School of Transborder Studies presents 'The Harvest/La Cosecha' documentary

March 27, 2012

The award-winning documentary “The Harvest/La Cosecha” comes to Arizona State University’s Tempe campus on April 5, hosted by ASU’s School of Transborder Studies.

“The Harvest” documents the lives of Zulema, Perla and Victor, who labor as migrant farm workers, and their sacrifices to help their families survive. Movie "The Harvest" on April 5 on ASU's Tempe campus Download Full Image

More than 400,000 American children are diverted, like these three, from schools, playgrounds and homes to pick the food that we eat. Created by the producers of the Academy-Award nominated film “War/Dance,” executive producer Eva Longoria and filmmaker U. Roberto Romano explore the issues faced by children who labor in agricultural fields without the protection of child labor laws and the impacts on them and their families.

The film unfolds as the three children journey from the scorching heat of Texas’ onion fields to the winter snows of the Michigan apple orchards, and back south to the humidity of Florida's tomato fields, following the harvest.

Free and open to the public, the screening will take place from 6:30 to 8 p.m., April 5. Following the film, at 8:15 p.m., there will be an interactive panel discussion with the documentary’s associate director Julia Pérez and a panel of experts from ASU’s School of Transborder Studies. The event will take place in the BAC (Business Administration Center), room 216. RSVP is required. 

Pérez says that the motivation for working on this project was very personal: “I view this theme as a legal matter not immigration.” There are exemptions that allow any child to work in agriculture legally regardless of status or nationality. “Children in agriculture are legally separate and unequal, they need a voice,” she says. “Children are not exemptions; double standards in agriculture have legalized the end of childhood for many.”

Joining Pérez on the panel are ASU professors Paul Espinosa, an award-winning filmmaker, and Lisa Magaña, an expert on issues of immigration, urban policy and migration. The moderator for the panel discussion will be ASU Regents’ Professor Carlos Vélez-Ibañez, the director of the school.

“We are honored to be able to support this most memorable film," Vélez-Ibañez said. "Its poignancy is reminiscent of ‘Harvest of Shame,’ which – many years ago – concentrated on the tragedy of farmworkers during the 60s. However, ‘The Harvest’ brings us up to date and focuses on the tragedy of children robbed of their youth before their time and made old by the daily harshness of the field.”

For more information and to RSVP visit or call 480-965-5091.

Written by Irma Arboleda

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


Artistry, civil engineering combine in student's honors thesis project

March 27, 2012

It was at a time when he was deep into engineering and urban planning studies that a seemingly unrelated thought popped into Sam Johnson’s head.

It came as a simple directive: “I think you should paint.” Sam Johnson Engineering Paintings Download Full Image

Johnson remembers “just having the thought like ‘I’m going to paint today and I don’t really know why.’ So I did some paintings and they were terrible at first, but I liked doing them.”

Using acrylics and watercolors, he covered canvasses with small and large free-flowing abstract images, with no intention other than engaging in a “stress-reducing, mind-relaxing” pastime.

Months later, a challenging course in structural analysis sparked something in him that he says “opened a floodgate of creativity” that he expressed through his paintings. He began giving his art more thematic direction. Some of the images he painted became more geometric, rooted in design principles and concepts he was learning in his coursework.

Johnson is a student in Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University, majoring in civil engineering in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. He’s also studying for a minor in urban planning in the School of Geographical Science and Urban Planning in ASU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

When he first put brush to canvas almost two years ago, Johnson had no idea his paintings would form the core of the honors thesis he needed to complete to earn his degree this spring. His thesis defense session occurred at a public exhibition featuring 20 of his paintings at a small yoga-studio-turned-art-gallery near ASU’s Tempe campus.

He describes the images he used for the thesis titled The Art of Engineering as “a mixture of simplicity and wildness” in which he tried to meld the precision of engineering structures, processes and designs with artistic freedom of expression.

Some of the paintings consist of bold splashes of bright colors, others of simple monochromatic symbols, figures and shapes. Embedded in them are depictions of images representing basic technical and structural aspects of civil engineering design – cantilevered beams, concentrated load, distributed load, roll support, linearity, applied force and deflection, turbulent flow and other examples of fluid dynamics.

One abstract work is based on the kind of overhead view of traffic flow on a freeway that is commonly used in transportation planning and engineering studies.

Another painting presents an impressionistic aerial view of a cityscape, like the photographic maps urban planners use to show land development density.

“You see both structure and artistry in Sam’s work, which are the characteristics that great works of engineering combine,” says ASU engineering professor Brad Allenby, who was on the committee that evaluated Johnson’s thesis project.

“Art and engineering are, at their core, creative expressions of the human spirit,” Allenby adds. “We’re fortunate to be at a university and in an engineering school where the parallels between these two pursuits are understood and valued.”  

Johnson says discovering this “creative outlet” and finding in it a connection between his aesthetic sensibility and his technical bent has helped heighten his academic and career interests.

After finishing his undergraduate studies, he plans to return to ASU to begin studies in a new sustainable engineering master’s degree program.

“Maybe these two ways of thinking, like an artist and like an engineer, can be merged,” he says.

Joe Kullman

Science writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering