School of Community Resources and Development celebrates 15 years

The school was born from assembling several fields of study

February 25, 2020

In the 15 years since Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development was created, it has blossomed from its origins as a recreation program into a fully sustainable community that equips students with the tools necessary to create meaningful community partnerships.

In 2004, a new school was approved to combine several disciplines including parks and recreation, tourism, and nonprofit leadership and management. Interim Director Christine Buzinde, 15th anniversary, ASU School of Community Resources and Development Interim School Director Christine Buzinde (left) greets a visitor to a recent luncheon celebrating the 15th anniversary of the ASU School of Community Resources and Development. Download Full Image

Originally, the name “School of Community Service and Development” was suggested, said Randy Virden, who was the school’s founding director.

But it didn’t go very far, said Virden, now an emeritus professor who attended a Feb. 6 luncheon celebrating the school’s anniversary. Eventually, the school’s present name won out.

School’s origins trace back more than four decades

The school's roots lie in ASU’s recreation program, which was originally located in the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. Virden said in 1979 the program was invited to join the then-new College of Public Programs and became the Department of Leisure Studies.

By the 1980s, both the tourism and nonprofit management academic areas were added to the department’s traditional parks and recreation emphasis. In 1994, Virden said, the department was renamed the Department of Recreation Management and Tourism, which is what it was known for until the school was created 10 years later.

Emeritus Professor Tim Tyrrell, 2007 alumnus Ted Martens, former School Director Randy Virden, ASU School of Community Resources and Development, 15th anniversary

Emeritus Professor Tim Tyrrell (left) joins 2007 alumnus Ted Martens, center, and former school Director Randy Virden (right) in celebrating the School of Community Resources and Development's 15th anniversary at a Feb. 5 luncheon.

Original ideas to locate the school at either ASU’s West or Polytechnic campuses were dropped when the School of Community Resources and Development was approved to move from the Tempe campus, Virden said. In 2008, it relocated to the Downtown Phoenix campus as part of the College of Public Programs, now the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

First tries weren’t confined to only the name of the school. Another emeritus professor who attended the luncheon, Tim Tyrrell, said he originally headed what was called the “Megapolitan Tourism Research Center.” The cumbersome first word was later dropped, said Tyrrell, who helped set up the school’s PhD program.

Virden said over the years the fields taught by the school’s faculty have changed significantly, particularly in the use of technology. The school itself has changed as well, he said, in that it is a fully sustainable community, with core classes even more aligned to the skills students need.

More interdisciplinary approaches

School Interim Director Christine Buzinde said one of the most noticeable changes in the school over the years is its transformation toward a more interdisciplinary approach that equips students with multidimensional tools necessary in creating meaningful community partnerships, which facilitate the co-creation of effective solutions. 

"If you want a career through which you can make a difference in society, SCRD is the place to be."

— School Interim Director Christine Buzinde

Students from parks and recreation management, tourism development, nonprofit leadership and management, community sports management and recreation therapy take core courses familiarizing themselves with the fields. Students studying parks and recreation, for example, are discovering better ways to help citizens learn how to use their parks to lead healthier lives, and recreation therapy students are learning how to use recreation to rehabilitate individuals with disabilities.

Community sports management students are learning about the role of sports in, for example, youth development while those whose emphasis is in tourism are finding out how tourism can contribute to the sustainable development of communities. The nonprofit leadership and management students are oriented to the dynamics of working with nonprofits to champion community initiatives.

The school is accepting more socially and environmentally conscious students who not only want a good-paying job upon graduation, but one that effectively helps others.

“If you want a career through which you can make a difference in society, SCRD is the place to be,” Buzinde said.

’07 grad today promotes ‘conservation travel’

The featured speaker at the Feb. 6 luncheon was 2007 school graduate Ted Martens, vice president for marketing and sustainability at Boulder, Colorado-based Natural Habitat Adventures (NHA), where he promotes his company as a leader in what it calls “conservation travel.”

While at ASU earning his master’s degree in tourism development, Martens researched ecotourism development in Central America. Before joining NHA in 2011, he was outreach and development director for Sustainable Tourism International, a nonprofit dedicated to applying sustainability solutions to the tourism industry.

15th anniversary logo, Arizona State University, School of Community Resources and Development 

In an interview after his talk, Martens said during his time at ASU he was able to combine his own travel history into research that opened up the field to him.

He said that since he graduated, the idea of sustainable tourism has been growing and merging into the larger travel industry.

“Today there is a lot more pressure as the industry has evolved for purveyors and curators of these types of experiences to have some meaning and teeth behind those experiences,” he said. He said NHA has focused on providing a positive impact on the communities where they lead tours.

