Sally Kitch named University Professor

September 24, 2015

Sally Kitch, founding director of Arizona State University’s Institute for Humanities Research, has been named University Professor by interim Provost Mark Searle. The designation is given to a very select number of ASU’s tenured faculty whose scholarly work has attained particular influence.

Kitch is also a Regents’ Professor of women’s and gender studies at ASU’s School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist at the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, portrait of Sally Kitch Sally Kitch, founding director of ASU's Institute for Humanities Research, has been named University Professor by interim Provost Mark Searle. Photo by: Arizona State University Download Full Image

In her new role, Kitch will continue as a North American principal investigator for “Humanities for the Environment,” an international research project focused on human responsibility, multi-species relationships and collaborative knowledge and collective action in and for the Anthropocene. The project, currently funded by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, is in collaboration with ASU Professor of English and Senior Sustainability Scholar Joni Adamson, other ASU colleagues, and academics from four other American universities. In addition, Kitch will initiate a new book project and continue development of a proposal for a transdisciplinary Humanities Lab to promote next-generation research and pedagogical collaborations at ASU.

Kitch will also maintain her role as an affiliate of ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing and as an advisor to Gender Studies doctoral candidates. Among her contributions to the field of women and gender studies is the creation of a sub-field in feminism and utopianism.

She will leave her directorship at the Institute for Humanities Research (IHR) in June 2016, though will remain involved in its research activities, which include the digital humanities, environmental humanities and medical humanities.

Kitch’s work in the IHR has helped create an intellectual community for humanists at ASU and beyond, Searle said.

“The IHR has a track record of taking on some of the most challenging problems we face as a global society,” he said. “We are grateful for Dr. Kitch’s work and are excited for her continued contributions to this thriving research enterprise.”

During Kitch’s tenure, the IHR helped develop the university’s first digital humanities lab, the Nexus Lab, which encourages interdisciplinary collaborations that bring together humanities, science and technology. It also initiated a distinguished lecture series, a yearly faculty seminar series and research clusters, fellows programs and seed grant funding to improve the quality of proposals to external funding agencies.

“Questions and concerns that humanists have about language, values, history, beliefs and assumptions are central to working out vexing social challenges,” said Kitch. “Dealing with the humanities means addressing basic and fundamental questions of deep concern, even within issues that may seem purely technological.”

Prior to joining ASU in 2006, Kitch was a distinguished humanities professor and department chair at The Ohio State University. She received her bachelor's from Cornell University, her master's from the University of Chicago and her doctorate from Emory University.

Marlene Tromp, vice provost of ASU’s West campus, dean of ASU’s New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences and professor of English and women and gender studies, will chair a national search committee for the next director of the Institute for Humanities Research.

Lisa Robbins

editor/publisher, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


Online portfolios make learning visible at ASU

September 24, 2015

What do an Arizona State University-Starbucks business student in Washington state, a sustainability research collaboration in Germany, and seven English classrooms on the ASU Tempe campus have in common? 

All took part in an online portfolio pilot project — ePortfolios hosted by Digication — undertaken to boost student learning and outcomes across a range of ASU learning environments.   ASU-Starbucks freshman Jessica Bishop and her family Jessica Bishop, an ASU-Starbucks student-barista, believes that having online tools such as ePortfolio to critically think about her work has proved quite valuable. Photo by: Jessica Bishop Download Full Image

Although the use of portfolios as part of the learning process isn’t new, “the shift to an online, multimodal vehicle for expression has added new dimensions to online, hybrid and classroom learning, assessment and curriculum development,” said Katherine Heenan. Heenan is a lecturer with ASU writing programs in the Department of English; senior lecturer with Barrett, The Honors College; and co-led the pilot project with professor Shirley Rose. 

“By making their writing visible to the public online, to an audience that extends beyond a teacher or other students, students are much more invested in their work,” Heenan said. “The ePortfolio can also be directly linked to career development and job applications after graduation.” 

Jessica Bishop is in the first year of a bachelor’s in business sustainability through the ASU-Starbucks program. A barista with a prior degree in fashion design, she hesitated to leap into a career in creativity without developing some business acumen. 

“Having my work public was initially intimidating,” Bishop said. “But I found having to critically think about my work through the lens of learning outcomes and ‘habits of mind’ was quite valuable. I learned how to include secondary sources in my work, something I had never had to do before, and the process helped me see my areas of opportunities as a writer as well as areas where I excel.”  

Bishop’s ePortfolio, developed for Writing 101 with ASU Writer’s Studio instructor and clinical assistant professor Michelle Stuckey, reflects her learning journey through creative-writing reflections and intimate photo essays.

“There is no better way to have a student or educator understand how much a student has learned than this approach,” said Duane Roen, dean of the College of Letters and Sciences and dean of ASU’s University College. “No test can measure all the learning that a student has done. An ePortfolio is evidence across a range of file types — video, audio, photo — of what an individual can do. As university instructors, we should all be engaged with the public; ePortfolios are part of being connected with the greater world. Powerful stuff.”  

ASU senior James MacDonald agrees. A transfer student, he will complete his bachelor’s in political science with a minor in sustainability next May. He developed an ePortfolio as part of a three-semester, hybrid classroom experience with Leuphana University in Germany. One requirement for this global classroom was development of a shared research project and publication of an academic research paper. 

“I’d never done research before or had long-distance collaborative learning experience. Using this tool, I was able to stretch myself in new ways and show my academic progress,” MacDonald said. “The added benefit was that my partners in Germany and I could formulate the best approach to writing our academic paper, critique and review our shared progress directly through the online interface.” 

ASU ePortfolio pilot, which started in 2013 with 300 students and one program, has added nearly 10,000 accounts just this fall as it transitioned into a standard tool for more academic units and classrooms. The tool is also being used by American Indian Student Support Services to support Native American students outside the classroom. 

An added benefit to expanded use of ePortfolios is that faculty members can assess the effectiveness of their curriculum and whether the outcomes for each course are achieved. In the Department of English, writing programs’ students and teachers also compete for Exemplary ePortfolio Awards for their projects.

Additionally, the thousands of student ePortfolios already in progress provide an archive of student writing for faculty research purposes, noted Heenan, who created her own ePortfolio

Bishop, however, points to much more personal rewards of this learning process at ASU:

“Instead of writing to only fulfill the requirements of the class, I wrote to fulfill myself. Everyone in my family is making sacrifices so I can pursue this endeavor. Going back to school has been hard, but I am forever thankful and very humbled by this gift of education. The values I am instilling in my three kids through my hard work and determination will be something that they will carry with them forever.”

For questions about ePortfolio at ASU, contact Christopher Sheehan:

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost