ASU News

Setting the stage for academic conversation

ASU theater experts help bridge gulf between theory, practice

January 14, 2016

Academic writing gets a bad rap.

The journals, books and periodicals of colleges and universities are often viewed as divorced from the real world; there is a large gulf separating theory from practice and academic research from everyday life. The Hour We Knew Nothing of Each Other Photo by Tim Trumble, courtesy of Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

But that gulf is slowly diminishing as academic discourse opens up to a larger audience, thanks to the Internet. Websites and blogging platforms are helping to bring both theoretical and practical discussions to a larger community, creating a space for discovery and innovation.

In the realm of theater, HowlRound is that space. The online journal and blogging platform was established four years ago as “a place for artists to provide feedback, learning, expertise, frustration, and vision — in an effort to enliven the fields of theater and performance to the aspiring and established artist alike.”

Just this year, Arizona State University was named No. 1 in innovation by U.S. News and World Report 2016 college rankings. It comes as no surprise, then, that the ASU School of Film, Dance and Theatre is at the cutting edge of innovative discussions, both in the classroom and online. Since HowlRound’s founding, nearly a dozen ASU-affiliated students, alumni and faculty have contributed to the site on topics ranging from stage combat to immersive theater.

"ASU faculty and students are bringing artists, scholars and theatermakers of all kinds into conversation with one another,” said Jamie Gahlon, senior creative producer of HowlRound. “Their contributions to HowlRound are helping to bridge the gulf between theory and practice for the advancement of theatrical form and discourse."

Julie Rada, an alumna of the MFA in Theatre (concentration in performance) program at ASU, who now works at the University of Utah as a Raymond C. Morales Fellow, has written for the blog on three separate occasions, covering such topics as casting practices in devised theater. She said she writes for HowlRound both because it is speedier than writing for an academic journal and because of the ethics of the site (it’s free to users, unlike journals, which are only free to people with academic institutional affiliations). 

“It really is a kind of ‘melting pot’ of academic, scholarly, interrogative publishing, practical how-to’s and idealistic musings from emerging artists,” Rada said. “There’s space for everyone at the table, particularly with the three possibilities for submission (blog, article or series). There are some heavy-hitters in the field who contribute: heads of academic departments, founders of seminal theater companies and ensembles, published playwrights, etc. There’s always the possibility that someone you admire and respect will read and comment on your writing. That’s very exciting.”

Dan Fine is an alumnus of the MFA in Theatre (concentration in interdisciplinary digital media) program, a joint degree of the School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the School of Arts, Media and Engineering. He’s teaching a graduate class on performance technology in the theater department at ASU. He was encouraged to write by Lance Gharavi, assistant director of theater in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre, and he ultimately decided to share that writing (a series of instructives on media design) on HowlRound because he felt it would reach a larger audience. 

“What I find with a lot of practitioners is that we are just too busy to write about what we’re doing — because we are constantly doing things,” said Fine. “So there tends to be a lot of information that’s not shared because of that.” 

Fine said the online format of HowlRound seemed like the best way to get that information out to people, especially in a field like media design, which is digitally based to begin with.

“It’s something that feels less physically tangible, because you can’t pick it up and touch it, like a book or a journal,” he said of online writing. “But in a different way it feels more tangible because it’s active, it feels like it has more life.”

"HowlRound and similar outlets are opening up new ground for discourse in the theater profession,” said Jacob Pinholster, director of ASU’s School of Film, Dance and Theatre. “Where previously we had a ‘never the twain shall meet’ gulf between popular websites and academic journals, we now have an amazing new field for true interplay between ideas and practice. It is an eloquent statement about both HowlRound's and ASU's relevance to emerging practices and trends in theater that so many of our students, faculty and alumni are consistent contributors."

And the dialogue can only expand further. HowlRound is always open to pitches for essays, blog posts, series and criticism.

“Better thinking makes better art,” Rada said. “The ability to organize your thoughts can make the ephemeral and often evocative work of the theater more tangible and communicative to a wider audience. This requires agile, flexible thinking. And thinking is made better by writing.”

Editor Assistant and Media Relations Specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the School of Film, Dance and Theatre


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Taking biology experiments out of the labs and into the garage.
Art + science + DIY attitude = citizen science.
January 11, 2016

ASU's Stacey Kuznetsov intersects science, art to transport biology to the people outside the labs

Seeing a lab filled with researchers peering through microscopes, examining petri dish contents or adjusting controls on incubators isn’t a rare sight at Arizona State University. But in ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts?

It’s becoming a more common scene with the prominence of SANDS (Social and Digital Systems), Stacey Kuznetsov’s research lab, which houses the tangible intersection of arts and sciences.

Woman standing in front of a cool scene.

Kuznetsov (pictured left), an assistant professor of human computer interaction in the ASU School of Arts, Media and EngineeringThe School of Arts, Media and Engineering is a collaborative initiative between the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., is affiliated with the School of Computing, Informatics and Decision Systems Engineering. A part of a growing sector of researchers merging creative pursuits, technology and science, she’s also among the “first wave” of scholars engaging in the emerging academic field of Do-It-Yourself Biology (DIYbio), or “amateur science practice.” Kuznetsov and her team of student researchers in the Herberger Institute examine ways to create low-cost tools for “citizen science.”

“We’re looking at ways to visualize different biology techniques for beginners, or to let people collect and share the data,” Kuznetsov said. “For instance, if they’re working on a project in their maker-space or garage, how can they capture the information that they’re producing and share that with the broader community?”

Another fascinating question Kuznetsov explores is how to take that knowledge and make it applicable, lacking the specialized space of a traditional lab equipped with its traditional tools.

“Recent open-source bio tools enable biology work outside of professional settings for a fraction of the cost, and I see these as parallel to the more widely studied DIY platforms such as Arduino, Raspberry Pi, PICAXE, to name a few,” Kuznetsov said, referencing software programs commonly used by artists. She first became involved with such systems when she interned at the Microsoft Research Lab at Cambridge and conducted extensive research on DIYbio initiatives around the world.

Kuznetsov finds that the DIYbio movement aims to make science more accessible, and she recognizes the discipline of biology as a platform for a new frontier, similar to where electronics, software and hardware development stood not too long ago.

“I feel like biology is doing that for us now as more tools are becoming open-source,” she said. “That’s where the future seems to be going. We’re developing basic tools that non-experts can use to do biology outside of professional labs.”

By “we,” Kuznetsov means herself and her student researchers, as well as the broader DIYbio community at large. And by “basic tools,” she’s referring to instruments “like microscopes and petri dishes that are already available at a pretty low cost. There are a lot of fun hacks you can do … for instance, you can actually turn your phone into a microscope for something like $5 by flipping the lens for the camera.”

“All of this is exciting, because the groundwork is already there,” she said. “But what’s missing, in my opinion, are easy ways to get the information we need to get started. There are a lot of online resources, but there aren’t many tools that are embedded, like maker-space, I think that people can use.”

Another thing Kuznetsov finds is that people are more receptive to hands-on work.

“Problem-solving is creative,” she said, “so when you’re trying to make biology happen, you have to get creative. For instance, we don’t have an incubator, so we’re making like an incubator from scratch. It’s discovering methods that fit into our lab and making a process that works in the space that we have.”

In other words, necessity inspires creativity.

“On the interaction science side of it,” she continued, “the tools we end up developing for beginners will necessarily be creative to help people learn how to do this kind of work.”

Kuznetsov also makes it clear that the science side of the equation doesn’t define the relationship between art and biology.

“I think there are also ‘bio-artists’… people who create art with biology,” she said. “For instance, people will make patterns out of cells that have an aesthetic to it, or they’ll sonify the progress of different biological processes. I think there’s a lot of room where people can actually apply art to biology and still learn the biology behind it, but then turn that into a creative project. Not all of the outcomes have to be ‘citizen science’ outcomes. Some of them can be creative practice outcomes.”

Written by Kristi Garboushian, School of Arts, Media + Engineering

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ASU's first digital culture grads feel comfortable in ever-changing world.
What's an ASU digital culture degree? A license to succeed.
January 7, 2016

First batch of program's undergrads launch into the world having learned how to adapt

Four years ago, ASU’s School of Arts, Media and Engineering launched the Bachelor of Arts in Digital Culture program, one of the first proficiency-based digital media degrees in the United States.

The digital culture undergraduate degree, in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, is housed in a facility that gives students access to cutting-edge tools and technology. The innovative program is a collaboration among not only the schools in the Herberger Institute — Art; Arts, Media and Engineering; Design; Film, Dance and Theatre; and Music — but also numerous partnering academic units across ASU, from electrical engineering, journalism and mass communications to computer science, education and human evolution and social change.

So how are the first, newly minted digital culture alums doing?

If 2015 graduate Moheeb Zara is any indication, they’re doing very well.

Zara was recently awarded a Top Innovator award at the 2015 Intel Innovation Summit, for his work with Octoblu, an “Internet of Everything” company that runs on Intel’s platforms and whose ambitious mission is “to connect anything with everything.” A co-founder of the Southwest Maker Festival, Zara describes himself as a hardware hacker, an activist, a maker, an artist, a robotics mentor, a technological dilettante and a promoter of science education, among other things.

Sha Xin Wei, director of the School of Arts, Media and Engineering, said Zara’s success is one example of the digital culture program’s many achievements.

“Our digital culture students are participating in, and shaping, multiple critical areas of innovation, including the maker community, technology of the future, games, tech and media start-ups, the new media industry, high tech and interaction design,” Sha said.

The big question students hear, according to Sha and the students themselves, is, “What is digital culture?” Sha said part of the answer comes from the students themselves, and from the projects they’re working on with faculty. Through the program, students are able to define the paths they take, both at ASU and beyond.