Students contemplating careers in tourism should foster the passion for travel they’ve gained from their own experiences, Martens said.

People who deeply love travel dominate the tourism industry, he said. “If you care about the planet, you’ll want to go see it.”

Martens said he and his fellow NHA employees fit that mold, combining their individual passions to create unforgettable experiences for their customers.

“You should have a passion for the planet, the environment, for sustainability,” he said. “It’s an amazing combination.”

Sustainable tourism is still a small part of the overall travel industry, so there is room for it to continue to grow, Martens said.  “So, you have to set yourself apart. Get a degree in sustainable tourism, that really helps. Put the time in and work your way up even after you get your degree.”

Mark J. Scarp

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


image title

2 ASU projects among top 100 proposals for MacArthur $100 million grant

February 21, 2020

Youth substance abuse prevention, satellite biodiversity monitoring aiming to expand their global impact through 100&Change

The MacArthur Foundation on Wednesday announced that two Arizona State University projects are among the highest-scoring proposals, designated as the Top 100, in its 100&Change competition for a single $100 million grant to help solve one of the world's most critical social challenges.

The two ASU proposals — keepin' it REAL, a youth substance abuse prevention program, and a Global Biodiversity Observatory, a system of satellites, analytics and decision-support tools to monitor real time changes in Earth’s natural capital in unprecedented detail — are both aiming to expand their impact globally.

The recipient of the $100 million grant will be announced in fall 2020.

'keepin' it REAL'

School of Social Work Regents Professor Flavio Marsiglia and the Global Center for Applied Health Research developed keepin' it REAL (kiR), an adolescent drug prevention program based on scientific data and respect for local cultures. The program teaches a repertoire of drug-resistance strategies: refuse, explain, avoid and leave (REAL).

It has been used in a number of nations, including the U.S., Guatemala, Mexico, Spain and Uruguay. The center is soliciting support to expand its outreach into sub-Saharan Africa.

Video by ASU Research

"Epidemiological data shows that young people in sub-Saharan Africa are in an upward trajectory in terms of their use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco and other drugs," Marsiglia said. "This is the right time ...  Governments and NGOs in sub-Saharan Africa are ready to take action and are ready to collaborate and make it happen."

Time and funding are the main challenges, he said.

"Often governments or NGOs approach us to replicate one of our evidence-based interventions like kiR. They want to do it quickly because of their pressing needs," Marsiglia said. "The challenge is to convince them about assessing the cultural appropriateness of the intervention before implementing it widely. Once we identify what needs to be changed and what components need to be adapted, we have to make those changes in a systematic way and test for the effectiveness of the new adapted program. All this takes time and money."

The group recently completed such an adaptation in Mexico with kiR, with more than 6,000 middle schoolers from three cities participating. Because many programs tend to be male-centered and because current levels of violence in Mexico affect many teens, Marsiglia said, the program added violence prevention and a gender component. Working with a team of Mexican investigators, their study found stronger results as a result of grounding the intervention in local context.

"We cannot make the mistakes of the past and import solutions developed in the rich north and expect that those solutions will be acceptable, effective or sustainable in other contexts," he said. "Investing in creating capacity within country and taking the time to do it right will have a lasting effect that will benefit all of us. Each time we engage in joint projects with partners in other countries, we learn as much from the experience as they do."

Global Biodiversity Observatory

Greg Asner, director of ASU's Center for Global Discovery and Conservation Science, is behind the Global Biodiversity Observatory project. Asner's team currently maps land biodiversity, greenhouse gas emissions and coral reef health from a "super plane" equipped with 3D mapping tools. With additional funding, the observatory project will employ Earth-orbiting satellites with miniaturized imaging spectrometers connected through artificial intelligence to drive a new internationally accessible decision-support system, empowering a rapid reversal of biodiversity loss.

“Our team and colleagues have done the math, the analysis, and the vetting of the world's climate and biodiversity data. We know this: We cannot solve the climate change problem without simultaneously saving biodiversity,” Asner said. “Biodiversity is a huge part of the solution because nature pulls a large amount of excess carbon that we've put in our atmosphere back into the ground. 
“Think about this: All of the fossil fuel we continue to burn today is literally the carbon we've pulled out of the ground that was previously placed there via photosynthesis by ancient plants. Fossil fuel is past photosynthesis. We need to put it back in the ground, and nature is one of our best chances we have to do it."

