Morris named director of ASU's American Indian Policy Institute

July 29, 2014

Traci Morris, a nationally recognized tribal communications leader and expert, has been named director of the American Indian Policy Institute (AIPI) at Arizona State University.

Morris’ expertise includes working on the national, regional and local level with Native nations, the federal government and tribal businesses/entities. She is an expert on tribal broadband who has taught college courses, authored books and articles, presented numerous professional papers, written curriculum on Native American new media and advocated for digital inclusion at the Federal Communications Commission and on Capitol Hill. portrait of Traci Morris Download Full Image

“I am very excited about the appointment of Dr. Morris as the new director of AIPI. Her extensive experience in addressing American Indian economic initiatives, in tandem with her national, regional and local involvement with tribal governments and organizations, will well serve the institute in carrying out its mission and goals,” said Eddie F. Brown, the executive director of the American Indian Policy Institute and American Indian Studies professor.

The American Indian Policy Institute at ASU is committed to tribally-driven participatory projects where tribal governments identify their research needs and collaborate with the university. The institute responds to tribal direction and empowers tribes, tribal communities and American Indian students through projects that support self-determination and build tribal capacity. The institute transforms American Indian policy analysis through a transdisciplinary approach that includes departments and centers within the university, as well as organizations in communities.

Members of the ASU academic community offered their thoughts on Morris’ appointment to the institute:

• “Dr. Morris brings a wealth of meaningful experiences and knowledge to the position of director, American Indian Policy Institute. We in American Indian Studies look forward to working on collaborative research, policy and service projects with Dr. Morris and her staff that benefit our Native communities.” – John Tippeconnic, ASU American Indian Studies director and professor

• “This is an exciting time for all American Indian programs at ASU. The AIPI is uniquely situated to respond to the needs of tribal governments and communities while also fulfilling the mission and goals of our great university. The addition of Dr. Morris to lead the AIPI will further strengthen and enhance the great work that has already been started by this relatively young program. Her knowledge of both academia and tribal communities, as well as her proven research and leadership skills, will undoubtedly usher in a strong new era for AIPI.” – Ann Marie Downes, ASU Indian Legal Program executive director

• “Dr. Morris has policy experience and expertise on cutting-edge issues to continue and enrich the contributions of the institute and ASU in Arizona and nationally. The School of Public Affairs looks forward to close collaboration with her and the AIPI on issues of policy and indigenous self-governance.” – Karen Mossberger, ASU School of Public Affairs director and professor

• “I am excited about the contributions that I know Traci will bring to ASU AIPI. I have had the pleasure of working with this amazing policy wonk and know of her contributions to Indian Country and, more specifically, to telecom and media. Congratulations Traci and ASU!" – Anthony Newkirk, Arizona tribal community member and the Chairman of Gila River Telecommunications Incorporated at the Gila River Tribe

Morris is a member of the Chickasaw Nation of Oklahoma, and she maintains a strong working relationship with her community while her passion for communications and media policy and advocacy emerged from these tribal roots. Morris’ research and publications on Native American media and the digital divide focus on Internet use, network neutrality, digital and new media curriculums, digital inclusion and development of broadband networks in Indian Country. Her book, “Native American Voices: A Reader,” is a teaching tool utilized in colleges throughout the country.

“We are pleased to learn of Dr. Traci Morris’ appointment to the American Indian Policy Institute directorship. Traci is well-qualified to serve in that capacity, as proven by her exceptional career. We expect Traci to use her experience to positively engage the American Indian Policy Institute with Indian Country to build its capacity and further the efforts of tribal self-determination,” said Governor Anoatubby of the Chickasaw Nation.

Morris is also the founder of Homahota Consulting LLC, a national, Native American woman-owned professional services firm that specializes in policy analysis, telecommunications, education and research that assists tribes with nation building, and works with Native Nations, tribal businesses and companies working with tribes.

Morris earned her master’s and doctoral degrees in American Indian Studies from the University of Arizona, and her bachelor’s degree from Colorado State University.

ASU alum uses global health degree to serve Arizona's kids

July 29, 2014

Keeping kids healthy is Jason Gillette’s business. As the director of School Health for the Arizona Department of Education, he is dedicated to creating and improving healthy school environments. That’s a big order, but Gillette is up to the task, partly because of the solid foundation he built through Arizona State University’s global health program.

The 2012 alumnus puts his education to work every day. Part of a diverse team of professionals, Gillette serves in a role that bridges physical education, health services and nursing, nutrition education and professional development. ASU alum Jason Gillette Download Full Image

“Our objective is to aid schools and communities to create environments that meet our state agency goal of creating children who academically achieve and meet our state standards,” he explains. “This entails a lot of collaboration with organizations that work with schools, and schools themselves.”

Gillette and his team use evidence-based approaches, like the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s Coordinated School Health Model. This holistic concept is aimed at advancing children’s physical, social, emotional and educational wellness.

“Youth have so much to contend with, health-wise,” he says. “It is my professional opinion that poor infrastructure is the single largest challenge for pediatric health. Better infrastructure and protocol can allow for healthier interventions and processes to work, whereas bad infrastructure can allow unhealthful factors to thrive.”

Increasingly, Gillette sees matters of image and socialization as major players in a crowded youth health arena. Among the myriad of issues facing kids today, many are complex and influenced by a host of uncontrollable variables, from socioeconomic status to biology. Situational factors – like living in food deserts, or far from safe, green, outdoor play areas – also create or exacerbate vulnerabilities.

Gillette points out that a wider net is being cast to address problem areas.

“With our new added focus on community, we are now looking at interventions that impact both schools and the communities where our children reside,” he states.

Going global

After serving in the Marines and holding a number of diverse jobs – like selling women’s shoes at Nordstrom – Gillette decided to pursue higher education. He chose to attend ASU so that he could be near his now nine-year-old son, his pride and joy.

Gillette was drawn to the transdisciplinary global health program in the School of Human Evolution and Social Change in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. “I like and value systems approaches; however, I love looking at concepts, ideas and systems from a much larger vantage point. It allows my creativity and passion to roam free across ideas and challenges,” he offers.

He especially appreciated the public health and macro viewpoint, and says that the courses equipped him with the confidence to not only learn, but also to lead.

Part of his program involved studying abroad, exploring health, culture and the environment in London.

Though he has travelled the world – from South America to Africa, Saudi Arabia to Australia – he calls London his favorite city. He values it for its history and unique learning environment, as well as his study abroad memories.

“What I gained from that experience was discovering that there are many ways to solve the same problem, and that learning from others and other cultures can only improve our critical thinking abilities,” he shares.

Gillette recommends that students take advantage of their study abroad options. He also has advice for those considering global health as a major. He says, “Use the program as a conduit to build your passion, as you are not pinned down to a specific section of health, and can work within multiple facets of health to really find your way in what’s most important to you.”

A healthy outlook

Gillette is a good example of walking the walk when it comes to wellness. An avid life-long learner, he keeps up with the latest issues affecting youth health, yet takes the time to hang out with his son – his best friend – and to enjoy the good things in life.

His interests run the gamut, from cooking to sports: “I’m a huge Yankees fan and secretly love the Los Angeles Clippers!” he enthuses. He also relishes a good conversation, exercise, fashion and dining, and adds, “I appreciate a really good steak!”

Reading is another of Gillette’s hobbies. His book of the moment is "Good Calories, Bad Calories" by Gary Taubes; fitting fare for a person tasked with promoting kids’ health.

Rebecca Howe

Communications Specialist, School of Human Evolution and Social Change