Girl with green streak in her hair

“Whenever I get asked about digital culture, the first description that comes to mind is ‘art fused with technology,’ " said Elizabeth Vegh (pictured left), who graduated from ASU last year as a digital culture major specializing in art. Vegh started out in film and then switched to digital culture because of her interest in animation. “To me, it's all about how to use both mediums to create some sort of experience for the public, whether if it's for research or entertainment purposes.”

“We are creating experience entrepreneurs,” Sha said. “Students are learning to use digital technology to create, customize and enrich the way we experience the world. Many argue that we are living in an ‘experience economy’ and that companies that can create compelling experiences will thrive. We are preparing graduates to drive this new economy.”

While in college, Vegh, who graduated in May 2014, worked with ASU’s Center for Science and the Imagination as its videographer, editor and events specialist. Working closely with Ed Finn, the center’s director and an arts, media and engineering faculty member, she went on to create podcasts, posters and animations that have been featured in the online magazine Slate, Future Tense and Valley TV affiliates.

“Digital culture gave me a lot of experience pitching ideas for an audience and networking with really important figures in both the science and entertainment industry,” Vegh said. “I also had access to a lot of technology and programs that I wouldn't have had access to without being in the digital culture program.”

Almost immediately after graduating, Vegh landed a job as a graphic designer for CBS 5 News in Phoenix.

“I never took any graphic design courses (in college),” Vegh said, “but I had developed my skills with timing and storytelling (for animation), which my supervisor later told me is what put me ahead of the other applicants. I also had a lot of chances to go over how to create the best pitch and portfolio possible. I don't think I would have been as successful with my current line of work without that practice.”

Man with a beard.

Matthew Briggs began his career at ASU studying business but segued to a digital culture degree program at the urging of his adviser. Courtesy photos.


Matthew Briggs’ current line of work grew directly out of his experience as a digital culture major, but he started out even farther outside the field than Vegh did. He was in the business school, thinking about going into accounting, when he realized that wasn’t what he wanted to do. Based on his interests, including music and digital technology, his adviser suggested he check out “this new program that just came online” — digital culture.

Briggs said it was a perfect fit.

“I didn’t have a goal to be a specific job type or position. I was just interested in gaining some skills and knowledge and exposure,” he said. “That exploration aspect of digital culture was really key for me.”

After graduating in May 2015, he ended up with a double major in digital culture, with a focus on design, and graphic information technology, as well as a double minor in film and media production and music. Today he works as a specialist in ASU’s digital culture fabrication lab, a job the multimedia artist discovered as a student. 

Briggs said that the faculty in the digital culture program prepare students for life after college “in the most important way” — by teaching them how to become resourceful.

“They give you principles and theories and skills,” Briggs said. “They teach you the tools, too, but it really helps you gain that mentality of how to find and learn and become fluent in these technologies, tools and techniques. Because the industry will change, but your ability to change with it doesn’t. You’re a lot more adaptable, I think. You learn how to learn.”

Learning how to learn is what the Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute, calls “a core 21st-century competency.”

“For most college graduates these days, the future of work is unpredictable, non-linear and constantly evolving,” Tepper said. “In fact, a recent study found that almost half of the current occupations probably won’t exist in the next few decades. A program such as digital culture allows our faculty, students and graduates to help invent the jobs and the businesses of the future, and to come up with new platforms and technology for the exchange of culture and the enrichment of the human experience.”

Plus, alums like Vegh and Briggs say it’s a lot more interesting and rewarding than what they were doing before they entered the world of digital culture.

To learn more about the program, visit the Digital Culture website ( or come in person to the Digital Culture Showcase, which takes place the first Friday of May and December every year and is free and open to the public.

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


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World-famous dance legend bringing her talents to ASU.
Liz Lerman, dancer extraordinaire, ready to move ASU students.
January 7, 2016

Dance Exchange founder and MacArthur fellow to teach, launch Ensemble Lab

Liz Lerman — choreographer, author, educator and 2002 MacArthur “Genius Grant” Fellowship recipient — will join the faculty of Arizona State University at the beginning of the spring semester.

Widely recognized as an important influence in the worlds of dance, arts-based community engagement and cross-disciplinary collaboration, Lerman will assume a unique position as Institute Professor to lead programs and courses that span disciplines within and beyond ASU’s Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“When I arrived at ASU, President Crow challenged me to recruit a leading artist and public intellectual to the Institute. I wanted to bring to ASU someone who has transformed how artists work in the world — whose life’s work is a testimony to everything we believe the Herberger Institute stands for — artistry and scholarship that is fully engaged in public life and open to new techniques, new partners and new spaces for creative work. I immediately thought of Liz — perhaps the most creative, generative and generous artist working in America,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.   

“My appointment here, as much as it’s about the art, it’s also about the university itself and its interest right now in multidisciplinary practice and its relationship to the community on the whole,” said Lerman, citing her enthusiasm for Tepper’s vision that design and the arts are critical resources for transforming society at every level. “This is an incredible opportunity to leverage the talent of this great university to advance what has always been for me the intersection of artistic practice for the stage with broader civic purposes.”

As a young artist based in Washington, D.C., Lerman (shown in the top photo by Lise Metzger) founded the Dance Exchange in 1976. She cultivated its multigenerational ensemble into a leading influence in contemporary dance until 2011, when she began an independent phase of her career, including a recent residency at Harvard University.

Working with collaborators from fields as diverse as genomics, to religion, to physics, her work has won critical and scholarly attention and has included an examination of human-rights law commissioned for the Harvard Law School; a dance about origins launched in the tunnels of the Large Hadron Collider at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and later performed at ASU Gammage; nine short performances about the defense budget; and innovative residencies and collaborations that span nursing homes and medical schools to the National Academy of Sciences and the London Dance Umbrella.

Her Shipyard Project engaged hundreds of local citizens to reflect on the historic and controversial shipyard in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, and was one of many community-based endeavors in which she demonstrated the role of art in fostering civic dialogue and promoting social capital.

Recently, Lerman debuted "Healing Wars," a theatrical dance about the role of healers tasked with treating the physical and psychological trauma of war.

“You have to ask yourself, ‘What makes something good at a children’s hospital? What makes it good when it’s on stage? What makes it good in whatever environment you’re in?’ ” asked Lerman. “There’s permeability between studio art and community art. Sometimes you’re in both worlds. That seems to me more true of how life is.”

At ASU’s Herberger Institute, Lerman will create a cooperative of artists, researchers and civic leaders in a lab-like environment to experiment with methods and techniques for broad social impact. Working across disciplinary lines and schools, her Ensemble Lab will examine the role of artists in society, expand artists’ professional opportunities, and prepare artists to be both imaginative innovators and civic partners.

Lerman will integrate her widely recognized Critical Response Process — a four-step system for giving and receiving feedback on artistic works in progress — into “Animating Research,” a course she will teach during her inaugural semester. The course will link Herberger Institute students to an array of ASU research projects in ways that will enable artists to refine their personal voice while also translating ideas, statistics and other research into new forms.

“When we think about the role of the artist in society, a central theme of Liz’s work at ASU will focus on equity, inclusion and the need to embrace and advance all creative voices in America,” Tepper said. “Liz’s Ensemble Lab will allow us to experiment and reinvent the 21st-century design and arts school so that we are tapping into and helping to advance the creativity inherent in our diverse culture and society.” 

“ASU is giving me a platform to extend my artistic explorations and a chance to work alongside great faculty and students, all of us embarked on the mission of expanding the role of artists in society,” Lerman said. “Personal expression matters: It has been the central focus of the arts in the 20th century. But now it’s important to take the skills and priorities developed through the arts into the wider world. The Herberger Institute has already embarked on that work. I am excited to be a part of advancing it into the future.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

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ASU professor teaches students to find masterpieces in virtual worlds.
Teaching students to see and execute creativity in virtual realms.
January 5, 2016

ASU professor is an expert in 'virtual world' education

You can open a book and look at a picture of an artistic masterpiece or, in a virtual world, you can soar inside a 3-D version and become part of it.

An Arizona State University professor has become an expert in teaching via virtual worlds — computer-based simulated environments where users create avatars, which are online versions of themselves.

Mary Stokrocki, an art education professor in the School of ArtThe School of Art is part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts., has created artistic worlds not only for the ASU students she teaches but also for children and senior citizens. She teaches primarily in the Second LifeSecond Life is a virtual online world where users can explore the environs via digital avatars of themselves, or other creations. The service has more than 1 million users. virtual world.

“Everyone thinks this is a game,” StokrockiMary StokrockiStokrocki was named the 2015 Kenneth Marantz Distinguished Fellow for the U.S. Society for Education Through Art. She also was the editor of the 2014 book “Exploration in Virtual Worlds: New Digital Multi-Media Literacy Investigations for Art Education.” said. “It’s a multi-use platform. There is multi-literacy — many ways to communicate, including music and dance.”

The virtual worlds are practical. Students can communicate with peers around the world and explore textures and spatial design instantly. And they can build sculptures or architecture in Second Life that can be created in real life using a 3-D printer.

Much of Stokrocki’s work is done across cultures, including several months teaching “digital ethnography” in Taiwan as a Fulbright Scholar, when she had students create an art exhibit about their country in Second Life.

She has also worked with Navajo and Apache students and participated in a virtual-world project at a charter school in Apache Junction.

Using avatars can transform students and free them to open their minds about themselves, she said.

“I worked with 80-year-olds. In real life, no hair. In Second Life, hair. Tattoos up and down their avatar bodies,” she said.

At first, students hesitate.

“But then they’re fearless,” she said.

Her own avatar is the Lizard of Ars — “ars” is Latin for “art.” Her space in Second Life is called Art Ark (seen in the photo at top).

In class, students learn to search out the masterpieces in the virtual world, like treasures, she said.

"At first they don't know what they're looking for. Our job is to teach them to see.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now

O: 480-727-4503/M: 480-748-9679

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Year in review: Department of English edition

Take a look back at ASU English faculty and alumni 2015 book releases.
ASU English faculty and alumni explore universal themes of life in recent works.
December 29, 2015

Faculty and alumni from ASU's Department of English enjoyed a year full of new book releases

Arizona State University’s Department of English has no shortage of talented alumni and faculty, as is evidenced by the latest crop of novels, short-story collections, memoirs and poetry to come out of their ranks. In this look back at some of their most notable releases from 2015, ASU Now delves into a literary mash-up of such universal and persistent themes as death, birth, love, betrayal, humor and hopelessness.

2015 alumni releases

Karankawa,” University of Pittsburgh Press, 2015, by Iliana Rocha (MFA Creative Writing, 2008)

Winner of the 2014 Donald Hall Prize for Poetry, “Karankawa” is a collection that explores some of the ways in which we (re)construct our personal histories. Rich in family narratives, myths and creation stories, Rocha’s poems investigate passage — dying, coming out, transforming, being born — as well as the gaps that also reside in our stories, for, as Rocha suggests, the opportunity to create myths is provided by great silences.

Rocha is now a PhD candidate in English with a creative writing emphasis at Western Michigan University. While earning her MFA at ASU, she served as poetry editor for Hayden’s Ferry Review. Her work has been chosen for the Best New Poets 2014 anthology and has appeared or is forthcoming in Blackbird, Yalobusha Review, Puerto del Sol and Third Coast.

Fortune Smiles,” Random House, 2015, by Adam Johnson (BA Cronkite, 1992)

Johnson’s “Fortune Smiles” is a collection of surreal and comic short stories that deal with natural disasters, technology and politics, and take place in settings ranging from Palo Alto, California, to New Orleans to North Korea. A winner of the National Book Award for fiction, the collection was hailed as “surprising, wondrous, comic and devastating” by competition judges, who called Johnson “one of the most talented writers of his generation.”

Johnson is also the winner of a Pulitzer Prize for his acclaimed novel about North Korea, “The Orphan Master’s Son.”

A Teacher’s Tale: A Memoir,” iUniverse/True Directions, 2015, by Joe Gilliland (PhD English, 1979)

In Gilliland’s inspiring memoir, he recounts how it was never his intention to become a teacher but how that has been the path he has followed for more than 50 years. Beginning in 1932 with Gilliland's first experiences in schooling, “A Teacher’s Tale” concludes in the summer of 1955 just as he is about to become a qualified instructor in a small college in east Texas. Throughout the story Gilliland brings together a philosophy of higher education based on the importance of arts and humanities in today's fast-paced, high-tech world.

Gilliland earned his bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s degree in English from the University of Texas, Austin, before earning his doctorate in English from ASU. He is now retired and currently resides in Bisbee, Arizona, with his wife, Bettie.

The Porcupine of Truth,” Scholastic/Arthur A Levine, 2015, by Bill Konigsberg (MFA Creative Writing, 2005)

In this epic road-trip novel, Konigsberg explores themes of family history, gay history and discovering oneself. The novel is at times funny, poetic and enlightening.

Also the author of critically acclaimed “Openly Straight,” Konigsberg was a sportswriter for the Associated Press and before he began writing novels. The winner of a GLAAD Media Award for a coming-out essay written while working at, he lives in Chandler, Arizona, with his partner, Chuck.

2015 faculty releases

The Quotations of Bone,” Copper Canyon, 2015, by Norman Dubie (Regents’ Professor of English)

Called “one of our premier poets” by the New York Times, Dubie is known for his powerfully imaginative work in which he often assumes historical personae. In “The Quotations of Bone,” his 29th collection of poems, Dubie elicits a rich, vibrant vision of the world that leads the reader to uncommon ways of understanding humanity.

Dubie has been a part of ASU’s Creative Writing program since the 1970s and has given poetry readings throughout the United States.

Ball: Stories,” Soft Skull, 2015, by Tara Ison (associate professor of English)

“Ball” is the debut collection of short fiction by Ison, acclaimed author of the novels “Rockaway” and “A Child Out of Alcatraz.” In it, she explores the darker side of love, sex and death, and how they are often intimately connected. The stories, set mostly in contemporary Los Angeles, feature a recently bereaved young woman, a cancer-stricken best friend and a dying uncle.

Ison recently released the memoir “Reeling Through Life: How I Learned to Live, Love, and Die at the Movies.” Her short fiction, essays, poetry and book reviews have appeared or are forthcoming in Publishers Weekly; O, the Oprah Magazine; the Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine and Book Review; and the Chicago Tribune. Ison is also the co-writer of the cult film “Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead.”

A Solemn Pleasure: To Imagine, Witness, and Write (The Art of the Essay),” Bellevue Literary Press, 2015, by Melissa Pritchard (professor of English)

In an essay contained in “A Solemn Pleasure,” Pritchard poses the question, “Why write?” The collection attempts to answer that question, among others, by proving the power of language. The various essays explore themes of imagination, literary figures past, Pritchard’s personal experiences and finding inspiration in our own lives.

