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Law enforcement role is to support public health officials, ASU experts say

ASU experts weigh police enforcement role during pandemic.
April 17, 2020

'Policing During a Pandemic' discussion weighs enforcing stay-at-home orders

The extraordinary COVID-19 pandemic will be studied for decades and will likely lead to changes in law enforcement, according to experts who spoke at an Arizona State University panel discussion on Thursday called “Policing During a Pandemic.”

The virtual event, sponsored by the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, the School of Social Work and the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, addressed whether police departments were prepared for the pandemic and how they have adjusted during the stay-at-home period.

Tempe Police Chief Sylvia Moir said, “This should be studied by police departments in their after-action processes as well as in academic departments to help us learn so we can create policies to strengthen the way we serve people.”

Watch the full webinar

Here’s what the panelists said:

Were police departments prepared?

Moir: “I’m not sure there are many police departments in this nation or around the world that had plans for a pandemic. However, we do have plans for continuity of operations in a mass disaster. So this is a like a mosaic, where police chiefs across the nation have taken bits of experience from crises, both natural and manmade, and put them together to serve during this unparalleled crisis.

“The Police Executive Research Forum over a decade ago created a public document on pandemics, and many of us took that off the shelf and attempted to apply it now, but it wasn’t what we needed because the environment has changed so significantly.”

Jerry Oliver, former chief of police in Detroit; Richmond, Virginia; and Pasadena, California; and a professor of practice in the School of Public Affairs: “I don’t think there is any police department around that thought we would have a pandemic as vicious as the one we have. I did have conversations in Detroit and Richmond around pandemic planning, but we called it ‘business and community continuity planning’ and it brought together a wide array of community members to help us with a plan we thought would be agile enough to address almost any situation that would come up.”

How has crime been impacted?

Moir: “Things have shifted. What we’re finding in Tempe specifically is that crime is generally down and calls for service are down. Domestic violence, family fights, aggravated assaults, trespassing and burglary are up. Nationally, domestic violence and commercial burglary are up.

“This will be highly instructive for those of us on the front lines who are deploying personnel to mitigate and prevent crime and connect with folks. This will be remarkable to study.”

Bob Robson, a professor of practice with the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice who studies organizational leadership and a former city council member: “People are home more and starting to get into each others’ spaces. There are a lot of thefts out of vehicles and home burglaries that are starting to occur because you know who’s home and who’s not.”

Jill Messing, associate professor in the School of Social Work who researches domestic violence: "We are seeing that across the nation, rates of domestic violence are increasing. The Arizona Republic reported that the Phoenix Police said domestic violence calls were about 20% higher this March compared with last March. And it’s not only the police departments, but domestic violence centers and advocacy centers. Women are reaching out for shelter services and legal advocacy.

"In my research, I examine how to incorporate risk assessment into the police response, which can tell us how dangerous a particular situation is. I would encourage police officers to use risk assessment. If we use these tools to place victims in contact with social services, it reduces violence and increases help seeking. If we can reduce the violence we can reduce the calls."

Should police be used to enforce stay-at-home orders?

Charles Katz, Watts Family Director of the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety at ASU and professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice: “This is where having a fundamental understanding of policing in the United States helps us to understand why we have the structure we do, which is a lot of local control. This is a time when police leaders are spending time communicating with the public, making sure they understand that staying at home is the best strategy. By the time you have to use police force, we’ve lost that.

“The first line of defense is police leaders having a positive relationship with faith-based leaders, community leaders and neighborhood leaders to make sure that public events aren’t taking place. This can be done electronically. There are forums where police can communicate with neighborhoods to make sure the neighborhood stays within the law.

“The law-enforcement community needs to be thoughtful about where they exhibit force. We don’t want to give the impression that using force is warranted. We don’t want to encourage vigilantism. That has occurred with people not wearing masks. We also don’t want what occurred when HIV and AIDS came onto the scene, and we saw names reported to police and information shared that could be harmful to these individuals. We want to keep the extremes from occurring.”

Robson: “Police have done well across the country in letting this stay a health emergency. It’s important that law enforcement agencies keep it in that realm as long as they can. You don’t want it to be a police situation. It’s a health situation. Police take a supporting role in supporting health officials.”

Should some people in jail be freed?

Oliver: “It doesn’t make us unsafe. It does provide an opportunity. This is an opportunity for law enforcement and the judicial system to look at the people we have incarcerated and the people who are not violent and people who are there for something other than a felony. We need to think long and hard about the opportunity to move people out of jail situations and into community-based situations that would be more helpful.”

Will this pandemic change the way law enforcement agencies work with public health officials?

Oliver: “When I was the police chief in Richmond through an epidemic we were having, we developed something called ‘cops and docs,' which was a relationship between the public health community, emergency room doctors and some of our detectives. It was a very fruitful relationship. It seems we could learn more about having police, doctors and public health officials in continuing conversations, because sometimes there’s a little bit of a breakdown there.”

Moir: “In Tempe we are really lucky that we have the Tempe Fire Medical Rescue, which has a robust relationship with the medical community, and all of us in the police space would admit that the fire and emergency operations centers are the purists and have nudged cops into this space.

“When I was at the Naval Postgraduate School studying homeland security, we had a medical team in that cohort and that’s one place we see police, fire, medical, military — all the folks standing together. I saw the benefit of that relationship and that might be one outcome of all of this.”

How do police departments and victims’ advocates keep themselves safe?

Messing: “Social workers need to respond in similar ways to police officers. You can’t say, ‘We’re closing the domestic violence shelters.’ And we know that requests for services have been up. We see shelters in Arizona that are mostly full. People are staying longer because there is nowhere else for them to go. There are hotlines that can be used that are not in person.”

