial Reasoning and Policy Analytics are using forensic palynology to improve the U.S. government’s ability to identify where and when weapons of mass destruction are moving.  

6. ASU is home to one of the oldest Army ROTC programs in the nation.

Army ROTC was established at ASU in 1935, followed by Air Force ROTC in 1948, and Navy and Marine Corps ROTC in 2010.  The ROTC programs combined host over 450 students. Upon graduation, students are commissioned as officers in their respective service branches. The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences houses and supports all the ROTC programs.

7. Through the Melikian Center, ASU offers world-class language training for ROTC cadets.

ASU’s Melikian Center Critical Languages Institute offers intensive training in Armenian, Russian, Bosnian and 12 other Eastern European languages. The center also supports ROTC-specific training through Project Go, a summer program in Persian, Russian, Turkish and Uzbek.

8. Education industry publications consistently recognize ASU for its veteran programs. Current accolades include:

  • The Military Times Group Best for Vets 2019
  • Viqtory Military Media “Military Friendly” Silver Award 2019-2020
  • College Factual #10 Top Colleges for Veterans
  • U.S. News & World Report #2 Best Online Programs for Veterans, #3 Best Online MBA Program for Veterans

9. ASU leverages the experience of top military leaders through its Flag Officer Council.

Created in 2014, the council provides advice and perspective to the university including ASU President Michael Crow, faculty and staff on matters of national significance. The council consists of retired military generals and admirals who served in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps and Coast Guard. They are leaders who have worked in the highest levels of government at home and abroad, combating terrorism, responding to national disasters and defending the homeland. They are experts in complex decision-making, leadership, strategic planning, business development and many other fields.

10. The Veterans ASU Alumni Chapter serves as a focal point for veteran graduates.  Many alums have distinguished themselves through military and public service, including: 

  • Allan McArtor: ’71 MSE, former Air Force fighter pilot and Vietnam veteran, chairman and CEO of Airbus Group and former administrator of U.S. Federal Aviation Administration.
  • Barbara Barrett: ’72 BS, ’75 MP., ’78 JD, current Secretary of the Air Force.
  • Barry Bruner: ’80 BS, retired Navy rear admiral, commanded Submarine Group 10, Kings Bay Naval Submarine Base, Georgia.
  • Daniel Yoo: ’84 BS, Marine Corps major general, currently commanding U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
  • John Goodman: ’71 BS, retired Marine lieutenant general, commanded Marine Forces Pacific and served as director of the U.S. Department of Defense’s Center for Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance.
  • John Kenyon: ’85 BS, retired Coast Guard captain, former commanding officer of U.S. Coast Guard Activities Europe.
  • Margaret Woodward: ’82 BS, retired Air Force major general, commanded air forces during Operation Odyssey Dawn in Libya.
  • Mark “Marshal” Dillon: ’83 BS, retired Air Force major general, former vice commander of Pacific Air Forces Command, Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, Hawaii.
  • Pat Tillman: ’97 BS, former Army corporal, star ASU and Arizona Cardinals football player.
  • Phillip Breedlove: ’91 MS, retired Air Force four-star general, former commander, Supreme Allied Command, Europe, U.S. European Command, Stuttgart, Germany.
  • Ronald “Ron” Shoopman: ’72 BS, retired Air Force brigadier general, president of Southern Arizona Leadership Council and member of the Arizona Board of Regents.
  • Ryan Cleckner: ’08 BS, former Army Ranger sniper, veterans activist and vice president at Remington Outdoor Company.
  • Todd Canterbury: ’92 BS, Air Force brigadier general, current commander 56th Fighter Wing, Luke Air Force Base, Arizona.
  • Vern “Rusty” Findley: ’76 BS,  retired Air Force lieutenant general, former vice commander Air Force Air Mobility Command, Scott Air Force Base Illinois.
  • Victor Petrenko: ’83 BS, Army brigadier general, former deputy commanding general and chief of staff for U.S. Army Accessions Command, Fort Knox, Kentucky.

For more details about ASU’s military programs, download the “Arizona State University: A leader in national defense” brochure.

Peggy Coulombe of the ASU Office of University Provost contributed to this article.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Leaders in the field of equitable development to hold Creative Placemaking National Summit in Phoenix

October 30, 2019

Civic and cultural leaders who practice “creative placemaking,” the community approach that puts arts, culture and design at the heart of community planning and equitable development, will hold their 2019 annual National Leadership Summit on Nov. 14-16 at the Renaissance Phoenix Downtown Hotel.

