ASU graduate student returns to Phoenix to head city arts office


November 2, 2018

Mitch Menchaca, a graduate student in Arizona State University's School of Community Resources and Development, will return this fall to Phoenix as the next executive director of the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture.

Menchaca, an ASU alumnus, has served in a number of leadership positions with various arts organizations nationwide. He currently serves as executive director of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras in Los Angeles. Previous, Menchaca was vice president of membership and chief operating officer at Chorus America and director of local arts advancement for Americans for the Arts, both in Washington, D.C. Mitch Menchaca Mitch Menchaca (center) at the 2018 annual conference of the Association of California Symphony Orchestras in Sacramento. Menchaca, a graduate student in the School of Community Resources and Development, is leaving the nonprofit to run the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. Download Full Image

“The past 10 years I have served in roles where my work helped arts organizations manage through their capacity building from afar,” Menchaca said. “I am excited to come back to Phoenix and work with artists and arts organizations on issues and challenges that not only face them but that directly impact the community.”

School of Community Resources and Development Associate Professor Mark Hager first met Menchaca in 2011 when he was at Americans for the Arts and Hager was collecting data for a study on local arts agencies.

“His boss told me he was a recent ASU grad, so we had that point of connection,” said Hager, who co-directs the graduate studies in nonprofit leadership and management program. “When he applied for our master's degree last fall, I remembered him right away.”

Menchaca embarked on his graduate degree in Nonprofit Leadership and Management to gain the knowledge and skills to make him a more effective leader. He says working on his degree reminds him that many of the issues facing arts organizations are the same struggles faced by his counterparts in other fields, such as challenges with board governance, fundraising and marketing.

“I have come to realize that some, especially small and midsized organizations, fumble through areas around human resources, nonprofit laws and compliance, and financial management policies and practices and turn to service providers for answers,” Menchaca said. “My education allows me to offer accurate technical assistance, but I also have the connections with experts to direct them to when questions are out of the scope of what I can and should provide.”

Nancy Pelosi and Matt Menchaca

Mitch Menchaca with U.S. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi at the 2017 Arts Advocacy Day.

Hager is confident that Menchaca will provide the kind of leadership that will benefit the Phoenix arts community.

“Mitch has had a lot of great experiences in the arts and culture space, from the Arizona Commission on the Arts, to Chorus America, to the Association of California Symphony Orchestras, full circle back to Phoenix,” Hager said. “He’ll be a great re-addition to Phoenix as he works through the rest of his master's degree.”

Menchaca was chosen to replace the retiring executive director of the city of Phoenix Office of Arts and Culture. The department manages and promotes the city’s public arts programs and cultural facilities with an annual budget of almost $5 million.

“Phoenix's vibrant artists and innovative community organizations make the city a great place to live, and I can't wait to start work in December,” Menchaca said.

Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions

602-496-0001

 
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Ex-CEO of Planned Parenthood hopes empowerment movements are inclusive

Ex-CEO of Planned Parenthood tells ASU group that #MeToo needs to be inclusive.
October 25, 2018

Gloria Feldt tells ASU Lodestar conference that women should leverage communication, data

Gloria Feldt has been at the forefront of women’s empowerment issues for decades, and she hopes women can move past the current #MeToo movement to include men in the conversation about gender equity.

“The #MeToo movement has been incredible in giving women the opportunity to speak in their own voices, and Time’s Up took the next step,” said Feldt, co-founder and president of Take the Lead, a nonprofit launched in 2013 to help women take leadership roles.

“But mostly what they’re doing is suing people, and that’s adversarial. You can’t sue everybody,” she said, adding that both women and men should be part of the conversation.

“It’s easy to let people who are against us get into our heads. Keep your head clear and keep your vison clear for where you want to go and keep going toward that,” Feldt told several hundred people at the Nonprofit Conference on Sustainable Strategies in Phoenix on Thursday morning. The conference was sponsored by the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovations, part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions at Arizona State University.

Feldt, 76, was president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Federation of America from 1996 to 2005. Married at 15, she had three children by the age of 20 before going on to earn a college degree in her 30s.

Feldt, the author of “No Excuses: 9 Ways Women Can Change How We Think About Power,” said that two ways women can leverage power is through communication and data.

She teaches workshops on “gender bilingual communication” — the idea that men and women have been socialized to speak differently. For example, women often use more words and are less direct than men, but face harsh repercussions when they violate those norms.

“A woman and a man can use exactly the same words and be perceived differently,” she said.

lodestar conference

Iyamidé May, a community engagement and social media coordinator with Experience Matters, and more than 300 other people listen to "Take the Lead: A Conversation With Gloria Feldt" on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Sometimes women say to me, ‘Why are you telling me how to speak to men? Why aren’t you telling men how to speak to me?’ I think that’s a fair question.”

She compared it to learning a few words of another language when visiting abroad.

“The truth of the matter is that groups with less power have to be able to speak the language of groups with more power.”

The pay gap between women and men is an example of where data can drive change. Feldt said that when she was CEO of Planned Parenthood of Northern Arizona, the organization did a survey.

“Lo and behold, the larger the affiliate, the more likely it was to be run by a man, and the salary disparity was huge — and that’s at an organization whose mission was to advance women,” she said.

“Having that data and presenting it to the board solved the problem in a few years.”

Robert Ashcraft, executive director of the ASU Lodestar Center, said that the definition of leadership can be difficult to pin down.

“Leadership is an action that many can take, not a position few can hold,” he said.

“That’s especially important in today’s political climate where we assume that if we’re not an elected official, we can’t be a leader.”

The conference drew several hundred people from the nonprofit sector, and Feldt told them to be courageous.

“You have to get to the point where you know it’s OK if you get fired for doing the right thing.”

Top photo: Gloria Feldt speaks with ASU Lodestar Center executive director Robert Ashcraft during the opening session of the 26th annual Nonprofit Conference on Sustainability Strategies at the Black Canyon Conference Center on Thursday. Feldt is a former president and CEO of Planned Parenthood, a best-selling author, speaker, commentator and feminist leader who has gained national recognition as a social and political advocate for women's rights. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

ASU Alumni Association honors Sun Devil leaders with 2018 Homecoming Awards


October 25, 2018

The ASU Alumni Association will honor Sun Devil leadership during the upcoming Nov. 3 Homecoming game, which will pit Arizona State University against the University of Utah.

The Alumni Association will recognize George Dean, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Urban League, with its Alumni Service Award, and Ray Schey, publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, with its Alumni Appreciation Award. George Dean Alumni Service Award winner George Dean graduated from ASU in 1970. Download Full Image

Ryan Abbott, the 2017–18 chair of the organization’s board of directors and National Alumni Council, also will be honored for his service to the organization.

Alumni Service Award: George Dean 

Dean, ’70 BS, is president and CEO of Greater Phoenix Urban League, an organization where he has served in various capacities for more than 26 years. Under his leadership, GPUL has focused on advocacy for issues affecting the African-American and minority community related to education, training, job placement and economic development.

In addition to his work at GPUL, he serves as chair of the board of directors of ASU Preparatory Academy, is a member of ASU President Michael M. Crow’s Community Council and serves on the board of the Center for the Future of Arizona.

He previously has served on the Dean’s Councils for three ASU colleges: the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions; Barrett, The Honors College and the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

Ray Schey

Alumni Appreciation Award: Ray Schey

Schey is the publisher of the Phoenix Business Journal, a weekly business publication serving the Phoenix metro area, and is responsible for managing all aspects of the operation.

Schey is being recognized for his support of ASU through his service on the Cronkite Endowment Board of Trustees; support for ASU’s Founders’ Day awards program; continued partnership on Sun Devil 100, which honors ASU alumni entrepreneurs and innovators; support for the W. P. Carey School of Business’ Economic Club of Phoenix series and the Master of Real Estate Development Monopoly event; support for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering’s innovation event; partnerships with the ASU Foundation and internships for ASU students.

Prior to his role in Phoenix, he served as director of advertising at the Milwaukee Business Journal and the Rochester (New York) Business Journal. Schey has been involved in numerous community and charitable organizations in his career and is currently a member of Greater Phoenix Leadership and serves on the boards of the Arizona Tech Council, Visit Phoenix, the Downtown Phoenix Partnership, Arizona Lodging and Tourism Association, Maricopa Community Colleges Foundation Board and Arizona Food Marketing Alliance.

Ryan Abbott

Past President’s Award: Ryan Abbott 

Abbott, ’01 BS and ’08 MBA, is senior vice president and southwest district manager at Sundt Construction, Inc. He has played a key role in many notable ASU construction projects, including Lattie F. Coor Hall, the Interdisciplinary Science & Technology Building 4, The Biodesign Institute, the Downtown Phoenix Sun Devil Fitness Center and most recently the reinvention of Sun Devil Stadium.

He began his career at Sundt more than 17 years ago as a field engineer, working his way through every level of project management. Abbott earned his bachelor’s degree from the Del E. Webb School of Construction in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering and his MBA from the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Prior to serving on the ASU Alumni Association board, Abbott was a member of the organization’s National Alumni Council and Arizona State Young Alumni Council. He also has served as chair of the Founders’ Day Committee responsible for all aspects of this university signature event.  He also serves on the boards of the Valley of the Sun YMCA and the Children’s Museum of Phoenix.

More: ASU Alumni Association’s celebration of Homecoming Week

 
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ASU's Morrison Institute a nonpartisan source for facts on propositions

ASU's Morrison Institute gives nonpartisan facts on 5 props on the AZ ballot.
October 22, 2018

Ballot measures address critical issues, but the wording can be confusing to voters

In addition to a full slate of candidates, Arizona voters will also consider five propositions on the ballot in the November 2018 general election.

The Morrison Institute for Public Policy at Arizona State University has examined each measure to offer voters an independent and nonpartisan assessment. David Berman, senior research fellow at the institute, examined documents and views expressed by subject-matter specialists and those who support and oppose particular measures.
 
The result is "Understanding Arizona's Propositions," which provides information on each ballot proposal, how each came about, what it would do if passed and its likely impact.

Four propositions call for amendments to the Arizona Constitution. The five propositions are:

• Proposition 125 addresses funding of the pension plans for corrections officers and elected officials.

• Proposition 126 seeks to avoid additional or increased taxes on some services.

• Proposition 127 would amend the state consititution to require Arizona utilities to provide at least 50 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

• Proposition 305 seeks to expand the school-voucher program.

• Proposition 306 would curtail the authority and independence of the Arizona Citizens Clean Elections Commission, a nonpartisan entity created by voters to provide education, campaign funding and enforcement of campaign finance rules.

Berman answered some questions from ASU Now about propositions:

Question: What is a proposition, and why are they important?  

Answer: We are talking about measures that are put on the ballot by lawmakers or citizen action through a petition drive. In Arizona, they have often involved major matters of public policy, such as women's suffrage, clean elections and term limits. Overall, propositions provide a democratic safety valve through which the voters can bypass legislative inaction, challenge governmental policies and require their consent before lawmakers can take various actions.

Under the Arizona Constitution, people can use the initiative to adopt laws and to amend the constitution. In Arizona, a compulsory referendum is used when, by law, certain propositions, such as a constitutional amendment or a bond issue, must be submitted to a popular vote. One also finds a veto, also known as a citizens' or protest referendum, through which a specific number of voters, through a petition, may force a measure passed by the Legislature to be submitted to a popular vote.

The initiative and referendum are also found on the local level, in regard to the basic documents called charters and local laws known as ordinances. Here one also finds bond elections and elections in which voters are asked to increase local budgets. In an override election, for example, voters are asked by a school district to allow an increase to their district’s budget to pay for such items as teachers' salaries and equipment.

Q: Sometimes it seems like propositions are very confusing. Why is that?

A: Voting on propositions can be challenging. They are often written in confusing legal terms, and voters often hear conflicting accounts of what they will do.

The complexity of the measures and the distortions caused by the media campaigns for and against certain propositions complicate the task of the voters seeking information. Voters are often faced with many technical questions about which they have been given little information. Unless well-known personalities or major issues are involved, elections of this nature do not draw much public attention or participation. Not surprisingly, 25 percent or more of the voters who make a choice among gubernatorial candidates fail to express their views on one or more of the propositions on the same ballot.

Q: What can we do about the information problem?

A: What we have tried to do at the Morrison is distill down a large amount of information to enable the voters to understand the background of the issues involved, the essential elements in the propositions, and arguments made both for and against their adoption. The idea is to help them make a more informed choice.

Learn more about the Nov. 6 ballot's propositions in the "Understanding Arizona's Propositions" report. Top image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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ASU professors tackle large-scale public health challenges in partnership with Dignity Health

October 19, 2018

Dignity Health and Arizona State University have announced the 2018 awardees of the Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program, which offers grants to ASU faculty and Dignity Health investigators for collaborative research projects that accelerate the health and well-being of the community.

Grant recipients will embark on projects that address an array of public health challenges — from diabetes to brain tumors to Lou Gehrig's disease — and will result in the dissemination and implementation of evidence-based practices into public health, clinical practice and community settings.

“ASU’s partnership with Dignity Health reflects the spirit of collaboration, discovery and community impact that is central to the university’s mission,” said Sethuraman Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “The work being done through these grants advances scientific inquiry and knowledge and also offers hope for solutions to some of our most pressing health challenges.”

Dignity Health and ASU launched the program in 2017 to advance joint research in key programmatic areas like population health, educating a prepared health care workforce and building a healthy clinical workforce.

“It’s exciting to see ASU faculty partnering with Dignity Health investigators as they work together on new ideas and concepts,” said Dr. Keith Frey, chief physician executive at Dignity Health and clinical professor in the College of Health Solutions at ASU. “The anticipated outcomes from this second funding cycle will add real benefit for our patients and the health of our community.”

Originating in 2015, the Dignity Health and ASU partnership is a vibrant, innovative collaboration, formed on the foundation of clinical and academic excellence.

The next funding cycle for the Dignity Health/ASU Collaborative Strategic Initiatives Program is expected in spring 2019.

Program award recipients:

Shannon Dirksen and Liz Harrell

College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dignity Health Investigator: Nicole Piemonte, PhD

Project: Expanding impacts of student-run free clinics; the Student Health Outreach for Wellness (SHOW) sustainability plan

Rodger Kessler and Siddhartha Angadi

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Edward Paul, MD

Project: The ASU-Dignity Health Type 2 diabetes medical and behavioral lifestyle management program  

Vikram Kodibagkar

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigator: C. Chad Quarles, PhD

Project: One-shot morphologic, hemodynamic and metabolic MR imaging of brain tumors

Julie Liss and Visar Berisha

College of Health Solutions

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Jeremy M. Shefner, MD and Shafeeq Ladha, MD

Project: Speech analysis in ALS patients with and without cognitive abnormalities: Evaluation of sensitivity and disease progression

Kristin Mickelson

School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences

Dignity Health Investigator: Claudia Chambers, MD

Project: Racial disparities in low birth weight: Discrimination, resilience and biomedical pathways in a sample of black, Hispanic and white pregnant women

Brent Vernon

School of Biological and Health Systems Engineering, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

Dignity Health/BNI Investigators: Mark C. Preul, MD and Andrew Ducruet, MD

Project: Multi-institutional program to translate liquid embolics to the clinic

Wendy Wolfersteig

Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center, School of Social Work, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

Dignity Health Investigator: Anna Alonzo

Project: Assessing the effectiveness of the 2MATCH Project on social determinants of health and healthcare utilization

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay.com

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

480-965-3779

 
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How would Arizona respond to a natural disaster?

How prepared is Arizona to respond to a disaster? ASU event examines all angles.
October 18, 2018

A complex network lies in wait for the inevitable event of a major disaster; ASU event examines state's role

A major earthquake that displaces a mass population of people. Widespread power outages that cascade through a metro area. Catastrophic droughts or devastating floods that strand people in their homes.  

Natural disasters are an increasingly common reality for hundreds of thousands of Americans, and as climate change and urbanization amplify the frequency and intensity of these events, the response by communities, governments and private citizens is more important than ever before, according to Brian Gerber, co-director of Arizona State University's Center for Emergency Management and Homeland SecurityThe center is a research unit of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions..

But academics, government agencies and volunteers are rising to the challenge — developing critical disaster responses, participating in full-scale exercises and harboring cross-sector partnerships for the inevitable day a disaster strikes.

Those partners came together Thursday at a Sustainability Series event titled "How Will Arizona Respond to a Major Regional Disaster?" The event was presented by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainabilitythe Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, the Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation and the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center.

Ramona Denby-Brinson, associate dean of research at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, spoke about how ASU's emergency management center is already making waves in the disaster response field, even though it was recently created.

“When I think about the Center for Emergency Management and Homeland Security, even in its infancy … it is already making inroads and really living out the true testament of what our vision is,” Denby-Brinson said.

The meeting, which featured a slate of speakers and a panel of experts in different facets of disaster response, came after the participation of the center and other state and community partners in a statewide “National Mass Care Exercise,” aimed at developing a better understanding of the role and capabilities of voluntary, private and governmental organizations in responding to a regional disaster in Arizona.

The exercise, which took place in May, focused on a mock scenario where a major earthquake in California causes an ingress of displaced citizens to flood into Arizona, straining law enforcement and emergency response, clogging traffic and putting strain on day-to-day private facilities.

It brought together a huge coalition of state, federal and local agencies — with private partners and nonprofit volunteers to emulate the scenario.

Speakers gave a brief overview of the tenets of the program, followed by a panel that discussed different facets of what a mass care response would look like in such a scenario.

A man in an electric wheelchair sits by two women in front of an ASU logo

(From left) Lori Cunningham, deputy administrator, Arizona Department of Economic Security; April Bradham, director of field operations, Association of Arizona Food Banks; and Peter Fischer, Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator for Phoenix. Photo by Isaac Windes/ASU Now

Peter Fischer, who works for the city of Phoenix as an Americans with Disabilities Act coordinator, discussed the steps required in preparing and executing accommodations for individuals with disabilities who were displaced in the scenario — as well as additional exercises to test and develop the city's disability integration capabilities.

“What I do ... is specifically for disability integration in the mass care exercise,” Fischer said. “The city did a bunch of different exercises outside of the national care exercise. … We opened a few shelters and tested that; we even had a drill at the airport for passengers who were stranded.”

In addition to the ordinary logistical problems associated with displacement, Fischer and other panelists stressed the importance and difficulty of communication between agencies, and with the public at large, during a disaster.

“The other issues we are really worried about is when we are having press conferences and we are having events … and these activities that are public knowledge — how are people with other disabilities being given that same information?”

April Bradham, director of field operations for the Association of Arizona Food Banks, talked about the importance of Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster, or VOADs, in the larger statewide effort that would mobilize in the event of a disaster.

“Our VOAD in Arizona … is a range of organizations that are disaster-relief specific organizations like Red Cross, Salvation Army … and all these organizations that are actively involved in a task force,” Bradham said. "But then you also have this very large group of organizations that maybe disaster response isn’t even a piece of what they do, but they do support if a disaster was to occur. So, for example, our faith-based organizations that might provide spiritual care or volunteers, the emergency radio — so just a large mix of people.”

Arizona faces a particular challenge in preparing for a mass event like the one in the scenario because it does not often have to respond to natural disasters, unlike Texas and Florida that face a much higher frequency of mass care events. 

“We aren’t necessarily activated at a state level very often,” Bradham said. “Our county and our local VOADs are the most critical piece of that because they are the ones that know the immediate needs, they’re the ones that know the immediate resources in the area.”

Bradham said that the biggest takeaway from the exercise was that Arizona could benefit from planning. 

“I know it is easy to get a little bit apathetic because … we’re not faced with it every single day," she said. 

Lori Cunningham, a deputy administrator at the Arizona Department of Economic Security, spoke about the issues that would arise and need to be prepared for.

"The Department of Economic Security was very fortunate particularly with this exercise because we served in multiple capacities, so from a response perspective we were able to work with the Red Cross and actually be in the shelters identifying folks with special needs,” Cunningham said. “Understanding reunification, I was able to lead the reunification task force … when families are separated, and when caregivers are separated from the folks who need them the most, how do we get those back together.”

Robert Rowley, director of the Maricopa County Department of Emergency Management and an ASU alumnus, spoke from the audience, pointing out that in the event of a mass care event, city and county officials don’t have reserve employees on hand to deal with such an influx.

“The biggest thing that we were thinking about during this process was, with the sheer number of people coming in, what realistically would we as local governments … be able to handle ourselves? And the answer is … not much,” Rowley said. “City and county governments operate with staff and materials sufficient to do their daily jobs. And we don’t maintain a reserve force of people that we can activate during a disaster to bring in and handle all this extra activity.”

The only government response that could do such a thing, Rowley said, is the military. But, “it’s about three days before federal resources, even the military, can be mobilized and in your area and starting to perform an operation.

“So what we have started looking at is what can we do for a period of three days, to take care of this massive influx of people.”

Rowley closed out some of his remarks with a statement that was echoed by many who participated in the program.

“That wasn’t answered by the end of the exercise,” Rowley said. “But the purpose of the exercise was to bring up those questions.”

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Isaac Windes

Reporter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

 
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Mindfulness curriculum abounds across disciplines at ASU

Mindfulness is a lifelong skill that transcends disciplines and lifestyles.
October 11, 2018

From social work to business to communications, students of any major can benefit from the practice

It’s a Tuesday afternoon, and on the third floor of the Arizona Center in downtown Phoenix, a group of second-year Mayo Clinic students are learning to walk — or perhaps more accurately, re-learning to walk. This time, they're doing it mindfully.

Arranged in a circle in the large communal room at the offices of Arizona State University’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience, they move clockwise, each step slow and thoughtful, taking their direction from Angie Haskovec, alumni coordinator for the College of Nursing and Health Innovation, who stands just outside the circle, gently guiding them.

“Think about all the muscles that go into taking each step,” Haskovec says. “Notice all the sensations in your feet. The temperature, the texture of the carpet.”

The students listen, eyes trained on the floor beneath them as they continue in their silent march.

This is day two of a four-day selective course developed by the center specifically to introduce Mayo Clinic medical students to the concept of mindfulness and related practices so they can incorporate them into their schooling and later, their careers.

Haskovec is the instructor for today’s Koru Mindfulness lesson. Developed in the mid-'90s by two psychiatrists at Duke University, the Koru Mindfulness curriculum is geared toward students and young adults, applying such practices as breathing techniques, visualization exercises and guided meditations to the specific context and challenges of the college environment.

After the exercise, the students head back to the more intimate conference room, where the rest of the day’s lessons will take place, to reflect.

“I can see why it’s so hard to program a robot to walk,” said Ryan Smith. All joking aside, Smith reported that it forced him to quiet his mind and focus just on the present moment and what was happening in it. “All the little things involved in just taking a step is something you’re not typically conscious of in day-to-day life.”

Teri Pipe, ASU’s chief well-being officer and founding director of the Center for Mindfulness, said she particularly likes the mindful walking practice because it’s “sneaky” in that you can do it without anyone noticing, unlike other practices that might require you to sit down and close your eyes for several minutes or repeat a mantra aloud.

Pipe, who also serves as a research professor at CONHI, designed the four-day selective along with the center’s executive director for university engagement, Nika Gueci.

“Mindfulness practices,” Pipe said, can help those in the medical field to better deal with stressful situations, such as a patient dying, “by strengthening their disaster-preparedness beforehand, ensuring they have the skills to cope while the stress is occurring and afterwards, to regroup and rejuvenate so they’re ready to go back to work the next day and be a full person, and not get burnout or suffer from chronic fatigue of compassion.”

But as several ASU faculty can attest, the benefits of mindfulness extend to more than just medical students.

Barbara Crisp, an adjunct faculty member with The Design School, began teaching a mindfulness fundamentals course there a few semesters ago in which students hear from guest speakers and learn skills that range from breathing techniques to meditation to body scanning.

“I’m trying to give them a well-rounded approach to what mindfulness is and how it’s really important as a lifelong skill,” Crisp said.

During the second semester teaching the course, an error was made in the catalog that allowed students from any discipline to sign up.

But, Crisp said, “It was a lovely accident because when we get out of school, we work across all disciplines.”

Now, in addition to the mindfulness course she teaches for design students, Crisp teaches Koru Mindfulness classes to full-time graduate students at the W. P. Carey School of Business. She said students have reported benefits that include communicating better with their partner and performing better on tests and assignments.

“There is so much talk about excellence in academia, but without stillness (and) silence, we cannot build resilience nor can we access our innate wisdom,” Crisp said. “Resilience arises from silence — meaning you can bounce back from challenges and cultivate the ability to cope with whatever comes your way. And that silence also gives rise to our innate wisdom and the potential to achieve another level of excellence.”

School of Social Work faculty associate Jeffrey Woolley agrees that mindfulness is one of the best ways to work on yourself and achieve personal growth. A psychotherapist, Woolley became interested in the practice during his college years in the 1980s and has been formally practicing meditation for 31 years.

At ASU, Woolley teaches his social work students three mindfulness courses that make up part of the Integrative Health Certificate: “mindfulness and quality of life,” “treating the whole person” and “holistic therapies for modern living.”

“In our classes, we apply mindfulness directly to clinical rapport,” Woolley said. “It helps greatly in that regard by being present and open and receptive.”

All things that translate to exemplary communication, regardless of the nature of the relationship.

When Douglas Kelley, a professor of communication studies in the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, participated in couple's counseling, he realized that such mindful concepts as being present and aware of one’s feelings can better facilitate reconciliation and forgiveness.

Now Kelley regularly incorporates mindfulness into his classes and often asks students to try various techniques out at home. Once, he asked his students to engage in mindful listening during a conversation over the weekend, focusing on being present and nonjudgmental of what the other person was saying.

The following week, a previously skeptical student reported having used the technique while listening to his mom complain about his dad — something he’d usually just tune out — and came away with a deeper appreciation for her feelings and situation.

“I just wanted to grab him and hug him and say, ‘That’s it!’” Kelley recalled. But, he tempered, “the object isn’t to come away with a new insight, it’s simply to be. And that theme carries through my courses: the idea of transformation through presence. I believe that we’re transformed through being present with ourselves and each other in a nonjudgmental way.”

The existing recognition of mindfulness as a powerful life tool at ASU underscores the value of having a place like the Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience that can act as a hub for the emerging phenomenon.

Since its launch over a year ago, there have been several promising developments at the center, including a series of online health and wellness courses created in collaboration with Mayo Clinic and EdPlus.

And registration is now open for the center’s second annual conference, “Water and Stone: The Power of Mindfulness for Social Change,” which will take place Feb. 28 through March 1 as part of its Equitable Mindfulness Initiative, with Rhonda Magee of the University of San Francisco and Kamilah Majied of Howard University as keynote speakers.

Top photo: Second-year Mayo Clinic medical student Ryan Smith takes part in a meditation exercise as part of a four-day selective course offered by ASU's Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 
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Gift establishes Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions

October 1, 2018

Couple’s philanthropy will support student success and launch an initiative to revitalize Maryvale community

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. Read more top stories from 2018 here.

Mike and Cindy Watts took over a tiny lawnmower-rental company in 1977 and worked day and night for 40 years to grow it into the thriving enterprise that Sunstate Equipment Co. is now. Though their business was about backhoes and forklifts, they knew that their company’s real assets were the people.

“We focused on the culture of the company, and it’s all about people,” said Mike Watts, who, as CEO of Sunstate, learned to invest in his employees. “We would provide opportunities and encourage their growth and development.”

Today, the Watts family is continuing to invest in people with a gift that will further Arizona State University’s mission to increase access to higher education and to partner with the community. And on Monday, ASU announced the historic renaming of its public service college to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

In announcing the gift, ASU President Michael M.Crow said that while the university is dedicated to helping the community, the gift from the Watts is an example of how the citizens can step up to improve the university.

“How do you make a democracy more successful? How can you design a university that can be of the community and committed to the community’s success?” he said. “For all that we bring, we cannot do that by ourselves. The community and its leaders, its citizens, must also engage and help advance the institution.”

The $30 million investment is one of the largest gifts in ASU history and demonstrates a continuation of the Watts’ commitment to advancing the prosperity of Arizona by harnessing the power of the university and its broad array of programs to transform neighborhoods, cities and the state.

Crow said through their legacy of giving and partnering with ASU, the Watts are role models.

“They have stepped up in a way that through their investment, this college can expand its intellectual footprint and its impact in the community itself,” he said.

Mike Watts said on Monday that seeing the family name on the college is meaningful if it encourages other donors to support the university.

“It’s more meaningful if, as the students see the name up there, they know that we’re supporting them,” he said.

Jonathan Koppell, dean of the college, noted at the beginning of the ceremony that the Downtown Phoenix campus is built on lands that were long populated by indigenous people, whose innovative canals still exist today.

“They offer a lesson applicable to today’s gathering: Through their commitment to collective action, they took a hostile environment and built a place where we can live,” he said. “That's what public service and community solutions means.”

Cindy Watts said that collaboration is key.

“Ignorance is a great source of suffering, and our intention is to alleviate that suffering through all of these programs,” she said. “From our hearts, we are so honored to do this.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The announcement was part of the Community Solutions Festival, with dozens of tables showcasing the many academic units and student projects in the public service college.

The Watts' gift will fund scholarships and professorships — including one devoted to Native American issues — support student programs and launch a unique initiative to revitalize the community where the Watts grew up, called the “Maryvale Revitalization Project and One Square Mile Initiative.”

“These are two individuals who care deeply about their community, and they decided that the best way to make a difference was through ASU,” Koppell said.

“That’s really powerful because it speaks to the role that we have assigned ourselves — to be an active agent for change by working in partnership with organizations in the community.”

Finding their start in Maryvale

Mike and Cindy Watts have warm memories of Maryvale, a thriving, working-class community where they lived in the 1960s.

They met at a Maryvale High School graduation party and then went for a drive with friends, stopping to jump out of the car and dance along to the radio on Central Avenue.

They’ve been partners ever since.

“If everybody who entered business could have a spouse that would support them like she did for me, there would be a lot more people going into business,” said Mike Watts.

He described those early years, when they couldn’t get a bank loan so they sold the family car and lived off the money while negotiating to take over a shop that rented lawnmowers.

“I had several job offers and we would talk about it — ‘Are you still in the belief we can buy this business and do it?’ And she never once said, ‘I think you should take this job.’ That made me feel supported,” he said.

“It was a good bet on my part,” said Cindy Watts, who was the bookkeeper for the business when they finally were able to buy it. “I was in full support. It was exciting.”

In the 1980s, the Phoenix area began sprawling and their business, dependent on construction, started thriving.

“I knew what it took to build a business and find value in other people,” said Mike Watts, who retired as CEO a year and half ago. “It wasn’t motivation for money. It was motivation for growth. I found that through the proper channeling of people, it would build the business.”

Cindy Watts agreed.

“To me, it’s important to offer the opportunity to every human being to meet their potential,” she said. “We’re all human, we all want the same thing, we want to be happy and be free of suffering. We need one another.”

Over the past several decades, Maryvale has struggled with crime and poverty, and its residents have lower levels of education than other areas of Phoenix and in Maricopa County. Compared with all Maricopa County residents, Maryvale has triple the number of residents without a high school diploma, 39 percent vs. 13 percent for the county.    

Koppell said the One Square Mile initiative will concentrate ASU programs in one area and help connect existing initiatives.

“Let’s try doing it all in concert so that the same families that are getting the benefit of a nutrition program are also getting the benefit of a tutoring program and are also getting help starting their small business and are also shown how to be better financial managers,” he said.

“We’ve already discovered lots of cool things going on that are disconnected, so one of the roles we can play is to be a facilitator, a coordinator.”

Carina Ledesma is grateful that the Watts family sees hope in Maryvale, where she grew up.

“There are no words to explain how much this means to me, how much this means to the students who will be receiving this financial assistance, and how much it means to the community,” said Ledesma, who has found her passion in social work, helping domestic violence survivors and children in the foster-care system.

“Just like there’s some bad, there’s so much good there. There are so many teens who want to go to school.”

Ledesma, who earned a bachelor’s of social work and is now pursuing a master’s of social work at ASU, said she faced low expectations when she was in high school, and that young people there need people like Mike and Cindy Watts to believe in them.

“They need someone who says, ‘You live in Maryvale, but you’re going to make it. Here is all this help, and there are all these resources. One day you’re going to graduate, and you’re going to do what you love to do.’ ”

Opening up opportunities

Graduates of public-service colleges become social workers, law-enforcement officers and government workers. So gifts like this are unusual, Koppell said.

“When you think about multimillion-dollar gifts, you think of a business school or a law school, partially because the alumni of a school of social work or a school of public affairs aren’t generally in a position to give those kinds of gifts to their alma mater,” he said.

The Watts’ investment will help fund the college’s hands-on learning programs for students, like the Community Solutions Co-op, a service-learning initiative in which students work to resolve local issues, and the Spirit of Service Scholars, the flagship program that provides in-depth policy and leadership training to students from all majors. Scholars will provide mentorship at Maryvale schools.

It will also help fund the Student Social Entrepreneurship Fund, which offers seed money to students with promising entrepreneurial solutions to social challenges, and the Undergraduate Research Program, where students team up with professors on research that examines societal challenges, gaining valuable research, presentation and publication experience.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

One important objective of the gift is to provide experiences to students who otherwise may not be able to afford them. A pool of money will be available to help fund internships, study-abroad trips and undergraduate research.

Koppell said the timing of the gift is significant.

“It couldn’t happen at a more important time in our history, when the belief in public service and the confidence in public institutions is at a low point,” he said.

Mike Watts said that he and Cindy are confident in ASU’s ability to make an impact.

“We’ve seen proof that things can be taken across to the finish line,” he said.

The couple hopes their gift provides hope.

“I have always felt that giving people a reason to be optimistic, to believe in dreams is important,” Mike Watts said about helping the Maryvale community.

“Part of the initiative that we hope to work with the college on is the development of that, a belief system, not just in themselves but in the opportunities that exist in the U.S. and in Maryvale.”

A point of pride for the college is that it is home to ASU’s most diverse student body, with the highest percentages of minority, college transfer, employed students, veterans and first-generation students. The college also boasts the Public Service Academy, the nation’s first leadership program where students receive leadership training and experience to work across the public, private, nonprofit and military sectors.  

“Mike and Cindy Watts embody the guiding principles of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions,” said ASU Foundation CEO Gretchen Buhlig. “They are deeply engaged in the community and dedicated to addressing social problems, serving as agents of change for the solutions we want to see in the world. Their transformational investment and leadership will shape the future of public service education.”

Video by Jordan Currier/ASU

Top photo of Cindy and Mike Watts by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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As parks fund is set to expire, ASU professor describes a legacy of benefits

As parks fund is set to expire, ASU professor describes its legacy of benefits.
September 27, 2018

Land and Water Conservation Fund lauded for benefiting recreation, criticized for land acquisition

The patio of the clubhouse at Encanto Park in Phoenix was an oasis of shade on a hot, sunny day earlier this week. There, Arizona State University Professor Dale Larsen described how a federal funding program has given millions of dollars to the city to create hiking trails, playgrounds, picnic areas — and shady spots.

That 54-year-old program, the Land and Water Conservation Fund, is set to expire Sept. 30. Over five decades, Arizona has received more than $230 million from the fund, which it has passed on to municipalities for projects including South Mountain Park and Goodyear Community Park, to state parks including Lost Dutchman and Slide Rock, and even to the Arizona Board of Regents for a park at the ASU West Campus.

The fund gave a total of $100 million to all 50 states this year, including $2.1 million to Arizona.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The money does not come from taxpayers, but from fees paid by energy companies that extract oil and natural gas along the Gulf Coast, according to Larsen, a professor of practice in the School of Community and Development. He was assistant director and then director of Phoenix's Parks and Recreation Department for 27 years, retiring in 2010.

“That bipartisan legislation was an innovative way to share those funds all over the country in parks, conservation areas and wildlife areas as sort of an environment tradeoff,” he said.

The fund divides the revenue into federal and state portions according to a formula that changes frequently, but for many years it was 60 percent federal and 40 percent state.

“Phoenix and other municipalities benefit from the state side,” he said.

“The rest would go to federal agencies for purposes primarily of acquiring and expanding their federal property footprint, primarily in Western states. So the rub, over the years, has been from Western state legislators who think the LWCFLand and Water Conservation Fund has been used as a land grab for federal properties to be expanded, which would then preclude the opportunity for mining, for grazing or for hunting and fishing.”

The National Park Service, Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, and Bureau of Land Management use the fund to acquire more land.

The conservative Heritage Foundation supports allowing the fund to expire, not only because the organization opposes expansion of federal lands but also because federal money is going to support local projects that should be funded in other ways.

U.S. Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, blocked reauthorization of the LWCF in 2015 because he believed too much of the money went to buy land in the West. However, this year, Bishop co-sponsored the Restore Our Parks and Public Lands Act, with Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., to permanently restore the fund and also allocate money toward the $12 billion maintenance backlog at the National Parks Service.

Larsen said that the program has been frozen and temporarily extended a few times, but never been allowed to expire.

The city of Phoenix has received more than $10 million from the Land and Water Conservation Fund since it began.

Larsen teaches a class at ASU called “creating community,” and he tells his students that parks not only provide recreational and environmental benefits but they also have an economic impact.

“Parks, if they’re managed properly, tend to increase the property values of the neighborhood they’re located in,” he said.

But a poorly maintained park, with trash and graffiti, can lower property values.

“In Phoenix, what is the most treasured commodity? Shade,” he said.

“The LWCF provides shade development opportunities so people can enjoy those parks.”

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-4503

 
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Conference at ASU puts gender-based violence in the spotlight

September 12, 2018

3 new initiatives — including domestic-violence certificate, the 1st on West Coast — expand university's reach into community

Social workers need to be on the front lines of imagining a world without oppression — the key to ending gender-based violence, according to experts at an Arizona State University conference on Wednesday.

“We need to envision a world without violence, a world centered around fierce, radical love and courage,” said Allie Bones, CEO of the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence. That organization partnered with the ASU School of Social Work on the daylong conference at the West campus, titled “Promoting Just and Effective Solutions to Ending Gender-Based Violence.”

“It was said that social work is about being anti-oppression, and as social workers we need to understand our role is to have that perspective,” she said, “whether it’s meeting the immediate needs of people who have experienced domestic violence and trauma or working in systems that need to be changed.”

ASU is expanding its reach into the community to help domestic-violence survivors. Jill Theresa Messing, an associate professor in the School of Social Work and part of the faculty of the Office of Gender Based Violence, announced three new initiatives at the event.

In the biggest change, more social work students will get paid while they intern with community agencies. For the past three years, the School of Social Work has had a grant from the federal AmeriCorps program to pay stipends to social work undergraduates and graduate students, who are required to have internships with social service agencies. Typically, those internships are unpaid, but under the AmeriCorps program, the students get stipends as well as additional training.

Under the expansion, not only will more students be in the program but they’ll be working at agencies that don’t necessarily focus on domestic violence explicitly but who serve survivors of domestic violence, such as organizations that work with the homeless. This will allow all types of agencies to use evidence-based interventions to help domestic-violence survivors.

The expanded program will be called Survivor Link.

“The logo has three intertwined links, which we’re thinking of as research, practice and education coming together in this idea of Survivor Link,” Messing said.

In 2015, ASU had 42 student AmeriCorps members who volunteered 17,000 hours and received $100,000 in scholarship money. This year, the office expects to have 93 AmeriCorps members work 56,000 hours and receive $310,000 in scholarships, she said.

In addition, this year, for the first time, ASU has eight AmeriCorps Vista workers, who are full-time employees deployed to help agencies work on projects. Five are working with domestic-violence community organizations, and three are working in the Office of Gender Based Violence.

Also new this year, ASU is offering a domestic-violence certificate program, both undergraduate and graduate, for anyone who has an interest in working in this area, not just social workers. The potential students, who might be in law enforcement or public administration, will take a course that was created with the Arizona Coalition to End Sexual and Domestic Violence and have internships working with survivors.

The certificates will make ASU the only school on the West Coast to have a specialized curriculum in domestic violence, Messing said.

At the conference, the attendees broke into groups and discussed “real solutions” to gender-based violence, such as teaching healthy dating behavior in schools, as well as “false solutions,” such as the criminalization of domestic violence, which many say has ended up harming more people than helping.

Georgie Hinojosa, a first-year master’s of social work student at ASU, said his group discussed culture and community engagement.

“We focused especially on not just teaching women how to be safe but also, how do we get men to talk about not being abusers, to let out frustrations in safe ways and deal with emotions they’re not allowed to talk about?” he said.

“We talked about how we think one of the most important things is having all interventions be culturally informed so we can give people the help they need that best speaks to their situation.”

Cultural competency — understanding the nuances of domestic violence within specific cultures — was the topic of the afternoon keynote address.

Tricia Bent-Goodley, a professor at Howard University and a social worker, researches domestic-violence homicides in the black community. She described the many variables that play into the higher rates of deaths for black women. For example, they are less likely to ask for help from law enforcement or social service providers, mainly because of the fear that they will be arrested or their children will be removed — both of which are more likely to happen to black women than white women.

They’re also less likely to seek help because they face stereotypes such as the “angry black woman” or “strong black woman,” and many of the women have been socialized to protect black men, she said.

Bent-Goodley suggested that more domestic-violence interventions come from outside the criminal justice system because the threat of arrest deters many survivors who are in danger.

“This idea of me turning my husband or partner or father of my children over to a system that could hurt them, I’m not going to do that even if it hurts me,” she said.

“That’s where our cultural competence is very important because if we understand those dynamics, we can work through that as part of their care.”

Top photo: Members discuss their approaches to violence prevention through the discussion of false, feasible and real solutions to ending gender based violence, at a conference Sept. 12 hosted by the School of Social Work at the ASU West campus. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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