Moir: “We were early adopters to recognizing that this was out there. We had a commander who in December started sourcing some of the (personal protective equipment) that we might need. We early on determined that while we were not forced to change our staffing model, we would do it. We began physically separating key units. If an agency like ours has four bomb technicians and they are working together and then quarantined together, what would our capacity be to safeguard our community? We identified folks who could work remotely, gave them the tools, the access and the enhanced cybersecurity training. We took detectives and created three teams and they do not work together physically.

“We talk about the endurance that’s necessary and this high sense of duty and responsibility. They all want to be here. Most canceled vacations. They want to be out in the community. We have to force people to take time off to build their resilience.

“I got to make a traffic stop today and be part of a retirement event for a longtime employee. In every case, we’re following the protocols by the CDC. We had a generous donation by community members who made cloth masks for all sworn officers and each got two and they wear them. We recommend they maintain space during traffic stops. We are modeling the distancing that we ask folks to engage in.”

Top image by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU professor, family fund congressional internships for public affairs students

April 17, 2020

Throughout the more than half century since he received his bachelor’s degree from Arizona State University, Geoffrey Gonsher dedicated his life to public service in a career of unsurpassed variety in Arizona municipal and state government.

Today, 52 years since he was an undergraduate, he and his family are giving ASU students in the School of Public Affairs opportunities to prepare for their own public service careers by personally funding a program that provides paid internships at the Phoenix offices of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema and U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, both D-Ariz. Intern Adrianna Hicks and Professor Geoffrey Gonsher, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University Former congressional intern Adrianna Hicks (right) displays an award while standing with School of Public Affairs Professor of Practice Geoffrey Gonsher. Each year Gonsher and his family fund internships at the Phoenix offices of U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., where Hicks served in spring 2019, and U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz. Photo courtesy of Adrianna Hicks Download Full Image

Gonsher is a professor of practice at the School of Public Affairs, part of ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“It occurred to me in about 2018 — I knew 2019 was the 50th anniversary of my first ASU degree — that I wanted to celebrate this phase of my life. I wanted to give back to the university,” he said. “I wanted to do something that directly benefited students, and to benefit the practical application of public service.”

Gonsher also noted that he had been teaching at the School of Public Affairs for 11 years and “wanted to do something to support my school.”

So far, four students — two at Sinema’s Phoenix office and two at Stanton’s — have been or are current interns.

Gonsher’s extensive knowledge of public affairs, gathered from an adult lifetime of public service, made classes he taught more applicable to the world outside the university, said Adrianna Hicks, who interned at Sinema’s office in spring 2019, working 16 hours a week.

Lauren Johnson is currently serving her internship at Rep. Stanton’s Phoenix office. She said she remembers Gonsher’s teaching approach meant relating everything to public policy, including behaviors such as being in class on time.

Intern Lauren Johnson, School of Public Affairs, Arizona State University

Lauren Johnson, student in ASU's School of Public Affairs, is a spring 2020 intern at the Phoenix office of U.S. Rep. Greg Stanton, D-Ariz. Photo courtesy of Lauren Johnson

"He was always asking, how does this relate to public policy, how does that, this newspaper article?” Johnson said. “He’d have us read the newspaper every day.”

Gonsher’s own life of service to his state and city offers interns plenty to emulate. He held executive management positions in the administrations of four Arizona governors and two Phoenix mayors. He also headed several state agencies.

Gonsher said one reason he and his family created the internships was his desire to provide opportunities for students to serve the public at the federal level, from here in Arizona.

“We found with many of our students in (the School of Public Affairs) there is a reluctance to leave Phoenix for good reason,” he said. “Families, jobs, some had never been any place else. This program provides the D.C. experience at home.”

Gonsher said the internships are structured to be filled by students who are among the school's very best, with top academic credentials and the ability to represent themselves successfully in the evaluation/interview process.

“They are the top of our top students. We say to them that we recognize their academic and professional credentials and want to give them an opportunity to go further in their careers,” he said.

Asked students how to tailor his class

Hicks, today an ASU senior in public service and public policy with a minor in sustainability, was in her junior year in spring 2019 when she was the first intern sponsored by Gonsher to serve at Sen. Sinema’s office.

“Every conversation I had with Professor Gonsher has been an easy one,” said Hicks, who is to begin study in fall 2020 for a master’s degree in public administration. “He was one of the few professors who really reached out to multiple students to ask how can I help tailor the class to what you want to know.”

At Sinema’s office, Hicks said she learned about professionalism, constituent service and how to diplomatically deescalate situations with occasional angry telephone callers. In addition, she said she received a thorough education of how government functions at the federal level.

Students interested in the internships should keep in mind that working in an elected official’s office doesn’t necessarily equate to interaction with that officeholder — Hicks said she only met Sinema once during the entire time she worked there. But, one will work with a team of people selected to embody the officeholder’s values.

“The opportunity I had catapulted me into other opportunities that I didn’t see as options until I was at Senator Sinema’s office,” she said. “Professor Gonsher’s generosity is a huge bonus. I focused on writing bills, something I improved upon, as well.”

Today, Hicks has an internship at the Arizona Department of Economic Security she said she would not have received had it not been for her time working for Sinema.

Favorite teacher

Johnson is an ASU senior majoring in public policy with an emphasis in criminology, a minor in psychology and a certificate in public administration and management. She is the second intern funded by Gonsher in Rep. Stanton’s office, where she worked this semester.

Gonsher was by far her favorite teacher, Johnson said. Her first class with him was an introduction to public policy her freshman year — the first of three classes where he was her instructor. She said she’s kept in contact with him.

Johnson recalled her senior capstone project under Gonsher’s supervision, which was inspired by ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“We broke into groups and we were told we on Earth were moving to a new planet, and we had to come up with a new government and a new way to run things,” she said.

Literally, she said, the sky was the limit.

“We had to create our own constitution, and we were asked what would you take with you in one box to this planet. It was just so creative,” Johnson said. “Each week we had an assignment due and had to construct the laws and the (government) positions.”

Her internship with Rep. Greg Stanton has been more earthbound, but just as rewarding. She said she learned how to handle constituent calls and connect people to the right federal agency. And, she especially reveled in the special feeling of having an email address with a “” suffix.

Johnson said she was able to work with a wide variety of constituents, from immigrants to veterans to Social Security recipients.

“I was very nervous, but I jumped in with both feet. I wanted experience, I wanted knowledge. I wanted to apply what I was learning to the real world,” she said. “These are real people we’re trying to help.”

Since the novel coronavirus pandemic closed congressional offices, Johnson said that while working at home she had to switch from constituent service to conducting research and updating the office’s resource lists, but it all has combined into a satisfying learning experience.

Johnson said the internship is leading her to think about a career in case management involving substance abuse or homelessness or working in prison reform, as well as continuing her education by going to law school.

“The internship is so worth it. It’s not so much that I learned about federal agencies but interpersonal skills and how to speak with people in a professional culture,” she said.

More funded internships planned

Gonsher said that in the future he hopes more of Arizona’s congressional delegations will participate in the program as Sinema’s and Stanton’s do, and he plans to expand the sponsorship program. An internship in Washington, D.C., is in the planning stages.

Gonsher said he hopes as these interns enter public life after graduation, they become examples to their fellow citizens by devoting their lives to service.

In recent decades, he said, those in government have suffered from uncomplimentary reputations the overwhelming majority do not deserve, though the criticisms remain.

“I spent 40 years of my career telling people that I worked for either a mayor or a governor, and you can imagine what I heard, telling people that,” Gonsher said, noting most people with complaints about their elected officials often lump non-elected personnel into their criticisms.

“But 95% of people in public service are not elected officials. They might be agency directors, as I was, or department heads. All of that is valuable public service,” he said. “When you graduate from our school, your objective may not be to be president of the United States, but to say, I want to be head of the water department for the city of Phoenix or head of procurement for the state of Arizona. This is what I tell my students, that there is vast territory out there for their careers and for their success.”

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Donors to ASU's Bridging Success program help students overcome food insecurity

April 9, 2020

When she was in middle school in Phoenix, Yaritza Hernandez Gil realized she had a lot of work to do if she wanted to make it to college.

She was living in Arizona’s foster care system, with little family support. ASU student Yaritza Hernandez Gil. Download Full Image

“I didn’t have anyone to fund my schooling,” she said. “I was a first-generation college student and didn’t even know the process for getting into college. 

“I just knew I wanted to get out of the situation. I wanted to focus and do well in school.”

So Hernandez Gil knuckled down on her studies. Mentors at North High in Phoenix provided guidance and motivation, and Arizona State University offered scholarship support.

Her propensity for hard work paid off at ASU. A double major in the School of Sustainability and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, Hernandez Gil was working two jobs to cover college expenses — until the coronavirus crisis forced her managers to cut her hours.

Like many hourly workers, Hernandez Gil wondered if she could pay her living expenses.

Fortunately, ASU donors stepped in to provide much-needed emergency crisis funding for Hernandez Gil and other students with foster-care backgrounds.

Donors to ASU’s Bridging Success program — which assists former foster youth through the college experience — have provided emergency funding for grocery store gift cards. To date, Bridging Success has provided more than $1,600 in food assistance to 31 students, and is reaching out to more students to assess their level of need.  

The impact of the emergency assistance is tangible and immediate.

“It’s tough to not get a paycheck,” Hernandez Gil said. “But this allows me to have meals for myself.”

Students with foster-care backgrounds often face crises on their own, according to Justine Cheung, program manager for Bridging Success. Cheung recently surveyed students in the program, asking them if they have people they can count on financially in this time of social isolation. Sixty percent of the respondents said they had nobody to help.

“They’re always positive because they’re such a resilient group of people, but you can also tell the emotional weight of the situation is very real,” Cheung said.

The Bridging Success emergency crisis fund, when available, also provides students with up to $300 to weather financial shortfalls that impede their ability to stay in school, Cheung said. It has helped students pay for dental emergencies, doctor appointments or the unexpected loss of rent money when a roommate moves out. The fund relies on individual donations to the ASU Foundation's Bridging Success emergency fund cause page

Students also turn to Bridging Success, based at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, for emotional, academic and holistic support. While the overarching program receives support from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, ASU donors support many of its services.

For example, its Empower program is funded by Women and Philanthropy, a group of ASU supporters who pool their resources every year to fund research and scholarship at the university.

Empower reaches supportive adult caregivers and youth who want to come to college, offering free online training through videos, downloadable guides, assessments and surveys that help them plan for college. Its Early Start program offers specialized programming to new ASU students, helping them prepare for college life.

To donate to the Student Crisis Fund and make an immediate impact on students struggling with a crisis while trying to remain in school, please visit

Written by Melissa Bordow 

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ASU receives $2M to boost coronavirus rapid research response

March 30, 2020

Donation in emergency grants from Piper Charitable Trust will increase efforts to coordinate preparedness responses to the coronavirus pandemic

A $2 million donation in emergency grants from the Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust will vastly increase efforts now underway at Arizona State University to coordinate preparedness responses to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

The grants will support the university’s work in three areas:

• Testing of critical workforce including health care workers, first responders and infrastructure personnel.

• Assembling of nose- and throat-swab test kits in short supply for health care providers.

• Manufacturing of personal protective equipment including face shields through its 3D printing rapid-response services.

“Now is the time for those who can — individuals and public- and private-sector organizations — to step in quickly and support our nonprofits,” said Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust. “They are serving on the frontlines and are essential to our economic vitality.”

“The university is moving forward,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said, “and we have mobilized our research efforts in every way that we possibly can to serve our students and the Arizona community, through thick and thin here, to ensure their health, safety and continued success in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. We will all get through this together.”  

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scaling up

ASU’s Biodesign Institute will utilize Piper Trust support to increase its capacity for automated, rapid diagnostic testing to mitigate the viral spread and potential reoccurrence of COVID-19.