The summit, co-produced by The National Consortium for Creative Placemaking (NCCP), ArtPlace America and Arizona State University's Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, will offer seminars with thought leaders, stimulating group discussions and hands-on workshops in addition to three days of networking opportunities with professionals working at the intersection of arts, culture, community planning and development. Logo for NCCP Download Full Image

Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the United States, provides a unique backdrop for relevant discussion of the significant issues of climate, resilience, water resources, immigration and indigeneity in communities.

Maria Rosario Jackson, Institute Professor in the Herberger Institute with an appointment in The Design School and a professor in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, is one of the nation's creative placemaking experts.

“We are excited to be hosting people from all around the United States who are committed to the integration of arts, culture and design in community development and related fields,” Jackson said. “The work to be shared and conversations to be had have relevance to the Southwest and beyond. I am looking forward to learning from colleagues and to sharing how ASU is developing educational programing, building local, regional and national partnerships, and contributing to the evolution of practices that, at their best, cause us all to reckon with historic barriers to opportunity and reimagine what it takes to build more just and equitable communities.”

Jamie Bennett, executive director of ArtPlace America, said that “ASU’s commitment to building the field of creative placemaking is palpable, and NCCP has chosen the perfect partner to host the summit in Phoenix.” 

“National convenings provide a supportive space for those in the field to come together to foster community, facilitate collaborations, explore, learn and grow,” Bennett said. “ASU and NCCP will hold this space while also amplifying the work that is shared.”

“The National CPL Summit draws leaders — and those who want to become leaders in the growing creative placemaking community,” said NCCP Executive Director Leonardo Vazquez.

 Conference sessions offer insight into: 

  • Strengthening public and environmental health.

  • Protecting and enhancing Latino and Native American communities.

  • Promoting better infrastructure and transportation planning.

  • Responding to disinvestment in communities.

The summit features presentations by national leaders, including Geneva Vest (the Trust for Public Land), Wanda Dalla Costa (Indigeous Design Collaborative) and Rebecca Cordes Chan (Local Initiatives Support Corporation).

NCCP and ArtPlace America have co-produced nearly a dozen Creative Placemaking Leadership Summits throughout the country, with people attending from 46 states and territories.

Also helping to build the content of the event are several national work group members, including First Peoples Fund, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Alliance for Innovation, Burning Man/Black Rock Arts, Arizona Commission on the Arts, Western States Arts Federation, ASU’s Watts College, National Association of Counties, Designing Local, Purdue University, SmartLAB, Cultural Planning Group, Educational Foundation of America, National Alliance of Community Economic Development Associations, Americans for the Arts, MEC Placemaking, the Greater Pittsburgh Arts Council, Transportation for America and the San Diego Arts Commission.

Spots for the summit are still available. Register online, and visit for more information.

Sarah A. McCarty

Marketing and communications coordinator, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


Sabrina Oesterle to lead Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center

October 24, 2019

Sabrina Oesterle, previously a research professor at the University of Washington (UW), has been appointed director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center (SIRC) in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“It will be my goal to build on SIRC’s existing strengths in health disparities and preventative intervention research to create a healthy, intellectually thriving and financially sustainable research center,” said Oesterle, who prior to her ASU appointment was assistant director of the Social Development Research Group at UW. “I am particularly excited to do this work in collaboration with SIRC’s Community Advisory Board to assure that our research is informed by the needs and cultures of the local communities of the Southwest.” Sabrina Oesterle, a light skinned woman with a long gray and brown braid and glasses, smiles at the camera wearing a blue denim shirt with wrist tattoos showing Sabrina Oesterle will lead the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, which works with communities of the Southwest to focus on teen alcohol and drug abuse prevention, as well as to help prevent, reduce and eliminate health disparities in those communities. Download Full Image

A research unit of the Watts College, SIRC works with communities of the Southwest to focus on teen alcohol and drug abuse prevention, as well as to help prevent, reduce and eliminate health disparities in those communities.

James Herbert Williams, director of the School of Social Work, knows the SIRC’s mission well. He serves as the center’s interim director.

“Dr. Oesterle is a talented researcher and scholar who shares a great deal in common with the team of nationally and internationally recognized researchers, faculty and scholars she is joining here at ASU,” Williams said. “As SIRC director, she will play a pivotal role in involving local communities in the center’s research to benefit those communities.”