Pritchard’s writing has received the Flannery O’Connor, Janet Heidinger Kafka and Carl Sandburg awards and two of her short fiction collections were New York Times Notable Book and Editors’ Choice selections. She has worked as a journalist in Afghanistan, India and Ethiopia.

Scrapper,” Soho Press, 2015, by Matt Bell (assistant professor of English)

Author of the well-received novel “In the House Upon the Dirt Between the Lake and the Woods,” Bell returns to tell the tale of a post-apocalyptic Detroit in “Scrapper.” A devastating reimagining of one of America’s greatest cities, it forces the reader to confront the consequences of one’s actions, even when they are made with the best intentions.

Bell has written book criticism and coverage for the Los Angeles Times, PEN America, the Quarterly Conversation and the Brooklyn Rail, where he writes a monthly interview series. He is also the former senior editor of Dzanc Books and the founding editor of the Collagist, an online literary journal.


To see more of what ASU English alumni, faculty and staff have to offer in the way of literary entertainment and enlightenment, check out the links below.

Recent alumni publications:

Recent faculty and staff publications:

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Pursuing 2 dreams requires a fine balance

Pursuing Olympic skating dreams requires fine balance for full-time ASU student.
Skate in the morning. Study in the day. The daily life of ASU Olympic hopeful.
December 21, 2015

Full-time ASU student strives to be top-ranked figure skater

When Daniel Kulenkamp steps onto the ice and begins to glide across the frosty rink, he leaves Arizona State University behind.

In those moments, he's focused on grinding out jumps and perfecting graceful spins. After he's done, Kulenkamp removes his skates and returns to the responsibilities that come with being a student in Barrett, the Honors College.

The 20-year-old is pursuing his dream of being a championship figure skater while also studying full time.

That requires a balancing act as fine as the edge of his skate blade.

“We always say that when you get to the rink you want to check it at the door, skate and pick it back up when you leave,” he said of the outside world beyond skating.

Kulenkamp gets to the rink every morning Mondays through Fridays, where he trains for at least two and half hours. Off the ice, he works on weights and conditioning, including plyometrics, at least an hour a day.

At ASU, where he’s majoring in computer science during his first year at the university, Kulenkamp took 16 credits in the fall semester, half of them online.

He also coaches a youth hockey team and gives private skating lessons.

“I’ve always been somewhat of an overachiever,” Kulenkamp said. “But I’m not saying it’s an easy thing to do.”

Sometimes, it’s almost impossible.

“There was one day where I didn’t score quite as well on an exam as I had hoped for and it carried over into the rink the next day, but for the most part, I’m pretty good about keeping everything separate,” he said.


Daniel Kulenkamp

Daniel Kulenkamp skates two and half hours a day, five days a week at the Ice Den rink in Scottsdale. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


With fall semester over, Kulenkamp is now concentrating on perfecting his short and long programs for the 2016 Prudential U.S. Figure Skating Championships in January.

He’s one of several skaters from the Coyotes Skating Club, based at the Ice Den in Scottsdale, to qualify for the national championships.

Kulenkamp came in eighth place at the nationals last January in the junior division. He has since moved up to the senior men’s level and added a triple axel jump — one of the most difficult moves.

“My ultimate goal is to place in the top 12 at nationals, but I try not to think about that because then you get caught up in the placements,” he said. “I want to skate as cleanly and as well as I can.”

The competition in January will be especially meaningful to him because it’s in his hometown of St. Paul, Minnesota. The Kulenkamp family moved to Scottsdale earlier this year so Daniel, and his 17-year-old brother Grant, also a figure skater, could train at the Ice Den and so Daniel could attend ASU.

“Barrett was a big factor because I wanted a more challenging school, and Barrett supplies that along with the big research university that I wanted,” said Kulenkamp, who went to an online high school for two years and then accumulated more than 50 credits at the University of Minnesota through dual-enrollment classes.

His coaches have been supportive.

“They know that was part of the decision moving here — that I was going to go to school,” he said.

Doug LadretDoug Ladret, a two-time Olympian and Canadian pairs skating champion, is the Ice Den's director of figure skating development., one of Kulenkamp's coaches at the Ice Den, said that time management is a crucial part of the sport.

"You can't always choose when you train. You have to train when the ice is available. They have to train around school and that happens from the time they start skating, in elementary school and middle school," he said.

"Coaches know that. We all did it too."

Kulenkamp is working toward making the U.S. National Team for the 2018 Winter Olympics in South Korea. He knows he will need to add at least one quadruple jump to his program for that.

“Seniors have more difficult jumps and longer programs, but it also has more to do with artistic ability and the power that you have while you’re skating,” he said.

“Plus there are bigger crowds.”

Kulenkamp has already worked his spring semester classes around his training schedule, but competitions are always tricky. He’ll miss the first day of classes while he’s at nationals in Minnesota.

As a Barrett student, he’s required to take the program’s signature “Human Event” course, where absences are limited.

“I’m extremely cautious to plan my trips around those classes,” he said.

Maintaining that balance is the key.

“I really want to get the degree, but I also want to see where skating takes me.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter, ASU Now

O: 480-727-4503/M: 480-748-9679

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ASU grad brings an artistic view into the scientific world.
December 18, 2015

ASU doctoral grad Edgar Cardenas uses his own backyard to document the changes people can make

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of student profiles that are part of our December 2015 commencement coverage.

“The objective is to teach the student to see the land, to understand what he sees, and enjoy what he understands”
—  Aldo Leopold, from “The Role of Wildlife in a Liberal Education”

As a high school student in rural Wisconsin, Edgar Cardenas liked to draw. But after high school he stopped creating art, “because I thought I was supposed to be a grown-up.” 

No one in Cardenas’ family had finished high school — not his mother and father, who were both immigrants from Mexico, or his stepfather, a devout Jevovah’s Witness who considered higher education a distraction from religion. Even the guidance counselor at the high school assumed Cardenas wouldn’t continue his education: When he expressed interest in a psychology class, the counselor told him that was for students who were going to college.

Cardenas took the class anyway. He got an A.

Years later he has earned his doctorate from Arizona State University's School of Sustainability as a photographer who brings an artistic view into the scientific world.

After high school, Cardenas knew, he was “supposed to” get a job. He said he tried, first building fiberglass semi trailers, then cellphones on the factory line at Motorola. But he couldn’t do work he didn’t enjoy, he said. He decided to go to community college. He also joined the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve.

Unaware that there was such a thing as financial aid, he worked as a night janitor for the Beloit school district to support himself while he took classes, sleeping when he could. After a few years, he transferred to Gordon College, in Massachusetts, where he received a bachelor's degree in psychology. From there, he went on to graduate school at the University of New Haven and earned a master's degree in industrial/organizational psychology.

It was only after his master's program that he found his way back to art by starting to take photos. At the time he was working as an organizational development consultant, once again doing the thing he thought he was “supposed to do.” But his heart wasn’t in it. 

One day he walked into a gallery in New Haven and encountered the photographs of Walker Evans. He met the curator, John Hill, who had provided the work for the exhibition and knew Evans personally, and they started talking. One thing led to another, Cardenas said, and he began working in Hill’s studio and getting an informal education in the history of photography.

Two guys with something interesting in their hands.

Edgar Cardenas (left) and ASU
Regents' Professor Mark Klett
at Cardenas' graduation.

Courtesy photo

“I was working as a consultant still,” Cardenas said, “but I didn’t like the work. Then the firm disbanded and they asked me if I wanted to go to another firm. And I decided that no, I wanted to be a photo assistant.”

He took a significant pay cut to go to work for New Haven photographer Robert Lisak, a Yale MFA grad. He also started studying for his GRE, because he’d learned about the School of Sustainability at ASU and was interested in applying and earning a doctorate.

“Sustainability was attractive (to me) because of its interdisciplinarity,” Cardenas said. “I knew when I applied to ASU that what I had wanted to do was blend image-making with the sciences.”

By his second semester at ASU, he had connected with renowned geologist-turned-photographer Mark Klett, an ASU Regents' Professor, who invited Cardenas to take his Photography Fieldwork course, which pairs trained photographers with scientists. Cardenas explains the course as “understanding Phoenix through image-making,” in the spirit of the old survey photographers who came out and documented the West.

“[Graduate students] at the University of Arizona, where I’ve gone to speak a few times, all say, ‘You guys are doing the creative stuff up there. We’re not allowed to do stuff like that.’ ”
— Edgar Cardenas, ASU doctoral graduate from the School of Sustainability

Through that class and others in the School of Art and the School of Sustainability, Cardenas was able to accomplish two things.

First, he found his art community.

“Before coming to ASU, I had mentors, but I didn’t have a cohort,” he said. Once he had a community, “we could comment on each other’s work. It was a way of getting me up and running on the ideas I wanted to explore and how I wanted to communicate them.”

Second, he was able to continue his pursuit of projects that combined both art and science.

“Artists and scientists do a similar thing,” Cardenas explained. “They take data and they organize it. They just do that differently.”

For his culminating project, Cardenas looked close to home.

“Within sustainability we abstract a lot of ideas. We think about them in a global context. I started thinking about how we exercise our sustainability. I started with the backyard, which is a personal space. How do I practice sustainability in a personal space?”

The body of work he produced is called “One Hundred Little Dramas.” Cardenas observed and documented, through photography and video, how he transformed the backyard over the course of three years. That transformation involved collecting what amounted to hundreds of pounds of compost from the School of Sustainability, plus people’s discarded leaves and wood chips.

“I told people, bring me the waste so I can use it as input for my garden. I was changing the backyard in these ways that would transform it into a different ecological space. I was aware that I was building a habitat for lizards, for birds. I would learn about where the lizards would lay their eggs so we wouldn’t step on those spaces. I saved many baby birds and took them to an aviary. I planted sunflower seeds for the birds. You get in tune with the rhythm of the space.” 

For Cardenas, the work wasn’t just about documenting a place. It was about understanding that place on multiple levels.

“Understanding how ecology works in these little places, that transforms the way you see places you hike, for example. It changes your perspective on the world.”

Cardenas said he doesn’t think he could have produced his dissertation, which gave equal weight to the arts and to the sciences, anywhere but at ASU.

“I brought together perspectives on aesthetics and Aldo Leopold’s relevance to sustainability, produced a thesis exhibit, and then conducted a social psychological study, all under the sustainability umbrella,” Cardenas said. “These three components would not have come together anywhere else.”

His committee consisted of photographer Klett; environmental ethicist and conservation scholar Ben Minteer; sociologist Ed Hackett; and ecologist Dan Childers, who runs the Wetland Ecosystem Ecology Lab at ASU.

“It’s a double-edged sword when you have a program that is very interdisciplinary,” Cardenas said. “You have a lot of rope to hang yourself. But if you’re going to do a project that’s really innovative, you need a lot of rope to run around. And they provided me that.

“People [graduate students] at the University of Arizona, where I’ve gone to speak a few times, all say, ‘You guys are doing the creative stuff up there. We’re not allowed to do stuff like that.’ ”

“Edgar was the first student to pursue such an ambitious agenda integrating art and science, and he was equally proficient in both,” said Klett, who hooded Cardenas at the School of Sustainability graduation ceremony on Dec. 15. “His research was groundbreaking, and it opens the door for future students to pursue a similar path in art and science.”

According to School of Art director Adriene Jenik, the success of Cardenas’ work has helped pave the way for discussions about the possibility of a concurrent degree in art and sustainability, which she sees as a natural fit. In addition to Klett, both Julie Anand and visiting artist Christine Lee teach courses in the School of Art that combine art and sustainability.

Whatever Cardenas does going forward, it will involve both art and science. On his website Cardenas lists himself as an “artscientist,” and he believes that both disciplines benefit from the marriage of the two.

“Art and science provide us with different kinds of information,” he said. “I don’t think they can be overlaid. They come together like a puzzle. I find that the sciences provide us with rich data on the dynamics that are taking place in the world. But that information has to be coupled with our value structures. Art raises that awareness — it raises questions about what we want in our lives and how we think about that more deeply.”

Deborah Sussman Susser

Communications and media specialist, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts


ASU News

Colorful abstract art focus of new ASU Gammage exhibit

December 15, 2015

Colorful images of abstract and modern art by two Arizona artists will be featured in an exhibition at ASU Gammage Dec. 13-Feb. 9.

Melissa Schleuger’s dynamic art incorporates geometric shapes into an organic backdrop, creating work that blends the unexpected with sophistication and beauty. Specializing in abstract expressionism, she begins each painting without preconceived influence and follows the lead of brush strokes and paint. abstract painting "Plus One" by Arizona artist Melissa Schleuger Download Full Image

Schleuger recently was named one of the finest emerging artists in the Valley by the 2015 Chancellor Awards of Maricopa Community Colleges. A student at Scottsdale Community College, she has shown her work at local venues including the Herberger Theater and Art Intersection.

Geoff Gildner’s work reflects his experience in the architectural field, using color, form and the shapes of the natural environment as a foundation. Many of the vibrant pieces on exhibit at Gammage are created using found objects such as wood, glass, sheet metal and old canvas paintings.

A 1994 history graduate from ASU with an emphasis on architecture, Gilner is a self-trained artist who is influenced by the works of Mondrian, Rietveld, Kandinsky, Pollack and de Kooning, as well as the organic architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. His work can be found in private art collections both in the United States and abroad.

abstract art

"Witnesses to the Actions of One" by Arizona artist Geoff Gildner


Exhibit hours at ASU Gammage are 1 to 4 p.m. Mondays, or by appointment. Due to rehearsals, event set-up, performances, special events and holidays, it is advisable to call (480) 965-6912 or (480) 965-0458 to ensure viewing hours, since they are subject to cancellation without notice.

The street address is 1200 S. Forest Ave., Tempe. Parking is available at meters around the perimeter of ASU Gammage. Entrance is through east lobby doors at the box office.

Media contact: Brad Myers, art exhibit coordinator, 480-965-6912

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December 9, 2015

ASU Biodesign Institute employees share their work through the power of visuals

They say a picture is worth a thousand words — something that can be especially handy when talking about science. ASU researchers used the power of high resolution photography to share their work through a photo contest called Seeing Science, presented by ASU’s Biodesign Institute. From the microscopic to the macroscopic, images of science’s wonders present a creative view of an analytical discipline.

Out of more than 170 entries, a winner was selected for six categories: Photomicroscopy, Science, Artistic Science, People at Work, Science and Nature, and Smartphone. Best of Show, People's Choice and Judges Choice (Honorable Mention) awards were also given.

Take a look at the winners below: