Harnessing the power of a library

ASU Library highlights community access to resources during National Library Week, April 19-25

April 17, 2020

“Wake up and read!” was the theme of the first-ever National Library Week, launched in 1958, by the American Library Association, fueled by national concern that Americans were reading less than previous generations.

The annual celebration has since highlighted the critical role libraries play in society, particularly during times of crisis. Student walking into Hayden Library Photo of Hayden Library by Jarod Opperman Download Full Image

“Historically, libraries have served as hubs of resiliency, supporting and strengthening communities,” University Librarian Jim O’Donnell said. “During the Great Depression, librarians actually delivered books on horseback to some of the country’s most rural, hard-to-reach areas that had some of the highest rates of illiteracy.”

Known as the Pack Horse Library Project, the program was born out of the Works Progress Administration in the 1930s and deployed dozens of horse-riding librarians into the Appalachian Mountains of eastern Kentucky, where they reached about 50,000 families in just under a decade, with the goal of laying the foundation for future educational and economic growth.

“What we’re seeing right now during this global pandemic is a very library-centric approach with the proliferation of free educational resources, like ASU for You, and far fewer restrictions to information sharing,” O’Donnell said. “Libraries have been doing this work for centuries. Our mission has always been, ‘How can we get you what you need?’"

Essential resources

Last month, as Arizona State University began to transition to online-only instruction, the ASU Library, together with the University Technology Office, quickly prepared hundreds of laptops and hotspots to loan out to students who needed them to attend class, complete coursework and conduct research.

In response to the rapidly developing health crisis, the library's Labriola National American Indian Data Center, in collaboration with indigenous communities, created an online guide for students and the wider community with critical information, Indigenous-centric resources and tribal perspectives regarding COVID-19.

The guide, which has received more than 2,100 views and is updated frequently, includes links to native news coverage, parental resources, health data and statistics, academic support and mutual aid projects.

"It really is a living document and you can contact us with your questions, concerns or resources that you feel we’ve missed," a message states on the Labriola Center's Facebook page. "Now is the time to share quality information, and we’re doing what we can while we shelter in place ourselves."

The library also updated its support resources and extended the hours of its remote help service, Ask A Librarian, which connects library professionals to students in need of research assistance via phone, text, email or online chat.

“This is a challenging time and even though the libraries are not physically open, we want students and faculty to know that we’re still here. We want to help in whatever way we can,” said Daphne Gill, manager of learning services for the ASU Library, who has seen an uptick in the number of students utilizing the Ask A Librarian service since the hours were extended. 

Although book browsing inside any of ASU’s eight libraries is on indefinite hold, O’Donnell says that “for every book the ASU Library checks out, something like 150 journal articles, database searches and e-book views are recorded” in the library’s vast online collections. And he has encouraged students to explore the abundance of digital resources to which they have free access, including streaming services and subscriptions to the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, more than 650 research databases and over 450 library guides.

Additionally, the library curated a collection of high quality resources, as part of ASU For You, for learners of all ages. The collection includes access to e-books, journals, multimedia, data sets, and educational and training materials.

“We’re truly open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year — pandemic or no pandemic,” O’Donnell said.

Personal protective equipment

While Hayden Library is quiet these days, the library’s 3D printers have been running nonstop for the last two weeks — thanks to Victor Surovec and the work he and his staff are undertaking, as part of ASU’s COVID-19 emergency response.

Surovec, program coordinator for the ASU Library Makerspace, is helping ASU produce hundreds, possibly thousands, of face masks and face shields, in critical short supply, for those working on the front lines of the pandemic.

“It’s a big ASU effort and I’m proud the Makerspace is part of it,” said Surovec, who lately has been the only human in a library space defined by collaboration. 

Socially distanced and sleep deprived, Surovec has been working around the clock to produce the essential 3D printed parts needed to construct face shields. 

“I’ve got seven 3D printers going constantly. I’m in production mode,” he said. “All the machines are different, requiring different software, so each machine means a new project. It’s time consuming and labor intensive, but we need to get these supplies out to the medical community.”

The library’s Conservation Lab, led by Suzy Morgan, has also donated N95 masks. Supplies are being delivered to the Biodesign Institute on the Tempe campus.

Computing power

Another resource the ASU Library has tapped during these unprecedented times are its many computers.

While the computers in Noble Library may appear unused, they are actually conducting important work — running simulations, as part of the Folding@Home program, which could help scientists understand how the virus proteins work to suppress the immune system and thus develop treatments.

By activating a cluster of volunteer computers, including those at Noble Library and other places around campus, scientists are able to speed up the simulation process considerably.

“This project typifies the extraordinary ways the library is retooling its resources in order to respond to the current crisis,” said Debra Hanken Kurtz, associate university librarian of Technology Services for the ASU Library.

Other powerful computing resources include a COVID-19 data web browsing tool developed by the ASU Library’s unit for Data Science and Analytics. The tool is aimed at helping researchers browse and process a vast collection of biomedical research related to COVID-19. The research is being collected and distributed by Kaggle, an online community of data scientists and machine learning practitioners. 

Kaggle challenged its online collaborators, including Michael Simeone, director of data science at the library, to develop data solutions that will help medical professionals keep up with the rapid acceleration of coronavirus literature.

“The development of the site began when Kaggle first announced the challenge,” Simeone said. “There were a number of questions that Kaggle posed that developers could help answer with an AI, but we thought it would also be helpful to put these documents directly in the hands of biological, medical and epidemiological researchers, enhanced by search and summarization capability.”

Simeone says the site uses a special search algorithm to help retrieve search terms, similar to what search engines use to help make sure results capture the spirit and not just the letters of the search. 

“It also uses a summarization routine that ranks sentences based on their information content and presents the ones, in order, that may be most informative,” he said. “Good information right now is absolutely crucial.”

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

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Sun Devil stitches

March 24, 2020

Hayden Library-inspired knitting pattern to keep your hands busy and your mind relaxed while practicing social distancing

Hayden Library, which reopened in January after a $90 million renovation, was scheduled to have its grand opening on March 25. Alas, as with so many events in the age of COVID-19, that celebration has been postponed.