Video by Asner Lab

The goal is not to compile academic data, but to provide information that is immediately actionable. This past summer, the center teamed with Hawaii's Department of Land and Natural Resources Division of Aquatic Resources and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in a massive community effort to constantly monitor Hawaii's coral reefs as the Pacific Ocean experienced record-breaking temperatures. Such conditions can lead to coral bleaching, stressing the reef and causing irreparable damage.

The team was able to give real-time updates of the coral conditions across the islands, recieve coral reef reports from citizen-science efforts and worked quickly with a number of community groups to get the message out about ways to help mitigate damage, such anchoring away from reefs and using reef-safe sunscreen.

Asner says that at this stage, they have the elements lined up to create a new kind of observatory that brings biodiversity and related issues such as carbon and water security into the hands of researchers and the public. Additional resources will allow building out additional satellites and the application of their AI techniques.

"We cannot do this work alone at GDCS,” Asner said. “We are deeply partnered with the world's most innovative aerospace company, called Planet Labs, as well as our impact partner, One Earth. And that's just the inner part of the inner circle. We are teamed up with the U.N., a global network of NGOs and national and subnational governments. We will need to make this information obvious, accessible and everyday to every planetary citizen possible, and that will mean teaming up with the world.”

100&Change vetting

The top 100 represent the top 21% of competition submissions. The proposals were rigorously vetted, undergoing MacArthur’s initial administrative review, a peer-to-peer review, an evaluation by an external panel of judges and a technical review by specialists whose expertise was matched to the project.

Each proposal was evaluated using four criteria: impactful, evidence-based, feasible and durable. MacArthur’s board of directors will select up to 10 finalists from these high-scoring proposals this spring.

The competition cycle repeats every three years. In December 2017, the Sesame Workshop and International Rescue Committee were awarded $100 million in the competition's inaugural round to educate young children displaced by conflict and persecution in the Middle East.

“MacArthur seeks to generate increased recognition, exposure, and support for the high-impact ideas designated as the top 100,” said Cecilia Conrad, CEO of Lever for Change and MacArthur managing director, 100&Change. “Based on our experience in the first round of 100&Change, we know the competition will produce multiple compelling and fundable ideas. We are committed to matching philanthropists with powerful solutions and problem solvers to accelerate social change.”

Since the inaugural competition, other funders and philanthropists have committed an additional $419 million to date to support bold solutions by 100&Change applicants. Building on the success of 100&Change, MacArthur created Lever for Change to unlock significant philanthropic capital by helping donors find and fund vetted, high-impact opportunities through the design and management of customized competitions.

The top 100 are also now part of the Bold Solutions Network. Launched this week, it's a searchable collection of the top 100 with fact sheets and project overviews that aims to connect donors with projects that align with their goals.  

Top photo by NASA

Urban Playground

Have you ever wondered what it’s like being a kid in San Francisco? Are you raising a kid in this or another urban center? San Francisco life is full of thrills and bummers, both for kids and the adults who love them.

In "Urban Playground: What Kids Say About Living in San Francisco," Katie Burke explores the experience of kids ages five to nine living in this place — what makes San Francisco special for kids and why some are over it.

Cantelme Scholars demonstrate a passion for public service

February 18, 2020

Breanna Smith can’t wait to put on events. She’s organizing a fairly good-size one now. More on that in a moment.

A junior studying tourism development and management in Arizona State University’s School of Community Resources and Development, Smith identifies herself as “one of those people.” As in, “one of those who are really involved students,” she said. Cantelme Scholars, Arizona State University, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions 2019-2020 Pat Cantelme and the 2019-20 Cantelme Scholars. Download Full Image

The kind of student whose sheer volume of activity makes them stand out to the people who award scholarships and travel opportunities. But as active as she is, Smith said being tapped as a Cantelme Scholar caught her off guard.

“I was incredibly surprised,” she said, adding that she does what she always does. “I’m one of those people who sees something that needs to be done and I just do it.”

That good-size event she’s hunting for volunteers for? It’s a combination “culture/pop block party” involving the West Valley cities of Avondale and Goodyear to be held in late March at Estrella Mountain Community College, where Smith attended before transferring to ASU.

Breanna Smith, Cantelme Scholar, ASU Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Breanna Smith, a junior majoring in tourism development and management, is a 2019-20 Cantelme Scholar.

She plans to use the experience as the basis for creating a permanent volunteer program among community college and high school students interested in events work.

The Cantelme Scholars are named for retired Phoenix Fire Capt. Pat Cantelme, who is co-founder, president and chairman of the board of the CDH Charitable Foundation, an Arizona-based private foundation that focuses largely on scholarship funding for Arizona residents attending the state’s public universities with a demonstrated passion for public service.

Cantelme, who became a fire captain at the age of 25, was president of the United Phoenix Firefighters, Local 494. He was significantly involved in restoring the historic buildings on West Van Buren Street that are now The Van Buren concert venue and State 48 Brewery.

The Cantelme Scholars program resides within the Public Service Academy, which is administered by the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. This year, the CDH Foundation provided generous tuition funding for 10 ASU students who graduated from Arizona high schools and provided stipends allowing students to take part in ASU Study Abroad programs.

Within the Public Service Academy, 172 majors are represented among students who, like Smith, want to make a difference in society by engaging in such activities as joining the Peace Corps, Teach for America, AmeriCorps, Vista, the U.S. military and the National Laboratory at Los Alamos, New Mexico, in addition to several public, for-profit and nonprofit entities, said Public Service Academy Executive Director Brett Hunt.

In addition to the requirements of their majors, Public Service Academy students take six more classes through the academy resulting in a certificate in cross-sector leadership. Smith is also pursuing a certificate in special events management.

Cantelme’s dedication to his community is a passion Smith said she wants to share with others.

“When I read about who Pat is and all his achievement at such a young age, it’s something I really connect with, his finding a need and filling it,” she said.

Mark J. Scarp

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


Watts College names two ‘community champions’ as liaisons to Maryvale neighborhoods

February 17, 2020

Two women with strong ties to the Maryvale community in northwest Phoenix will serve as "community champions," working with faculty, staff and students of Arizona State University’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions on improving the lives of those residing there.

The college’s appointment of Karolina Arredondo and Rosie Espinoza as liaisons to and from Maryvale is part of a long-range plan to enhance the area’s quality of life, managed by a partnership of the college and local residents and institutions. The effort is funded by a portion of the $30 million gift to the college in 2018 from Mike and Cindy Watts, who grew up in Maryvale and for whom the college is named. Maryvale Town Hall October 2019 Watts College Maryvale residents discuss issues at a community town hall co-sponsored by ASU's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and the Arizona Town Hall in October 2019. Download Full Image

Maryvale residents confront many challenges, including lower education levels and academic test scores as well as decreased household income. The One Square Mile Initiative seeks to organize and apply the community’s many assets to help improve local life and give residents more chances to succeed.

Arredondo and Espinoza will each represent a separate square-mile area of the community.

Arredondo is the community champion for an area called the Isaac One Square Mile, named for the Isaac Elementary School District in which it is located.

Arredondo is a preschool teacher at Bret Tarver Isaac Preschool. She is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in early childhood education, voter registration and family engagement. She has supported community outreach for Early Head Start, One Arizona, Neighborhood Ministries and the Isaac district. Arredondo also has acted as a direct liaison to the Maryvale and Isaac community, families, schools and children, which gives her deep knowledge about local education issues and culturally appropriate strategies for successful community outreach.

Espinoza is the community champion for the Cartwright One Square Mile. She is the wellness administrator for the Cartwright School District.

, ASU Watts College Maryvale Community Champion

Rosie Espinoza

Espinoza is experienced in coordinated outreach to the community in wellness, health and family engagement. She grew up in Maryvale and still lives and works in the community. Her work developing, recruiting and facilitating community events in health, nutrition and physical fitness provides key expertise for the initiative. Espinoza is also a graduate student at Watts College, working toward a master’s degree in nonprofit leadership and management.

“The community champions are members of the Maryvale community through their work and life activities,” said Erik Cole, director of the Watts College’s Design Studio for Community Solutions, which is spearheading the Maryvale initiatives. “Both Karolina and Rosie have a deep passion for supporting their neighbors, and we are excited about the powerful link they provide between the Design Studio and residents and local stakeholders in each One Square Mile geography.” 

Allison Mullady, the Design Studio’s program manager, agrees.

“The champions will be cultural advisers,” she said “They will be building trusted relationships with residents, faith-based groups, local businesses and schools to document the aspirations of the residents of Maryvale.” 

, ASU Watts College Maryvale Community Champion

Karolina Arredondo

Arredondo said she knows many young people in Maryvale and is happy to be in a position to acquaint them with university resources to help them apply for postsecondary education.

“When I was younger, we had good opportunities. Now we need the right resources to help kids today. A lot of people don’t know (the resources) are there,” she said. “I have co-workers who live in the neighborhood. One had no knowledge of what was next once her kids left high school. To have ASU have people share that knowledge with parents, it gives more students the chance to be able to go to college.”

Arredondo said the university is working with area entities such as churches, as residents might more easily reach out to their local leaders with questions or requests for information.

Espinoza said her having lived in Maryvale so long allows her to approach her new duties with a sense of pride.

“I’m very passionate about Maryvale,” she said. “I know Maryvale like the back of my hand. I feel very proud that I also get to work there. I like to think my position is a fun position.”

For Espinoza, success will come from engaging residents to build more of a connection with other like-minded individuals, as well as from encouraging conversations about things they would like to see change for the better.

“There is a lot of beautiful and positive in Maryvale. But there are other issues that, growing up and being part of the community now, I would like to see improved,” Espinoza said. “The first step is voicing those concerns and figuring out how to move forward, learning how to get something changed in your neighborhood, then asking, 'What are the next steps?'”

Espinoza said she sees the role of community champion as a great opportunity to represent both the university and community, to build trust and relationships.

“I want to let (residents) know they will actually be heard and their conversations will actually be relayed back to the university,” she said.

Mark J. Scarp

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


image title

New Regents Professor Cassia Spohn returns to full-time research, teaching

February 11, 2020

After five years as a school director, the acclaimed scholar to focus on studying disparities in sentencing due to race, gender

Her office bookcases were half empty, with dozens of volumes already in boxes on a table in her soon-to-be former office, as Cassia Spohn completed her time as director of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and reflected on the next phase of her career journey during the waning days of 2019.

Her exit from the directorship position coincided with her recent recognition as one of Arizona State University’s five newest Regents Professors — the university’s highest faculty award.  

“Being named a Regents Professor is a recognition of contributions to research and scholarship,” Spohn said. “I’m humbled to be among those designated.”

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, said the designation as Regents Professor represents “an honor richly deserved, as Cassia is among the most distinguished scholars in her field, with a record of impact both in the scholarly understanding of criminology and the practice of criminal justice,” he said. “We are enormously fortunate to have Cassia as a colleague and leader of our school.”

As the honor was announced, Spohn was already in the process of wrapping up five and a half years directing the school. Still, administrative duties haven’t solely been occupying her tenure as director. Since 2015, she has published three books and 30 scholarly articles.

The university gave her its Award for Leading Edge Research in the Social Sciences in 2013. She is a fellow in the American Society of Criminology, the Academy of Criminal Justice Sciences and the Western Society of Criminology.

Spohn started her academic career at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln working toward a bachelor’s degree in journalism and political science during the Watergate-scandal era; she dreamed of being an investigative reporter like the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward or Carl Bernstein.

She worked briefly for the Lincoln (Neb.) Journal-Star, but not in investigative journalism: “I wrote wedding and engagement announcements,” she said.

Shortly afterward, she was lured by an assistantship to pursue her doctoral degree in political science, the subject she was expecting to teach. But one of the first articles she published after graduate school dealt with the effects of race on sentencing.

“From there I was hooked on criminology and criminal justice and on looking at improving the fairness and equity of the system,” she said.

Spohn said that in 2020 she will look forward to trading the challenges of running one of the nation’s top criminal justice schools for more time to devote to the scholarship and research that earned her the Regents title.

“I’ve enjoyed the last five years, mostly,” Spohn said with a smile. “But it’s come with challenges and I’m happy to pass the baton to Jon Gould in January.” Gould, who left American University in Washington, D.C., began as the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice director on Jan. 1.

Scott Decker, Spohn’s longtime colleague, fellow Foundation Professor and now an emeritus professor, has known Spohn since they both were young in their careers, “trying to make our way forward in the discipline.”

He is one of many colleagues who cite Spohn’s status as a major force in criminology and criminal justice professional circles.

“Every criminologist knows Cassia Spohn and her work, because she is such a dominant figure in the field. Her work is central to the field, it is known not only by specialists in her areas of work, but by all working criminologists,” Decker said, calling her a “consummate academic leader, demonstrating by example as well as mentoring and educating students, from first-semester freshmen to advanced doctoral students.”

Decker also said Spohn’s work is “foundational” to the understanding of race and gender in sentencing and also has had a significant impact on research, policy and criminal justice processes across the system.

“She is among of a handful of senior female scholars who blazed the trail for other women to gain acceptance in PhD programs, leadership roles and the highest level of recognition in the field,” he said.

Pauline Brennan, a professor in the School of Criminology and Justice Studies and PhD program director at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell co-authored a number of research papers with Spohn. Recently they co-edited the “Handbook on Sentencing Policies and Practices in the 21st Century” for the American Society of Criminology’s Division on Corrections and Sentencing.

“She is a wonderful mentor; I learned so much about the research process from her, and also the benefit of providing service for the discipline and the grace that comes with supporting others,” Brennan said. “I am privileged to have been able to work with her over time, and hope to do so for many years to come.”

Brennan said a scan of Spohn’s curriculum vitae would lead to the immediate conclusion that “Cassia is an academic giant.” But beyond Spohn’s scholarly activities and tremendous productivity, Brennan noted her skill as a guide to others.

“She has chaired over 20 dissertation committees, co-authors work with graduate students on a regular basis, makes it a point to mentor junior faculty and seems to always know exactly the right approach to just about everything. Again, I cannot overstate how much I admire Cassia,” Brennan said.

Spohn said as she returns to full-time research and teaching, she will primarily concentrate on disparities in sentencing due to race, gender and other legally irrelevant factors, the processing of sexual assault cases, and working with others at ASU on ways to help prevent those who have served their sentences from becoming repeat offenders.

Also, with the support of a grant from Arnold Ventures, she will work with Arizona’s Administrative Office of the Courts on a study examining the causes and consequences to defendants of failing to appear in court.

In this last area, she said she wants to find out what motivates or incentivizes defendants to appear and whether there are steps that courts can take to improve the appearance rate.

She also will continue to devote herself to her membership on a U.S. Department of Defense Advisory Board on Investigation, Prosecution and Defense of Sexual Assault in the Armed Forces, a board she has served on since 2017. Over the next few months, she will be contributing a chapter to a book on criminal justice reform, writing about racial and ethnic disparities in the imposition of life-without-parole sentences in the federal courts, and working on a paper examining sentencing in Arizona.

Spohn and the other Regents Professors will be formally vested at an ASU ceremony Wednesday.

Top photo: Cassia Spohn resumed full-time research and teaching Jan. 1 after five-plus years as director of ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. She was named a Regents Professor in November 2019.

Mark J. Scarp

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


New book provides research-based strategies for law enforcement

'Transforming the Police' written by ASU criminology faculty, alumni and doctoral students

February 6, 2020

In an age of intensified public debate about the role of police officers, more law enforcement agencies rely on evidence-based policing to help officers perform their duties.

In a new book written by faculty members, alumni and current and former doctoral students in Arizona State University's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, authors offer fresh, research-based perspectives to help law enforcement officials make better-informed decisions about running their agencies and best apply strategies and tactics. "Transforming the Police" Charles Katz Edward Maguire criminology criminal justice Arizona State University Download Full Image

Each of the book’s 13 chapters is followed by a response essay written by leading police executives.

"Transforming the Police: Thirteen Key Reforms," published by Waveland Press, is edited by ASU criminology professors Charles M. Katz and Edward R. Maguire

ASU's School of Criminology and Criminal Justice offers some of the nation’s most highly ranked programs of criminology study, according to U.S. News & World Report. The authors provide keen insights based on social science and medical research evidence’s response to the major changes policing has undergone in recent years.

“The school has attracted some of the top police researchers in the world in its efforts to deliver policy-relevant or ‘use-inspired’ research that makes a difference not just in the ivory tower of academia, but in the real world,” the editors write in the book’s prospectus. “This volume draws on the expertise of not only the school’s faculty, but also its alumni and doctoral students, to take stock of policing and police reform 50 years after the creation of the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration.”

In the book, authors recommend that law enforcement agencies:

  • Adopt evidence-based policing.
  • Implement collaborative strategic crime control strategies.
  • Institutionalize procedural justice.
  • Reduce unnecessary use of force.
  • Reduce racial inequities in police practices.
  • Consider options for increasing civilian oversight of the police.
  • Implement a body-worn camera program.
  • Improve prevention of police-involved harm through sentinel event reviews.
  • Build police-research partnerships to advance policing.
  • Build momentum for police reform through organizational justice.
  • Improve officer health and wellness.
  • Improve the policing of crowds.
  • Increase efficiency of police response to sexual assaults.

ASU’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice is within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. The 271-page book (ISBN: 978-1-4786-3998-5) is available in paperback for a $34.95.

Mark J. Scarp

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


ASU study: Exposure to violence means less access to health care for Somali women in Arizona

January 31, 2020

Migrant women and girls who experienced violent crime are more likely than nonvictims to have health problems and face barriers to vital health care here in Arizona, a new Arizona State University study has found.

The study, published in December in the American Journal of Public Health, is a first-of-its-kind, large-scale survey of Somali women and girls in Arizona that shows the health effects of victimization, defined by researchers as homicide, violence, sexual assault, arson and kidnapping. Dr. Crista Johnson-Agbakwu and Somali cultural health navigator Owliya Abdalla SIRC Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center Watts College Crista Johnson-Agbakwu (seated left) and Somali cultural health navigator Owliya Abdalla (standing right) with a Somali patient. Photo courtesy of Valleywise Health, Refugee Women's Health Clinic. Download Full Image

More than 7,000 Somalis seeking either refuge or political asylum have arrived in Arizona since 1992, the fourth-highest total of any state, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet, they remain what study co-authors Kathleen A. Fox and Crista Johnson-Agbakwu of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions call a hidden population.

Their research sheds light on how Somali women and girls use health care in the U.S. and points to the need for a larger, statewide discussion of health issues faced by underserved populations like the Somalis in Arizona. Research also suggests the Somalis’ largest impediments to health — transportation and child care — are solvable through subsidized child care programs, more funding for ridesharing and hiring community health care workers for hard-to-reach populations.

Many longtime Arizonans may not know that Somalis as well as nationals from several other countries have found refuge or asylum in the state, said Fox, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

But many Somali women and girls victimized by violent acts have significantly more health problems and greater difficulties gaining access to health care compared to nonvictims, said Johnson-Agbakwu, a physician and research associate professor in ASU’s School of Social Work and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.

“There is among them a major distrust in the health care system and a disconnect among perceptions of health and wellness,” Johnson-Agbakwu said.

Somalis who are unable to speak or understand English well are also often not as knowledgeable about factors affecting their health or how to treat them, she said. Additionally, they are less likely to have a designated place to receive care in Arizona than nonvictims, and tend to rely more on emergency care, which is more costly and yields worse outcomes, she said.

“It’s a major impediment to becoming self-sufficient, healthy and productive in the U.S. for many of the female Somali refugees and asylum seekers,” Johnson-Agbakwu said.

While noting that violence against women is a “global and pervasive problem,” the researchers found that Somali women and girls in particular are at very high risk for domestic violence, child abuse and involuntary family separation.

Fox and Johnson-Agbakwu cited the World Health Association (WHO) statistics saying that female genital mutilation/cutting (FGM/C) is prevalent worldwide, with 98% of all women in girls in Somalia affected. FGM/C also puts women and girls at increased risk for obstetric and gynecological complications, as well as depression and post-traumatic stress disorder, according to the WHO.

The study also calls for Arizona health care professionals and their staffs to become better educated about culturally appropriate care for migrants; hire linguistically and gender-congruent providers and support staff; engage in community outreach to build trust and enhance health literacy; accommodate needs for child care, flexible hours and transportation for mothers of young children; and extend outreach to crime victims in both health care and community settings.

“These community health workers are cultural health navigators who can share experiences and bridge those gaps in critical ways,” Johnson-Agbakwu said.

Mark J. Scarp

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


image title

New analysis of firearm deaths by ASU finds most victims are suicides

New ASU analysis of firearm deaths in Arizona finds 71% are suicides.
January 30, 2020

Data project to investigate, report gun deaths is a step toward preventing violence

More than 3,100 people in Arizona died from firearms from 2015 to 2017 and 71% of those deaths were suicides, according to a new report released by Arizona State University.

The report, presented Wednesday by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU, includes a detailed breakdown of types of firearm deaths and the victims, with the intent to use the data to prevent gun violence in Arizona.

“This is information that’s crucial to our understanding of firearm deaths in Arizona,” said Melissa Kovacs, associate director for research for the Morrison Institute, who is co-author of the report.

“What we’re talking about might feel foundational or basic and might raise more questions than it answers, and we have a lot of questions ourselves.”

Among the findings:

• Over the three-year period studied, from Jan. 1, 2015, to Dec. 31, 2017, the number of firearm deaths increased nearly 18%.

• Of the total 3,188 firearms deaths, 71% were suicide, 23% were homicide, 5% were undetermined and 1% were unintentional.

• There was a 14% increase in firearm suicides in the three-year span, from 702 to 798. The rate of firearm suicide per 100,000 people increased from 10.6 to 11.7.

• There was a 27% increase in firearm homicides in the three-year period, from 208 to 265. The rate of firearm homicides per 100,000 people increased from 3.1 to 3.9.

• Firearms were used in 59% of all suicides and in 69% of all homicides in Arizona during the period.

“You can see the numbers have gone up but Arizona’s population has increased in this time as well,” Kovacs said, noting that it’s important to consider the rate per 100,000 and not just the numbers.

The report is a collaboration between the Morrison Institute and the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety, both in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. The center houses the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System, which draws data from law-enforcement agencies, death certificates, medical examiner reports and other sources, such as hospitals. In 2015, the state system began a partnership with a national reporting system that’s part of the Centers for Disease Control, with the goal of creating a set of high-quality data to help prevent violence.

Melissa Gutierrez, a graduate student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, presents part of the report on firearm deaths in Arizona. She's worked on the project since she was an undergraduate. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Besides homicides and suicides, the researchers also looked at the 42 unintentional firearm deaths in Arizona in the time period. There were five in 2015, 12 in 2016 and 25 in 2017.

“These represent pretty notable increases and this is something we’re all hoping is not a trend,” Kovacs said.

Three-quarters of the unintentional victims were male, as were 90% of the shooters. The median age of the victims was 21, and of the shooters, 24. In nearly two-thirds of the cases, the shooter was playing with, displaying or cleaning the gun. There was one unintentional death related to hunting and none related to target shooting.

While there is a big set of data, it’s filled with holes, for two main reasons: poor reporting by the participating agencies or nonparticipation, according to David Choate, senior research analyst at the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

Significantly, Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone withdrew his agency’s participation in the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System when he took office in 2017. The Arizona Department of Corrections and the FBI also don’t participate.

“We’re also hampered by the quality of information,” Choate said.

“When you read a law enforcement report and the entire narrative summary says, ‘See Medical Examiner’s report,’ we’re not getting a lot of information. We get a substantial number of reports with such thin information that we’re unable to code anything.”

That narrative information is important to show the context of violence, in order to find ways to decrease it. For example, in 28% of homicides, the relationship between the victim and the suspect is unknown and in 27% of homicides, the type of gun used is unknown.

The presentation also included policy recommendations by Charles Katz, director of the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety.

Charles Katz, director of the Center for Violence Prevention and Community Safety at ASU, discussed his policy recommendations for reducing firearm deaths in Arizona, including launching an education program to encourage people to lock up their guns. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“One of the things we’re repeatedly asked for is our recommendations, whether it be for statutes, ordinances, policies or practices, and most of the time, we stay away from it because it gets in the way of our primary role of shedding light on what the real problems are,” he said.

“But we have been repeatedly requested to make recommendations and we’re starting to move in that direction very conservatively,” said Katz, who also is a professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Katz’s 10 recommendations for communities to consider, most of which have been based on randomized control trials, are:

1. Expanding the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network, which allows law enforcement agencies to more efficiently identify guns that are used repeatedly in violent crimes.

2. Use a “focused deterrence” strategy to fight violent crime, which identifies the “worst of the worst” offenders, who are provided with intervention and social services with the caveat that they will be prosecuted quickly if they stray. “It’s one of the most well researched programs out there that shows there’s at least a medium effect.”

3. Use “Operation Peacekeeper,” a program in which “violence interrupters” work on the streets.

4. Consider “hot spot” policing, in which resources are focused on small areas where violence is the worst.

5. Create homicide review commissions, which gather community members quickly after a homicide to review information and identify trends.

6. Launch education campaigns for safe gun storage. “Perhaps the strategy that is most effective in reducing youth suicide is education campaigns for how to deal with firearms,” Katz said. “The only way youths can get the firearm is through a parent or friend where the firearm is not secure.”

7. Boost child-access prevention laws to increase consequences for unsecured firearms.

8. Increase background checks for gun buyers.

9. Revoke stand your ground laws because research shows that states that adopt these laws see a small increase in homicides.

10. Increase research on violence in Native American communities.

“In some years that we’ve examined the data, when you combine homicides and suicides, American Indians have the highest rate of violent death in the state,” Katz said.

But no one is sure of the Native American population, both on and off reservations. Census data varies widely from tribal counts, he said.

In addition, tribal agencies do not participate in the Arizona Violent Death Reporting System.

“We’ve had to call each nation and try to collect that information and we’ve just made a small dent,” he said.

“The bottom line is that when you call them and ask for it, they say no. It’s their data and they’re permitted to share it with whomever they like.”

Even with all the numbers, the researchers were able to keep the bigger picture, according to David Schlinkert, senior policy analyst for the Morrison Institute, who is co-author of the report with Kovacs.

“Sometimes, when we aggregate quantitative data, you’re less able to see what you’re really talking about. Melissa and I have been looking at this data for 10 months now, and the stories in there are about people,” he said.

“The deaths are violent and it’s not the most pleasant thing to think about. But when we say that number — 3,188 — those are all individual people with lives and stories.”

Top photo: Melissa Kovacs, associate director for research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, presents the report "Firearm Deaths in Arizona, 2015–2017" at the Downtown Phoenix campus on Jan. 29. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now