ASU names scholar, innovator O'Donnell as university librarian

October 27, 2014

Libraries have always bridged past and present, preserving and innovating. To lead ASU’s libraries in a transformative time, Arizona State University has today named James J. O’Donnell, former Georgetown provost, classicist and pioneer in emerging digital technologies, to the post of university librarian.

O’Donnell will fill the position vacated by Sherrie Schmidt, who retired as university librarian on June 30, after 20 years of leadership. O’Donnell will also be a professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. His appointment takes effect Feb. 3, 2015. James J. O'Donnell, university librarian Download Full Image

The digital age has radically altered the world of libraries. O’Donnell has written that the librarian of the future will combine the skills of James Fenimore Cooper’s “pathfinder” with those of a Jedi knight. Under O’Donnell’s leadership, ASU will build collections and manage dynamic spaces, focusing especially on connecting students and scholars with the best information resources in the most effective way.

“Our university librarian is a key to advancing ASU’s complementary goals of learning and discovery,” said Robert E. Page, Jr., university provost. “Our libraries, a critical repository of archival knowledge, are a means through which students learn how they can find information, discern quality sources and engage with information to build new ideas. Dr. O’Donnell will be central in developing our libraries’ services and collections for the rapidly changing world of information.”

ASU’s libraries include Hayden Library, Noble Science and Engineering Library, the Architecture and Environmental Design Library and Music Library on the Tempe campus, the Fletcher Library on West campus, as well as libraries on the Polytechnic and downtown Phoenix campuses – but their digital front door can be found anywhere, 24/7.

“Institutions whose libraries see beyond themselves will be immensely the stronger for it,” O’Donnell said. “We need to cherish, care for and make alive and accessible all that we've inherited, as well as stimulate, animate and support the adventures of students, researchers and faculty working to add to or transcend that inheritance.”

O’Donnell received his bachelor of arts degree at Princeton and doctorate from Yale. He served as provost and professor of classics at Georgetown University for a decade, after a career at Bryn Mawr, Cornell and the University of Pennsylvania. He is a fellow of the Medieval Academy of America and served as president of the American Philological Association. He now chairs the board of directors of the American Council of Learned Societies. He was a pioneer in the scholarly study of late antiquity, including “Avatars of the Word: From Papyrus to Cyberspace” (1998), “Augustine: A New Biography” (2005), and “The Ruin of the Roman Empire” (2008). His new book, “Pagans,” will be published by HarperCollins in 2015.

O’Donnell has also been engaged in digital innovation for almost 25 years, starting with the establishment of the oldest online open access journal in the humanities, “Bryn Mawr Classical Review.” He taught the first MOOC in 1994, introducing 500 students around the world to the work and thought of St. Augustine. He served from 1996-2002 as the chief information officer of the University of Pennsylvania.

While at Georgetown, O’Donnell led planning for new buildings for the business school and the natural sciences, and advanced faculty excellence while leading establishment of two new campuses: one in Doha in the state of Qatar, the other called "Georgetown Downtown," a new home for Georgetown’s School of Continuing Studies for a rapidly growing population of D.C. non-traditional learners. In 2001, O'Donnell led a National Academy expert study about Library of Congress futures, and in 2009 he served on a national committee charged to make recommendations to the House of Representatives Science Committee about expanding public access to federally funded research.

“Jim O'Donnell is both a brilliant scholar and a visionary about the future of information. He knows how to put together leadership teams, even as he thinks creatively about the nature of knowledge for students, researchers and the community,” said George Justice, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences and chair of the search committee. “We are fortunate to have such an exceptional individual, one who understands books, including the old and rare in our special collections, but also the changing nature of information in the present day and in our digital future.”

“The future of libraries is now ours for the making,” agreed O’Donnell. “ASU is a place where exciting futures are made all the time, and I’m delighted to be joining this extraordinary community.”

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


ASU names new adviser to president on American Indian affairs

October 27, 2014

With a focus on strengthening ASU's capacity to meet the needs of American Indian students, Bryan Brayboy will work with Arizona's 22 tribal nations in his new role as Arizona State University's special adviser to the president for American Indian affairs.

Brayboy, a President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, has taught at ASU since 2008 and said he is honored to follow in the footsteps of former Special Advisers to the President for American Indian Affairs, Diane Humetewa and Peterson Zah. portrait of Bryan Brayboy Download Full Image

“Our relationship with the tribal nations depends upon a deep understanding of the challenges that their leaders face, particularly in the area of education, and bringing ASU’s expertise to bear on those challenges,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “We are also proud to say that approximately 2,400 Native students are enrolled on our campuses, and professor Brayboy will play an integral role in ensuring that they reach their academic goals.”

The university’s interactions with Arizona’s tribes is enhanced by the rich diversity of Native nations in the state and world-class indigenous faculty at ASU, Brayboy said.

“We’ll take a comprehensive look at what is happening with students and help them graduate more consistently,” he added. “A lack of finances is a major factor for Native students. We also need to consider what the overall climate is at the university and how academic and social lives fit together in Native student experiences.”

Brayboy said he is entering the new position with "a real sense of humility of the work in front of us."

“I bring to the position a long research record focusing on American Indian college students, faculty and staff. We’ll build on this knowledge to help the institution move forward," he said. "If we improve the experience for Native students, it should also improve for everyone else.”

Brayboy will continue to teach and he’ll maintain his position as director of Center for Indian Education that was founded in 1959 and is one of the oldest continuously operated centers of its kind in the world. Central to the center’s aim is assisting Arizona’s tribal nations with educational needs while serving as a research repository for Indian education.

“Work that we have accomplished through the center will inform our efforts,” Brayboy said. The center is a global endeavor that encompasses projects in Australia, New Zealand and first nations peoples in Canada. Published through the center is the Journal of American Indian Education, currently in its 54th year.

Brayboy, an enrolled member of the Lumbee Nation, will serve as chairperson of the ASU Tribal Liaison Advisory Committee and will be a member of the Provost’s Native American Advisory Council. He is a borderlands professor of indigenous education and justice who works to improve the overall academic experience of Native children.

Education is a common theme in his family as his grandmother and parents were teachers. After his father retired, he went back to work at the same school that he attended as a child. Brayboy initially thought he wanted to go into investment banking as he was growing up, but he became enamored of teaching as he continued in school and ultimately earned his doctoral degree with the highest distinction in the anthropology of education from the University of Pennsylvania.

Now he’ll take his skills to the next level, engaging the university with Native students and nations.

“This is an institutional effort of a group of people coming together to benefit the state’s people and demonstrate why ASU is so vital to the state and its future,” he said.