Susan Davis delivers Frank Rhodes Lecture

March 29, 2013

The Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future: A Lecture Series for a New American University has brought impactful and transformational leaders and thinkers to share their thoughts with the ASU and wider community each semester since fall 2011.

The series is named after Frank Rhodes, the former president of Cornell University. Rhodes is considered one of the most important university presidents of the 20th century, as a man who consistently underscored the importance of the university while indicating the need for universities to evolve. According to Rhodes, “the distinctive feature of the New American University will still be its commitment to learning in its widest sense.” Susan M. Davis Download Full Image

On March 26, Susan M. Davis, founder, president and CEO of BRAC USA, joined ASU’s growing legacy of lecturers with a talk about how nurturing entrepreneurship can end global poverty. BRAC USA is a sister organization to BRAC, the largest non-governmental development organization in the world with programs that reach over 126 million people. Davis currently leads BRAC USA, which supports BRAC’s economic development, public health and social development programs all over the world.

To say that Davis is very involved in the world of development and education would be a polite understatement: Davis is a founding board member and immediate past chair of the Grameen Foundation, serves on Ashoka: Innovators for the Public’s international board committee, and serves as senior advisor to New York University’s Reynolds Programme on Social Entrepreneurship. Previously, she co-founded the University Network for Social Entrepreneurship; oversaw Ashoka’s expansion to the Middle East, North Africa and Central Asia; and recently, she co-wrote the book "Social Entrepreneurship: What Everyone Needs to Know" with David Bornstein. 

ASU President Michael M. Crow introduced Davis by praising her ability to create results on a grand scale, emphasizing that BRAC takes education and entrepreneurship and brings those services into countries that have ended up in a highly challenging economic situation. “BRAC isn’t about feeding the poor, it’s about creating opportunities, and ASU wants to work on these kinds of social advancement problems,” Crow said.

Davis was warmly welcomed by more than 200 attendees in the Carson Ballroom in Old Main on ASU’s Tempe campus. Her talk focused on creating situations that allow people to help themselves, and on the struggle to promote gender equality in regions that are culturally juxtaposed to the concept. She used the trajectory of her own career path, growing up in Louisiana, applying to Georgetown University on a whim and moving to Bangladesh to demonstrate the immense possibilities available to those who are open to new ideas and willing to take risks.

When it comes to helping others abroad, Davis is the champion of crowdsourcing ideas, resources, and action. When BRAC began, corporate partnerships were almost non-existent, forcing BRAC to compete within the private sector to provide goods and services such as iodized salt to local populations. Eventually, companies saw the profitability in doing good and followed suit. However in recent years, social corporate responsibility has changed dramatically. “From the business side, social entrepreneurship is transforming the nature of business,” affirmed Davis.

After her presentation, she fielded questions from the audience. In response to the dilemma of the ethics of imposing Western values on native populations, Davis’ characteristically pragmatic response was to “work at home, and from afar support indigenous social entrepreneurs in their country. You’ve got to translate a concept, and you need local people to do that. Social enterprise is not invented in America. It’s indigenous.”

Even though the issues she and BRAC focus on are serious, even life-threatening – issues like starvation, or child marriage – Davis remained positive and spirited. She demonstrated a firm belief that anyone can do what she does and be as happy and fulfilled in the process. Her parting words were at once congenial and challenging: “I would defy any of your friends to not think [this] was fun and very cool.”

The Frank Rhodes Lecture Series on the Creation of the Future is sponsored by the Office of the President. Learn more about the Frank Rhodes Lecture Series at

Center for Games and Impact unveils certificate, courses

March 29, 2013

Undergraduate students of any major at Arizona State University with a vision for affecting change in their field now have a powerful tool at their disposal: The new Certificate in Games and Impact launching in fall 2013 offers courses in theory, design and use of games as a means of bringing about change in education, health, social justice and other professional areas.

“Our goal with this certificate is to help undergraduates start to think, ‘Wow, if I care about impact and that’s part of why I came to ASU, now I have this whole other tool that I never realized was available to me,’" said Sasha Barab, director of ASU’s Center for Games and Impact and Pinnacle West Presidential Chair in Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Download Full Image

“We want to share our innovation lab experiences with schools across campus, in addition to Teachers College, so that many of our students can begin to understand the power of games,” he explained. “We believe that games are one medium that allow us to impact the world in powerful ways, and we want to bring that vision to kids all over campus.”

The Games and Impact Certificate program includes four courses and a customized capstone project totaling 15-18 credit hours. The program builds from an introductory core course through a sequence designed to equip students with the skills, research, ambition and entrepreneurial base needed to cultivate and curate these ideas beyond the university setting into the public domain.

Information about the program is available at or by calling 480-965-5555.

Students can tailor project work to issues and topics relevant to their fields of study, as well as work directly with activists, entrepreneurs and change agents on real-world projects, not just classroom exercises. Certificate students also will have regular access to the center’s game archives, innovation lab, game library and development resources.

Adam Ingram-Goble, the center’s director of innovations, said that students pursuing the certificate program and course offerings will gain a perspective on the evolving role of games in our society. By understanding how games are perceived by different audiences, students will be able to achieve greater impact through game use in a real-world setting.

“How do we make sense of games as a cultural practice and an art form?” he asked. “Games are incredibly social. But the kind of socialization that people typically associate with gaming, like the ‘Call of Duty’ and first-person shooter games, perhaps becomes the most visible because it gets the most hype. But that only appeals to a certain population of gamers.

“If you look at a game like ‘Minecraft,’ people are getting together and spending hundreds of hours building whole virtual worlds that are in their vision of what the world could be. They’re very aspirational, forward-looking fantasy spaces. But it’s not crazy, out-there fantasy, it’s more pragmatic than that.”

Among well-known faculty members at the center is Elisabeth Hayes, Delbert & Jewell Lewis Chair in Reading & Literacy and professor in ASU’s Teachers College and an affiliate faculty member in the Department of English. Hayes was a founding member of the Games, Learning & Society research collective while at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, together with the center’s James Gee, Presidential Professor of Literacy Studies in Teachers College.

Under the new program, Hayes is teaching Understanding Games for Impact, a course designed to equip students with skills and theories behind game play that get them thinking more like a game designer. Co-teaching with Hayes is Jeff Holmes, a doctoral candidate studying Rhetoric and Composition in the Department of English who also is working on the course content with Ingram-Goble.

“We want students to begin looking at games through three lenses,” Hayes explained. “First, we’ll explore how games encourage learning through problem solving. Next, we’ll observe how people organize around games, in small groups and teams, as a source of learning.

“Finally, we’ll ask what are the hidden messages that games can reveal about our broader culture? How can games shed light on values involving race, gender or the ‘lone hero,’ for example? And what can be learned through games if you assume an identity different from your own, such as an American playing an Iraqi or a guy playing a woman?”

The plan of study for the Certificate in Games and Impact includes the following:

Games, Technology & Society (EDT 210, 3 credits) Play games, analyze them and consider their impact on society.
Games for Impact: The Full Life Cycle (EDT 310, 3 credits) Discover game development from conception to sustainable impact.
Understanding Games for Impact (EDT 461, 3 credits) Investigate games as learning and social systems.
Designing Games for Impact (EDT 462, 3 credits) Play, explore and design game mechanics for impact.
Capstone Project (EDT 494, 3-6 credits) Innovate change on your relevant issue.