ASU Regents' Professor a major strategist in substance-abuse prevention

August 20, 2015

Editor's note: This is the first installment in a weekly series about ASU's new Regents' Professors.

Addiction rates in America continue to rise, with recent research suggesting one in every 10 people older than 12 are addicted to drugs or alcohol. portrait of ASU Regents' Professor Flavio Marsiglia Flavio Marsiglia is the director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions. He was recently named a Regents' Professor for 2014-2015. Download Full Image

The reality of these numbers can be troubling, but Flavio Marsiglia sees hope by focusing on prevention, specifically targeting youth ages 12 to 14.

“Our society is filled with drugs — chiefly alcohol and cigarettes — and it’s not realistic for people not to use. However, we must delay initiation as long as possible,” said Marsiglia, director of the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“Research shows that the teen brain isn’t fully developed and if they are initiated with drugs or alcohol at that age, they reach addiction much quicker.”

Marsiglia’s work on diversity, substance use and youth development is regarded to be among the best and most influential in the field, and why he is one of four Arizona State University faculty members recently named as Regents' Professors for 2014-2015.

The designation is considered the highest faculty honor at the university and is given to professors who have made exceptional achievements and international distinction.

“Flavio is doing research that is exceptional in every sense,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. “He is an internationally recognized expert on health disparities and minority health research who has not only brought innovative ideas to the forefront, he has brought communities together to enact solutions.”

A native of Uruguay, Flavio started building substance-abuse prevention programs for middle school students in Cleveland, Ohio, during the late 1980s.

After relocating to ASU, Flavio and his colleagues’ multicultural, school-based substance-use program, Keepin’ it REAL, was developed for Phoenix-area youth ages 12 to 14 in the mid-1990s. The program uses a 10-week lesson curriculum taught by trained classroom teachers in 45-minute sessions, with booster sessions delivered the following school year. It’s designed to help students assess the risks associated with substance abuse, enhance their decision-making and offer up resistance strategies. The program has been implemented in all 50 states as well as in Australia, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, Spain and the United Kingdom, among other countries.

Thanks to a National Institutes of Health grant, Marsiglia has tweaked the program in the past few years, gearing it toward Mexican immigrant youth and their parents. Families Preparing the New Generation is currently being implemented in middle schools by getting parents and their children discuss the pressures of adjusting to a new culture.

“It’s tough to be a kid from another culture and have to navigate a complex and fast society,” Marsiglia said. “These youths tend to become Americanized very quickly and learn the language faster than their parents. It stirs this feeling inside that they have become smarter than their parents, and it creates a vacuum.”

The NIH awarded Marsiglia’s team additional funding for a new program, which focuses on American Indian substance prevention, with a $2 million grant. He says despite the constant attention on drugs and substance abuse in youth, he sees legitimate power in prevention.

“Most kids do not use alcohol or other drugs, and we as a society tend to focus on the ones who do,” Marsiglia said. “We do, however, need to educate and equip all youth with tools for prevention. Above all else, I want to be an advocate for prevention.”

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU public service college sees double-digit student growth

August 20, 2015

The College of Public Service and Community Solutions welcomes more than 800 new students as the fall 2015 semester begins.

The new group of students reflects the distinction the college has earned for educating the highest percentage of first-generation college students, minorities and veterans. When combined with new graduate students, the school boasts its highest number of students ever at more than 5,900, a 12 percent increase from last year. Chase Perren is a freshmen in the School of Community Resources and Development Chase Perren, a freshman in the School of Community Resources and Development, listens to dean Jonathan Koppell welcome students to the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Download Full Image

Freshman Chase Perren is from North Carolina and is majoring in tourism development and management with an emphasis in sustainable tourism. She chose the ASU School of Community Resources and Development because it’s “number one in this major.”

“On the East Coast, sustainability isn’t completely grasped just yet,” Perren said. “And I knew if I moved out here I would have more opportunities for my career.”

Gan Hao Tian is also majoring in tourism development and management. He is one of eight international students in the freshmen class. Overall, international students represent just over 4 percent of students in the college.

“Firstly, I hate the cold weather, so ASU is the best choice for me,” Hao said. “Secondly, my teacher in China told me the tourism management major at ASU is very good.”

The reputation of the college’s schools attracted many out-of-state students as well. Ernesto Hernandez is a freshman from Los Angeles who is majoring in public service and public policy in the School of Public Affairs.

“I chose public affairs because I want to be a public servant to the community,” Hernandez said. “I like finding a solution to problems and just helping people.”

Like Hernandez, Los Angeles native Caitlyn Lemle wants to make a difference in her community. The freshman is majoring in criminology and criminal justice.

“I want to prevent violence anyway I can, whether it’s in law enforcement or another profession in the criminal justice field,” Lemle said.

Lemle and Hernandez reflect a growing trend of out-of-state students attending ASU. Almost 40 percent of students in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions are from outside Arizona.

Meet the class of 2019 from ASU College of Public Service on Vimeo.

Ashley Walter of Chandler and Michelle Silverio of Laveen are majoring in social work. In-state students make up the majority of the students in the college at 55 percent.

“I chose social work because I really like kids so I want to help them to be in better situations if they are not being treated well,” Walter said.

The School of Social Work plays a vital role in the state’s child welfare system. Besides helping train needed case managers for the Department of Child Safety, the schools’ research targets solutions to help the state prevent and better deal with a growing number of abused and neglected kids ending up in foster care.

“I chose ASU downtown for social work because of the programs that they have for this,” Silverio said. “And I heard about the ProMod program, and I really wanted to do that.”

ProMod stands for Project-Based Modular Learning, which engages students in interdisciplinary learning projects with real-world applications.  It’s the first year the university will offer these kinds of lower-division classes as part of a five-year grant. The college’s ProMod course is limited to students enrolled in social work or public service and public policy degrees. Students will focus on improving the college recruitment and retention of former foster kids.

The College of Public Service and Community Solutions continues to be one of the university’s most diverse colleges. Based on preliminary numbers for fall 2015, the college has the largest percentage of Hispanic students at ASU at 37 percent and the one of the highest percentage of minority students at 45 percent.

The college has a tradition of serving a large number of veterans. The latest count shows three freshmen and 41 new transfer students are active members of the military. Overall, 430 or 7 percent of students are either active-duty military and or veterans based on preliminary fall numbers.

Many active-duty members and veterans are online students. The college offers an online undergraduate degree in criminology and several online graduate degrees, including: criminal justice; public safety leadership and administration; emergency management and homeland security; sustainable tourism and social work. The college also offers an undergraduate degree in community advocacy and social policy both online and in-person.


Paul Atkinson

assistant director, College of Public Service and Community Solutions