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'Hot Spots' project demonstrates the power of community to prevent crime

December 3, 2018

Criminology professor’s new study looks at efficacy of nonenforcement alternatives in separate neighborhoods

Want to seriously reduce crime in your neighborhood? Throw a party and bring in the love.

That’s essentially the big takeaway in a newly released study headed by Cody Telep, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

“Community Crime Prevention in High-Crime Areas: The Seattle Neighborhood Group Hot Spots Project” was spearheaded by Telep and conducted with Julie Hidbon, a professor at Southern Illinois University. The two-year study examined the effectiveness of two interventions led by a community-based nonprofit organization in Seattle. The results showed that community-led prevention efforts — holding block parties, activities and events, building relationships and other nonenforcement alternatives — in high crime areas can have a positive impact on crime and disorder.

Telep, whose research focuses on synthesizing research to assess what works in policing and practices on crime, disorder and citizen perceptions, spoke to ASU Now about his new findings.

Man in beard and suit smiling

Cody Telep

Question: What is a "hot spot"?

Answer: Hot spots are small units of geography with high levels of crime. The actual level of crime is really relative to the city, so it’s about finding the highest crime locations in a particular jurisdiction rather than meeting a threshold. 

The exact size varies too, based on the particular focus of a program. Sometimes they can be as small as a single address, but they are often defined as a single street block or street segment. They can be slightly larger too, for example when there’s a drug market that might span a few street blocks. What’s important though is that they are small — we often refer to them as microplaces or microunits of geography. And this is significant, because policing is often organized around larger units of geography like beats or precincts, while community groups or nonprofits often emphasize entire neighborhoods. The focus with hot spots is on the particular locations or street blocks within a police beat or neighborhood that have very high crime. The idea is to really focus attention on the microplaces that need it most.

Q: Why is it that a small number of microplaces are responsible for significant crime throughout an entire city?

A: There has been a really consistent finding across a number of different cities of different sizes that crime is highly concentrated. Generally, half the crime in a city is found on 5 percent or less of the street blocks, suggesting that focusing on those locations could be really important for reducing crime citywide. 

Only recently has research begun to explore what explains this level of concentration. What we’ve seen so far though is that factors related to crime opportunities and factors related to street-level disorganization or community dynamics are also highly concentrated at a small number of places. Crime is highly concentrated because there are also a small percentage of streets in a city with the most favorable conditions for crime. Some of that has to do with the concentration of residents and employees on certain streets, which increases the opportunities for victimization. Community dynamic factors, like poverty, are also highly concentrated, and impact crime levels at the street block level. Even collective efficacy, or the extent to which neighbors look out for another, varies by street, and streets with higher collective efficacy or informal social control are less likely to be hot spots.

Q: There’s a line in your report that seems to be the heartbeat of this study: “When disorderly behavior goes unchallenged, over time potential offenders recognize the neighborhood as a place with low social control, allowing more serious crime to move in.” Can you expound on this statement?

A: This statement draws from the famous broken windows theoryThe broken windows theory is a criminological theory that visible signs of crime, anti-social behavior, and civil disorder create an urban environment that encourages further crime and disorder, including serious crimes. Source: Wikipedia, first described in 1982 by James Q. Wilson and George Kelling. Broken windows has most prominently been adopted by police agencies, and has been used as a justification for focusing on lower level disorder crimes as a means to prevent more serious crime. There is somewhat mixed evidence on the effect of targeting disorder through more low-level arrests on more serious crime.

But the broken windows theory does not require the police to be the ones to intervene. In our study, we wanted to understand whether a community nonprofit, rather than the police, could lead that charge to increase social control. Obviously a nonprofit organization does not have the same formal control ability as the police do, but we were interested in whether they might be able to effectively increase levels of informal social control by motivating residents to play a greater role in addressing crime, or, in the language of the broken windows theory, challenging disorderly behavior.

Q: Talk about the two sites in your study and what was conducted, what worked, and didn’t work and the big takeaways.

A: The project was led by Seattle Neighborhood Group (SNG), a nonprofit organization focused on crime prevention that has been working in Seattle for 30 years. SNG staff were aware of research showing the strong concentration of crime at small units of geography, much of which was initially done in Seattle, and thought it would be useful to focus their community building and work in smaller geographic areas.

Our evaluation focused on two sites. The first was a neighborhood park and the residential streets surrounding it. The second was a two-block area that was more mixed-use with residences and bars and restaurants. In both sites SNG implemented a number of different projects, designed to both address opportunities for crime and encourage community building. In both sites SNG led crime prevention trainings and worked with residents to identify changes that could be made to the environment (e.g., adding more street lighting). In the park site, community building activities focused on residents taking back the park from drug dealers, and SNG coordinated park barbeques and movie nights.  On the mixed-use site, SNG focused more on activities where residents and business employees could meet one another and work together on crime prevention activities. 

We looked at pre- and postprogram changes in 911 calls to the police in each site. We found evidence of declines in disorder-related calls in both sites, with more evidence for a decline in total crime in the park site. Crime was not just pushed to geographic areas nearby, and crime decreased more in the targeted hot spots than similar nearby high crime locations. Our results suggest that a hot spots intervention that was community-led, rather than police-led, can still have significant impacts on crime. We think the program may have been somewhat more effective in the park site, because SNG was especially successful in engaging with residents, while partnering with the business community in the other site proved more challenging.