But we can still pay tribute from our couches with a knitting pattern inspired by the midcentury panels on the library's exterior. There are two versions below — one more closely resembling (or attempting to resemble) the building and another that has fun with the honeycomb pattern (I prefer that one). 

Exterior of Hayden Library in Tempe

Look at those gorgeous midcentury panels on Hayden Library's exterior. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

A few thoughts:

• This pattern can easily adjust to whatever weight yarn you have on hand (I used Yarnspirations Caron in Sunflower, because it looked like ASU gold). If you need to purchase some, keep in mind that many craft stores are now offering free curbside pickup (please stay safe and keep your distance from anyone outside your household). But let's be honest: If you're able to understand the patterns below, you probably have five years' worth of yarn stashed away at home.

• If you've always wanted to learn to knit, YouTube can be a great teacher. There are bushels of yarn teachers on that website; find one whose style fits you. And don't forget about that relative of yours who knits or crochets; now would be a great time to FaceTime or Skype with him or her, learn some skills and bond with far-away family.

• The patterns below have not been test-knitted by anyone, so if you spot an issue, please email me (contact info is at the bottom of this story).

• If you're anything like me, any stress you're holding in your body can translate to tighter stitches on your needle. And there's a fair bit to be stressed about these days. I went up one needle size than was called for on the yarn label and may have gotten away with going two sizes bigger. 

Not a knitter? What other clever campus-inspired creations might you think up — a cake that looks like ASU Gammage, a mini Fletcher Library made out of gingerbread, a to-scale model of the Polytechnic campus' Aviation Building using Hot Wheels, a baking-soda volcano that bears a striking resemblance to "A" Mountain for your kid's remote-learning science fair ... Creativity can do a lot to distract from the day's stressful headlines.

One final word before we get to the patterns: If you find your mind distracted by the news of the day and you mess up a stitch, give yourself grace. Learning to undo stitches is as much a part of knitting as making the stitches in the first place. Take it slow, breathe deeply and be gentle on yourself and others. We're going to make it through.

Hayden version 1: Honeycomb variation (yay!)

Knitting pattern

Precise gauge isn't super important; just make sure the resulting fabric isn't too stiff. On my sample (medium/4 yarn, U.S. size 10 needles), each honeycomb section was 4 inches wide.

Work in multiples of 14 stitches plus 1 stitch, plus edge stitches (in this case, 8 edge stitches). So if you wanted five repeats of the pattern across your row, for example, you would cast on 79. Also, you don't have to use stitch markers, but they're awfully handy in alerting you you're at the edge stitches.

CO. Knit four rows. Start panel pattern.

Panel pattern:

Row 1: K4, place marker, purl to last 4 stitches, place marker, K4.
Row 2: K4, slip marker (sm), knit to stitch marker, sm, K4 (basically, just knit across the entire row).
Row 3: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 4: K4, sm, P1, *P5, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in front), P6*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 5: K4, sm, *K6, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in back), K5*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, K1, sm, K4.
Row 6: same as row 4.
Row 7: same as row 5.
Row 8: same as row 4.
Row 9: same as row 5.
Row 10: same as row 4.
Row 11: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 12: K4, sm, knit to stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 13: K4, sm, purl to second marker, sm, K4.
Row 14: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P11, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 15: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K11, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 16: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P4 K3 P4, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 17: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K3 P5 K3, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 18: same as row 16.
Row 19: same as row 15.
Row 20: same as row 14.

Repeat panel pattern until desired length is reached; end after a row 13. Then knit four rows and bind off.

Hayden version 2: Trying to mimic the building (slightly less successful)

Knitting pattern

Precise gauge isn't super important; just make sure the resulting fabric isn't too stiff. On my sample (medium/4 yarn, U.S. size 10 needles), each honeycomb section was roughly 4 inches wide.

Work in multiples of 14 stitches plus 1 stitch, plus edge stitches (in this case, 8 edge stitches). So if you wanted five repeats of the pattern across your row, for example, you would cast on 79. Also, you don't have to use stitch markers, but they're awfully handy in alerting you you're at the edge stitches.

CO. Knit four rows. Start panel pattern.

Panel pattern:

Row 1: K4, place marker, purl to last 4 stitches, place marker, K4.
Row 2: K4, slip marker (sm), K1, *K5, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in front), K6*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4. (NOTE on rows 2-4 on this version: When it's time to slip the stitches, you'll have to move the working yarn from back to front or vice versa. Everywhere else in these two patterns, when it's time to slip stitches, your yarn will naturally be on the correct side.)
Row 3: K4, sm, *P6, slip 3 purlwise (yarn in back), P5*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, P1, sm, K4.
Row 4: same as row 2.
Row 5: same as row 3.
Row 6: same as row 2.
Row 7: same as row 1.
Row 8: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P11, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 9: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K11, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 10: K4, sm, slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), *slip 1 purlwise (yarn in front), P4 K3 P4, slip 2 purlwise (yarn in front)*, repeat from * to second stitch marker, sm, K4.
Row 11: K4, sm, *slip 2 purlwise (yarn at back), K3 P5 K3, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back)*, repeat from * to last stitch before second stitch marker, slip 1 purlwise (yarn at back), sm, K4.
Row 12: same as row 10.
Row 13: same as row 9.
Row 14: same as row 8.

Repeat panel pattern until desired length is reached; end after a row 7. Then knit four rows and bind off.

Thanks to "400 Knitting Stitches" from Potter Craft for the "Raised Paving 2" pattern that inspired these.

Penny Walker

Director , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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University archives working to capture all voices of student activism on campus

ASU to host national conference on preserving history of student activism.
February 20, 2020

ASU to host national conference on preserving social-justice history

For Taylor Notah, a trip to the Arizona State University archives brought the past immediately into the present.

Notah, who was searching the archives for material to use in the latest issue of Turning Points magazine, found a photograph of several students, including her father, protesting on campus more than 40 years ago.

