ASU alum enacts positive change in communities through music

December 10, 2014

When Arizona State University School of Music alumna Amy Swietlik decided to apply for a Fulbright U.S. Student Program grant to study social projects and music education in Brazil, she didn’t know exactly where it would lead.

Armed with a bachelor of music in music education degree and a master of arts in music (ethnomusicology), she set off for Brazil’s fourth-largest city, Recife, to learn more about the connection between music and community. School of Music alum Amy Swietlik with a group of music students in Brazil Download Full Image

“I received a lot of wonderful support here at ASU, both in my undergraduate and master's degrees, to pursue this type of research, this type of work, looking more at informal music education in a community sense,” says Swietlik.

While in Recife, Swietlik spent time researching three different community music education programs. One was a more traditional program that took place on an army base and used music theory, singing and recorders. The other two met in public spaces in low income areas and were centered on break dancing, capoeira and hip-hop.

“The main result that I found with the research with these three organizations was that the music community, and especially informal music education, can do wonders for improving children’s self esteem and for helping them build identity and character,” said Swietlik. “All of the organizations did this through different means but they had similar results: The children were becoming more proud and functioning citizens within society. They were kids that could dream, kids that could see a future.”

Despite difficult circumstances, the children were really able to flourish with the help of music, she explains.

“Music ... provides an avenue for self-expression and emotional release, which these kids don’t often get in their everyday lives,” says Swietlik. “Through music they learn to work with other kids, they learn cooperation, they learn to dream, they learn to be competent on their instruments, they learn how to play whatever it is that makes them happy. And then they get to get up and perform in front of people, and the amount of confidence and pride that you see in these children when they get up in front of an audience is so profound.”

“Amy’s story is an excellent example of how the School of Music fosters social embeddedness, one of the pillars of the ASU charter, by engaging with communities through music,” Heather Landes, director of the school said. “People are interacting with music in many new and interesting ways, and the ASU School of Music is committed to preparing our students for this reality so that they become creative leaders who transform society through music.”

Now back in the states, Swietlik plans to write articles and give presentations on her research, but this ambitious music grad is also taking her experience one step further.

Swietlik is in the process of founding the Harmony Project Phoenix*, along with fellow ASU School of Music graduate Diogo Pereira. The program is designed to help bring music education to underfunded communities in south Phoenix. In partnership with the Tanner Community Development Corporation, the Harmony Project Phoenix will offer students music instruction four days a week, for two hours a day.

It’s a way for Swietlik to explore the real-life application of her research, and also a way for her to make a lasting impact on a community right here in Arizona.

“Having these organizations that exist over a long period of time is really key,” says Swietlik. “You can’t go into these communities for one or two classes and expect to make a change; you really have to develop strong ties within the community, within the family, within the public schools and with the kids. You have to be there for them for many, many years to help them to develop and to grow.”

*At press time the Harmony Project Phoenix was originally called the Community Music Program. It has since been re-named.

Communications Program Coordinator, ASU Art Museum


ASU tech transfer group achieves high rankings in national survey

December 10, 2014

Arizona Technology Enterprises (AzTE), the exclusive intellectual property management and technology transfer organization of Arizona State University, has for the third year in a row achieved high rankings in innovation metrics collected by the Association of University Technology Managers (AUTM).

Among all institutions with more than $300 million in research, ASU landed in the top ten for invention disclosures (No. 3), startups (No. 7) and licensing agreements (No. 8) per $10 million in research expenditures. ASU researchers also received 48 U.S. patents in fiscal year 2013, high enough for a No. 12 ranking on the same expenditure-controlled measure. The results come from AUTM’s fiscal year 2013 survey of approximately 200 universities and research hospitals. graphic representing research at ASU Download Full Image

“These rankings are a testament both to ASU’s entrepreneurial faculty and AzTE’s commitment to the rapid dissemination of university discoveries and inventions into the marketplace,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, ASU's senior vice president for Knowledge Enterprise Development.

ASU and AzTE have achieved consistently strong results in the association's survey, despite the continued rapid growth in ASU’s research enterprise, even as many other schools have experienced funding retrenchments. From 2009 through 2013, ASU grew its research expenditures by almost 60 percent.

More research means more inventions available for potential commercialization, but there is a time lag between discovery and market application. Schools with steeper research funding increases have a difficult challenge maintaining their metrics in future years, a challenge AzTE has met by evolving its external marketing program and engaging broadly with ASU’s entrepreneurially-minded faculty.

Over the last five years, among research institutions that achieved at least $300 million in annual research expenditures, ASU was one of just four schools to achieve AUTM results in the top ten for licensing agreements, startups and invention disclosures per $10 million in research.

“ASU President Michael Crow’s vision for the New American University gave AzTE the mandate to upend the traditional tech transfer model,” said Augie Cheng, AzTE’s managing director and chief legal officer. “We engage with faculty through the entire university, operate on industry’s accelerated time frame, and offer substantial support to ASU inventors through our collaborations with Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU.”

AzTE has collected its own performance metrics for fiscal year 2014, including record numbers of invention disclosures (261), startups based on ASU intellectual property (12), licensing deals completed (90) and U.S. patents issued to ASU researchers (56). AUTM’s fiscal year 2014 comparative data will not be available until next autumn.

To date, more than 70 companies have been launched based on ASU discoveries. In just the last three years, these companies and their sub-licensees have attracted $163 million in funding from venture capital firms and other investors.

Companies launched out of ASU have long-term benefits to the Arizona economy. For instance, Molecular Imaging, an atomic force microscopy startup launched in 1993 by professor Stuart Lindsay and his former post-doctoral student Tianwei Jing, developed instruments used in nanotechnology research applications in life science, biotechnology, electrochemistry and material and polymer science.

Silicon Valley-based Agilent Inc. acquired Molecular Imaging in 2005. Today, Agilent AFM in Chandler is a significant employer of scientists and engineers, manufacturing and developing the instruments pioneered by Molecular Imaging.