Oesterle has co-authored several articles that recently appeared in the academic journals Prevention Science, American Journal of Public Health, Journal of Adolescent Health, Journal of Social Work in the Addictions, and American Journal of Community Psychology, among others.

Oesterle received her doctoral degree in sociology from the University of Minnesota and her master’s degree in sociology from Portland (Oregon) State University. She also participated in a master’s program in sociology with minors in social anthropology and economics at Universität Tübingen in Tübingen, Germany. 

Written by Linda Obele

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ASU professor to co-lead group helping to maximize innovations at federal labs

ASU prof to see why university labs outpace federal labs on commercialization.
October 21, 2019

Committee to untangle why universities far outpace federal labs in commercializing work

Thousands of scientists are hard at work across the country, but their innovations don’t always make it out of their labs. A professor at Arizona State University has been tapped to co-chair a prestigious national committee to find out how to maximize intellectual property created at the national laboratories.

Donald Siegel, director of the School of Public Affairs at ASU, is on a committee for the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine to investigate digital products created in the federally funded national labs.

“The Trump administration is trying to figure out how to generate a higher return on investment in federally funded research, so we’ll be looking at some best practices and bottlenecks,” said Siegel, an economist and Foundation Professor of public policy and management. He is co-chair of the committee, which will work for two years and then will likely produce a report and possibly testify before Congress.

Currently, the federal government gives more money to the nation’s federal labs than to the university labs, yet university labs are far more successful at commercializing their results.

There are more than 300 federal labs, including well-known institutions such as Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico and the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory in California. The only federal lab in Arizona is the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground at Fort Huachuca in southern Arizona.

Donald Siegel

For 2014, the federal government spent about $38 billion on research at universities and $42 billion on federal labs. In that year, the universities produced 6,363 patents compared with 1,931 at the federal labs, and university labs generated $2.5 billion in licensing income compared with $194 million for the federal labs.

ASU earned 130 patents in 2018 and is tied for 10th among universities in the world, thanks to a model that fast-tracks research from lab to commercial application.

“Universities are doing a great job at technology transfer. They’re aggressively engaging in patenting and licensing and startup activity,” Siegel said. “But what’s going on at the federal labs? Why aren’t we seeing the same level of technology transfer?”

Lack of data is one problem the committee will address.

 “We have very poor data on tech transfer at the federal labs. It’s horrendous,” Siegel said. “The university data are much better and much more systematically collected and disseminated and we understand it a lot better than we do at the labs, which are pretty much a black box.”

Siegel answered some questions from ASU Now.

Question: Your committee is starting this process by looking at digital products. What are digital products?

Answer: We will need to precisely define that. Everything is a digital product now. Computers are embedded in many products and services — our appliances, cars, drug-delivery systems, pacemakers.

Q: So is this about profits?

A: We’re not only interested in whether the technology makes money. Commercialization is just part of it. If you’re a pure scientist, you might not care about money but you still want your innovation to be used by people. The technology has social value. As a scientist, it would give me pleasure to know that the research I worked on is improving peoples’ lives. Things don’t have to be sold. Software can be open source.

Q: What might be some reasons for the difference in commercialization between university labs and federal labs?

A: The federal labs have a different mission. They are much more secretive, and they should be because some are working on national security or sensitive defense-related technology that we don’t want to leak out. So we have to be careful with that. Technology transfer gets a lot of federal labs nervous because it implies the possibility of technologies being used by enemies.

Congress decided when it enacted the Bayh Dole Act in 1980 that, despite the fact that the government is paying for most university research, the universities could patent and copyright the intellectual property they create. Federal labs have a lot of flexibility but not as much. For example, a scientist at a federal lab can’t start a company, and an ASU faculty member can. If you’re a federal employee and you create new software, you’re not allowed to copyright it. It belongs to the taxpayer, technically.

Also, I think universities have been under a lot of pressure to generate new sources of revenue both because of the decline in state support and the decline in some fields in federal research dollars. Universities have had to be more entrepreneurial.

Federal labs don’t have the same kind of pressure that universities do, and that’s one of the key institutional differences.

Q: So how can the federal labs be motivated to increase commercialization?

A: Based on my own research, I would argue that we have to look at incentives for scientists at these labs. How are they rewarded? Whether it’s financially or in terms of promotion. In addition we have to think about organizational and psychological factors that might influence scientists to engage in commercialization, such as organizational justice — how you’re treated in the workplace. Does leadership matter?

And there are issues such as work-life balance. When we interview faculty and postdocs, they say, “I don’t have time to take on commercialization. I have family obligations, research, teaching. I don’t have time to file a patent or start a company.”

What I will try to do in this committee is draw on some lessons from what we’ve learned by studying what faculty do.

And we may have the flexibility to modify some legislation to say things like, “OK, federal employees can copyright software” or to change incentives so employees at federal labs can start a company.

We’ll have to see how much congressional support there is, but this is a bipartisan issue.

Q: What are some potential obstacles?

A: We’ll be getting feedback from all sides, including the private sector, which I think will fight this because we’re taking away some of their profits. They would like everything the government produces to be free. They don’t want to see any federal scientists getting money from this.

We’ll also measure the value of open-source software. We want people to use the technology, but if we give it away, nobody will want to develop it. Who will put the time and energy into something they have to give away?

Some of the software manufacturers are going to be concerned about the idea of the government copyrighting software or being more aggressive in exercising its intellectual property rights.

But it’s important to figure out how to change the culture to support entrepreneurship in the federal labs. At ASU, we’ve incentivized people with promotion and tenure, and not just incentives but also by creating a culture to support this.

Top image: Sandia National Laboratories' Thermal Test Complex in Albuquerque, New Mexico, provides a controlled environment to conduct thermal testing. Photo by Randy Montoya/Sandia National Laboratories

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU study: Much of Indian Country lacks access to internet, but 5G expansion could be a chance to catch up

October 20, 2019

Technology is hurtling forward, and a policy group at Arizona State University is working to make sure that tribal nations across the country are not being left further behind.

The American Indian Policy Institute at ASU has released a new research paper showing that many Native Americans do not have equal access to the internet and that most are using smartphones to go online at slower speeds.

The project, “Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands,” is important for two reasons: One, little research has been done on this issue, so the picture of Indian Country connectivity is incomplete. And, as the major telecommunications providers work quickly to expand 5G service, it’s an opportunity for tribal nations to catch up.

Traci Morris, director of the American Indian Policy Institute, is co-author of the new report and also worked on the most accurate previous research on tribal connectivity, which came out in 2009.

“There were a lot of numbers out there, but a lot of it was inaccurate, so that was the first study of its kind,” Morris said of the 2009 report. Nationwide reports that measured digital access and literacy typically excluded Native American populations because the sample size was too low. Some research relied on self-reporting by telecommunications companies, which was inaccurate.

“When my board was formed in 2016, one of the first things they said was, ‘You have to do the real, baseline, academic, replicable study,’ ” she said.

Researching internet use on tribal lands is difficult because the population is remote and spread out, Morris said. And the research team wanted to make sure they were measuring people’s internet use in their homes, not at work.

So the team developed a 22-question survey and then went out and interviewed people at tribal gatherings, such as powwows, festivals and Indian markets, in 2017. They asked whether the internet was accessible in the household, how they were accessing it and what they were using it for. In 2018, the team sent additional surveys through email and social media. The project ended up with 160 respondents who were enrolled tribal members in 19 states.

“It’s a small study — we recognize that — but it is replicable,” she said. “The difficulty is how do you survey 573 tribes?”

 Among the survey’s findings were:

  • 18% of reservation residents have no internet access at home.
  • 31% have spotty or no internet connection at home on their smartphones.
  • 33% rely on cellphone service for internet access at home.
  • 49% use a land-based internet provider, such as cable, DSL or dial-up.

The report also found that reservation residents rely on public wi-fi or connectivity at other people’s houses.

The findings are meant to be a starting point for further research — such as whether the dominant use of smartphones limits access to online education or e-commerce, said Morris.

Among the recommendations in the report are:

  • Establish a dedicated tribal office in the FCC with a permanent budget allocation as well as a Tribal Broadband Fund.
  • Prioritize current funding for connectivity specifically for tribal lands and not just remote areas in general.
  • Require the FCC to engage with tribes as sovereign nations (the current agreement is not legally binding).
  • Encourage tribes and providers to work together on innovative solutions.

Another recommendation is to require providers to discontinue the practice of stockpiling “spectrum licenses” over tribal lands. “Spectrums” are the radio frequencies that devices use to communicate. The FCC manages the licenses, which are sold at auctions, according to Brian Howard, research and policy analyst for the American Indian Policy Institute at ASU.

“Usually, the licenses go for hundreds of millions of dollars, and tribes don’t have that kind of capital,” said Howard, co-author on the report. “So many times, major industry providers will buy up a lot of those spectrum licenses, especially if they cover tribal lands.

“There are certain buildout requirements associated with those licenses, but more often than not, the companies that obtain the licenses can fulfill those buildout requirements without actually having to provide service on the reservation. They target a lot of the densely populated areas surrounding reservations.”

It comes down to profits.

“They can’t make money [providing service to tribal lands] because of low population density and high deployment costs,” Howard said. “Also, there are various permitting approvals you have to go through not only with tribes but also with the federal government because the federal government is our trustee.”

The institute is emphasizing the message that spectrum is like a natural resource.

“A natural resource could be water, minerals, precious metals, oil or gas. Those are easy to understand because they’re tangible,” Howard said.

“You can’t see spectrum so people don’t necessarily understand the infrastructure behind the internet connection on their phone.”

Morris said: “People don’t think about the impact spectrum has on our everyday lives. It’s everywhere. And you assume a tribe has its land, why doesn’t it have its airspace?”

The next frontier is 5G, which stands for “fifth generation” wireless technology, which can move data faster and among more devices. The technology is in very limited use in a few urban areas now, but providers are working to expand it.

“This gives us another opportunity to say, “If you’re going to repurpose spectrum from federal use to commercial use for 5G deployment, then tribes need to be involved in that process to identify which areas of their reservations are underserved, and to hopefully push tribal priority,” Howard said.

“When that spectrum license area is identified, if it covers tribal lands, then tribes should have the first crack at it before it goes to auction, because once it goes to auction, you get the AT&Ts and Verizons and Sprints of the world laying down a lot of money to buy that license and tribes can’t compete at that level.”

But digital equity will require more than 5G access.

“There needs to be a broad ecosystem of technologies,” he said.

“We were very careful in the study because we saw high use of mobile technology, and the FCC has been pushing that for a number of years now, saying, ‘As long as you have a smartphone, you’re connected, you’re fine.’

“But you’re not going to use a cellphone in a school to take a standardized test online. You need access to a real computer to do that.”

Top photo: San Carlos is about 110 miles east of Phoenix, on the San Carlos Reservation. “Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands” is the first report out of the American Indian Policy Institute since its move to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions earlier this semester. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU event management students learn from organizers at the Arizona State Fair

October 18, 2019

As temperatures start to cool off, the bright lights of the Ferris wheel illuminate the Phoenix sky and customers line up to taste the year’s hottest culinary trend (the hot Cheetos pickle), it can only mean one thing: It’s time for the Arizona State Fair.

Students in the Special Event Management program at Arizona State University look forward to this annual tradition, where they are treated to a behind-the-scenes tour and discover how multiple event components come together to successfully execute this 23-day event. People walk the midway at the Arizona State Fair ASU students in the Special Event Management program tour the midway at the Arizona State Fair on Thursday. They spent time discussing concessions, merchandising, crowd control and more. Photo by Michelle Oldfield Download Full Image

On Thursday, 75 aspiring event management professionals turned the fairground into their classroom and learned about box office operations, concessions, exhibitors, sponsorship, entertainment, marketing, media, safety and security — all elements that they discuss throughout the semester and have the opportunity to witness firsthand during this site visit.

The tour was led by Evelyn Bader, a recent alum who now serves as an event specialist for the Arizona Exposition and State Fair.

“It’s great for students to witness the inner workings because the fair is the largest consecutive event happening in Arizona,” Bader said. “It truly takes a village, and I think it is important for students to see all of the hard work that goes into it.”

In fact, festival organizers told the group that 1,000 people work the fair each year including parking attendants, entertainment runners, security guards and box office attendants.

“I was impressed by the amount of different people and how they work together,” PRM 427 (Revenue Generation for Special Event Management) student A.J. Brems commented.

Students were led to the VIP areas, through the midway, backstage of the Trace Adkins concert, into the green room and into the exhibition barn. Along the way, students interacted with several of the fair organizers while learning about their backgrounds, roles and why they enjoy their jobs.

“Touring all aspects of the fair and meeting a representative from each area was really helpful in understanding how the event comes together,” said Hiclay Holguin, a student in PRM 486 (Introduction to Special Event Management).

At the conclusion of the site visit, students were asked to complete an assignment based on their observations and were able to enjoy the fair for the remainder of the evening.

The Special Event Management program, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, offers students with an interest in working in the special event industry an opportunity to learn fundamental principals of producing a wide range of events including concerts, festivals, weddings, conventions, sporting events and more. Students can pursue a minor that ties their degree into event management or the six-credit certificate to add to their degree, which will put them at a competitive advantage entering the workforce.