“ASU is in a unique position to scale up our testing efforts to support round-the-clock testing and analyze hundreds of samples daily,” said Joshua LaBaer, director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute, who also serves as the Piper Chair in Personalized Medicine and leader of the Biodesign Virginia G. Piper Center for Personalized Diagnostics. “We have an urgent window right now to make an impact through testing and save lives in our community.”

As capacity for COVID-19 testing became problematic and plagued by shortages in the supply chain for testing kits and reagents, LaBaer’s team of 100-plus core scientists, staff and students sprang into action.

Dr. Josh LaBaer

Joshua LaBaer

In just two weeks, the Biodesign Institute shifted its research capabilities to support a clinically approved and certified COVID-19 testing center, a COVID-19 swab test kit production facility capable of assembling 2,000 kits per day, production of personal protective equipment such as face shields, and supporting drive-through COVID-19 testing currently underway at area hospitals.

This rapid shift was made possible by a Department of Defense $40 million investment in ASU back in 2009 as the lead contractor on a multi-year project aimed at helping to triage a population in the event of a nuclear emergency. The test developed by ASU could tell how much radiation a person was exposed to after a single explosive event.

"This particular tool was specifically for measuring the absorbed dose of gamma radiation exposure to civilians if a nuclear bomb were detonated in a city or populated area," LaBaer said. “Now, we just swapped out the genes for radiation detection for the coronavirus ones to do the test. We have all the automation and robots in place, and everything’s ready to go now.”  

The Biodesign Institute’s high throughput platform will run 400 samples a day at first, gathered from visitors experiencing COVID-19 symptoms who have been seen at various Valley-wide health care providers or their drive-in sites. The ASU team’s robotic system has the ability to run 1,000 samples a day at full capacity, greatly increasing Arizona’s COVID-19 local testing capabilities.

Blur of activity

The Piper support will further catalyze the flurry of activity within the ASU research community to help blunt the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. In Arizona, state health officials estimate that COVID-19 cases will peak in mid- to late April, with hospitalizations likely to quickly follow in May.

Additional ASU research efforts underway include:

• Just a week after the first U.S. case of the new coronavirus was confirmed in Washington state, ASU Biodesign Institute and School of Life Sciences researchers Brenda Hogue, Bert Jacobs and Qiang “Shawn” Chen began efforts toward developing a coronavirus vaccine.

• In addition to COVID-19 testing, LaBaer’s Biodesign Institute team is also in the early stages of developing a simple blood test against all seven strains of coronavirus, including the new SARS-CoV-2 pandemic. This will aid vaccine development efforts, help detect asymptomatic carriers and help understand why some people get very sick and other individuals have no symptoms from a COVID-19 infection.

• ASU scientists Hogue and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering Regents Professor Paul Westerhoff are developing ways to use heat treatment and UV light to find ways that critical supplies of personal protective equipment can be rapidly sterilized and reused for medical personnel and first responders.

• ASU’s modeling and epidemiological team, led by pandemic modeler Tim Lant, in collaboration with University of Arizona epidemiologist Joe Gerald, are working daily with the Arizona Department of Health Services to better predict and understand the full impact of COVID-19 positive cases on Arizona’s population. ASU College of Health Solutions and Fulton Schools of Engineering biomedical informatics Professor George Runger and Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Dean Jonathan Koppell are leading an AI-based modeling approach to train on Medicare and Medicaid data to identify and set up a response for the state’s most vulnerable individuals.

• Nadya Bliss, executive director of ASU’s Global Security Initiative, is looking at ways to combat coronavirus misinformation that is causing undue fear and panic in the public. Her team is also working on ways to protect the public from opportunistic hackers, agents or scammers that propagate disinformation or want to steal personal information.

Community first

All of ASU’s research efforts are being coordinated with daily updates from meetings with Arizona health care providers in association with ASU’s clinical partnerships team, led by Sue Pepin, managing director, Health and Clinical Partnerships, and Tamara Deuser, associate vice president and chief operating officer, Knowledge Enterprise operations. Todd Hardy, ASU managing director of Innovation Zones; Mark Naufel, director of strategic partnerships; and Tyler Smith, associate director of the Luminosity Lab, are leading ASU’s 3D printing and manufacturing network to coordinate the hospital needs with the network’s ability to respond in real time.

ASU will also be reaching out to several municipalities, first-responder networks and the Arizona business community to help with COVID-19 preparedness in the days ahead.

"I am very proud of our faculty, staff, and students who are demonstrating the ability, capacity and commitment to take on this immense challenge — searching for innovative solutions to address the COVID-19 crisis," said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, executive vice president of ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise and ASU’s chief research and innovation officer. “At ASU’s Knowledge Enterprise, we have been working tirelessly, and doing our best to replace community fears and anxiety with hope and a sense of unity to get through this crisis together.”

It’s a message LaBaer echoes every day to his team of hundreds of scientists, graduate students, technicians and freshly recruited volunteers as they deal with doing real-time, seat-of-the-pants science in a highly fluid COVID-19 pandemic environment.

“Let’s go save some lives.”

Top photo: ASU is assembling thousands of COVID-19 nose and throat swab test kits that are currently in short supply for health care providers. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences) , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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At a time of social distancing, ASU continues to promote social embeddedness — virtually

March 25, 2020

For the first time, Arizona State University’s Social Embeddedness Network Conference was hosted virtually, via Zoom on March 24, due to social distancing recommendations because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although the conference looked different than in years past, the mission remained the same: to build connections and share strategies for advancing ASU as a socially embedded institution.

“This change lent itself to greater accessibility and inclusion for those who may have not been able to join us on the ASU Tempe campus initially,” said Christina Ngo, University Innovation Fellow with the Office of Applied Innovation. “We see this as an opportunity to adapt to the public health needs of our university and community.”

By hosting the conference virtually, Ngo said ASU was able to increase the number of attendees by more than 150 participants.

The Social Embeddedness Network Conference began in 2014 as a luncheon focused on connecting K-12 education and community partnerships across the university. Since then, it has expanded into a daylong conference.

“At ASU, we define social embeddedness as mutually beneficial partnerships between the university and communities,” Ngo said. “We have recognized the need for new ways of engaging with the community and for the development of infrastructure to support our students, staff and faculty in doing so.”

The 2020 conference’s keynote speaker was Maria Rosario Jackson, an institute professor at ASU with appointments in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Jackson’s expertise is in comprehensive community revitalization, systems change, dynamics of race and ethnicity and arts and culture in communities.

In her opening remarks, Jackson said, “As we meet today, we must remember that this is a moment of crisis and hardship and it is also a moment of possibility and transformation.”

Although communities may temporarily suffer through the current public health crisis, Jackson explained three core functions are the pillars of social embeddedness and restoring communities.

• Reframing: The way a problem/challenge is framed and the response that is crafted.

• Retooling: Thinking differently about how we rely on current structures to implement solutions.

• Repairing: Recognizing harm was done and that healing must take place, especially to restore marginalized groups.

“I think these functions are also relevant to aspirations in the sustainability field. And at their best, they’re carried out in partnership with communities we aspire to serve,” Jackson said.

ASU graduate student uses social embeddedness as framework for research

Julia Colbert, a master’s degree student in the School of Sustainability, is working on her graduate research with Echo Canyon School in the Scottsdale Unified School District to explore how sustainability literacy can be supported through nature journaling in school gardens. Originally, ASU was partnering with the school to research its Chef in the Garden Program — a program where local chefs come to school and teach students how to cook healthy, nutritious foods. In January 2019, ASU took its research another step forward, developing the nature journaling project with four classes at Echo Canyon School to see how journaling might connect students more to their gardens at school.

Four teachers at the school helped pilot the program and the project eventually evolved into Colbert’s master’s thesis. Colbert said social embeddedness helped to take down the curtain that often seems to be between the researchers and the researched, inspired children and adults to connect more to the natural world and spurred a sustainability movement at the school.

“We quickly learned that this was a really collaborative learning process and there was no way that we could do research together without building a relationship over time.”

The four teachers, who joined the conference via Zoom, echoed those sentiments, saying constituency was key. The more students interacted with Colbert, the more they felt comfortable to share their experiences and further the research project.

“We learned a lot about our students because Julia came to our school,” said Lisa Espinosa, kindergarten teacher at Echo Canyon School. “Through that social embeddedness, everybody was learning something different. It was really incredible.”

In January 2020, Colbert said the four teachers who participated in the pilot program led a nature journal training for the rest of the school faculty, encouraging signs that the project may sustain itself over time.

Building sustainable futures through social embeddedness

Social embeddedness can have a positive community impact not only in schools, but other places of learning, like museums or cultural institutions.

During the 2020 Social Embeddedness Network Conference, Rae Ostman, an associate research professor in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and Nicholas Weller, a postdoctoral research associate in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, helped highlight the progress of a fellowship program at ASU meant to empower museum professionals to make sustainable changes.

Since 2016, about 200 museum professionals from around the world have participated in the fellowship program, which is made possible through ASU’s Rob and Melani Walton Sustainability Solutions Service and in partnership with the National Informal STEM Education Network.

Partners like the Arizona Science Center have been empowered to reduce waste and create educational programs focused on sustainability, while connecting with broader audiences and establishing new relationships with underserved communities.

“Museums want to help build better futures for the communities they serve, and the concept of sustainability aligns with these goals,” Weller said. “Museums are great at taking big topics and making them fun and accessible, meaning cultural institutions are great places to start conversations about sustainability.”

Weller believes social embeddedness is helping museums and cultural institutions understand their role as shifting from one-way communicators to places for community dialogue around societal challenges like climate change.

“This shift highlights how museums are prioritizing the communities they serve,” Weller said.

Top photo by Deanna Dent/ASUNow 

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Social connections can ease 'toxic parenting' behaviors, experts say

Social support key to easing "toxic parenting" effects, experts say at ASU forum
March 20, 2020

Online forum at ASU explores causes, outcomes of neglect

Parents need strong social support because poor parenting not only damages children, but also leads to negative consequences for the larger community, according to a panel of experts who spoke at an Arizona State University event on Thursday.

Parents must be able to lean on relatives, neighbors and friends to help with the overwhelming task of raising children, the parenting experts said. Their message is especially relevant in these times of social distancing because of the COVID-19 pandemic, as children are home from school and families are isolated together.

The discussion, called “Toxic Parenting Behaviors,” was held online by Humanity 101 on the Homefront, an initiative of ASU Project Humanities.

The main definition of “toxic” parenting is behavior that’s repetitious, not occasional, according to Elisa Kawam, a lecturer in the School of Social Work at ASU and the moderator of the panel.

“If you have one or two or three moments where you’re not your best parent, that’s expected,” she said.

“Toxic parenting is any long-term or ongoing pattern of behavior that’s rooted in manipulation, unhealthy boundaries, guilt or fear.”

The Zoom format allowed audience members to continuously interact with the panelists, and everyone was asked to give examples of toxic parenting behavior. They included:

• Disrespecting boundaries, such as forcing physical contact (“kiss your uncle”); excessive phone and social media monitoring; oversharing; forcing children to finish food they dislike or forcing them into adult behaviors.

• Actions and words that cause a child to feel shamed, guilty, unsupported or fearful, such as public humiliation; being compared to siblings; being punished for bad grades; having feelings minimized; being told, “When I was your age …” or “You’re just like your mother/father.”

• Neglecting a child’s emotional needs by ignoring them, telling them to “suck it up” or “man up,” or withdrawing affection or attention as a form of punishment.

Many parenting behaviors from previous decades are unacceptable now, according to Chussette Oden, director of community resources and training at Beia’s Place, a Phoenix-based agency that works to keep families intact.

“It used to be, ‘be seen and not heard,’ but we really need to hear kids so they’re not going into their rooms and stuffing their feelings,” she said.