Q: What is it that nonprofit groups and residents can do in crime-heavy neighborhoods can do that police can’t?

A: While the police will always play an important role in crime reduction efforts, we think that neighborhood nonprofits may be especially well positioned to lead crime prevention projects, particularly in communities where trust in the police is low. SNG has a long history of working with diverse and immigrant communities, where there may be greater hesitancy to partner with police. Additionally, the crime reduction benefits of this program came without any intensive enforcement or increased arrest from the Seattle Police Department. Such efforts can be effective in targeting high crime locations, but may also have negative implications for perceptions of police legitimacy.

Q: What are the next steps in this area of work?  Is there a potential to replicate this project elsewhere?

A: SNG continues to focus their crime prevention work on hot spots, and we are working on plans for a second evaluation. The organization adopted our recommendation to include additional data collection in their project efforts, so moving forward, we can look at not only crime, but also changes in resident perceptions of crime and safety and changes in observed levels of disorder. 

We also would really welcome the opportunity to test this model elsewhere, and see whether we can replicate the positive findings in a different context. There are a number of engaged nonprofits in Phoenix, so it would be great moving forward to try to implement and evaluate a similar program locally. 

Top photo courtesy of

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Remembering Ed Pastor's spirit of service, generosity

After leaving Congress, Pastor founded ASU center to inspire students to engage.
November 28, 2018

The lifelong Sun Devil and Arizona's first Latino congressman died Tuesday at 75

Former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor, who in 1991 became Arizona’s first Hispanic member of Congress, left a legacy of public service to his home state when he died Tuesday night, including through his namesake Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service at his alma mater, Arizona State University.

His family announced his death at age 75 in a statement by his daughter, Phoenix City Councilwoman Laura Pastor: "Congressman Pastor will be remembered for his commitment to his family and his legacy of service to the community that he loved."

ASU President Michael M. Crow said the nation, the state and the university had lost a remarkable individual.

"As the first Mexican-American to represent Arizona in Congress, Ed served as a living representation that through hard work, education and perseverance, anyone can rise from humble beginnings and achieve greatness," Crow said. "For ASU, this is a very personal loss, because Ed was a diehard Sun Devil and ASU advocate and remained highly involved with the university after retiring from Congress. Ed and his wife, Verma, played a major role in establishing and supporting scholarships and programs to help disadvantaged students achieve their educational dreams. Many of the recipients of these programs have gone on to become leaders in the Hispanic community."

The Pastor Center — housed in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions — equips students to engage politically and within the public arena. Created when he donated more than $1 million in unspent campaign funds after his retirement from Congress in 2015, the center reflects Pastor’s fierce commitment to public service, which he exhibited throughout his life.

“This is a devastating and tremendous loss to the community,” said Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell. “Congressman Pastor exemplified what public service is about: working together to solve problems and better our communities.

"He was not interested in grandiose speechmaking or incendiary partisanship because that never got things done. Students who want to make the world a better place are inspired by Ed Pastor to jump into the political fray and make it happen.”

A life of service to Arizona

Born in the tiny mining town of Claypool tucked in between the communities of Miami and Globe, Pastor was the first in his family to graduate from college.

He took tremendous pride in being a Sun Devil, having earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry in 1966 and a law degree in 1974 from ASU. He taught high school math before becoming a community organizer in the town of Guadalupe. He went on to work for Arizona Gov. Raul Castro before being elected to the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, where he served for 12 years.

Pastor was elected to Congress in 1991 and served until he declined to seek re-election and retired in 2015. He was key to securing funding for the Phoenix and Tucson light rail systems. Light rail was "was key to establishing ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus," Crow said.

In 2014, Pastor received the University Medal of Excellence, considered one of ASU’s most prestigious honors, at the fall undergraduate commencement. The medal was established in 2006 by Crow to honor innovative leaders who have worked to advance awareness and action on issues that affect the well-being and positive development of their communities, and whose leadership has helped ASU in its effort to define excellence and inclusion.

At the time of his retirement, Pastor was the most senior member of Arizona’s House delegation and served on the powerful House Appropriations Committee. It was after he left Congress that he made the gift that established the Pastor Center.

“I thought it would be a good idea to get involved because there's very few things that occur daily in our life that are not the result of political decisions,” Pastor said in 2015. “And so I just want to make sure that the students at ASU are well aware of that and engage in public service.”

Gretchen Buhlig, CEO of the ASU Foundation, said Pastor not only spent his career serving the people of Arizona, he also saw the need to equip the next generation of Arizonans to carry on that service.

“His vision aligned so well with that of ASU, to train students from all walks of life to be engaged and fearless in seeking positive change in their communities,” Buhlig said. “ASU’s Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service teaches real-world, hands-on participation in public processes that will equip our students to solve community challenges. ASU is honored to carry on his legacy.

Pastor’s history of generosity to ASU also includes support for the Indian Legal Program in ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. The program provides legal education and scholarships in Indian law and equips students to represent Native peoples.

He was also generous with his time and expertise, appearing at ASU to speak with scholarship recipients in the ASU Spirit of Service Scholars program about elections in Arizona, or participating in formal presentations at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and the law school, where he earned his degrees.

He was a member of the CLAS Dean’s Council, alumni who work with the dean to advance the college through service and philanthropy.

“His leadership on our council made such a difference in the lives of our students, and he spoke many times to various classes as an ambassador of our college,” said Lisa Roubal-Brown, senior development officer in CLAS.

Touching the lives of students

Despite the age difference, Pastor was a hit with students, said Alberto Olivas, executive director of the Pastor Center. The congressman was a frequent guest at many of the center’s events.

“His informal, genuine style captivated students and community members of all political persuasions,” Olivas said.

The Pastor Center gives students direct access to political leaders through seminars, forums and internships. One of the center’s signature programs is the Spirit of Service Scholars. Each year, about a dozen ASU students are selected to receive leadership training and learn from in-depth seminars on important public policy areas. Students are also paired with a mentor in the field they aspire to make a difference in. 

Spirit of Service Scholar and Sandra Day O’Connor Law student Thomas Kim was mentored by former Arizona Supreme Court Chief Justice Rebecca White Berch. He applauds the leadership and learning opportunities afforded by the program.

“We’re not just some students spending time in theory la-la land,” Kim said. “We’re actually coming up with an action plan. And with all the resources that this program provides, we’re going to make a dent.”

Olivas said Pastor’s legacy is much more than what he accomplished for Arizona as a public servant.

“Pastor was a role model for effective, inclusive and community-building leadership,” Olivas said. “Over the years, he inspired countless young people — particularly those from underrepresented communities — to become politically active and to consider careers in public service.”

Paul Atkinson and Melissa Bordow contributed to this article. 

Top photo: Former U.S. Rep. Ed Pastor discusses how to get beyond the partisan gridlock in Washington, along with U.S. Sen. Jon Kyl and moderator Grady Gammage Jr., at the Morrison Institute for Public Policy's State of Our State Conference in Phoenix on Nov. 16, 2016. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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Climate change statistics rising faster and higher

November 27, 2018

ASU Professor Dave White discusses the dire new National Climate Assessment, which he co-authored

The fourth federal climate change report was released late last week. The assessment was grim.

Thousands could die. Annual losses could top billions of dollars. Seafood harvest and crops will decline. Wildfires and floods will increase. Rising sea levels will threaten trillions of dollars' worth of coastal real estate.

Dave White, director of the Decision Center for a Desert City and professor in the School of Community Resources and Development at Arizona State University co-authored the paper. ASU Now talked to him about what the results mean.

Question: The Fourth National Climate Assessment report (NCA4 Volume II) was released this week. How is the report produced and who are the authors?

Answer: The Fourth National Climate Assessment was produced by the U.S. Global Change Research Program with input from more than 300 expert authors. The contributors come from federal government agencies, universities, national labs, tribal and indigenous communities and the private sector. The Global Change Research Act of 1990 mandates that the federal government prepare a report for Congress every four years to analyze the effects of global climate change on the environment, economy, agriculture and other aspects of American life. The report is classified as a "highly influential scientific assessment," which means that it has the potential to affect many areas of federal law and policy and therefore must meet the most stringent quality and review requirements. 


Dave White

 Q: What are the major highlights or key findings from the assessment? 

 A: First of all, the report once again confirms the overwhelming scientific consensus that there is clear, significant and compelling evidence that human activities, especially greenhouse gas emissions, are warming the Earth's atmosphere and causing global climate change. The report makes a direct connection between climate change and negative impacts on Americans' lives both now and in the future.

The report concludes that the evidence of human-caused climate change is overwhelming and that climate impacts are intensifying across the United States. These impacts are increasing risks to environmental, physical, social and economic well-being. The NCA4 details the impacts of climate change to national topics such as human health, water, energy, forests, oceans, agriculture, transportation and tribes and indigenous people. Also, the report explains how climate change is affecting different regions of the country such as the Southwest.

Most importantly perhaps, the report focuses how we can respond to climate change by reducing emissions and adapting to changes. While the message is clear that the risks are real and already here, the report highlights responses that can not only help us to adapt to climate change but also improve equity, justice, health and national security, for instance. 

Q: Which chapter did you help to write and what are the take-home messages? 

A: I co-authored Chapter 17 of the assessment (Complex Systems), which highlights the interconnected nature of climate change risks. For example, climate change is increasing the severity and extent of droughts in the West, stressing the availability of water supplies and leading to less water available to support agriculture or energy. As climate change leads to more severe heat waves, stressing electricity demand, we will experience more energy infrastructure failures, or blackouts, which can cripple a city's water treatment plants. One of the key messages from our chapter is that we need to improve the joint management of these interconnected systems to enhance the resilience of communities, industries and ecosystems to climate stress. For example, in the Southwest during times of severe drought, reservoir operations are managed to balance the demands for drinking water, farms and electricity production. 

Q: The chapter in the Southwest included some helpful things being done in the region. What can individuals do to do their bit?

A: Climate change is affecting the Southwest by increasing the likelihood and severity of water shortages, wildfires and droughts but also occasional floods, episodes of extreme heat and diminished snowpack, among other factors. Many of these risks disproportionately affect the most vulnerable members of our communities. People, communities and governments across the region, however, are taking action to respond to climate change and reduce future vulnerabilities. These are discussed in Chapter 25 of the report (Southwest), which was led by our colleague Greg Garfin of the University of Arizona. To contribute to climate change adaptation, communities of the Southwest are promoting renewable energy, urban water conservation, wildfire fuel reduction and increasing agricultural efficiency. This report provides the most authoritative and up-to-date assessment of the impacts of climate change — impacts that are here now — and provides specific actions we must take to avoid the most disastrous consequences. 

Above photo: The image, taken while the International Space Station was located over western Africa near the Senegal-Mali border, shows a fully formed anvil cloud with numerous smaller cumulonimbus towers rising near it. The high energy levels of these storm systems typically make them hazardous, due to associated heavy precipitation, lightning, high wind speeds and possible tornadoes. Credit: NASA. Source: NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Flickr page.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU alumna works her way up to become CEO of Special Olympics Arizona

November 26, 2018

The Special Olympics Arizona board of directors named Jamie Heckerman the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit this fall. Heckerman is an alumna of Arizona State University's School of Community Resources and Development, where she majored in therapeutic recreation.

“I am thrilled to hear of Jamie’s appointment to president and CEO of Special Olympics Arizona because of her tireless commitment to empowering children and adults to experience the joy of sport,” said Kelly Ramella, coordinator of ASU's therapeutic recreation program. “It is a source of pride for the ASU therapeutic recreation program to know that one of our alumni has had and will continue to have a positive influence on the accessibility of sport for all and improvement of health in Arizona.” Jaime Heckerman Jamie Heckerman. Download Full Image

Heckerman earned an athletic scholarship to the University of Arizona. But the wheelchair basketball player gave it up after working with Special Olympics in Tucson. She found her calling and came to Phoenix to study therapeutic recreation at the School of Community Resources and Development.

“In therapeutic recreation, you work with so many different types of populations of people or groups of people,” Heckerman said. “I work with (an) intellectually disabled population and I really enjoy it.”

Heckerman understands the important role sports can play in the lives of people who otherwise may not be seen as athletes.

“You know, I was born with a disability. I was born with spina bifida, so I'm a full-time wheelchair user,” Heckerman said. “I got engaged in sport at a very young age, I played wheelchair basketball and got a scholarship to go to the U of A.”

She also wants to give back. She credits recreation therapists with opening the door for her.

“So it's working with a group of people that have a disability. And they're looking to not necessarily overcome it, but be a part of their community in any way that they can and act as a normal, everyday citizen, and that's what we're allowing them to do through therapeutic recreation,” Heckerman said. “Maybe it's getting them back out in the community to go out with friends, go see a movie. What we can do to make those things easier for them."

Heckerman worked in adaptive sports for the city of Peoria after graduating in 2009, which allowed her to remain involved with Special Olympics. She later joined the organization as a sports manager working with athletes and coaches. Heckerman worked her way up through a number of positions until she was called upon to serve as interim CEO earlier this year.

Jaime Heckerman at a Special Olympics flag football game

Jamie Heckerman at a Special Olympics Arizona flag football game. As the president and CEO, she oversees athletics events for more than 25,000 athletes.

“Jamie’s proven record of success in Special Olympics Arizona will ensure that our more than 25,000 athletes and almost 23,000 volunteers will have a strong leader to advocate for them moving forward,” said Peoria Police commander Douglas Steele, board chair of Special Olympics Arizona.

Heckerman will be tasked with expanding the organization’s programs, moving the location of its headquarters, and increasing the number of athletes and volunteers.

“Being able to see this organization grow and stay on the same track that we were on in terms of growth and program development is tremendous,” Heckerman said. “Personally, I get to grow as an individual. I get to increase my leadership skills and I get to meet new people and work with donors and development.”

She is also mentoring a new generation of public service leaders.

"Jamie serves as a role model for many young professionals and students and has given me an opportunity to achieve my personal goals," said Angelica Raya, a student intern from the School of Community Resources and Development. "I know that her office is always open, and (she) will always have our best interest in mind." 

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Public Affairs professor assumes editorial leadership of prestigious public administration journal

November 21, 2018

A professor in the ASU School of Public Affairs will take over editing the field’s most prestigious journal in January. Mary Feeney will be the new editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. She assumes the position from Bradley Wright of the University of Georgia Department of Public Administration and Policy, who has edited the journal since October 2013.  

“The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory is the signature journal for the Public Management Research Association,” said Feeney. “Being selected as the editor is an honor and a privilege.” Mary Feeney ASU School of Public Affairs Associate Professor Mary Feeney is the new editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory. Download Full Image

Feeney is an associate professor and Lincoln Professor of Ethics in Public Affairs. She is also associate director of the ASU Center for Science, Technology and Environmental Policy Studies. Her research focuses on public and nonprofit management, sector comparisons, and science and technology policy. She has been a member of the Public Management Research Association for more than 10 years. Feeney is currently the book review editor of the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory (2015-January 2019) and has published seven papers in the journal. She currently serves on the PMRA leadership board and the JPART Board of Editors.

“My own experiences publishing and reviewing for the Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory and my active role at Public Management Research Association have prepared to me take on this important role in our research community,” said Feeney.

The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory describes its purpose as serving “as a bridge between public administration and public management scholarship on the one hand and public policy studies on the other.  Its multidisciplinary aim is to advance the organizational, administrative and policy sciences as they apply to government and governance.”

“Mary Feeney is emerging as one of the top scholars in the field of public administration bar none,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “Being selected as editor of the premier journal in the field is evidence of her recognition as a leader and one who is entrusted to shape the future of the discipline.”

The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory

The Journal of Public Administration Research and Theory is published quarterly by Oxford University Press.

Stuart Bretschneider, a Foundation Professor of Organization Design and Public Administration at the School of Public Affairs, was one of the first editors of JPART, as the journal is called by its audience.

“I was editor of JPART from 1992-2000, starting just two years after the journal was launched,” said Bretschneider. “At that time the field had no strong 'academic'-oriented outlets.”

Submissions were significantly fewer than what they are today, Bretschneider said. 

“In many ways the role of helping authors to do better research complimented my and all faculty's role as teacher,” Bretschneider said. “ By the time I ended my term I felt proud that we had built a strong 'academic' journal focused on theory and testing of theory.”

Feeney sees her primary task as keeping the journal on the track it has been on, while pushing the journal and the field forward. She says that means publishing outstanding empirical work that contributes to public administration research and theory.

“I’ll be working with a talented group of associate editors to continue JPART’s success while addressing some of the growing challenges that affect academic journals,” said Feeney.

Feeney says those challenges include:

  • Processing an ever-growing number of manuscript submissions.
  • Designing processes to enable reviewers to focus on the content and contribution of the manuscripts they review.
  • Actively reducing bias at all stages of the submission, desk reject, reviewer assignment and decision process.
  • Diversifying the methods and theoretical approaches in the work published.
  • Developing scholarship not only for the journal but also for the field of public administration more broadly.

“The fact that Professor Feeney was selected after a highly competitive process to serve as the editor-in-chief signifies that she is a leading public management scholar of her generation,” said Don Siegel, director of the ASU School of Public Affairs. “As editor, she will be in a position to shape the field of public administration.”

Feeney plans to draw from her experience working in other research areas like science and technology policy and publishing in journals outside of the field of public administration. She hopes to guide public administration journals toward some of the best practices used in other fields.

“In preparation for taking on this role I have been researching editorial best practices in other fields and spending a lot of time listening to suggestions from people in our research community,” Feeney said. “I’m excited to be presented with new ideas and a great deal of support from my colleagues at ASU, PMRA and in the broader research community.

Feeney is appreciative of the strong support from her school and the Watts College of Public Service and Community Service, the highest-rated college at Arizona State University.

Bretschneider points to the significance of Feeney being selected as editor in another way. The former editor of JPART says it reflects well on the ASU School of Public Affairs, which ranked ninth in the last U.S. News & World Report rankings.  

"The selection of an editor is also a selection of an institution since the proposal for an editor typically requires institutional support," noted Bretschneider.  "The previous institutions to support editors included Syracuse, American, Wisconsin, University of Washington and Georgia, for example. All are top programs. Now ASU."

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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ASU's Morrison Center analyzes midterm election results in State of Our State

Morrison Institute conference explores low voter turnout, midterm results.
November 19, 2018

Despite historic turnout, low voter participation is still a problem in Arizona

Arizona just had the wettest October on record, but that doesn’t mean the drought is over. Likewise, a 63 percent voter turnout in the midterm election on Nov. 6 doesn’t mean that there isn’t a voter crisis, according to Joseph Garcia, director of communications and community impact for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

Garcia presented the report “Arizona’s Voter Crisis” at the State of Our State conference on Monday, sponsored by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University.

“I hear everyone asking, ‘What voter crisis?’" Garcia said of the election turnout.

“We were all happy when we saw that number, and we saw people getting involved. But that 63 percent was the turnout of registered voters.”

 Joe Garcia speaks at a lectern at the State of Our State conference

Joseph Garcia, director of the Latino Public Policy Center at ASU, discussed the recent report "Arizona's Voter Crisis" at the State of Our State conference Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The percentage of people who are eligible to register to vote and actually did vote was 48 percent, he said.

The Morrison Institute report found that minorities, poor people and those with lower educational attainment are the least likely to vote.

“The less educated, poor and nonwhite citizens may feel alienated from the democratic process, and they’re the ones who need representation the most,” said Garcia, who also is the director of the Latino Public Policy Center in the Morrison Center.

“Is it a crisis that we’re at 50 percent of nonparticipation of citizens who can vote but don’t? I would say that as long as we can say, ‘Voters don’t determine elections, nonvoters do,’ I would say that’s a crisis.”

The conference also included panel discussions that gave some perspective to the election results, one statewide and one nationally. Among points were:

On a more 'purple' Arizona:

Janice Palmer, vice president and director of policy, Helios Education Foundation: “Is it a new day for Arizona? I think we’re going back to our roots. We had conservative Democrats, we had Burton Barr. We’re a place that gets things done, and it’s more about the people and less about the team.”

Neil Giuliano, president and CEO, Great Phoenix Leadership: “For 2020, I think we are without a doubt now a swing state. The level of elected officials from both parties will drum up interest.”

Garrett Archer, senior analyst for elections, Arizona secretary of state’s office: “What was most surprising is that you saw voters, especially independents, choosing Ms. (Kyrsten) Sinema at the top of the ticket (for U.S. senator) and reverting to Mr. (Doug) Ducey (for governor) and that began a series of ticket splitting. Maricopa County sent a clear message that, ‘We’re not going to put up with majority red or majority blue. We’re going to split our ticket, and you should too.'"

On a more balanced state Legislature:

Jim Rounds, president of Rounds Consulting Group and senior fellow at the Goldwater Institute: “It’s not bad to have more balance in government. It allows for more discussion. When we talk about having balance in government, we see the very far right and the very far left, and the key is to move more in the middle.”

Anna Tovar, mayor of Tolleson and former Democratic state legislator: “When I was in the Legislature, I was in the extreme minority. We called ourselves ‘the pizza caucus’ because we could share a pizza. It was hard because we felt our vote wasn’t needed, but I made an effort to make sure I had those relationships across the aisle. With a more balanced Legislature, they will need to work together to pass these issues, and one of them is education.”

Archer: “Republicans have a lot of ground to make up in those swing districts. Going into 2020, what these new legislators have to do, and also maybe the Republicans who will try to take these areas back, is really talk to those specific issues and try to decouple from national things as much as possible. The Ahwatukee-Chandler area, north Phoenix are areas that are very attached to the issues that played well for the Democratic Party. Education was a huge issue.”

On whether the national results were a 'blue wave':

David Byler, chief elections analyst and staff writer for The Weekly Standard: “It’s hard to see it as anything other than a negative verdict on Donald Trump so far. The most credible pushback is that if you think a wave is identified as who gets governing power, then it’s more mixed. If you’re thinking of it in terms of public opinion, it’s a blue wave.”

Eugene Scott, political reporter for The Washington Post: “The most accurate way to answer that is it was definitely not a red wave and that is what Donald Trump said it would be. Especially if you look at state legislatures and when you look at amendments that passed across the country, like in Florida with former inmates being able to receive voting rights again, that were overwhelmingly supported by the left.”

Elvia Diaz, columnist for The Arizona Republic: “What you are seeing is a middle wave. It’s a signal of voters saying, ‘We are done with the blue wave and with the red. We are looking for something else.’ That’s what is most interesting now — this middle ground.”

Jacqueline Salit, president of Independent Voting: “We don’t have a color for independents. It’s not purple because a big part of what it means to be independent is ‘I don’t want to be put into a box.” You can make the case that it was an independent wave.”

On young people voting:

Scott: “The turnout from millennials did significantly better compared to previous midterms, and people were anxious about whether millennials would show up. Part of the anxiety is because we still view millennials as 20 years old. I’m 37, the oldest millennial you can be, and most people my age I know are parents, are dealing with housing issues, dealing with debt, dealing with health-care issues, national security. The idea of a disconnected young person who doesn’t know there was an election happening is not an accurate portrayal.”

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College at ASU: “The election of Donald Trump was deeply energizing for a significant number of students who felt like their vote mattered and saw a guy that nobody thought could be elected president. It excited them. The assumption that all millennials vote a certain way is off. It’s important that their enthusiasm for the process is not contingent on our approval.”

At the conference, Lattie Coor, former president of ASU and chairman and founding director of the Center for the Future of Arizona, received the Sue Clark-Johnson Leadership Award. This is the second year of the award, named for the former publisher of the Arizona Republic and executive director of the Morrison Institute, who died in 2015.

Former ASU President Lattie Coor speaks at the State of Our State conference

Lattie Coor, former president of ASU, received the Sue Clark-Johnson Leadership Award from the Morrison Institute for Public Policy. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Coor discussed how the center is working to improve education, particularly the Beat the Odds School Leadership Academy for principals, the Move On When Ready college- and career-readiness initiative and a dashboard that shows K-12 progress.

“Our premise is if you have goals, you can work toward something, not away from something,” he said.

ASU President Michael Crow, in opening remarks for the conference, disputed that the country’s political process is in crisis.

“In one single country, France, from 1562 to 1598, 3 million people were killed over whether you were a Catholic or a Protestant,” he said. “No democracy. No way of working things out. No way for people to settle their differences.

“But we have ways to settle our differences and we have ways for every voice to be heard. We don’t burn people at the stake — we argue.”

Crow noted that the democracy is young.

ASU President Michael Crow speaks at the State of Our State conference

President Michael Crow opens the State of Our State conference on Monday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“We’ve just started. Only 2,908 months have passed since the American idea was declared in July 1776,” he said. “I was born 757 months ago. I’ve lived through 25 percent of the life of this republic. This republic is a baby.”

Crow said that he would rate Arizona as somewhere between “very good” and “excellent.”

“In Arizona, we have a shared set of core values,” he said. “Its value system is clear. Its goals are clear.

He argued against negativity.

“I hear all this hyperbole that democracy is going down the tubes and the fate of our republic is at the edge of its demise. These people are fools,” he said.

“We’re not at the end of anything except further progress.”

Top photo: Eugene Scott (right), political reporter for The Washington Post, discussed the national results of the midterm election at the State of Our State conference. At left are Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and Jacqueline Salit, president of Independent Voting. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


Committed to public service: ASU Watts College alumni elected to public office

November 16, 2018

Graduates of Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions fared well in the November general election. One was elected to the U.S. Senate, two to statewide offices in Arizona and others to legislative and local offices. 

Democratic Congresswoman Kyrsten Sinema won the race to replace U.S. Senator Jeff Flake, who chose not to run for re-election. Senator-elect Sinema is an alumna and instructor at the ASU School of Social Work, one of four schools and two dozen research centers that make up the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions in downtown Phoenix. Sinema would fly back to Phoenix from Washington, D.C., to teach day-long graduate courses on Saturdays and Sundays during the fall and spring semesters.

“We're just really pleased and honored that she's a graduate of our school and she's had the opportunity to actually work with our students as an instructor while serving as a member of Congress,” said James Herbert Williams, director of the ASU School of Social Work. “She’s a wonderful role model of what can be accomplished when you put your mind to it and work hard.” Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema gave the keynote address at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Convocation at Comerica Theater in December 2016 Senator-elect Kyrsten Sinema delivering the keynote address at the December 2016 Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions Convocation at Comerica Theater. Sinema earned four graduate degrees from Arizona State University: a Master of Social Work, a Juris Doctor (law), a PhD in Justice Studies and an MBA. Download Full Image

Statewide office

Two other graduates of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions lead statewide races for public office.

Republican Senate Majority Leader Kimberly Yee, who earned a Master of Public Administration from the ASU School of Public Affairs, was elected to be the state’s next treasurer. The position as Arizona’s chief banker and financial officer is currently held by another graduate of the School of Public Affairs, Eileen Klein, who was appointed earlier this year by Gov. Doug Ducey. Klein, who also earned an MPA, is the former president of the Arizona Board of Regents and a former chief of staff to Gov. Jan Brewer.

Katie Hobbs, a Democrat who earned her graduate degree from the ASU School of Social Work, emerged as the leading candidate in the race for Secretary of State. Hobbs is currently the state senate minority leader. Results in that contest have not yet been finalized.

“This is an unprecedented year for people stepping up to be part of the solution,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “Serving in elected office is one of the most important things we can do as citizens, and I’m proud to see so many of our graduates elected to office.”

Arizona Treasurer Eileen Klein and State Treasurer-elect Kimberly Ye

Arizona Treasurer Eileen Klein and Treasurer-elect Kimberly Yee. Both are graduates of the ASU School of Public Affairs. Photo courtesy of Office of State Treasurer

School of Public Affairs alumna Jennifer Jermaine won a District 18 seat in the Arizona House of Representatives, serving Ahwatukee and Chandler. The Democrat's election came two years after co-creating nonprofits Stronger Together Arizona and We the People Summit. Both efforts are aimed at getting people to collaborate in the hopes of more effectively influencing public policy.

"When I started the nonprofit, I never intended to run for office," Jermaine said.

As an advocate for public education, she says it was the passage of private school vouchers that compelled her to seek a legislative seat.

"The number one issue in District 18 is public education," Jermaine said. "I would really like to see us find a permanent funding stream for public education as our economy goes in cycles, and where we are at in the cycle is anyone's guess."

Jennifer Jermaine participates in a march at the state capitol earlier in this year.

Jennifer Jermaine participates in a march at the state capitol in January 2018. Jermaine is an alumna of the ASU School of Public Affairs. Photo courtesy of Jennifer Jermaine

Jermaine says her education from the School of Public Affairs allowed her to hit the ground running. She credits retired professor Jerry Miller for giving her the knowledge to understand the state budgeting process. Creating a state budget is one of the most important functions of the state Legislature.

“We are enormously proud of the fact that people who have received our degrees are being elected, which means that voters are showing confidence in them to formulate public policies and implement them effectively," said Don Siegel, director of the ASU School of Public Affairs.

Local government

Phoenix Elementary School District voters elected Carmen Trujillo to the east Phoenix school board. The mother of three grew up in the school district. She earned her bachelor’s degree in criminology and criminal justice. As president of the ASU Chapter of the National Criminal Justice Honor Society, she helped the student group win an ASU Pitchfork Award for Outstanding Undergraduate Student Organization in 2014.

Carmen Trujillo, with her three children, was elected to the Phoenix Elementary School Board.

Carmen Trujillo, with her three children, was elected to the Phoenix Elementary School Board. Trujillo is an alumna of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Photo courtesy of Carmen Trujillo

“Carmen is an outstanding leader and will serve her community well,” said Cassia Spohn, director of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice.

Earlier this fall, another graduate of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions was appointed by the Phoenix City Council to represent District 5 on an interim basis. The council selected Vania Guevara to fulfill the term of Daniel Valenzuela, who resigned from the council to run for mayor, until a special election is held March 12. A first-generation graduate, Guevara earned her Masters of Public Administration from the ASU School of Public Affairs. She also has a degree in political science from ASU and a law degree from Summit Law School.

“For anyone who is jaded by divisive politics, all you have to do is look at the quality of people running for office,” Koppell said. “No matter where you fall on the political spectrum, there is reason to believe in the future.”

Guevara serves with another graduate of the School of Public Affairs. District 2 Councilman and Vice Mayor Jim Waring earned both his MPA and PhD from the School of Public Affairs. Waring also served as an Arizona state senator.

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and District 5 Councilwoman Vania Guevara.

Phoenix Mayor Thelda Williams and District 5 Councilwoman Vania Guevara. Guevara is an alumna of the ASU School of Public Affairs. Photo courtesy city of Phoenix

Alumni re-elected

Several alumni won re-election to the state Legislature. State Senator Rebecca Rios (D-Phoenix) earned both her bachelor’s and master’s degree from the ASU School of Social Work. She faced no general election challenge as the incumbent state senator serving south Phoenix (District 27). Rios is one of the most experienced lawmakers in the Legislature with more than a decade of experience in both the House and Senate.

State Senator Martín Quezada (D-Phoenix), a graduate of the ASU School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, easily won his District 28 election. Like Rios, he faced no competition on the general election ballot. Quezada, who also earned his law degree from ASU, represents southwest Phoenix.

Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete (D-Phoenix), a graduate of the ASU School of Public Affairs, faced no competition as he won the state senate race for District 30 in west Phoenix. Navarrete, who earned his undergraduate degree in Urban and Metropolitan Studies, was previously elected to the House of Representatives in 2016.

Tony Rivero (R-Peoria), was elected to the House of Representatives from District 21. Rivero earned his Master of Public Administration from the ASU School of Public Affairs and has served the city of Peoria as a civil servant in a number of capacities.

Rebecca Rios, Martín Quezada, Tony Navarette and Tony Rivero

Rebecca Rios, Martín Quezada, Tony Navarette and Tony Rivero were re-elected to the Arizona Legislature. Rios is an alumna of the School of Social Work. Quezada is an alumnus of the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice. Navarette and Rivero are alumni of the School of Public Affairs.

Out-of-state success story

One of the most distinguished graduates from the School of Community Resources and Development was re-elected to office in Minnesota. Voters in Maplewood, a town of 38,000 people, returned Nora Slawik to the mayor’s office. Slawik earned a degree in recreation administration with an emphasis on nonprofit organizations from ASU in 1984. Earlier this year, she was selected as the Certified Nonprofit Professional of the Year by the national Nonprofit Leadership Alliance.

“Nora truly defines what it means to be a public servant,” said Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center and the Saguaro Professor of Civic Enterprise in ASU’s School of Community Resources and Development. “She is the greatest example I know of someone who blended her education in nonprofit leadership and management with a laser focus on impactful results to make positive outcomes happen.”

Nora Slawik

Nora Slawik receives the Certified Nonprofit Professional of the Year award from the national Nonprofit Leadership Alliance in January 2018. Voters in Maplewood, Minnesota re-elected Slawik as mayor in November 2018. She is an alumna of the School of Community Resources and Development.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU professor will assist MIT project to leverage impact of public research

November 15, 2018

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology has awarded a three-year, $150,000 research and evaluation grant to Chris Hayter, an assistant professor in the Arizona State University School of Public Affairs and a researcher in the ASU Center for Organizational Research and Design. Hayter’s work will inform an MIT project funded by the National Science Foundation. The NSF Innovation Corps or I-Corps program is aimed at maximizing the economic and social impact of technologies developed by university engineers, researchers and students in the New England region.   

“The award signifies Professor Hayter’s continued leadership in the fields of technology transfer and technology-based economic development,” said Regents' Professor Barry Bozeman, the Arizona Centennial Professor of Science and Technology Policy and Public Management, and director of the Center for Organization Research and Design. "The award is extremely competitive and important for many reasons, particularly that it shows our center’s commitment to engaging in work that is academically useful but also of practical significance.” ASU School of Public Affairs professor Christopher Hayter Chris Hayter is an assistant professor at the School of Public Affairs in the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Download Full Image

Hayter’s project has three separate components. The first is to evaluate and improve the New England NSF I-Corps Node. The team is focused on encouraging and supporting faculty and student entrepreneurship in research universities throughout New England. The second goal is to investigate factors that promote or weaken faculty and student entrepreneurship in the region. The project will also connect I-Corps services and evaluation activities to other entrepreneurship efforts in New England and the U.S.  

“While Boston has a long history of high-tech entrepreneurship, I am excited to learn how we can improve entrepreneurial impact among diverse educational institutions throughout New England,” said Hayter. “These lessons will help other research universities like ASU increase their regional social and economic impact.” 

Hayter has an extensive background in program evaluation, higher education and science policy. He is the former executive director of the Policy Evaluation and Transformation Group at the New York Academy of Sciences and evaluated and managed complex science innovation policy projects for the National Governors Association, Council on Competitiveness, and the National Academies’ Board on Science, Technology, and Economic Policy.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions


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Public Service Academy member engineers a new life after Hurricane Maria

November 8, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Service program matches volunteers with veterans' caregiving families

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Top image by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now