“That was a really huge moment for me, to see this history and how I personally was affiliated with it,” said Notah, who graduated from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in 2018 and is a management intern in the Center for Indian Education at ASU. She is the editor of Turning Points, a magazine geared toward Native American students written by an all-indigenous staff.

Notah, who is Navajo, will talk about the importance of preserving the history of student activism at a national symposium called Project STAND @ ASU, held at ASU’s Hayden Library on Feb. 27 and 28. The conference, which is free and open to the public, will feature students, alumni, staff and faculty.

The ASU event will be the last in a series of four symposiums sponsored by Project STAND (Student Activism Now Documented), a four-year-old initiative to help universities better record social justice on their campuses. The Institute of Museum and Library Services provided the grant for the project.

Project STAND is devoted to recognizing the importance of recording marginalized student identities, such as black, Chicano, Native American, Asian American, LGBTQ and students with disabilities.

Preserving current student activism isn’t as straightforward as it would seem, according to Shannon Walker, assistant university archivist at ASU, and the lead for the conference.

“A lot of student activists use social media to gather and communicate, so a lot of what we’re trying to figure out is how much we should be documenting that,” she said.

“If they send a poster of their event, that’s straightforward. The digital is much harder to wrangle.”

There are technological challenges to archiving a social media post. Archivists must decide whether to keep only the main post or the comments as well. And the replies to the comments.

“It’s difficult to ethically make sure we have clear permissions for the posts and the photos,” Walker said.

“Otherwise I can’t then provide it as research for people going forward, which is the whole reason I want it.”

Even in the age of communication through the click of a button, the best way for university archivists to collect materials is to painstakingly build relationships — a challenge when dealing with student groups.

“It’s difficult in such a large institution to try to capture everyone’s voice. Not everyone thinks to donate their materials to university archives so we have to proactively go out,” Walker said.

“Student clubs and organizations can be a weakness because they’re in transition all the time. We make a contact, they graduate. We make a contact, they graduate.”

But inclusion in the archives is crucial, Walker said.

“It’s really easy to go after the low-hanging fruit and the prominent people on campus, and that could really take up all of our time,” she said.

“So the challenge for me as a university archivist is trying to capture more voices than just a few, and being aware of which voices I’m capturing.”

All universities are facing this challenge.

“Schools have to keep certain records by law. Those records end up in university archives and that alone is a full-time job for an archivist,” she said. “At some institutions, the university archives is one person. So to think about doing anything else proactively can be a stretch.”

ASU was selected as a site for the conference because it’s already doing good work in this area. Nancy Godoy, associate archivist of ASU's Chicano/a Research Collection, won a $450,000 grant in 2017 to preserve and improve the archival collections of marginalized communities within Arizona.

Godoy will speak at the conference on Friday. Other events include a keynote address by Reyna Montoya, founder and CEO of Aliento, an advocacy organization for undocumented people; a panel that will explore how preservation of diverse voices is a form of resistance against oppression, student performances and a tour of the newly renovated Hayden Library. The event is free and open to the public.

outside view of Hayden Library

Hayden Library. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The conference also will include presentations on best practices from other institutions, including the University of North Texas, which developed an app that allows student groups to upload materials to be archived.

Conferences like the Project STAND event are one important way for university archivists to make progress in expanding access.

“We are building relationships with communities and making students aware that the archives are not unreachable, and the archives want to capture their voices,” Walker said.

The timing of the conference was perfect for Notah and the rest of the Turning Points staff because their most recent issue was devoted to the legacies of Native American students at ASU. She spent a lot of time looking in the archives.

“Our whole team did a lot of research about students who decades ago advocated for more native student representation and resources for native students,” she said.

“Chicano student groups and students of color were also advocating a lot back then.”

But she said that all students should realize that they’re leaving a legacy to be preserved for future generations.

“Whatever we’re doing in our studies or our work, we’re all leaving legacies that will tell our children what we did,” she said. “It can come back full circle, like my story with my father.”

The photograph that Notah found in the archives showed her father, Ferdinand Notah, who studied agriculture at ASU and was the first in the family to attend college, in the background of a protest on campus. But Taylor Notah said she believes that activism can take different forms and doesn’t necessarily have to involve protests.

“For Native students, activism can be choosing to write a paper about their tribal history or what’s going in their community, because the one thing we encounter and combat daily is invisibility,” she said.

“At ASU, despite the fact that we’re surrounded by tribal nations, it’s a common narrative that they’re the only Native in their class or sports team or dorm floor. So it’s to remind people that we’re here, we exist, and there are major issues going on in our communities.”

Notah is passionate about supporting the archives.

“From an indigenous perspective, archivists are caretakers of stories and that’s a powerful position to be in,” she said.

“Archives can be viewed as our ancestors.”

Register for the symposium by Feb. 24.

Top photo: When ASU alumna Taylor Notah was looking in the university archives, she found this photo of a 1970 protest on campus by Native American and Chicano students. Her father, Ferdinand Notah, is in the background of the photo. Photo from ASU University Archives.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU professor to receive Arizona Humanities’ Public Scholar Award

February 7, 2020

Arizona State University alumnus Dan Shilling was the executive director of Arizona Humanities for nearly 20 years and has since gone on to teach three National Endowment for the Humanities summer institutes. 

He left such a legacy behind that not only did ASU present him with the Distinguished Alumnus Award, but Arizona Humanities named their Public Scholar Award after him.  Award statues lines up with stars overhead Image courtesy of AZ Humanities Download Full Image

This year, the Dan Shilling Public Scholar Award recipient is Paul Hirt, a professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and senior sustainability scholar in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability

“Professor Hirt is without question a talented scholar,” said Brenda Thomson, executive director of Arizona Humanities. “What makes him stand out is the passion that he has for the humanities and his willingness to share. Paul cares about the land, the animals, the water and the people who live here. When you hear him speak, you come away with a sense that all of these things are connected and that protecting these things matters.”

Hirt has spent the last three decades as a public historian of the American West and has contributed to environmental history, environmental policy and sustainability studies. He has been a pioneer in environmental humanities as he explores topics including public lands, grassroots advocacy, conservation, water rights, clean energy and more. 

“On the occasion of the approach of his retirement from ASU, and in celebration of his untiring efforts to render the humanities compelling for the people of the state, it seems altogether fitting to recognize Professor Hirt’s outstanding and exemplary career,” said Richard Amesbury, director of the the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies.

Hirt grew up going to the Blue Ridge Mountains in North Carolina every summer. While he explored the mountains, he read every book about wild edible plants and medicinal plants he could get his hands on. He later moved to Tucson, Arizona, to pursue his degrees and got involved in environmental activism.

“Mostly related to public lands, forest management, wildlife protection, wilderness designations and stuff,” Hirt said. “After doing that for about six or eight years, I decided to go back to school and get a PhD because I always wanted to be a teacher and earn a PhD so I could become a college professor.”

As a public historian, Hirt works diligently to bring his research to the community. Not only has he written two monographs, book chapters, peer-reviewed articles and edited two books, he is constantly involved in public talks about water resources, renewable energy, electric vehicles and more across the state. He speaks to civic organizations, student groups, retirement communities and the Navajo Nation. 

Paul Hirt

Professor of history and senior sustainability scholar Paul Hirt. 

“If we're not also translating what we do in ways that are meaningful to people in the world, they can begin to question why universities are even relevant,” Hirt said. “I’ve always felt that it’s important to bridge the academic world with the public and with policy makers.”

Hirt led and continues to lead multiple public history and history education projects for the people of Arizona. He has served as project administrator for a four-year grant from the U.S. Information Agency and U.S. State Department and for a three-year grant from the U.S. State Department. 

Hirt has also received four grants and funding opportunities from the National Endowment for the Humanities for summer institutes, program implementation and to produce an interactive website. His efforts with the National Endowment for the Humanities produced a mobile application for exploring the borderlands, a traveling exhibit as well as public lectures and programs.

“Paul Hirt is a model for how to be a public intellectual,” said Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities. “He combines important environmental humanities research with wide outreach to ensure its impact as well as activism around the ecological concerns that impassion him.”

Beginning in 2016, Hirt and a team of collaborators at ASU were awarded a five-year grant for the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation administrative history of the Glen Canyon Dam Adaptive Management Program. It was also during this year that Hirt was elected to the board of directors of Salt River Project and became the state scholar for the Water/Ways exhibit, a travelling exhibit that is a partnership between the Smithsonian Institution, Arizona Humanities and ASU. 

In 2017, Hirt joined the steering committee for the Sesquicentennial Colorado River Exploring Expedition, which commemorated the 150th anniversary of John Wesley Powell’s first trip down the Green and Colorado Rivers in 1869. Along with rafting down the rivers with other researchers, he wrote an essay, organized a public talk and a final celebration symposium for the project.

“I thought for a long time that being in a teaching career would be a good thing to do because it would give me an opportunity to constantly be learning and to share what I learn with other people and to try to instill in them the same commitment to be informed and engaged to try and make the world a better place,” Hirt said.

The award comes at the perfect time to reflect on all of Hirt’s research and contributions to the community as he prepares for retirement at the end of this school year. Upon his farewell from teaching at ASU, Hirt plans to take six months off to travel the Southern Hemisphere with his wife, but plans to continue his public works when he returns. 

“I want to continue that work of advancing that clean energy revolution,” Hirt said. “I think (climate change) is the greatest global challenge that we are going to face for the next couple of decades and the most important thing that we can do to combat climate change is to transform our energy system from one based on fossil fuels to one based on renewable energy.”

A ceremony to celebrate Hirt and other Arizona Humanities award recipients will take place on April 5. 

When asked what it meant to earn the Dan Shilling Public Humanities award Hirt said, “I’m very gratified that an august organization like Arizona Humanities, of all the public scholars out there doing good work, the fact that they chose me, to me, underscores the importance of the work that I’m trying to do and tells me that it’s appreciated even when I find it to be time consuming and sometimes frustrating.”

Rachel Bunning

Communications program coordinator, School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies

ASU Library offers tools, support for faculty researchers

January 24, 2020

Looking to give your research a boost?

All ASU faculty are invited to an interactive open house on the third floor of the newly renovated Hayden Library to learn more about and get connected with the ASU Library’s Researcher Support resources. microscope ASU researchers are invited to get connected with ASU Library's Researcher Support, a suite of services aimed at supporting researchers across all phases of the research life cycle. Download Full Image

Researcher Support is part of the library's full suite of services aimed at supporting researchers across all phases of the research life cycle — everything from grant funding to data management and data storage. 

The open house slated for 2 to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 19, is an opportunity to: 

• Join other researchers in learning about new and expanding resources to support research projects.

• Meet with a diverse group of experts who can help you identify research and funding opportunities.

• Experience hands-on demonstrations and information sessions. 

• Learn more about the ASU Library and Knowledge Enterprise Development partnership.

• Take a tour of the renovated Hayden Library, including its new units: Makerspace, the Map and Geospatial Hub and the Unit for Data Science and Analytics.

Refreshments will be provided, and registration is required.

Following a $90 million renovation, Hayden Library has been reinvented for 21st-century learning and research environments. Learn more about Hayden’s reinvention.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

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Inside the Biomimicry Center’s new NatureMaker space

January 14, 2020

Arizona State University’s Biomimicry Center The Biomimicry Center is located in the Design South building on the Tempe campus and is a joint effort between ASU and Biomimicry 3.8, a world-leading bio-inspired consultancy. opened in spring 2015, but it keeps evolving, inspiring students to take a page right out of nature.

On Jan. 22, the Biomimicry Center will debut its newly remodeled space: NatureMaker. The hands-on library includes about 2,000 individual artifacts from around the world that students can analyze and use as inspiration for biomimetic designs.

Biomimicry is an emerging discipline that allows humans to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges by mimicking nature. Adelheid (Heidi) Fischer, assistant director of the Biomimicry Center, hopes the space can provide the link to nature she believes is currently missing.

“It’s a joyful place to walk into, and there’s so much to look at and there’s so much to learn.”

At first glance, NatureMaker looks like a library; there are books along the wall and reading space throughout the room. But tucked away, nearly in plain sight, are drawers full of natural artifact collections like dragonflies, beetles and various seeds. Along the outer wall, there’s a storefront-like display with larger artifacts, including a whale vertebrae — the largest piece in the collection.

The artifacts come from a variety of places, either donated or purchased online or locally, but all have a story to tell.

“Part of what’s guided that is keeping an eye towards things that have really good natural history stories, and that could have some potential application, potential inspiration for someone who may be an engineer, architect or designer — to find a sustainable solution by mimicking that strategy or that adaptation in nature,” Fischer said.

The concept for NatureMaker was inspired by the Rhode Island School of Design’s Nature Lab, which boasts nearly 80,000 individual, natural specimens. Fischer shared her vision for ASU with Debra Riley-Huff, director of the Design and the Arts Library and division head of humanities, and in about a year’s time, the proposed concept became a reality.

“I thought it might be possible for us to start a collaboration, especially because libraries have a lot of experience in putting a collection together, cataloguing the collection, making things accessible and creating a hands-on kind of library.”

NatureMaker would not be possible without the support of ASU Library, which provided seed funding for the project. With the renovation of Hayden Library complete, both ASU Library and NatureMaker will continue partnering together, especially through Hayden Library’s renovated Makerspace, where additional artifacts will be housed. The ASU community will also be able to get 3D printouts of artifacts scanned at the NatureMaker space at Hayden’s Makerspace.

In addition to viewing artifacts at NatureMaker, the ASU community will be able to utilize various microscopes and dissection kits and check out field kits and binoculars. Some of the specimens will also be labeled with QR codes that will provide additional information to the person viewing the artifact via their smartphone.

“We’re hoping that this space is a space that inspires,” Riley-Huff said. “We just want students to leave here and feel really good and have something that they didn’t have before when they came in.”

To celebrate the debut of the newly remodeled space, Naturemaker will host an open house on Jan. 22. On Jan. 23, NatureMaker will launch its Nature@Noon series, and in the evening, host a lecture by guests of the Rhode Island School of Design’s Nature Lab, the inspiration behind the new space.

Top photo: Debra Riley-Huff (left), director of the Design and the Arts Library, and Heidi Fischer, the Biomimicry Center assistant director, look over a tortoise shell at the bio-inspired NatureMaker space in the Biomimicry Center in the Design South Building on the Tempe campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

A new way of picturing Jane Austen

A deep dive into keyword searching led ASU Professor Devoney Looser to an unknown pen portrait of Jane Austen

January 13, 2020

A stretch of the imagination is needed when picturing Jane Austen.

That’s because there are few known reliable portraits of the famed novelist, whose likeness and celebrity are the subject of a recent discovery made by Devoney Looser, ASU Foundation Professor of English, author of “The Making of Jane Austen” and editor of "The Daily Jane Austen." ASU Professor Devoney Looser is pictured seated on a sofa in her living room in her house. ASU Professor Devoney Looser is pictured in her home. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

Looser has unearthed the earliest known piece of Jane Austen fan fiction, a previously unrecorded and virtually unknown pen portrait of Austen from an 1823 issue of The Lady’s Magazine.

The discovery was made possible by a series of advanced keyword searches via a trial subscription of Eighteenth Century Journals provided by the ASU Library.

Looser describes the unknown pen portrait as something of a “lightning bolt,” undoing prior knowledge of Austen’s fame and confirming that the author had a fan following nearly a century earlier than previously thought.

“We used to believe that Austen was obscure in the 1820s, in the early years after she died in 1817,” said Looser, who is a Guggenheim Fellow and National Endowment for the Humanities Public Scholar. “This alone proves that that commonly held belief is a mistaken one. It tells us that people cared about what she looked like and that she was gaining fame in the 1820s.”

Becoming Jane Fisher

The fact that Austen portraits are so scarce and notoriously controversial makes Looser’s discovery all the more significant.

“Surviving descriptions of Austen are rare,” writes Looser in a recent issue of the Times Literary Supplement (TLS). “Five months after her death in 1817, her brother Henry Austen famously provided the first. It was an homage to Jane in a pen portrait. … Henry’s description of his sister aimed to inspire admiration, provoke sorrow and whip up author worship. His Jane exceeded the middle height and had a fine complexion, a modest cheek, and a sweet voice. He called her nearly faultless, saying she never uttered a hasty, silly or severe expression.”

Produced just five years after Austen’s death, the newly discovered pen portrait, a “Letter to the Editor of The Lady’s Magazine,” takes the form of a humorous mock letter to the magazine's editor, aptly dated April 1, and offers a vision of Austen alternative to Henry’s cleaned-up portrait.

The fictional letter is written under the pseudonym “Jane Fisher,” who describes herself as an aspiring writer wanting to know more about Austen, her appearance and writing habits.

In the letter, Fisher describes a visit from Austen’s ghost and learns that Austen used to write both during the day and late at night. She goes on to describe her appearance: “At first, I confess, I was somewhat disappointed in the turn of face and features, which had more of plump roundness, and less of expression,” the letter reads.

Looser has evidence to believe that the fictional voice of Fisher could possibly belong to the novelist Mary Russell Mitford, who was well known in her day, a frequent contributor to The Lady’s Magazine, and had several connections to Austen. (Mitford’s mother and friend both knew the Austen family personally.)

“She possibly had eye-witness accounts of what Austen was like,” Looser said. “It’s a vision of her unlike any other we now have.”

'Long hidden in plain sight'

Subscription databases like Eighteenth Century Journals are changing what kinds of discoveries are possible for those students and scholars fortunate enough to have access to them.

Bringing together rare journals that were printed between 1685 and 1835, a period known as the long 18th century, Eighteenth Century Journals — to which the ASU Library now subscribes — enabled Looser to access The Lady’s Magazine, of which few print copies exist.

“There are several copies of the magazine across the world on microfilm,” Looser said, “but the way to find new things long hidden in plain sight now is through keyword searches in full-text databases, which is how I found this amazing piece of fiction on Jane Austen. It describes her nose of genius, her blue dress, lace cap and pink ribbons, and her reputation as a literary role model."

When Looser's piece for the TLS was in proof, she learned that Jennie Batchelor, a professor of 18th-century studies at the University of Kent and the preeminent scholar of The Lady's Magazine, has also been working on this pen portrait and is preparing a book chapter on it for publication. 

Additionally, after reading Looser's TLS piece, Elisa E. Beshero-Bondar, an associate professor of English at the University of Pittsburgh-Greensburg and director of Digital Mitford: The Mary Russell Mitford Archive, informed Looser of the Digital Mitford project's stylometric research plans to investigate whether "Jane Fisher" shares features with Mitford's known writings.

Looser anticipates future work on the 1823 mock letter and believes other discoveries like it are yet to come. 

“These databases are crucially important to scholars learning new things about the past. They are often the only way to get access to centuries-old materials,” Looser said. “Many people have the mistaken idea that it's all free on Google books at this point. Not so. We need the resources and support of our university libraries."

Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections and strategy at the ASU Library, added: "Our information environment is truly deep and rich. The simple search box is alluring, yet there is so much more to explore and discover past the first page of search results — in databases, journals, books and a whole multitude of formats. Digging deeper into these resources reaps rewards in scholarship, learning and sometimes just being inspired!"

Interested in learning more about this discovery? Here's a reading (and listening) list:

• Fan fiction or fan fact? An unknown pen portrait of Jane Austen

• Letter to the Editor of The Lady’s Magazine

• Haunted by Miss Austen (podcast)

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

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New doors open to Hayden Library

January 10, 2020

$90 million reinvention sparks new era of access, engagement for ASU’s busiest and most ambitious library

On Arizona State University’s most populous campus, a welcome gift has arrived for Sun Devils on the first day of the spring semester — a sleek, new, state-of-the-art library.

Capping off a $90 million renovation, ASU’s Hayden Library, originally built in 1966, has been reinvented and reopened for the 21st century, with an eye toward maximum accessibility, engagement and support for the university’s growing student population.

Hayden Library’s revamped five-story tower, which sits at the center of ASU’s Tempe campus, now features nearly double the student space, enhanced study areas, community-driven book collections, two reading rooms, a variety of research services and interdisciplinary learning labs, and an entire floor devoted to innovation.

Spectacular campus views and abundant natural light, courtesy of floor-to-ceiling windows and the Arizona sun, come as a bonus, says University Librarian Jim O’Donnell.

“Hayden Library has been the engine of intellectual discovery for generations of Sun Devils,” said O’Donnell, who is a professor in ASU’s School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. “We just turbocharged it for a new generation.”

While many of Hayden’s iconic midcentury design elements remain, there are some wonderful additions too, including a gold staircase — a nod to Sun Devil spirit — and a welcome mural honoring indigenous cultures, directed by Wanda Dalla Costa, an architect and professor in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

There are hallways that literally sparkle.

“Everything about Hayden is meant to make students feel at home and comfortable and supported — so it can be the place where they can reach higher, go farther and surprise themselves with the success they’re capable of,” said O’Donnell.

Following the 22-month construction and closure of Hayden tower, perhaps the most obvious indication of the library’s reinvention can be seen in its wide and welcoming plaza and above-ground entryways — a striking departure from the underground entrance that has been used solely since 1989.

Upon entering, visitors are greeted by two large and stately reading rooms, designed to draw attention and provide greater access to the ASU Library’s Distinctive Collections, encompassing millions of primary source materials, rare and unique objects spanning centuries.

Community-selected materials focused on the peoples and places of the Southwest will be more visible than before, showcased in library spaces such as the Luhrs Arizona Reading Room, the Labriola National American Indian Data Center and the Community-Driven Archives.

Although the dust may still be settling in Hayden Library, one thing is clear: The books are back.

It took approximately 20 days, 30 truckloads and 9,000 new shelves to bring the books back to Hayden — along with four years of careful planning for how those books would be displayed, curated and delivered, and how they would best serve the university community.

Now, over 30 different collections are on the shelves and ready for exploration.

"Our team employed a community-centered and data-informed approach to designing the collections for Hayden Library," said Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collections services and strategy, who leads the ASU Library’s Future of Print initiative.

With support from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, this three-year initiative to reinvent the future of print for ASU explores the interests, needs and expectations of 21st-century academic library users.

"We are grateful for the chance to experiment and activate our open stacks as opportunities for engagement and inquiry," McAllister said.

In 2017, McAllister co-authored a widely shared white paper on emerging design practices that is now shaping the curation and delivery of academic library print collections at ASU at a time when campus space and digital resources are in high demand.

As a result of this work, ASU students, faculty and staff will encounter a series of newly featured collections on nearly every floor of Hayden Library — collections such as "Untold Histories" and "The Southwest Before the U.S."

These collections and others like them have been selected and curated in collaboration with ASU students and faculty. Each collection is university-inspired and strategic in design, driven by data and reader interest.

"A great example of how the 'Future of Print' project has influenced the Hayden collections design is our new Sun Devil Reads collection, designed with students and in-person browsing in mind, organized by themes and with lots of eye-catching cover art," McAllister added.

While many books have returned to Hayden Library and are being showcased in new and inviting ways, those books that have not returned to Hayden will be housed at Noble Library or in the ASU Library’s high-density collection at the Polytechnic campus, where they will be available for fast-turnaround delivery.

Last semester, the ASU Library began offering book delivery and self-service lockers for the quick and convenient pickup and return of library materials.

‘A bold step forward’

More than 75 miles of data cabling and close to 50,000 square feet of space have been added to Hayden Library to more effectively support the needs of its nearly 2 million visitors each year, easily making it the busiest library on any ASU campus.

Tomalee Doan, associate university librarian for engagement and learning services, says that Hayden Library is not only equipped to meet the demands of its bustling campus, it is better positioned to advance the vision of an academic library well into the 21st century.

“This renovation represents a bold step forward in executing a transformative vision of the academic library, both in maintaining the integrity of what a library historically has provided and building a bridge to meet future demands our students and scholars expect today,” Doan said.

That future vision can be glimpsed on Hayden Library’s third floor — a place where people, ideas and technologies all come together for hands-on learning and collaboration.

Here, the No. 1 goal is innovation.

Home to the Unit for Data Science and Analytics, the Makerspace, the Map and Geospatial Hub, and the Center for Digital Antiquity’s Digital Archaeological Record (tDAR), this neighborhood of Hayden takes the ASU community beyond book collections, journals and archival materials into other regions of today's scholarly landscape, in which new platforms for research and data enable knowledge creation in altogether new ways.

“This is the place to learn new interdisciplinary skills, meet people and get involved through experiential learning,” Doan said. “Students and scholars might want to incubate a research idea, think through a problem, or get connected with an expert.”

ASU students are invited to participate in weekly open lab sessions and have free access to 3D printing and a robust technology lending program that is forthcoming, courtesy of the Makerspace.

Additionally, Sun Devils now have access to several high-quality audio/visual production studios, a total of 11 university classrooms, five instruction rooms and 27 conference rooms, where they can conduct group work, study sessions and presentations.

Throughout the library are a variety of amenities, including 10 gender-inclusive restrooms (two on every floor), two wellness and lactation rooms, an interfaith reflection room, an ablution room, three banks of lockers for students to secure their belongings, and a new cafe and market.

Smart design

While the LEED certification is still under review, the sustainability practices that informed the Hayden2020 reinvention design are surely to be celebrated.

Some of those sustainability achievements include the use of recycled materials — approximately 80% of materials used in the renovation were diverted from a landfill.

Approximately 13% of the building’s annual energy expenses are met by Hayden Library’s highly reflective rooftop photovoltaic solar power system, helping to lower the impact of the urban heat island effect.

Overall, the renovation has reduced the library’s annual energy costs by 47%.

Low-flow fixtures, installed throughout Hayden, serve to reduce demand for potable water by 37%, and appropriate plant selection, coupled with high-efficiency irrigation systems, reduce irrigation’s demand for potable water by 80%.

“We’ve greatly benefited from smart, sustainable design practices that have come a long way since the 1960s, when Hayden Library was built,” O’Donnell said. “I’m looking forward to seeing how the library will continue to evolve.”

A grand opening celebration with ASU partners, the architecture firm Ayers Saint Gross and Holder Construction, is slated for March 25.

Top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist , ASU Library

New fellowships will advance research on American Indian history and the West

December 19, 2019

Two new fellowship opportunities invite scholars and doctoral students living outside the Phoenix area to Arizona State University in support of their research exploring the diverse history of the West, its intersections with race and violence, and American Indian history.

Through a partnership between The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies and the ASU Library’s Labriola National American Indian Data Center, the two annual fellowships will provide researchers travel support and access to rare primary source materials and unique archival collections. saguaro cactus in Phoenix from the McCulloch Brothers Photography Collection at the ASU Library A picture taken in 1920 of a saguaro cactus in Phoenix, part of the ASU Library's McCulloch Bros. Photography Collection. Download Full Image

“The two research fellowships are timely due to ASU’s excellent reputation in American Indian history in the West that is well over half a century old and today’s racial violence in society,” said ASU Regents Professor Donald Fixico

The American Indian History of the West Research Fellowship seeks to support and advance scholarship on the rich and diverse history of the West that makes a meaningful contribution to the fields of American Indian history/studies, federal-Indian policies and indigenous relations with other peoples or the natural environment.

The Race and Ethnicity Fellowship is an intellectual response to America’s overwhelming history of violence, especially against people of color. The fellowship seeks to generate research that examines historic intersections of race and violence in the West, looking to the past as a way to understand the present and inform future relations.

“We are so pleased to partner with Dr. Fixico in hosting these fellowships, which offer opportunities to further open our Native American collections to new researchers,” said Lorrie McAllister, associate university librarian for collection services and analysis at the ASU Library. “We look forward to welcoming and supporting the inquiry and scholarship of these fellows during their visits.”

The Labriola National American Indian Data Center brings together the current and historical work of indigenous authors across a multitude of disciplines with a focus on language, government, education, tribal history, biography, religion and customs. The center features thousands of books, journals, Native Nation newspapers, photographs, oral histories and manuscript collections.

Applicants must be an established scholar or a PhD or postdoctoral student conducting critical research about American Indian or race and ethnic history of the West, especially nondominant historical narratives necessitating primary or rare secondary sources. Fellowship applications are due Jan. 31, 2020.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

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'Celebration for Resilience' commemorates the past, present and future vitality of Maricopa County

November 21, 2019

Resilience dividends pay off through groundbreaking work that helps county adapt to new threats and challenges

Arizona’s ability to roll with the punches, which shapes and shifts over time, is largely dependent on proactive planning, swift actions and openness to change, according to an Arizona State University educator.

“I see the word resilience as an adaptive term,” said Elizabeth Wentz, the lead researcher of the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience (KER) initiative and dean of social sciences in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at ASU. “It’s always shaping, and we have to retain that awareness because as environmental or economic conditions change, we have the capacity to adapt. So it really isn’t an end state but a continual, ongoing state.”

Wentz and members of the year-old KER initiative explored the topic Tuesday night at Phoenix’s Desert Botanical Garden in front of a crowd of nearly 300 people. Attendees included ASU scholars, staffers, members of the nonprofit community and a sprinkling of donors and city officials from Phoenix, Surprise and Scottsdale.

The “Celebration for Resilience” event explained the mission of KER, recognized their 2019 milestones and introduced the new class of 2020 fellows, a “knowledge exchange” of representatives from all sectors tasked with identifying vulnerabilities in their communities and throughout Maricopa County.

According to Wentz, their work is to advance social cohesion, promote economic prosperity and enhance environmental security to create profound and enduring change that brings “resilience dividends.”

KER also awarded the inaugural Resilience Prize to the city of Scottsdale’s Indian Bend Wash Greenbelt, an 11-mile oasis located in the heart of Scottsdale that serves as more than just a beautiful recreation area for residents. The greenbelt’s primary function is as an efficient flood-control system. Scottsdale resident Bill Walton's newspaper column in the Scottsdale City Progress helped to launch the project in the 1970s. He later became the city’s planning director.

The Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust gave $15 million to launch KER in late 2018. Its mission is to build resilient communities in Maricopa County by sharing knowledge, discovering vulnerabilities and responding to challenges together. 

By embedding in the communities of Maricopa County and tapping the expertise of research scientists, citizen scientists, community members and partnership organizations, KER was designed to become a community resource and address pressing issues and needs, fostering positive change and building resilience.

Mary Jane Rynd, president and CEO of the Piper Trust, said the gift was perfectly matched for KER because of its mission.

“Virginia’s commitment to progress aligns so well with the Knowledge Exchange for Resilience and its mission, which is to share knowledge and solve problems together — all of them,” Rynd said.

Judith Rodin and Michael crow

Keynote speaker Judith Rodin poses for a photo with ASU President Michael Crow at the Celebration for Resilience on Nov. 19. Photo by Laura Segall

Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow said the initiative is vital to ensuring the state’s long-term future growth and progress.

“Maricopa County is now about 4 1/2 million people, roughly the size of Ireland, and it’s going to be growing to 6, 7, 8 million people by 2050,” Crow said. “It’s absolutely essential that we build a modern university that can connect everybody and then begin thinking about resilience. If we do that, we’ll be OK. If we don’t do that, we won’t be OK.”

The initiative is making a pretty good dent so far. In 2019, they engaged 100 community partners and created data-driven models and prototypes that addressed themes such as heat, food, youth, shelter, economic security and health and aging.

Jennifer Vanos, a 2019 fellow and an assistant professor in ASU’s School of Sustainability, spent the last year working on a 17,000 square-foot sustainable playground called a “Natural Outdoor Play and Learning Area” at Paideia Academy and Preschool in Phoenix.

The space would be comprised of grass, trees, hedges, mulch, hills, tunnels, caves, walls, gardens and a sand box, Vanos said. Additionally, the play space also comes equipped with a weather station on the roof, which measures temperature, humidity, radiation, wind speed, nitrous dioxide and particulate matter.

“There’s a lot of benefits to bringing natural spaces into urban areas in addition to the different types of learning opportunities this type of space can provide,” said Vanos, who said the playground could also mitigate noise, pollution and shade as well as provide lessons for students on ecology, weather and math.

There are also lots of lessons to be learned about resilience when it comes to the relationship between homelessness and prisons, said Adonias Arevalo, a 2019 fellow who is the community impact manager with Valley of the Sun United Way.

Last year Arevalo worked on a database on how to decrease prison reentry from people who experienced homelessness.

“People who are experiencing homelessness enter local jails after three-to-five violations through a variety of reasons — trespassing, sleeping on the streets or sidewalks, many minor crimes,” Arevalo said. “Arizona is the fourth largest prison population in the country, and we have a lot of work to do when it comes to prison reform.”

Arevalo said working with local policymakers can change this outcome, increase affordable housing in Maricopa County and improve eviction rates. He said more than 50,000 people were evicted from their residences last year and that housing them in jails or prisons is more expensive than housing them in shelters and affordable housing units.

“We have to create more investment into housing, case management, resources and how to deal with this on a more humanitarian level, especially those who are facing mental health issues,” Arevalo said.


Sparky was on hand at the resilience event to mingle with guests, including 2019 fellow Edmund Williams (left) and Sandra Price. Photo by Laura Segall

Wentz said the 2020 fellows will be expanding the definition of resilience by looking into areas of energy, security, disease, transportation, urban farms and food access.

Food access is important to 2020 fellow Terra Rose Ganem, who is the director of Brilliant Planet. Her Mesa, Arizona-based nonprofit is dedicated to seeding and sowing an organic living laboratory that feeds families who suffer from food insecurity challenges by helping them grow more than 75 different types of food and edible plants.

“Resiliency offers an opportunity for action and a positive spin on the challenges of the world today,” said Ganem, whose organization has a long term lease on a one-acre plot of land near the intersection of Power and McDowell roads on a county island in Mesa. “We really want to create an area where people can see what’s possible. Until we see it sometimes, we don’t actually know what we’re capable of. These people can create food and economic security for themselves.”

Libraries are also looking for ways to survive and stay relevant said 2020 fellow Michael Simeone, who is the director for data science and analytics at ASU Library.

“I’m interested in learning how libraries are related to community resilience,” said Simeone, who will be collecting data on local libraries and interviewing staff members. “If we’re looking at resilience as an ability to endure hardship and spring back in a more adaptive form, libraries do this in a way that people don’t always appreciate. They educate people so they can have more economic ability, they give access to knowledge and resources, and they are hubs for free information. All of these things have a key relationship to resilience.”

Keynote speaker Judith Rodin, the former president of the Rockefeller Foundation, praised Crow as a national “thought leader” and saluted the initiative in her remarks.

“ASU has the power to be a great agent of change and must serve as a model of civic engagement for students and its neighbors,” said Rodin, who wrote “The Resilience Dividend: Being Strong in a World Where Things Go Wrong in 2014. “In today’s dizzyingly complex world, universities have a tendency to isolate everyone in their ivory towers. Over the past decades, a host of universities like ASU have breathed new life into their communities.”

Top photo: Elizabeth Wentz speaks at the Celebration for Resilience event Tuesday, Nov. 19, at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. Photo by Laura Segall

Reporter , ASU Now