“We live in a day and age where not everyone is the same and we have to be open to children being expressive with their clothing, their sexuality and how they communicate their needs.”

Children deserve the same level of respect as friends or even strangers, said Harold Branch, an entrepreneur who works with at-risk youth and who is co-parenting two children.

“You have to look at what’s appropriate for a 7-year-old, and I shouldn’t lose my mind when I have to tell them something over and over again,” he said.

“We hold our kids to higher standards than we hold ourselves. We can be more understanding of our friends than of our kids.”

All the experts agreed on the importance of expressing love and affection to children.

“We just had a group about this and the verbiage we use,” said Oden, who works with foster parents and caregivers.

“One person said, ‘My child is an attention seeker.’ Well, everyone on Earth needs attention. We talked about how adults need attention, I can give my puppy attention and children need attention.”

The effects of ignoring a child can be lifelong, she said.

“It’s detrimental when we label children ‘attention seekers’ because they go into the adult world and feel like, ‘I don’t want to be seen.’ You want to be invisible because you don’t want to be known as an attention seeker.

“Let the kids see how you feel. Little kids need that so much. We want to feel wanted and appreciated and that someone is happy that we were born.”

All toxic parenting behaviors carry long-lasting and reverberating effects.

“The biggest one for children is the inability to practice boundaries as they get older,” Oden said.

“They lack empathy because of the harshness they faced. If you’ve had harsh words thrown at you on a regular basis or were not afforded the ability to have a voice or to be spoken to in a respectful manner, you won’t be able to do those things yourself, and can have a lack of respect for authority figures or yourself.”

Neal Lester, Foundation Professor of English and founding director of Project Humanities, said that toxic parenting becomes intergenerational.

“Whatever is not quite whole in us, we want to make whole in our children, which can lead to toxic behaviors,” he said. “‘I want you to be the athlete I wasn’t or the student I wasn’t.’ There are those who need to fill whatever was empty or missing.”

Kawam said that in her work with child abuse, one effect she’s seen is children who become oversexualized at a young age.

“They lack appropriate intimacy and an understanding of their own body,” she said.

Branch said that parents set the stage for future relationships.

“We learn how to be treated. It’s hard to accept someone yelling at you in a relationship if your parents never yelled at you, versus being conditioned to abusive behavior.”

The panelists also highlighted the importance of culture. Branch, who is black, has two children, including a 15-year-old son.

“I have to prepare them not just to be happy but to survive,” he said.

“We hear judgments outside the culture about how parenting is done. I need to have a level of sternness. This is not just my child throwing a tantrum in a store — it can turn into my child not knowing how to engage publicly and if I’m not around, he can get arrested.”

The sponsor of the event was the Come Rain or Shine Foundation, a nonprofit devoted to “conscious parenting,” co-founded by ASU alum Michelle Mace. She said that parents should recognize that everything they do is a teachable moment.

“It’s recognizing that 24/7, you have an observer with you,” she said.

“They are paying attention to your behavior as much or more than your words. Do you yell at their father? Do you drive with road rage? Even as adults, we carry pain from our own childhood and we have to recognize that we’re not perfect.”

Good parenting lasts forever, she said.

“When we’re successful, we get to do it for the rest of our lives. They’ll be asking for advice when they’re 20 or 30 or 40 and they’ll welcome us into their lives.”

Social support is key for raising children, Kawam said.

“Social scientists have looked at the evolution of families over time and it wasn’t a long time ago that we lived in groups of extended families,” she said. “And most people now don’t have more than five or six close contacts at any given time if they need help. The No. 1 thing you can do is help people get connected to social supports.”

Lester said the lessons apply to everyone.

“We’re not just talking about parents, but also extended families and also those who nurture and care give,” he said.

“Parenting doesn’t have to be legal or biological. It’s anyone for whom we’re caring.”

Top image by Pixabay

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU’s School of Public Affairs secures 6 top 10 spots in US News and World Report rankings

4 graduate programs rise on this year’s list

March 19, 2020

Four Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions graduate programs rose in U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 rankings, according to an announcement this week. The college's School of Public Affairs’ public management and leadership, environmental policy, public finance, and public policy analysis programs all climbed above their respective 2020 rankings.

Overall, the school ranked 19th, higher than Duke University, the University of Wisconsin and Cornell University, according to the 2021 rankings, released Tuesday. The rankings employ a wide variety of criteria to compare 282 graduate programs. ASU Watts College graduates celebrate their achievement at the college's fall 2019 convocation in downtown Phoenix. Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions graduates arrive at the start of the college's Fall 2019 Convocation in downtown Phoenix. Download Full Image

The school's public management and leadership program’s rank rose from seventh to sixth for 2021, while its environmental policy program ranked eighth, up from 11th. The school’s public finance program is 11th, up from 14th, and its public policy analysis program is 17th, up from 20th.

School of Public Affairs programs have six U.S. News and World Report 2021 rankings of 10th or higher — more than any member school of the Network of Schools of Public Policy, Affairs, and Administration except Harvard University, the University of Southern California, Syracuse University and Indiana University, said school Director Donald Siegel.

“The School of Public Affairs continued its excellent performance in U.S. News and World Report’s 2021 rankings. We are currently ranked 19th in the U.S., tied with Columbia University,” Siegel said. “More importantly, the School of Public Affairs had six top 10 U.S. rankings in the following specializations: third in emergency management and homeland security, third in local government management, fifth in urban policy, sixth in public management and leadership, eighth in environmental policy and ninth in nonprofit management.”

Siegel praised the school’s six top 10 rankings, saying all of the rankings reflect “an enormous breadth and depth in quality of our world-class faculty and students.”

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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ASU's graduate schools hold impressive spots in 2021 rankings

March 12, 2020

Postgraduate education across the university continues to score high marks on U.S. News and World Report list

Arizona State University’s graduate schools continue to hold high positions in the latest U.S. News and World Report annual rankings.

The 2021 analysis includes rankings on fine arts and health schools, which were last published in 2016. 

The Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, which offers more than 70 graduate degrees, came in at No. 15 out of 226 in overall fine arts education — moving up five spots over its 2016 rank and tying with Michigan’s Cranbrook Academy of Art and New York’s Parsons School of Design, ahead of Rutgers, the University of Texas, Austin and Temple University. The institute’s ceramics program ranked fourth and its photography program ranked sixth.

“Graduate programs in ASU’s School of Art continue to be globally recognized,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. “Our faculty and students are working at the highest levels of creativity here in the desert, and Grant Street Studios in downtown Phoenix is, hands down, the best studio and exhibition space for MFA candidates in the country. Importantly, we are preparing artists who are socially engaged, technologically empowered, and have the mindset and opportunity to collaborate across disciplines.”

Read more: ASU Law achieves highest-ever ranking | 30 W. P. Carey disciplines rank in the top 25 | Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College ranked among nation's best | School of Public Affairs secures 6 top 10 spots

The College of Health Solutions, which offers 25 graduate degrees, moved up in best speech pathology programs, ranking 16th out of 260 and tying with Ohio State University, ahead of Florida State University and the University of Colorado, Boulder. The AuD in audiology program ranked 18th.

“These programs are central to our mission of optimizing health for people and communities,” said Deborah Helitzer, dean of the College of Health Solutions. “We are pleased to again be recognized among the nation’s top 20 programs in audiology and speech-language pathology and remain dedicated to providing value to our students and the organizations that hire them. These programs prepare students for careers that make a real difference in the quality of life.”

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, offering 15 graduate degrees, moved up three spots to come in at No. 13 out of 255 in overall education, besting Johns Hopkins and the University of Virginia. The normal school edged up in secondary education to 14th from 16th, and in special education from 18th to 17th.  

The Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering moved up in overall engineering to No. 41, tying with the University of Virginia and besting Brown University. Its aerospace program rose five spots to No. 22 from No. 27. Chemical engineering jumped three spots to 47th. Computer and electrical engineering both rose four spots, to 30th and 27th respectively. Materials science rose five spots to 36th. Mechanical engineering rose three spots, coming in at No. 40.

The Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law moved up in full time law from No. 27 to No. 24, besting Fordham University and Boston College. The college’s trial advocacy program leaped 66 spots, from 144th to 78th. Environmental law nudged up to 20th. Tax law rose six spots to No. 37. Intellectual property and international law both rose two spots.

The W. P. Carey School of Business ranked 35th in the nation, beating the University of Arizona at 46th. The accounting program rose 11 spots to 20th. Finance rose eight spots to 31st. Management edged up three spots to No. 13. Entrepeneurship climbed seven spots to arrive at the 17th place. Marketing rose to 18th and production shot up eight spots to No.12.

The Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions had category gains in environmental policy, public finance and public policy analysis. Overall Watts ranked 19th overall, besting Columbia, Duke and Georgetown. Its information technology management program was No. 2 in the nation.

The widely touted set of annual rankings was released Tuesday by the news magazine, which compared hundreds of graduate programs on a variety of metrics.

The magazine evaluated the graduate programs on measures including surveys of deans and hiring recruiters; student selectivity; faculty resources, including the ratio of full-time doctoral students to faculty, for education programs; research activity, including expenditures; overall rank and specialty rankings.

Top photo by Deanna Dent

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU students step out of the classroom and into the venue for real-world lessons on event planning

March 5, 2020

To help students get an authentic feel for their subject matter, some teachers will abandon the lecture hall in favor of a real-world learning environment that exists under actual game conditions.

Such is the case with PRM 487: Advanced Special Event Management. Students recently walked through gates used by football fans at Sun Devil Stadium to gather inside the newly constructed San Tan Ford Club overlooking Frank Kush Field. PRM 487, special event management, students, SCRD, Strong Beer Fest From left: PRM 487 students Aziah Whitfield, Taylor Clinton and Emma Montague pose for a photo during event management work at the recent Strong Beer Fest. Download Full Image

There, the 12,000-square-foot club space seamlessly became a classroom, equipped with state-of-the-art technology, comfortable seating for group work and discussion, restrooms, patio space and great views of the surrounding area.

"I believe holding class in the San Tan Ford Club at the Sun Devil Stadium fit perfectly with a special event management class,” said Alaina Lass, a senior theater major. “It complemented the course really well, allowing students to view an event space and see the behind-the-scenes aspects of sporting events. It was really exciting to be up there and I hope to have more classes in that space."

Holding classes inside Sun Devil Stadium is a part of the vision for ASU 365 Community Union. ASU officials hope that the 365 Community Union will be a place where diversity and community are celebrated all year long.

“Our vision is for the 365 Community Union and Sun Devil Stadium to be a dynamic cultural hub that operates every day of the year and acts as a model for venues around the world,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, ASU vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage. “We want to create a place where you can imagine Sun Devils of all ages starting their day with yoga on the Sun Deck or a breakfast meeting at a café and ending their day with a film festival or concert under the stars.”

By developing special event partnerships along with free public programming (like the Stadium Yoga Series and Movies on the Field) ASU hopes to welcome students, staff, faculty and community members to eat, play, learn, connect, build relationships and create and innovate inside the stadium space.

Students get experience at wide variety of events

Innovation is a concept of PRM 487 where students who have proven mastery in lower level special event classes have the opportunity to spend two six-week sessions working for an event agency or venue in the Phoenix metropolitan area.

In that short period of time, students are given an orientation with their new team and are put to work planning and executing at least one event in the equivalent number of hours they would have spent in the classroom. They come back to the San Tan Ford Club to report on their experience, share event details and lessons learned and then they repeat the criteria for a different agency for the next six weeks.

Students are working on events such as the Arizona Renaissance Festival, Banner Hospital Foundation’s Children’s Open Golf Tournament, Arizona Bike Week, Scottsdale Culinary Festival, the 20th annual Arizona Strong Beer Festival, FanShield 500 NASCAR Weekend, the Devour Culinary Classic, First Friday, and several concerts, shows and other events at Desert Ridge Marketplace and Celebrity Theater, in addition to many more.

“Our students have the opportunity to work with some of the Valley’s most talented event professionals,” said Erin Schneiderman, clinical assistant professor in the School of Community Resources and Development.

“They are learning firsthand what it takes to work as a part of a team to plan and execute some of our most popular events. We feel they are ready to enter the workforce and this class gives them the chance to build their confidence and explore different types of events and roles in hopes they will find their passion and continue to pursue their goals.”

David Widoff, events marketing manager at Arizona Boardwalk (formerly OdySea in the Desert) is an enthusiastic supporter of the advanced special event management class being offered at ASU.

“This inaugural class of students has shown just why this was a much-needed addition to the current course offerings,” he said. “The passion and excitement of students who have spent their hours assisting me here at Arizona Boardwalk have demonstrated a clear desire and aptitude to absorb all aspects of planning and executing live events.”

Bringing 'new life to our community events'

Allison Mullady, program manager at the Design Studio for Community Solutions at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, agrees.

“The interns from PRM 487 are such an asset to our team, they are bringing new life to our community events,” she said.

Mullady helps oversee students working on the Community Conversations with residents and business owners in the west Phoenix neighborhood of Maryvale in support of the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative.

“Our team is small, and having the support for events planning and management has allowed us to do things we were only dreaming of before,” she said. “In addition, the student interns give us a fresh perspective, particularly for our events focused on engaging youth in the community. Also, they come in with exciting new ideas and considerations we may not have thought about.”

Students are really enjoying the variety of this hybrid class, as well.

"Since my freshman year of college, all I ever wanted was experience and connections,” said senior Terraney Griffin Hightower. “This internship is giving me just that. Interning with ASU Career and Professional Development Service offices has given me an opportunity to volunteer at the ASU Film Spark LA Entertainment Career Fair and Hollywood Sun Devil Mixer. There were a variety of ASU and entertainment industry professionals that I got the chance to network with. I am honored to have gotten this opportunity.” 

The special event management program 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 puts 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,” Schneiderman said. “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.”

Written by Erin Schneiderman

ASU wins grant to establish interdisciplinary training program to fight the opioid epidemic

February 28, 2020

Each day, 130 Americans die from opioid or prescription drug abuse. In Arizona, nearly 15% of adults know someone who died from a prescription painkiller overdose, according to the Morrison Institute at Arizona State University.

The opioid epidemic has been a national public health crisis since 2017, yet most providers are not equipped to handle the scope of the problem. Opioid taskforce The opioid epidemic has been a national public health crisis since 2017, yet most providers are not equipped to handle the scope of the problem. Photo: Haley Lawrence from Download Full Image

“There is such a gap between the science of the field and what we know is effective to what is actually being done in the community. We need to disseminate science-based treatment to everyone who is coming into contact with addiction,” said Matthew Meier, associate director of the ASU Clinical Psychology Center and director of the Addiction and Substance-use Related Disorders Graduate Certificate.

To close this gap, ASU recently launched the Interdisciplinary Training Academy for Integrated Substance/Opioid-Use Disorder, Prevention, and Healthcare with a grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration, part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The grant will fund student training at ASU, allowing them to experience how the opioid epidemic is currently being addressed and better preparing them to make a difference in the future.

“Addiction has to be treated using a holistic approach — just providing therapy and teaching coping skills isn’t enough if someone is homeless, or dealing with pain. It really has to be approached from every possible angle,” Meier said. “What makes the Interdisciplinary Training Academy for Integrated Substance/Opioid-Use Disorder, Prevention, and Healthcare program so unique is that we are looking at opioid addiction from the perspective of social work, psychology and nursing to address each of those aspects of addiction.”

The initiative is multidisciplinary and will be led by Natasha Mendoza, director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, along with Cady Berkel, associate research professor in the REACH Institute. Colleen Cordes, clinical associate professor and director of the Doctor of Behavioral Health Program, Wendy Wolfersteig, director of evaluation and partner contracts at the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, Judy Krysik, director of ASU’s Center for Child Well-Being, and Bonnie Ervin, instructor in the School of Social Work, will also oversee student training.

“We were faced with the question, what does a behavioral health provider need to know to really impact and address the opioid epidemic?” Mendoza said. “The truth of the matter is they need to know so much more than they currently do.”

In addressing the opioid epidemic, each community agency focuses on a different problem and solution, like how different individuals navigate recovery, treatment options or policy.

“The perfect behavioral health provider is someone who has experience across all relevant areas,” Mendoza said.

The ASU training program spans prevention and treatment with the goal of improving how different disciplines work together.

This new model of addressing the problems associated with addiction includes solving environmental and institutional problems. 

Over three years, the HRSA grant provides a full year of training for ASU doctoral students in psychiatric nursing and master's degree students in social work programs. The grant also funds psychology postdoctoral fellows. The long-term goal of the program is to set the national standard for training students by developing a curriculum to share with other universities and training programs.

“Our systems in health care and support for individuals had been siloed in the past, so having this series of experiences will allow our students to see the full breadth of resources, gaps and duplications. It really paints a more accurate picture for them,” Berkel said.

The training program includes 30 weeks of field experience. The students will spend two-week rotations at nine participating community agencies like the Recovery Empowerment Network, the ASU Clinical Psychology Center and Shot in the Dark, gaining broad experience in treating addiction and associated problems.

Students wanting additional training in the treatment of substance use disorders can also complete ASU’s online Addiction and Substance-use Related Disorders graduate certificate, which provides the foundational knowledge required to become a licensed addiction counselor in Arizona and most other states.  

“Our goal is for ASU to be a national leader in training students and professionals to help solve the opioid crisis,” Meier said. 

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology