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Hawaii faces cultural roadblocks to combatting sex trafficking

February 20, 2019

Pair of studies demonstrates that the state has created an environment where sex trafficking thrives with little interference

Known for its palm trees, beautiful beaches and nearly perfect year-round weather, Hawaii is rightfully called paradise.

But underneath that idyllic image is something darker: sex trafficking. According to one Arizona State University researcher, pretty much anything goes in the land of aloha.

Her two recent studies, “Sex Trafficking in Hawaii: Exploring Online Buyers” and “Sex Trafficking in Hawaii: The Stories of Survivors,” were funded by the Kaimas Foundation. The findings lay out the case that Hawaii does not have an organized effort to combat sex buying, fosters a culture of turning a blind eye and demonstrates a crisis of priorities in the general lack of response by law enforcement. 

“It is genuinely troubling that more people are penalized for homelessness and jaywalking in Honolulu than for buying sex,” said Roe-Sepowitz, who worked with the Hawai’i State Commission on the Status of Women to explore the issue. 

ASU Now spoke to Roe-Sepowitz about her studies and the world of sexual exploitation. 

Editor's note: Responses have been edited for clarity.

Question: Why do you think Hawaii is lacking in combatting sex trafficking? 

Answer: There are a number of factors that have slowed the progress of building awareness and providing services for victims of sex trafficking in Hawaii. These include widespread disinterest, collusion or corruption within law enforcement who are the front line of access to victims, a pro-sex work community that encourages the idea that sex trafficking in Hawaii is a myth, a culture of misogyny and the cultural silencing of victims of all types of abuse.   

Multilayered issues such as the easy availability of drugs, high rates of homelessness and residents being limited in their movement to escape trafficking situations due to Hawaii being an island add to the complexity of providing services to sex trafficking victims.

In Hawaii, we have been told this work is much needed, and we have also been told that our research isn’t going to change anything. We hope that this research will help to infuse new information to support the good work that has begun and help to design future anti-sex trafficking activities.  

Some services specific to sex-trafficked children are being provided, and new programs are being developed on some islands including crisis shelters, mentoring programs, residential sites and family therapy, but there continues to be a lack of resources for adult victims.

Dominique Roe-Sepowitz

Associate Professor Dominique Roe-Sepowitz is the director of the ASU Office of Sex Trafficking Intervention Research. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Q: Your study shows that 1 in 11 men in Hawaii search online to pay for sex. Is this higher or lower than the average state?

A: This was a surprise. We were under the assumption — (as is) common lore in Hawaii — that sex buyers were mostly outsiders. Nearly three-quarters of the sex buyers responding to our decoy sex advertisements called from the 808 Hawaii area code. On average, the volume of unique sex buyers in Hawaii was nine times higher than an average call volume for a similar decoy advertisement in Phoenix, Arizona (407 unique callers compared to 45 unique callers). This indicates that not only is the online sex-buyer population in Hawaii large, but the majority of the customers are locals. In our most recent study exploring the experiences of sex trafficking victims, sex buyers were described as visitors, military and locals. They were politicians, law enforcement, doctors, judges, businessmen and travelers. Sex buyers self-identified in the sex-buyer study as surfers, locals, tourists and military personnel.  

The estimate of sex buyers in Arizona in an identical study that we conducted was 1 in 20 men in Arizona is searching online to buy sex. 

A well-known and well-researched element of deterring sex trafficking in a community is to address the demand for prostitution (the primary component of sex trafficking). The lack of attention by law enforcement in Hawaii has created a situation where people can be bought and sold online with no detection and no deterrence. That is a formula for disaster for sex trafficking victims as human traffickers can recruit and victimize them online without any interference.  

Q: Sex buying is illegal under Hawaii law. What do you think is the attitude of Hawaii law enforcement toward sex trafficking? What could they change?

A: Within the context of culture and social pressure by pro-prostitution groups, there has been a general lack of response by law enforcement and the state. This demonstrates a crisis of priorities and a fundamental misunderstanding of the issue. That there are more citations for being homeless (sit-lie violations) and jaywalking in Honolulu than for buying sex is troubling, and our study definitely highlighted that finding online sex buyers was not difficult.  

