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Obama nominates ASU law professor to serve on US District Court


September 20, 2013

2 ASU law alums also nominated

President Barack Obama has nominated eight legal experts, including three who hail from Arizona State University, to serve on the United States District Courts. Diane Humetewa Download Full Image

Among the nominees for the United States District Court for the District of Arizona are ASU professor Diane Humetewa, of the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, along with Judge Douglas L. Rayes and John Joseph Tuchi – both law alums.

"These men and women have had distinguished legal careers and I am honored to ask them to continue their work as judges on the federal bench,” said President Obama. “They will serve the American people with integrity and an unwavering commitment to justice."

Douglas Sylvester, dean of the College of Law, praised the choices.

“As a public law school dedicated to furthering the public good of Arizona and the nation, we are extremely gratified that three of our graduates have been nominated by President Obama,” Sylvester said. “Their lifelong dedication to public service will serve as an example for our students and we are so proud to be able to call them alumni of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

“We are particularly pleased that President Obama nominated one of our most distinguished Native American alumni. It seems particularly fitting in this, the 25th year of our preeminent Indian Legal Program, that one of its graduates could be the first Native American woman to serve on the federal judiciary. As a school named after the country’s first female Supreme Court Justice, the honor is even more appropriate.”

Professor Humetewa currently serves as Special Advisor to the President for American Indian Affairs – a post she was appointed to in 2011 – and Special Counsel in the Office of General Counsel at ASU. 

She is a member of the Hopi Indian Tribe and, from 2002 to 2007, was an Appellate Court Judge for the Hopi Tribe Appellate Court. 

From 2009 to 2011, Humetewa was Of Counsel with Squire, Sanders & Dempsey LLP. She worked in the United States Attorney’s Office in the District of Arizona from 1996 to 2009, serving as Senior Litigation Counsel from 2001 to 2007 and as the United States Attorney from 2007 to 2009. 

During her tenure in the United States Attorney’s Office, Humetewa also served as Counsel to the Deputy Attorney General from 1996 to 1998. From 1993 to 1996, she was Deputy Counsel for the United States Senate Committee on Indian Affairs. Humetewa received her J.D. in 1993 from ASU College of Law and her B.S. in 1987 from ASU. 

Judge Rayes has served as a Maricopa County Superior Court Judge since 2000. During his tenure on the bench, Judge Rayes presided over a wide range of cases, including civil, criminal and family law matters. He received his J.D. cum laude in 1978 from ASU College of Law and his B.S.E. summa cum laude in 1975 from ASU. 

Tuchi has been an Assistant United States Attorney in the District of Arizona since 1998. He currently serves as Chief Assistant United States Attorney in the office and has previously served as Interim United States Attorney in 2009, Senior Litigation Counsel and Tribal Liaison from 2009 to 2012, and as Chief of the Criminal Division from 2006 to 2009. Tuchi received his J.D. magna cum laude in 1994 from ASU College of Law, his M.S. in 1989 from the University of Arizona, and his B.S. in 1987 from West Virginia University. 

The five others nominated by Obama include Judge Cynthia Ann Bashant, Stanley Allen Bastian, Justice Jon David Levy, Judge Steven Paul Logan and Manish S. Shah.

ASU News

Professor 'thinks around the edges' of obesity problem


September 23, 2013

Research looks at complex interactions between human biology, culture

As an anthropology graduate student in the late 80s, Alexandra Brewis Slade carried out field projects in the Pacific Islands on women’s fertility and family planning. While Pacific Islanders at that time were among some of the most overweight populations on earth, she never heard obesity mentioned as a health problem even once. The islanders scolded her for being “too skinny” to attract a husband. Download Full Image

When she moved to expand a Samoan body image project at the University of Auckland in the early 90s, a colleague warned her that obesity was a marginal area for a social scientist to work in, a bit odd and freakish, and its explicit study was probably not the best career move.

Brewis Slade persisted, going on to study the cultural aspects of a high rate of school children’s obesity in rural Georgia and central Mexico, many of whom were at high risk for being obese. Now a widely-cited expert, she has been working on comparative studies of obesity, based on field research in a broad array of countries, such as Paraguay, New Zealand and Fiji.

The recipient of a Rockefeller Foundation pre-doctoral fellowship and an Andrew W. Mellon post-doctoral fellowship, she has published 55 papers and three books, including “Obesity: Cultural and Biocultural Perspectives” in 2011. She is director of ASU’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change and director of operations for the ASU-Mayo Obesity Solutions Initiative.

Brewis Slade notes that in a stunningly short time, obesity has gone from being considered an aberration in both popular culture and scientific circles to being perceived as a massive global threat. Unlike many global calamities such as climate change, no one seemed to notice the dramatic rise in obesity until it was well under way.

“Obesity is arguably one of the greatest public health challenges we face, infiltrating almost every aspect of our lives,” says Brewis Slade. “It shapes whether we get into college, the job offers and promotions we get, how much money we make, our access to health care, our romantic relationships. We are bombarded in the media with messages about the need to be slim and lose weight.

“We associate obesity with moral failure, with a lack of control, laziness and lack of ambition. The stigma of being obese is profound, and it causes tremendous emotional suffering. The social cost is just as important to address as the health cost.”

Cruel comments about weight are socially acceptable in many circles, and are a leading factor in childhood bullying, she says.

She also has found that globalization has spread the stigma associated with obesity from the western world to other parts of the world, including regions that previously viewed large body size in a neutral or positive light. Her research shows that negative media and public health messages about obesity are so powerful that they overshadow the positive support of family and friends in shaping how people feel about their large body size.

Her most recent work on obesity-related stigma particularly appears to have hit a cultural nerve. Her comment, “Of all the things we could be exporting to help people around the world, really negative body image and low self-esteem are not what we hope is going out with public health messaging,” was quote of the day in the New York Times and was mentioned on NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which she notes with good humor.

Her research team’s work on obesity also has focused on university students, based on research conducted at ASU.

They have confirmed that obesity is socially contagious and the risk of a woman’s obesity rises if her friends and family members are obese. Shared eating and exercising habits may have the strongest correlation. Currently, her team is working with a start-up company to design ways of using smart phones to connect friends and family to exercise together.

“There are lots of reasons why we gain weight and we know that telling people to ‘eat less and exercise more’ doesn’t work. We’re swimming upstream with that approach because people are working long hours, they don’t have time to exercise or make home-cooked meals. We have to look at what’s possible to change.

“Instead of blaming people for their condition, we need to step back and look at the structure of our cities, our neighborhoods, our schools and our campuses, that shape health at every level.”

She works with ASU students enrolled in research practicum classes to do research on the campus, such as surveys, focus groups and interviews with other students. Fat stigma is surprisingly high at ASU, she says; about 20 percent of students would rather be blind than obese. Her work with undergraduates has a view to designing more healthful campuses, from the perspective of people’s norms and behaviors related to weight, exercise and nutrition.

Brewis Slade’s research is ultimately concerned with the complex interactions between human biology and culture, looking at human health in the context of massive transformational processes, such as globalization and climate change. She enjoys working in diverse collaborative teams, a factor that led her to join ASU in 2006.

“ASU is a fantastic place for someone like me who thinks around the edges of problems,” she says. “I’m inspired and invigorated by the transdisciplinary environment at ASU. It’s an energetic, exciting place and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d rather be.”

She believes the partnership with Mayo makes it possible, for the first time, for a university to think of tackling the challenge of obesity on a global scale.

“What makes ASU able to attempt this is the comprehensive nature of our expertise, and the scale and scope of our collective research. We have people with talent and expertise that can be applied to almost any aspect of the complicated problem of obesity, from the built environment, to food choices, to genetics. ASU’s coverage is unmatched in the volume of different ways we can devise to tackle the problem.

“Partnering with Mayo gives us additional access to talent in the medical understanding and treatment of obesity. This provides us with a truly massive shared toolkit to address the complicated challenge of obesity.”

The School of Human Evolution and Social Change is an academic unit in ASU's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.