“Our courses are experiential — yes, we spend time discussing fundamentals inside the classroom, but we pride ourselves on the hands-on experiences our students are developing outside of the classroom,” clinical assistant professor Erin Schneiderman explains. “Students will take several visits throughout the community, hear from experts and have several opportunities to develop their own events and volunteer in areas that interest them. Our ultimate goal is to place students in the event industry who have experience and can make an immediate impact!”

Find more information on this program online.

Clinical Assistant Professor, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU PhD candidate selected as Emerging Scholar by Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration

October 16, 2019

For the second time in three years, a doctoral candidate from Arizona State University’s School of Public Affairs has been named an Emerging Scholar of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs and Administration (NASPAA).

PhD student Fengxiu Zhang was chosen in 2019 because she shows “excellent promise in achieving a faculty position upon graduation,” according to the letter announcing the award. Fengxiu Zhang, a female with long dark hair and black-rimmed glasses faces the camera, smiling in a dark top Fengxiu Zhang. Download Full Image

“Fengxiu Zhang is a highly promising early career scholar with an impressive record,” said Professor Eric Welch, director of the school’s Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies and Zhang’s academic adviser. “Her research, examining adaptation of public agencies in response to extreme events, will contribute significantly to the field of public management.”

The honor includes a $350 stipend and travel expenses paid for Zhang to attend the NASPAA Annual Conference on Oct. 16-19 in Los Angeles.

“I am deeply honored to receive this award,” Zhang said. “I study public organization adaptation to extreme events, which is an important, but rarely examined, topic in public administration. I see this award as an important recognition of the significance of my work.”

At a panel discussion held after receiving the award at an Oct. 18 luncheon, she will give a 10-minute presentation to educators, many of whom have hiring authority.

“The NASPAA presentation will be a great opportunity to showcase my work and myself as a researcher to leaders from many other schools in public administration,” Zhang said. “I particularly look forward to interactions with prospective employers to learn about opportunities where I can continue my research after completing my doctoral degree.”

Zhang is one of three students from 282 schools honored with the NASPAA Emerging Scholars Award this year. Others are Andrew Osorio, School of Public Affairs and Administration, University of Kansas, and David Schwegman, Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs, Syracuse University.

In 2017, School of Public Affairs then-doctoral candidate Federica Fusi, who is now an assistant professor at the University of Illinois at Chicago, won the Emerging Scholar Award from NASPAA. School of Public Affairs is an academic unit of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

1 in 4 Arizona suicides are domestic-violence related, ASU center finds

October 9, 2019

One in four suicides in Arizona are related to violence involving an intimate partner, according to a new report from Arizona State University’s Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

The center is based at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. October is National Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Download Full Image

The center released the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System (AZ-VDRS) report, titled "Suicides Involving Intimate Partner Violence," a compilation of statistics taken from the examination of 5,711 violent deaths in Arizona between 2015 and 2017.

Researchers found that 3,678 of those deaths were determined to be suicides, said Professor Charles Katz, the Watts Family Director of the center, with 25.6% of those involving “intimate partner violence,” or IPV.

Suicides were determined to have been related to IPV when one or more of the following indicators were present:

  1. The victim was known to have experienced intimate-partner relationship problems near the time of death.
  2. The victim was known to have experienced IPV near the time of death.
  3. The victim had a history of victimization by IPV and/or the victim had a history of perpetrating IPV themselves.

Katz said compared with victims of non-IPV related suicides, those whose suicides were IPV-related were less likely to have received some college credit, less likely to have been veterans, more likely to have been married and more likely to have been born in Arizona.

Other findings included the following:

  • Of males who died by suicide during those three years, 7.3 per 100,000 population were IPV-related, the study found, while among females, 2.1 were.
  • The suicide rate for Arizona males was higher than for Arizona females, 28.1 per 100,000 population versus 8.6. For both genders, about 1 in 4 suicides was associated with IPV, Katz said.
  • Whites died by IPV-related suicide at a rate of 5.9 per 100,000, with 19.6 being non-IPV-related, the AZ-VDRS found. For blacks, 3.7 suicides per 100,000 were IPV-related and 7.2 non-related, while for Hispanics, 4.4 suicides were IPV-related and 6.9 non-related. For American Indians, 4.1 suicides were IPV-related and 9.1 non-related.
  • Mohave County experienced the highest number of IPV-related suicides between 2015 and 2017, with 11.6 per 100,000 population, while La Paz County had the lowest with 1.6. Maricopa County, the state’s most populous, had an IPV-related suicide rate of 4.4 per 100,000. The statewide average was 4.7.

Read the full report.

Written by Mark J. Scarp

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ASU's Osher Lifelong Learning Institute to provide Peace Corps experience for members

ASU's lifelong learning program for adults offers weeklong Peace Corps trip.
October 8, 2019

Older adults can travel to Belize, become 'citizen scientists,' expand world views

Every semester, when thousands of students move their graduation cap tassels from right to left, it doesn’t mean education has ended for them. Arizona State University has committed to offering opportunities for community members to be lifelong learners — not just by earning credits and degrees, but by expanding their experiences and world views. 

The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU has enlisted faculty to teach short, high-level, noncredit courses to adults over 50 for more than a decade. And now, beyond classroom learning, Osher members have a chance to make a difference in the world through the new OLLI Corps — a partnership with the National Peace Corps Association and Discover Corps.

Later this week, the inaugural group of 25 OLLI Corps members will be the first to travel abroad to help Peace Corps volunteers teach English, distribute health information and visit ecological research centers in Belize.

OLLI is intended to connect older adults to the university, building a sense of community and providing a way to engage with each other and the knowledge, according to Richard Knopf, who is director of the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU.

“All the literature on older adults says people who have a sense of purpose, a sense of giving back, live longer and have all the biomedical markers of being healthier,” said Knopf, who also is a professor in the School of Community Resources and Development, which houses the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute at ASU.

OLLI at ASU is the first of the 126 Osher university-based programs in the nation to offer a volunteer travel program affiliated with the Peace Corps.

“We take a lot of pride that ASU incubated this idea, and it’s going national,” Knopf said. “All eyes will be looking at ASU and saying, ‘This is an amazing idea, but will it really work?’

“And if we’re successful, we’ll launch other destinations and it won’t be long before it’s picked up by the entire network.”

Claire McWilliams, an instructor in the School of Community Resources and Development, will be one of the ASU faculty members leading the weeklong trip.

“The idea is not to ask the members, ‘What would you like to do?' — but to find out the missions of the Peace Corps in that area,” she said.

“Our members will be directly assisting the Peace Corps members, mostly with health education in school environments. This makes sure the activities are relevant to the community and not just ‘feel good.’”

McWilliams will lead the OLLI Corps members in reflection exercises before, during and after the trip.

She believes the trip will be a chance for self-discovery for the older adults, who want to stay engaged with the world.

“The first Osher class I taught, I left with ideas for how to make my undergrad presentations better," she said. "They came to the table with so much and they had so much of their own life experiences to offer.”

Creating ‘citizen scientists’

OLLI at ASU has worked to integrate older adults into the ASU community in several ways, including through soliciting ideas from ASU students. The Intergenerational Learning Service Scholarship is awarded to students who come up with ways to have younger college students and older adults engage in projects together.

woman taking photo with cell phone at petroglyph reserve

ASU archaeology senior Bailey Cacciatore demonstrates how to take video for the photogrammetry technique at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute's class at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve on Oct. 2. She won the OLLI Intergenerational Learning Service Scholarship for her proposal to coordinate archaeological learning. Associate Professor Matthew Peeples guided the three-hour session on 'The Art of Rock Art.' Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Virginia Miller won the scholarship in 2018 for her project in helping to create OLLI Corps, which started with her vision of an intergenerational “study abroad.”

“It was my vision to fuse traditional-age students with Osher members and to see how transformative travel happens on both sides,” said Miller, who studied abroad in Fiji and Australia in 2015. She is pursuing a master’s degree in social science, community resources and development.

“So we took the study abroad model and scaled it into an OLLI-type course, mixing service learning with transformative travel,” she said. “It’s still our long-term goal to eventually have ASU students go along on these trips.”

Other scholarship winners’ projects include a mural about immigration painted near the Downtown Phoenix campus, an intergenerational ukulele club and a theater experience.

Bailey Cacciatore, a senior majoring in archaeology, was a student worker at the Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve in north Phoenix last year when she came up with the idea that won her an intergenerational scholarship.

“I found there was a disconnect between archaeology and the general public and I wanted to find a way to connect the two. The scholarship allowed me to create this class and bring different people with different backgrounds and ages and ideas together to show them that they can contribute and make them feel like they’re archaeologists,” she said.

So last week, about a dozen OLLI members spent a morning at the preserve learning how to harness new technologies in documenting rock art. The class, called “The Art of Rock Art: Hands-On Methods for Archaeological Photography,” was led by Matthew Peeples, an associate professor and the co-director of the Center for Archaeology and Society in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change, along with Kendall Baller, a graduate research associate in the Center for Archaeology and Society, and Cacciatore.

The OLLI members walked the preserve trail, taking photos and videos of petroglyphs — images chiseled into the basalt by indigenous people hundreds to thousands of years ago. The Deer Valley Petroglyph Preserve has one of the largest concentrations of rock art in the country. Cacciatore explained to the members that one reason is probably because the area, near the Skunk Creek, was an ancient “pit stop” on a trading route.

Back in the visitor center, Peeples showed the group how to use free or low-cost software and smartphone apps to turn murky photos and low-quality videos into stunning images of rock art that can then be used to create three-dimensional models. He also showed how the technology can enhance an image to make a petroglyph that’s nearly invisible to the naked eye show up in a photo.

“You don’t need fancy equipment to do these things,” Peeples told them. “And now we can take our laptops into the field and process these images in real time.”

Frank Grinere, a physical therapist from Scottsdale, has loved archaeology since he was a child and took the class because he was excited to learn new techniques.

“It’s amazing what you can do with even limited technology,” said Grinere, who’s taken several other Osher courses.

“They’re interesting and accessible and what really impresses me about Osher in general and this class in particular is how generous the instructors are. It’s like we’re regular students,” he said.

The benefits go both ways.

“Archaeology is one of those fields where nonprofessionals can and do make big contributions to the field,” Peeples said.

“If we can harness the energy of interested people, it’s a great way to find volunteers. Having students do work is great but a lot of the Osher people are retired and they have the time, willingness and ability to help at any time of the year.”

OLLI as a window into the community

Knopf said that the OLLI Corps model could be scaled up, depending on its success. One measure of success is financial viability for future trips. The members paid $2,500 each for the Belize trip, which includes housing, food and transportation for the week. With a limited number of seats, the trip sold out almost immediately, said Knopf, who hopes to be able to offer travel scholarships in the future.

Other measures of success will be scholarly. Miller will be working with the members to quantify their experiences and how it changed them. Her research will be added to the wealth of studies that exist on OLLI members. Studies done at ASU of OLLI populations at ASU and elsewhere have found:

  • A review of more than 7,000 registrations over four semesters found that older adults, called “third agers,” wanted “breadth and depth” in their learning experiences, and courses in global issues and social issues drew high enrollment.
  • Women outnumber men in OLLI programs at all age ranges, less than 6% of participants identify as nonwhite and nearly 90% had attained a bachelor’s degree or higher, leading to questions on how the program can be more accessible to a wider range of people.
  • A survey of 5,500 participants found that the members valued the “learning experience” the most, followed by “socializing,” and they valued “collaborative learning” more than community-building activities.

OLLI at ASU offers about 150 courses taught by faculty this semester, including tough topics like the antivaccination movement, plastics pollution in the ocean, the right to die, gender identity and the use of force by police. More traditional classes include crafting, art, literature, music, history, self defense, health, personal finance and the desert ecology. Most courses are one or two sessions and vary in cost from $14 to $65. Most are less than $30 and some are free. Course locations are around the Valley.

The OLLI model is expanding to include more member-driven projects, according to Abby Baker, program coordinator for OLLI at ASU.

“The classes are awesome. We know how to produce outcomes,” she said. “And there’s a power in shifting from these outcomes to the process and allowing our membership to have a voice.”

Last year, the members produced an anthology of writing, artwork and photography, with help from Rosemarie Dombrowski, principal lecturer of English and the first poet laureate for the city of Phoenix.

“It was completely member-driven. They populated the board, and were the editors and submitters,” Baker said. “It’s a work that’s ASU-branded and ASU-caliber.

“And it transformed people along the way.”

Another initiative is Learning Enrichment Groups, which are led and managed by members. Current groups include “Acting on Climate Change” and “Me Too and Beyond.” One group reads and discusses fiction with middle schoolers and another explores restaurants in the Valley.

Knopf said that there are about 2,400 members in the OLLI network, and he has done a lot of research on what drives them.

“One fundamental truth is, they are anxious to see the world through a different lens. They’re anxious to have their own truths be questioned,” he said. “These are not naïve folks.”

Top image of Belize by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now