Stopping sex buyers from buying is the greatest method to change the sex market. To do this, Hawaii must say that buying and selling another for sex is unacceptable, is based on the privilege of dominance and power and is an act of violence. If there was a significant drop in sex buyers, sex traffickers would be deterred from recruiting victims. 

Q: Is sex buying part of Hawaii's culture?

A: Sex buying opportunities can be found on almost every island in Hawaii in some form. There are streets of massage parlors and hostess bars on Maui and Oahu; there are game rooms and drug houses in other towns and cities. These are known fronts for prostitution, and many of the sex trafficking victims I interviewed identified those as places they were sold. 

Online, sex buying is available everywhere in Hawaii.   

Expectations for business visitors in Hawaii continue to include the provision of "entertainment," including prostitutes or being taken to sex-selling establishments by their hosts.  

The lack of a strategy to address sex buying is not unusual to Hawaii — many states and large cities struggle with how to balance what is often seen as a low-level crime with higher levels of more violent crime. 

Q: Your findings show that there’s cultural pressure to remain silent on sex abuse. 

A: I was told by a number of the sex trafficking victims that I interviewed in Hawaii, if they told anyone what was happening, it would bring bad things to their family.  

This included all types of abuse. The tacit acceptance about men in the community buying sex and the silence within families are strong factors that perpetuate the sex trafficking victimization of children and adults in Hawaii.  

Q: What is being done to address sex buyer demand?

A: Sex buyers create the sex trade business: Without their demand, there would be no business.  

In Hawaii, there is limited action to deter sex buying with few arrests. In other cities, like Phoenix and Cincinnati, a clear message has been sent that buying sex is unacceptable and the punishments are significant. In Phoenix, if you are a city employee and are caught buying sex you will be fired, along with your car being impounded for 30 days and a $1,000 fine. In Cincinnati, the sex buyer’s photo is posted on a billboard.  

Around the U.S. there are dynamic interventions being used that have been found to have significantly disrupted the sex buyer market. Seattle arrested and prosecuted a group of sex buyers who used a private chat board to rank and promote prostituted persons around the country. Many of them worked for tech companies and had families.  

Other techniques being used include using bots to lure and respond to sex buyers with deterrent messages. Other states are using marketing campaigns like “Arizona isn’t buying it” to explain the belief that buying sex is a crime.  

Somehow we have to find a way to get people to care about the victims of sex trafficking. The first place to start, I believe, is to change the hearts and minds of men who believe that buying sex from another person isn’t harmful to that victim. 

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


Meet the 2018-19 outstanding faculty mentors

Graduate College celebrates 31 years of excellence in mentoring

February 15, 2019

The Graduate College Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards bring attention to a crucial component of graduate education — the many hours faculty invest in nurturing and developing the academic identities and technical acumen of graduate students and postdoctoral scholars outside the classroom or lab.

Being a mentor is much more than being a professor. A mentor works diligently to guide students through their early years as a student, teaching them the cultural intricacies of their academic colleges and helping them navigate the larger professional and scholarly communities so they can form long-lasting relationships with colleagues. Some mentors also offer socio-emotional support, bolster students’ self-esteem and help them navigate work/life balance. These are no easy tasks. Recipients of 2019 Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards The recipients of the 2018-19 Oustanding Faculty Mentor Awards. Download Full Image

Every year, the Graduate College recognizes these efforts and awards outstanding graduate faculty for their service in mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral scholars at ASU. The 2018-19 awards were presented to Linda Luecken, outstanding doctoral mentor; Anca Delgado, outstanding master’s mentor; Barbara Klimek, outstanding instructional faculty mentor; and Gabriel Q. Shaibi, outstanding postdoctoral mentor.

Deborah Clarke, vice provost for academic personnel, opened the 31st annual Graduate College Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards ceremony.

“When you’re floundering, surrounded by messages that you’re not good enough, to have somebody step in and tell you, ‘Yes, you are smart,’ and ‘You can do this,’ means more than we can convey. If someone is there for you when you really need it, you never forget it,” Clarke said.

Completing graduate school takes persistence and perseverance. Graduate students often become discouraged, comparing themselves to their peers and suffering from impostor syndrome. A great mentor is able to both teach and inspire students to believe in themselves.

The Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards reception is a great venue for recognition and also serves as a mirror in which faculty can reflect upon their own mentoring philosophies and learn from others. In addition to Clarke’s remarks, the reception was highlighted by brief but poignant statements by each of the award recipients in which they reflected on their own mentoring journeys, philosophies and student success stories.

“This event demonstrates that ASU places an extremely high value on mentorship,” said Shaibi. “Honoring faculty for their contributions in the area of mentorship is an additional mechanism by which the Graduate College displays its commitment to supporting the success of graduate students and postdocs.”

All award recipients said that the most rewarding part of receiving the award was that the nominations came from graduate students and postdoctoral scholars themselves.

“I was thrilled to learn I had won the award,” said Luecken. “It means so much that it came from my students.”

Delgado echoed the sentiment.

“This award has and will continue to have the most profound meaning for me because it was initiated by my students,” she said. “They are the reason why I became a faculty (member). I am beyond grateful for their support and the support of ASU in this beginning stage of my career.”

For Klimek, the fulfillment of her mentoring relationships — watching graduate students grow and succeed — is a reward in and of itself.

“Mentoring energizes me,” she said. “The most rewarding thing about being a mentor is seeing my mentees go their own way and achieving not only their educational goals but their social and personal goals.”

About the recipients

Read the mentoring philosophies of awardees at the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards webpage.

2018-19 Outstanding Doctoral Mentor — Linda Luecken

Luecken is a professor in the Department of Psychology and the associate dean of faculty in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Since 2000, she has been a member of the clinical psychology faculty at ASU. Her research interests include health psychology, women’s perinatal health, the impact of early life adversity on the development of cardiovascular and hormonal stress responses and cultural and environmental influences on children’s obesity risk.

2018-19 Outstanding Master’s Mentor — Anca Delgado

Delgado is an assistant professor of environmental engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and a faculty member of the Biodesign Swette Center for Environmental Biotechnology. Her expertise is in bioremediation processes and environmental biotechnologies that combine microbial catalysts and chemical oxidants and reductants. Delgado researches microbial processes that sequester and transform carbon and chlorine compounds to remove contaminants and improve soil and groundwater quality.

2018-19 Outstanding Instructional Faculty Mentor — Barbara Klimek

Klimek is a clinical associate professor and Master of Social Work coordinator at the School of Social Work. She is the director of the Office of Global Social Work, senior sustainability scientist with the Global Institute of Sustainability, affiliate faculty of the Master of Social Justice and Human Rights program at ASU and affiliate faculty of the Melikian Center. Klimek engages in research related to issues of cultural diversity, social justice for refugees and immigrants, community development and international social work.

2018-19 Outstanding Postdoctoral Mentor — Gabriel Shaibi

Shaibi is an associate professor and Southwest Borderlands Scholar at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. His research focuses on understanding and preventing obesity-related health disparities among Latino youth and families. Shaibi’s work spans the translational spectrum and includes collaborations with a transdisciplinary team of researchers, clinicians and community partners to improve health equity among vulnerable and underserved populations. In addition to his research, Shaibi directs the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at ASU, is the research director for the Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and is an associate editor for the journal Obesity.

MORE: Learn about the Outstanding Faculty Mentor Awards, including evaluation criteria, nomination processes and timelines

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Downtown Phoenix campus opens doors to excitement

February 10, 2019

The schools and units of ASU's downtown campus enthralled guests with learning activities and demonstrations

The fun kept rolling Saturday with the second of Arizona State University's Open Door events, where members of the community were invited to check out the exciting work being done by the schools and units of the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Visitors to the campus learned about drone piloting, had a chance to hold a sheep brain, crafted origami cats, got hearing screenings, saw a Van de Graaff generator in action and uncovered the wonders of DNA.

If you missed out, don't worry: There are two more free Open Door events:

  • West campus: 1–5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 16
  • Tempe campus: 1–6 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23

Read more about what's in store at each campus here, including information on the free app that can help visitors map out the activities they want to visit. Get free tickets in advance online. 

Video by Dana Lewandowski/ASU

Check ASU Now after each event for photo galleries and video.

More: Open Door at the Polytechnic campus

Top photo: Marcos Hernandez tries his hand at a gong at Health North during the 2019 Downtown Phoenix campus Open Door on Feb. 9. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU Online undergraduate degrees ranked No. 2 in the nation by US News & World Report

ASU online master's in education is ranked 13th in US, up from 36th last year.
January 15, 2019

Four online master’s degree programs at ASU also were ranked in the top 10 in the country

The online undergraduate program at Arizona State University has been ranked No. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, earning a score of 98 out of 100.

The program moved up two spots, having ranked fourth in the magazine’s 2018 list with a score of 95. ASU Online, with 90 undergraduate and 64 graduate degree programs, reached more than 50,000 students in the 2018 calendar year. Embry-Riddle University grabbed the top spot for online bachelor’s degree programs, with a score of 100, while Ohio State and Oregon State universities tied for third place, each with a score of 96. The list was released Tuesday after the magazine assessed 1,545 online degree programs for 2019.

U.S. News & World Report provides several higher education rankings throughout the year, most recently rating ASU as the most innovative university in the country for the fourth year in a row. 

Four online master’s degree programs at ASU were ranked in the top 10 in the country: The online MBA and non-MBA graduate degrees in the W. P. Carey School of Business both were ranked sixth, and the master’s degree in criminal justice in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions also was ranked sixth. The master’s degree in engineering, in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, placed ninth in the country, up from 11th last year. 

The online master’s degree in education, in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, was ranked 13th in the country with a score of 92. That program was ranked 36th last year, with a score of 82, and 40th in 2017.

U.S. News & World Report did not rank individual online undergraduate programs. The magazine scored its “Best Online Bachelors Program” based on four categories: engagement, services and technologies, faculty credentials and training, and expert opinion. 

Engaging students for success

ASU Online provides high levels of engagement to its students, each of whom is assigned a “success coach.” 

“My favorite part of the job is being able to connect with students and make an impact on how they do and help with any challenge they have at that time,” said Erika Stiller, one of the success coaches.

“A lot of times, students don’t know who to reach out to when they have questions, and a lot of it is helping with timing — learning how to manage your family, your work and other responsibilities on top of school.”

Part of encouraging success is helping students learn how to address issues as they come up.

“I’m helping them learn to think critically and figure out their own problems, not just tell them what to do,” she said. “I’ll ask, ‘How did you handle a situation like this before?’ I help them to figure out the answer on their own.”

Stiller said that online programs are sometimes stereotyped as being impersonal, but the success coaches offer that personal touch.

“It’s having that person you know you can always go to who wants you to do well.”

Online students enjoy flexibility, services

Online students have access to many sources of support. Nibia Orona, an Air Force veteran who’s majoring in corporate accounting, said she has gotten help from the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and also from career coaches.

“For me, being old-school, it was hard to ask for help,” she said. “I was trying to trudge through and get those answers on my own. But I realized I had to reach out and use those resources, and come to find out, I made serious progress in what I was having issues with.”

Orona, 61, said she chose ASU Online because she had been out of school for many years and couldn’t see herself sitting in a traditional classroom as she pursued her degree.

“I would tell people to not be afraid to take that chance as they get older because I run across a lot of different age groups in my classes,” she said.

“It was an opportunity I couldn’t pass up — I get to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.”

Top-notch faculty and new technology

ASU Online has also made advances in technology. Last year, it became the first program in the country to offer a virtual-reality biology lab course, with students using headsets to complete their lab requirement as part of a partnership among ASU Online, Google and Labster. Several courses, including ecology, physiology and cell biology, are piloting the technology this session, according to Michael Angilletta, a professor in the School of Life Sciences who teaches the lab.

“Many faculty think the learning outcome of a lab is for students to do a specific skill, like pipetting fluid, but in reality a very tiny fraction of students, fewer than 1 percent, actually go into a research lab like the one we work in,” he said.

“So the important thing is the critical thinking, the quality of reasoning, and putting into practice how you solve problems and draw conclusions with data. That’s what you can capture in real-life simulation.”

Angilletta said that storytelling in the virtual-reality world allows for a deeper learning experience. In the ecology course, the lab is set on a newly discovered planet.

“You’ve been sent to this planet to discover what lives there,” he said. “You follow the chemical and physical laws of science, but everything is novel. You can’t Google the answers.”

In physiology, the students “travel” to Antarctica.

“They study seals who dive in freezing cold water, and they’re doing (virtual) experiments on animals they would never get close to,” he said.  

Angilletta emphasized that the online labs are just as rigorous as the immersion labs, with lab reports using real data from published studies.

“Labs hadn’t changed much over time — they’re very mundane, cookbook things and I hated them,” he said.

“I would much prefer problem-solving with a narrative that gets me engaged.”

Angilletta would love to see the virtual-reality technology advance to open-ended scenarios.

“In these labs, there’s a constrained path — it’s not like anything is possible. But imagine a situation where anything could be done,” he said.

“You want students to learn that they could blow something up if they do something wrong. That’s how the brain learns complex things.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU criminology school ranked among best in the nation

January 14, 2019

U.S. News & World Report has ranked the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice graduate online degree at Arizona State University No. 6 in the United States. It is the fifth straight year the school has been ranked as one of the top schools in the nation. The program ranked No. 2 in 2015 and 2016 and No. 5 in 2017 and 2018.

“The School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU is once again ranked among the best online graduate programs,” said Cassia Spohn, director of the school. "This is a reflection of the fact that our online courses are developed by full-time faculty in the school and are taught by highly qualified faculty and faculty associates.” Criminal Justice graduate Nicholas Costello Nicholas Costello, who earned his master's degree in criminal justice, with his mother, Debbie (left), and wife, Whitney, at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions reception for spring 2018 online student graduates. Download Full Image

The school was one of the first to offer graduate online degrees at ASU, which U.S. News and World Report this year ranked No. 2 for all online undergraduate programs. The school’s criminology doctoral program is ranked No. 5.

“Our online graduate courses are rigorous, challenging, and reflect the state-of-the-art in terms of pedagogy and technology,” said Spohn, one of the nation’s leading criminology scholars.

Most of the school’s more than 300 online graduate students are professionals in the criminal justice field seeking a graduate degree to improve their career opportunities. Nicholas Costello became police chief of Frostburg, Maryland, soon after obtaining his degree in 2018.

“The educational value is is top notch,” said Costello. “I learned a great deal — the course readings were exceptional, the instructors were highly qualified. The coursework was just right to really get you to engage the material and really understand what you're reading and learning about. I've been very pleased with that.”

Obtaining an online degree at ASU while working full time wasn’t easy, but Costello says it was worth it.

“It's going to make you a better police officer. It's going to hone your knowledge and your skills. It's going to improve your communication skills,” said Costello. “And it's really going to give you a broader understanding of society, of people, of the issues and give you a little bit different perspective on things.”

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU In the News

Podcast focuses on children of incarcerated parents

Two million children in the United States have parents in jail or prison. The consequences can be substantial. Trouble at school and home and poor physical and mental health are just some of the issues they face.

Judy Krysik, an associate professor in the School of Social Work at Arizona State University spoke with Stephen Koonz on the "Forensics InService" podcast. Krysik, the director of the ASU Center for Child Well Being, talked about the problems faced by kids who have a parent locked up and an upcoming national conference that addresses the subject.  child Photo by Michał Parzuchowski courtesy of Unsplash
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The Children of Incarcerated Parents National Conference brings together professionals from many  child well-being disciplines to share information and research with the goal of reducing the stigma and impact of parental incarceration. The conference will be held April 14-17, 2019 in Phoenix, Arizona, at the Renaissance Downtown Phoenix Hotel. For more information visit:

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Social work doctoral student wins prestigious Robert Wood Johnson Foundation research scholarship

January 11, 2019

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has selected Mónica Gutiérrez, a second-year ASU PhD student in social work, as a Health Policy Research Scholar.

Gutiérrez is one of only 40 students in the nation selected for the prize. She plans to focus her research on understanding the impact of displacement, gentrification and connection to place within low-income communities and how these factors contribute to the health and well-being of vulnerable families. She is particularly interested in the use of community-based participatory research to inform social policy and systems change. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Mónica Gutiérrez. 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar Mónica Gutiérrez is a doctoral student at the School of Social Work in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. Photo by Alexis Bojorquez Download Full Image

The award is valued at $120,000 and is disbursed over a four-year period.

“I feel personally connected to many of the communities that are directly affected by health inequities," said Gutiérrez. "I hope as a result of my research and the training acquired through the fellowship I can lead and collaborate across sectors to inform social policy and urban planning."

Gutiérrez believes a diverse pool of researchers and policymakers is needed now more than ever.

"With different voices in the conversation, policies and solutions can be more inclusive and relevant to a broader range of communities," she said.

Gutiérrez, a first-generation college student, earned her Bachelor of Arts from San Francisco State University and Master of Social Work degree from ASU with a concentration in planning, administration and community practice. In addition to her coursework, Gutiérrez is a research specialist at ASU’s Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, where she works with communities to conduct evaluations and disseminate findings regarding research-based interventions aimed at eliminating health disparities.

She also is a mentor for the College Assistance Migrant Program, which provides migrant students with academic support during their first year in college to establish a strong foundation for continued academic success. As a beneficiary of mentorship herself, Gutiérrez believes mentoring plays an important role in student achievement and retention especially for first-generation college students.

"I have always had a calling to serve my community and help give back just like the many mentors I have had in my personal and academic journey,” she said. 

As a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health Policy Research Scholar, Gutiérrez will join a diverse group of scholars to collaboratively tackle persistent health challenges by creating innovative solutions through research.

“This new cohort of scholars is committed to research that challenges long-held notions about the health of our communities,” said Harolyn M.E. Belcher, director of the Health Policy Research Scholars program, director of the Center for Diversity in Public Health Leadership Training and a professor at Johns Hopkins University. “I am thrilled to work alongside them as they continue to develop into the kind of leaders who can enact real change and ultimately build a culture of health.”

Written by Miguel Vieyra

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New associate director sees research from ASU's Morrison Institute helping to inform policy-making

New research director wants Morrison work to drive policy decision-making.
January 7, 2019

Making data-driven results accessible to decision-makers is the goal for Melissa Kovacs

“ASU research has purpose and impact,” states one of the eight design aspirations of Arizona State University. Melissa Kovacs, the new associate director for research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, brings an entrepreneurial mindset to the job, emphasizing that the work fulfills that institutional objective.

 “The entrepreneurial mindset is thinking about who the end consumer is, and our product is our research — evidence-based, data-driven research — that we want to get to everyone who could possibly use it,” said Kovacs, who was named to the post last month.

Melissa Kovacs is the new associate director for research at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy is a nonpartisan research center that’s housed in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU. The center includes the Latino Public Policy Center and the Kyl Center for Water Policy, and last year it completed a multi-year, five-part report on child neglect as well as an analysis of voting trends.

“The work that comes out of Morrison informs everyone from voters to academics to policy-makers and community leaders, and I’m looking at continuing that and amplifying it and making sure that everything is digestible and accessible to all of these groups,” she said.

Kovacs founded FirstEval, a data analytics and statistics consulting firm, and is former research director for Maricopa County's Justice System Planning and Information department, where she oversaw research and evaluation projects of the criminal justice system.

“What makes me excited is when you see decision-makers and policy-makers act on evidence-based research,” she said. “When the research is done, there is a conclusion and there’s a finding and you see that guiding the decision-making: That’s my bliss.”

Arizona has some policy challenges, she said.

“It’s a tough state to be a child, which is my own personal lens,” she said. “But that also presents opportunities.”

She sees Arizonans as open to working together.

 “I found that in Arizona, people are so open to collaboration and networking,” she said. “That’s an attitude I didn’t always see when I worked on the East Coast.

 “And that makes for a great business climate and a great climate to accomplish things.”

Top photo: Downtown Phoenix glitters at night. Photo by ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Communication research receives university seed funding to study the 'internet of things'

December 19, 2018

The Institute for Social Science Research at Arizona State University has awarded seed-grant money to Professor Pauline Hope Cheong at the Hugh Downs School of Human Communication to advance research on how individuals and populations communicate on and with internet-enabled devices.

Cheong, who studies communication technologies and culture, will serve as principal investigator on an interdisciplinary study in the new skills and digital literacies that we need to function in the age of the "internet of things." Professor Karen Mossberger of the School of Public Affairs in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions is the co-principal investigator on the project.  Pauline Cheong Professor Pauline Cheong studies communication technologies and culture. Download Full Image

Cheong explained that internet use today is no longer restricted just to our computers, tablets or smartphones: It's present in the applications, devices and sensors in our cars, homes and neighborhoods — it's even in our microchipped selves.

“Thus, the internet of things refers to the ecosystem of computing devices embedded in everyday objects that collect, interact and exchange data,” Cheong said.

Results of the study will inform how we understand new mediated communication practices, and how public policy and technology design can accommodate a diversity of actors and goals and can decrease risks, particularly for populations that are economically and socially vulnerable or excluded. 

Cheong says that the growth of “big data” and these connected devices multiplies risks for data breaches, hacking and other cyber threats.

“Additionally, decision-making, problem solving and strategic skills — deciding on potential benefits and risks, and when and how to use a technology — are greatly increased with the privacy and security concerns raised by (the internet of things).” 

“What does this mean for the human capacities and communication skills needed to function in this era of hyperconnectivity?” said Cheong.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, Hugh Downs School of Human Communication


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Aiming high: ASU grad student pursues dream of flight

December 18, 2018

Luke Air Force Base commander invites former Sun Devil walk-on cornerback for the ride of his life

Arizona State University graduate student Anthony Lawrence recently got a taste of what his future life could be like when he strapped into the back seat of an F-16D Fighting Falcon at Luke Air Force Base in Glendale.

His Dec. 11 ride in a two-seat jet fighter used primarily for training student pilots marks the symbolic beginning of Lawrence’s path toward fulfilling his childhood dream of flying.

“The flight was amazing, from takeoff to landing,” Lawrence said. “It definitely exceeded my expectations of anything I could have dreamed of.”

The Georgia native’s passion for flying began around age 5 after a family trip to an air show, and it eventually led him to an aviation enrichment program at his local airport during high school, followed by four and a half years on active duty with the Air Force starting in 2011.

“I went to a few air shows growing up and then that really turned into hopefully one day becoming a fighter pilot,” Lawrence said. “So here I am.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Lawrence, who transferred from an active-duty unit in California to a reserve squadron in Tucson, will have a chance at becoming a fighter pilot when he returns to active duty in January to attend Air Force Officer Training School, followed by flight school.

While at ASU, Lawrence received his private pilot’s license in 2016, played football for the Sun Devils as a walk-on that same year and earned his bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies this past May. He was also an active member of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center outreach team and starred in an orientation welcome video with fellow veteran Marisa Von Holten.

“All of those things are something I am passionate about, and it kind of just came easy to me to put in the work because I knew it would pay off in the long run,” said Lawrence, who also credits the Tuskegee Airmen for inspiring him to fly.

ASU alumnus Brig. Gen. Todd Canterbury, 56th Fighter Wing commander at Luke, met Lawrence during ASU’s Salute to Service week in November and subsequently invited him to fly, something the service does as part of the Air Force’s Orientation Flight Program

“It really came through him, and I’m just eternally grateful for the opportunity to even be here,” Lawrence said after the flight. “An experience like this just gives you that carrot at the end of the road letting you know that this is the culmination of all the hard work that you’ve put in up until this point and beyond to try and work for.”

Currently, Lawrence is an ASU Online graduate student in the homeland security program with the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Through ASU, through networking, through the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Luke Air Force Base, that’s how it’s all possible,” Lawrence said. “I’m definitely feeling inspired, more inspired than even before, knowing that the work ahead will lead to something like this in the future.”

Top photo: Future Air Force officer Anthony Lawrence walks away from the F-16D in which he just flew at Luke Air Force Base on Dec. 11. The ASU Online graduate student will soon attend the Air Force's Officer Training School and flight school. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications