Geoscience Alliance national conference inspires Native American students to pursue careers in the geosciences


February 18, 2019

Earlier this month, Arizona State University hosted the Geoscience Alliance, the nation's leading organization devoted to promoting geoscience studies and careers for Native American, Alaska Native, Native Hawaiian and other indigenous students.

“The Geoscience Alliance has been important for many years for its unique and far-ranging mission of mentoring and supporting Native American and other indigenous students and professionals in the geosciences,” said ASU School of Earth and Space Exploration Professor and geologist Steven Semken, who served as host for the conference. Geology Professor Steven Semken of the School of Earth and Space Exploration leads a geology field trip to the Superstition Mountains with Geoscience Alliance conference participants. Download Full Image

“More recently, it has further grown in importance by catalyzing research and education involving indigenous geoscientific knowledge and its applications — work that is primarily led by indigenous geoscientists themselves.”

The alliance has long had an active presence at annual meetings of much larger professional organizations like the American Geophysical Union and the Geological Society of America, but its own national conference, held every few years, has the greatest impact on the stakeholder community overall. This year’s conference included 160 attendees for the three-day conference, which included workshops, breakout sessions, invited speakers and a poster session. 

Ángel Garcia, who earned his PhD in geosciences from ASU earlier this year and is currently a visiting assistant professor at James Madison University in Virginia, was one of the conference’s returning attendees and is also on the conference planning committee. 

Garcia first attended the Geoscience Alliance in 2015 when he was a graduate student at ASU. He learned about the conference from SemkenSemken is also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, and a faculty affiliate of the Center for Education through Exploration and the Global Drylands Center at ASU., who suggested that it would be a good way to develop networks in the geosciences with people who were interested in multicultural topics and indigenous cultures. 

“People from tribal lands have a strong connection to places,” said Garcia, who is Puerto Rican and Dominican. “We might first describe what tribe we are from, but then refer to a specific place within our tribal lands where we grew up and have family. Connections to those places go back generations for us.”

For Garcia and other participants, one of the best parts of the conference is making connections, networking with other scientists and meeting other students in the geosciences. 

“These conferences give us an opportunity to learn from people with a similar culture and background,” said Garcia. 

“At the Geoscience Alliance, I felt included right from the start. Now every time I see this group of people at other conferences we identify ourselves as members of the alliance, both as students and professionals.”

Since the first conference, the alliance has adopted the practice of “talking circles” from Native American ceremonies.

“We develop questions, break up into small groups and make sure each person gets a chance to talk,” explained Diana Dalbotten, who is on the alliance conference planning committee and is a diversity director at the University of Minnesota. “We have developed this to make our conference more participatory and to respect the idea that everyone is there to teach and everyone is there to learn.”

Conference attendees were also invited on several diverse field-trip opportunities related to different aspects of the geosciences, including a trip to the Superstition Mountains, the Heard Museum and Biosphere 2.

On the last night of the conference, attendees were asked to participate in a “science pop-up night” where everyone could spend three minutes talking about their projects and research. This event was so popular that even though it was the last day of the conference, it went well into the night. 

“It’s important for ASU to host events that focus on local communities in Arizona and especially indigenous communities in the Southwest,” said Garcia. “Giving teachers, researchers, professors and students the opportunity to share knowledge and connection to the land shows that ASU embraces diversity.” 

The conference organizers, including Semken and Garcia, hope that participants will seek more collaboration with each other in the future as a result of this conference. Garcia, for example, is working with two other researchers he met through the alliance on a National Science Foundation proposal to study the geology of caves in the Caribbean.

They also hope to continue to offer travel awards to the conference.

“Some of us come from places that are not financially stable, making conferences like this out of reach,” said Garcia. “But thanks to sponsors like the National Science Foundation, the alliance is able to provide the opportunity to those who otherwise would not be able to go.”

Previous conferences were held in the northern Midwest, the northern Rocky Mountains and the Pacific Northwest.

“It was an honor for ASU to host this most recent conference in Phoenix and Tempe,” said Semken. “I think that the alliance members enjoyed their visit to our campus and their time in the warm desert sun.”

Semken is grateful for the support given to this endeavor by many colleagues in the School of Earth and Space Exploration; the ASU President's Special Advisor for American Indian Initiatives Bryan Brayboy; ASU Vice President for Tribal Relations Jacob Moore and his staff; and to ASU alumna (and a former graduate student of Semken’s) Nievita Bueno Watts, who is the co-director of the Geoscience Alliance.

The Geoscience Alliance is a national alliance of individuals committed to broadening participation of Native Americans in the geosciences. Its members are tribal colleges, universities, research centers, Native elders and community members, students and educators.

The alliance’s goals include creating new collaborations in support of geoscience education for Native American students, establishing a new research agenda aimed at closing gaps in our knowledge on barriers and best practices related to Native American participation in the geosciences, increasing participation by Native Americans in setting the national research agenda on issues in the geosciences, providing a forum to communicate educational opportunities for Native American students in geoscience programs, and understanding and respecting indigenous traditional knowledge.

The Geoscience Alliance conferences are made possible through the generous and ongoing support of the National Science Foundation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.

Karin Valentine

Media Relations & Marketing manager, School of Earth and Space Exploration

480-965-9345

ASU and MacArthur ‘genius' poet Natalie Diaz shows the power of language, humanities


February 14, 2019

“What is the language we need to live right now?”

That’s the question Arizona State University poet Natalie Diaz posed to an audience of some 250 students, faculty and community members during a presentation of her works at Old Main on the Tempe campus this week. ASU poet Natalie Diaz reads a selection of newer works for an audience at Old Main. ASU poet, professor and 2018 MacArthur fellow Natalie Diaz reads newer works to a group of some 250 students, faculty and community members at Old Main. Photo by Bruce Matsunaga Download Full Image

Diaz, who is the current Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry and an associate professor in the Department of English, was one of 25 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “genius grant” fellows in 2018. Drawing on her experiences growing up on the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, and navigating indigenous, Latinx and queer identities, her work challenges the belief systems of contemporary American culture.

A collaboration between the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, the Department of English and the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing, the event marked her first reading at ASU.

Dean of Humanities Jeffrey Cohen said it celebrated Diaz’s work on its own and its influence on the college.

“When the news came of her ‘genius’ award, we felt like the world was catching up with something we at ASU have always known,” he said. “Natalie has been doing important teaching and work here for several years that has enabled our students to thrive along with her.”

Even without last year’s MacArthur award, that impact is evident. Diaz’s work has amassed far-reaching acclaim over the last decade and since the release of her first collection, "When My Brother Was an Aztec," by Copper Canyon Press in 2012. But in that first question at Old Main, she invited audience members to think beyond the written word.

“Poetry for me, the least of it is what is happening on my page,” she said. “That is only where it begins.”

Language as a three-dimensional force is a concept Diaz has explored a lot. As a former professional basketball player, she has compared writing to the physical force of playing the sport. In addition to her own writing, she has worked with ASU’s Center for Indian Education to preserve the Mojave language by documenting stories and transcribing conversations with elders.

It is within that cross-boundary lens that Diaz encouraged people at the reading to think of poetry. As society continues to shift, she said, language is a tool to redefine the world.

“Our young people learning languages are now charged with creating new words to describe the things in their life,” she said. “That’s why I think poetry is so important — it is concerned with every single word, and that’s why the humanities are also so important.”

Likewise, Cohen said Diaz’s forward-thinking outlook on language helped usher in a new era of learners.

“One of the many things I admire about Professor Diaz is that she is student-centered,” he said. “Much of what she does here is ensuring that the next generation has every opportunity to flourish.”

In order to stay relevant, Cohen said, humanities studies must resonate with students themselves. Scholars like Diaz exemplify the potential.

“Many of our ASU students are first-generation, and often students of color, and sometimes lacking in models for the various kinds of futures they can make,” he said. “When they look at her, many will see what is possible for themselves.”

That was the case for Laramie Kisto, a Chandler-Gilbert Community College student and member of the Gila River Indian Community, to which Diaz also belongs.

“I’m studying social work, and being able to express my past through poetry is an outlet I’m interested in,” said Kisto, who plans to attend ASU after completing courses at Chandler-Gilbert. “Coming here and seeing someone from my community showed me that there could be an entry for me, too.”

Diaz read a handful of newer works that touched on everything from basketball and family crises to police violence against Native Americans and the very physical sensation of moving one’s hips.

Napoleon Marrietta, a graduate student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program, said the breadth of Diaz’s selection spoke to the power of language in activism.

“My thesis is focused on indigenous activism in the Phoenix area and how we implement different voices to fight for a cause,” he said. “I think poetry can shed some light on a lot of the things we deal with at home.”

Writer, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

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Study finds lack of mental health interventions for ethnic minority youth in the US

February 12, 2019

Hispanic and Latino youth are more likely to drink alcohol at a younger age than their African-American and non-Hispanic Caucasian peers, but they are less likely to receive treatment for substance abuse.

African-American youth show more symptoms of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder than their Caucasian peers, but they are less likely to receive appropriate treatment for disruptive behaviors.

The suicide rate among Native Americans has been outpacing the rest of the country since 2003. Suicide is the second-leading cause of death among Native American adolescents, and there are very few effective interventions.

A research team of experts from Arizona State University, DePaul University and the University of Southern California has evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for mental health problems like substance use, disruptive behaviors and suicide prevention in ethnic minority American youth. The study, which was commissioned by Division 53 of the American Psychological Association, will be published Feb. 12 in the Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology.

“This careful study provides a benchmark for evidence-based interventions in minority youth, which is central to providing effective care to the diverse youth population and will be very useful to funders of research, payers of health care and family members,” said Margarita Alegria, professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School and chief of the Disparities Research Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital. Alegria was not involved in the study. “This evaluation also sets the groundwork for the future, by identifying the need to focus on the development and evaluation of more interventions for minority groups that have not yet been addressed, like Asian-Americans, Native Americans and youth who do not speak English.”

Ten years ago, there were zero evidence-based interventions for American ethnic minority youth that met the strongest criteria and were considered well-established.

Now there are four.

Well-established and evidence-based

To evaluate the effectiveness of mental health interventions for ethnic minority youth, ASU’s Armando Pina, associate professor of psychology, worked with Antonio Polo, associate professor of clinical psychology at DePaul University, and Stanley Huey, associate professor of psychology and American studies and ethnicity at the University of Southern California. The trio rated evidence-based interventions designed to target problems like anxiety, depression, disruptive behavior, substance use, trauma and stress reactions and self-harm or suicide. In total, the team evaluated 65 interventions that had either analyzed the impact on ethnic minority participants or been tested on a participant group that was at least 75 percent ethnic minority youth.

The highest rating was “well-established” and included interventions that were tested using randomized controlled experimental designs, had been replicated by more than one research group and demonstrated benefits to the youth that were statistically significant.

The four interventions that met the well-established criteria were designed to treat anxiety, disruptive behaviors and substance use in ethnic minority youth.

The team found cognitive behavioral interventions were effective at helping Hispanic and Latino youths experiencing anxiety. These interventions teach strategies to change problem thinking patterns and behaviors and often include social skills training.

Interventions that involved parents, called family therapy, helped African-American youth struggling with disruptive behaviors and Hispanic and Latino youth with drug- or alcohol-use problems. Including the family, school system or peer networks in therapy to address disruptive behaviors was also effective in helping African-American youth.

“Parents and caregivers need to know that for some of the most common problems children and adolescents face, there are well-established treatments that have been systematically tested,” said Pina, who was the lead author on the study. “They should demand children get these empirically supported treatments and interventions.”

From bench to bedside

On top of the four well-established interventions, the researchers identified other treatment programs that met less-stringent rating criteria and could be considered best practices in the future.

The analysis also determined which mental health problems did not yet have effective interventions for ethnic minority youth and which minority groups were underrepresented. There were no well-established interventions for depression, trauma and stress reactions, self-harm, suicide or the co-occurrence of more than one problem, like anxiety and disruptive behaviors. And, none of the 65 studies analyzed by the research team included enough Asian-American or Native American participants to evaluate whether any of the interventions were robust for these populations.

Related: Book provides a new framework for making sense of mental illness

“Including Native American youth in research studies is important and requires working directly with tribal nations because they regulate research within their communities. Researchers must invest considerable time to build relationships and establish trust to gain tribal approval for a research study,” said Monica Tsethlikai, assistant professor in ASU’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics and an affiliate faculty member of the university’s American Indian Studies program. Tsethlikai was not involved in the study. “Native Americans also have a unique worldview that includes a metaphysical perspective of health and well-being that does not fit within Western interventions, so effective interventions would need to originate from a foundation of respect and reciprocity and would have to be congruent with the lived experiences of Native American youth.”

The team advocated for more research that includes underrepresented ethnic minority populations. Because the trajectory of an evidence-based treatment program from a research setting into the real world takes 17 years on average, the researchers also suggested future work should focus on the development of streamlined methods to develop interventions and test how well they work.

“Research should move outside of the lab and into the community,” Pina said. “Intervention scientists need to increase collaborations with established systems of care and real-world providers, who are under real-world constraints.”

Spanish Version of Video

Top photo: A research team of experts from Arizona State University, DePaul University and the University of Southern California has evaluated the effectiveness of interventions for mental health problems like substance use, disruptive behaviors and suicide prevention in ethnic minority American youth. Photo by Devin Avery on Unsplash

Science writer , Psychology Department

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American Indian students invest in their future at RECHARGE conference


February 8, 2019

Malachi Boni came to ASU’s RECHARGE conference looking for inspiration. Accordingly, the Globe High School sophomore seemed to find it, saying that the event helped him think about his choices after graduation and how going to college might help him fulfill his dreams of becoming a writer.

That reaction illustrates the aim of the annual RECHARGE conference, which took place in January at Arizona State University's West campus: to provide a platform for American Indian students in grades seven through 12 to invest in their education, future and community. ASU representatives speak with students ASU representatives speak with students at the RECHARGE conference on Jan. 14 at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould Download Full Image

Sponsored by Access ASU and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, the college readiness program has served thousands of students since its inception eight years ago.  

Throughout the daylong event, nearly 200 junior high and high school students took part in engaging activities and inspiring presentations on topics like culture and identity, college readiness, financial aid and scholarships and college majors.

Students participated in professional and student panels centered around five learning communities — STEM, arts/design/performance, business/leadership, Native history/languages and public/social services. They also received information on financial aid and attended a resource fair that included Native and ASU resources. The last session of the day was a hands-on activity centered around their learning community.

RECHARGE participant Ashley Lopez is a junior at Desert View High School in Tucson and a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe. She appreciated the amount of detailed information she received at the conference.

“I’ve learned a lot from other peoples’ experience, hearing them talk about how they dealt with things like meeting new people and being away from home,” Lopez said.

Nolan Dayon, an eighth-grader at Greenfield Junior High in Gilbert and member of the Hopi tribe also attended RECHARGE. He hopes to study mathematics and engineering and found the STEM sessions especially interesting. He also felt the information about preparing for college and financial aid were very helpful.

“Financially it will help us out a lot, so I have that knowledge down the road,” Dayon said.

Students at RECHARGE conference participate in group activity

Students participate in a STEM-themed group activity during the RECHARGE conference at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould

A second RECHARGE conference is scheduled for Feb. 20 at the West campus.

ASU also offers a summer program geared for American Indian students called Inspire. The no-cost, weeklong, residential college readiness program for high school students focuses on academics, personal development and connecting with the ASU American Indian community.

“The RECHARGE conference and Inspire summer program demonstrate ASU’s commitment to excellence, accessibility and local impact for Native American students, their families and their communities,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are pleased to offer support and guidance as they pursue their higher education and career goals.”

For questions about the Inspire Summer Program, contact Danyel Chleborad at Danyel.Chleborad@asu.edu. The application period for the program closes April 1.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services

480-965-6837

 
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Adding a new perspective to the editor's desk

February 4, 2019

2 Native American students at the helm of ASU-sponsored publications

Journalism, a profession with few minorities — and even fewer Native Americans — is now starting to see change.

Taylor Notah, a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Joseph Perez, a journalism sophomore at Cronkite, are editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester.

Both come from indigenous backgrounds.

Notah hails from the Navajo Nation and is the current editor of Turning Points, a first-of-its-kind magazine geared specifically for Native American students written by an all indigenous staff.

Perez is a member of the Quinalt tribe from northwestern Washington and is a community editor for The State Press, which was founded in 1906.

Both love telling stories. And both have their own stories to tell.

ASU Now spoke with Notah and Perez about their struggles in the newsroom, overcoming the cultural challenges of the job and how they picked up leadership skills along the way.

Question: Historically it’s been tough getting minorities into the newsroom, despite initiatives and efforts from schools, universities and newspapers from across the country. What was it like for you at the Cronkite School being the only Native American in the classroom?

Taylor Notah: It was challenging but I loved gaining the experience. Knowing to go out and report, learning how to shoot video, things like that. Gaining those skill sets was fun for me. I think being in the newsroom was a challenge because I was the only Native American in Cronkite News, and I didn’t see myself amid all of these young budding professionals who had these really great stories and great backgrounds. In the beginning I felt disconnected with my peers and I didn’t see myself among them.

Joseph Perez: Sitting in a room full of talented journalists every day is intimidating for me, no matter my lineage or theirs. However, when I do take the time to notice, as I often do, that I am typically the only Native American in that room full of talent, the intimidation I feel is magnified greatly. It’s never comforting to be the only person of your kind — whatever that "kind" may be — and even less comforting during these vastly important years in college, where we’re all doing our best to find ourselves, to define who we’ll be in the world. That’s why I did my best to cover Native American affairs as a reporter, to talk to more indigenous students, to incorporate the culture into my work and ultimately to serve as a voice for a people that I think isn’t loud enough in the media today.

Q: Were there any cultural hurdles you had to get over because of the nature of the profession?

TN: I grew up very shy, and so approaching people was the biggest hurdle. On the Navajo Nation, we often tease each other for being shy, and being off of the Navajo Nation being shy is something different. It’s something I still encounter and struggle with when I initially reach out to people even though I love connecting with people to hear their stories. I think a cultural disconnect can be the person I’m interviewing may not understand where I come from. Being in the newsroom you’re being put under the spotlight because they want to hear your stories and they want to hear your ideas. It was very jarring and in the beginning, it was a completely different experience for me.

JP: It was a bit difficult for me to come out of my shell at first, but the newsroom I work in has been beyond accepting of my indigenous roots, and they’ve even encouraged me to use that piece of me and share it with our readership. I have had the best mentors at the State Press that have taught me that who I am and where I come from gives me something worth writing about, not something to overcome. They’ve shown me that my Native American identity is a leg up rather than a hurdle to climb over.

Q: So what made you ultimately stick with journalism?

TN: Because I had story ideas: No one in the newsroom knew what was going on in the community that I came from. My first story for Cronkite was about language revitalization among the Navajo Nation … I would hear from back home the language was declining at a very fast rate. I wanted to report on that because stories about Native Americans aren’t always negative. Yes, our language is declining but there are so many amazing things that are happening by our people who are trying to make the language come back. So I wanted to show that … and that stems from the mission in my work to show the beauty and the resilience and the strengths that Native Americans have. What people in mainstream media always see are stereotypes and misconceptions, and I wanted to turn that around.

JP: Journalism is what I love. I’ve been a writer for a good chunk of my life, and finding this niche where I can write, but write something worth reading is all I could ever ask for. I’ve never once doubted whether this is what I want to do, and the fact that I can do this incredibly important job while offering a voice to my people is a dream come true.

Q: Any major turning point for you?

TN: We did this intermediate reporting class, taught by Maureen West. I actually took that class two times. The first time I tried reporting how I thought they wanted me to report — I’d go to these council meetings in Mesa or cover an event, and I didn’t really connect with it. I just bombed because I was trying to step into a world where I didn’t feel connected. So I retook the class with Maureen West and she really pushed and encouraged me. She told me that I had good story ideas and that I should pursue them. So I began seeking stories in Native communities where I felt comfortable reporting. I first got published through the Gila River Indian Community, and the editor said they had a story I could write. I had to have six stories to pass the class. So with GRIC, they realized that both of us are helping each other if we tell our stories together.

JP: A major turning point in my journalistic endeavors was when I began writing for the State Press. I had a job doing what I loved, and I felt like a shark that had smelled blood. I got a taste for reporting as a job, and walking into that newsroom every Thursday night only assured me that this is what I was meant to do. I believe that everybody has a purpose, and as soon as I started writing for this student-run publication, I knew that I had found mine. Writing and now editing for the State Press has made me sure that there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather do than this.

Q: How did the opportunity come up for your current position?

TN: I was on the Navajo reservation one summer and I got an email from Rebecca Blatt, my director at Cronkite News, who mentioned a possible podcast opportunity. She connected me with Dr. Amanda Tachine at the Center for Indian Education who was looking for someone to do a podcast, and I had experience in that from Cronkite. So we connected and I found out about “Turning Points,” and heard they needed someone to finish a few stories. That was my reconnection to Native communities and stories on campus. That’s where it all came back for me and where I find myself now. I’m honored with all of these connections that brought me to my current path now.

JP: This past fall was my second semester writing for the State Press and I had decided to take on a full-time reporting position. It was arduous. I had a really hard time, but I was always proud of the work I did, and it seemed that my editors were as well. It came up in conversation with my editors and leadership that editor applications were opening and I decided I would apply. Friends of mine told me that I’d undoubtedly get the job, but I was extremely nervous to apply nonetheless. Of course, I filled out an application the very day they were open and interviewed for the spot on the very first day I was available to do so. Needless to say, I got the position and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Q: Why do you think that historically many young Native Americans have not pursued a career in journalism? And how can this trend be reversed? 

TN: Maybe it’s because they don’t see themselves in this role. I certainly didn’t. All of my other friends pursued other careers and I was the only one in my group who gravitated toward the Cronkite program.

To reverse this, I would say we come from a long line of strong indigenous people and that we can do it. We may be in places that weren’t originally designed for us, but if we think of the need of our community and family, we can achieve anything. That’s where our strength comes from. We face so many obstacles, but in the end we have the teachings from our culture to persist and keep going.

JP: I think it’s hard for Native Americans to pursue a career in journalism because we already feel so underrepresented. Journalism has been a white man’s business for so long and I think it’s hard for any minority to go out on a limb and try to make something of themselves in a field where almost nobody shares their ethnic roots. It’s intimidating. That’s not to say that Native Americans aren’t bold or brave, because that’s so far from the truth. It’s to say how intensely horrifying it is to be the only indigenous person in any field, especially one as important and daunting as the journalistic field. A lack of representation can be a huge hurdle to overcome, and I think it’s a vicious cycle: Natives don’t pursue careers in journalism because there are no Natives in journalism.

The key to changing this is to see our aloneness the way my peers at the State Press taught me to: as an advantage. Newsrooms everywhere are trying to diversify their staff and with so few indigenous people in the field now, the few will stand out to publications. We need to see ourselves not as unwelcome, but as unique. We need to see ourselves as special, because that’s what we are.

I also think that we need to see how important it is that our voice is heard. Without Native American journalists, our voice will never be heard and I think that we, as a people, need to recognize our duty to ourselves to make sure that we are heard — and heard loud and clear.

Top photo: Taylor Notah (left) and Joseph Perez are Native Americans and editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester. Notah graduated from Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is the senior editor at "Turning Points, A Guide to Native Student Success." Perez is a sophomore at Cronkite and is the community editor at "The State Press." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 
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New Regents’ Professor is one of the nation’s pre-eminent history scholars

February 1, 2019

Donald L. Fixico's scholarly achievements include pioneering contributions to Native American ethnohistory and oral history

Arizona State University Professor Donald L. Fixico doesn’t like surprises, especially when they involve a boss.

Last October, he was contacted by ASU President Michael M. Crow’s assistant asking for his availability. The caller did not give a reason for the meeting, and Fixico was left hanging in suspense.

“I thought I had done something wrong or was going to be fired,” said Fixico, the Distinguished Foundation ProfessorFixico is also a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. 

It was definitely not that.

When Fixico finally met with Crow in his office a week later, he was told that he had been named one of four Regents’ Professors for the 2018-19 academic year.

“It was a major relief,” Fixico said with a laugh. “I thought I might have to look for another job.”

That doesn’t appear to be likely now.

Regents’ Professor is the highest faculty honor and is conferred on full professors who have made remarkable achievements that have brought them national attention and international distinction.

Less than 3 percent of all faculty at Arizona State University carry the distinction.

Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, a President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs, was quick to sing Fixico's praises.

“Don Fixico is among the very best historians of American Indians in the world," he said. "He is prolific, and, importantly, his work is meaningful to many of us outside of history. Having Don as a colleague at ASU means that we have someone who is very, very competent, who is fair-minded and tough and who cares deeply about American Indian students and faculty. I admire him as a scholar and as a human being; he really is a gentleman and a scholar.”

The designation capped off a banner year for Fixico. He published his latest book, "Indian Treaties in the United States," and finished serving as president of the Western History Association, considered one of the most prestigious appointments in historical studies. In recognition of Fixico’s prolific scholarly legacy, that organization presented the first Donald Fixico Book Award in 2018. The $1,000 award annually recognizes innovative work in the field of American Indian and Canadian First Nations history that centers on indigenous epistemologies and perspectives.

The Oklahoma native, who is Shawnee, Sac and Fox, Muscogee Creek and Seminole, has far exceeded his own expectations. He has come a long way from working in construction during the summers in order to put himself through college.

“I began to realize there’s got to be an easier way of making a living,” Fixico said. “My big ambition was just to get a job that was indoors.”

It almost didn’t happen.

He tried his hand at chemical engineering but couldn’t keep up with the accelerating coursework and finally accepted that he was in over his head. He switched majors to history, and everything clicked. Though it took several years for him to understand, he says his mind worked like a wheel and took a circular, rather than linear, approach when writing. He said that approach didn’t endear him to his professors or future editors, but he learned to adjust.

Fixico said he had to rewrite his first book, "Termination and Relocation," four times before it was published in 1986.

He has published more than a dozen more in the ensuing years and today is considered among the foremost scholars in North American Indian history. Among his pursuits is writing a major Indian history textbook for Oxford University Press and writing the chapter, “Writing American Indian History in the 21st Century,” for Vol. 1 of the "Handbook of North American Indians" by the Smithsonian Institute.

Books on a shelf

Collection of books written by ASU Professor Donald L. Fixico. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Fixico has created a knowledge base of the narratives that did not exist before his research in what he calls the “Medicine Way of American Indian History.” He has shown the importance of Indian oral traditions and Native perspectives in general as a necessary ingredient for the writing of not only Indian histories but American histories. He said that developed as a necessity when he gave his first lecture at Rose State College, where he taught a course as a doctoral student.

“I delivered that first lecture with a lot of energy and gave it everything I had, and walked out of that classroom so proud,” Fixico said. “Then I realized that I told them everything I knew and didn’t have anything else to offer my students. I was so tightly focused on American Indians. Then I got very scared because I realized that I didn’t know enough about other types of history.”

Fixico made a concerted effort to have lunch with older professors who could teach him world history from different eras. He said this exercise helped him to understand that history has universal themes such as liberty, democracy, sovereignty, love and hate.  

“An important key to teaching history is making big-idea concepts and themes relevant to everyday life,” Fixico said. 

Today Fixico is now that "older professor" who is teaching others how to become historians. Three years ago, ASU recognized him with the Doctoral Student Mentor Award. To date he has mentored and graduated 16 PhD students and has two more in the pipeline. One of his former students is William S. Kiser, an assistant professor and director of the Global Borders and Borderlands History Program at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“Professor Fixico just didn’t teach us history — he taught us the craft of being a historian,” said Kiser, who received his PhD from ASU in 2016. “He’d teach us things about tenure, the importance of publishing, peer guidelines. He instilled a high bar of excellence in the most compassionate way possible.”

Farina King, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, also gave Fixico high marks for his tutelage.

“The most valuable thing he did was enable us to discover what made us special as students and scholars, and how to understand ourselves as individuals,” King said. “I never felt like a checkbox to him because he made himself available to us at all times and was always in the moment. I’ve found other scholars to be self-serving, but Professor Fixico is a humble person and a person you naturally respect and honor.”

Fixico said that though he studies and teaches history, millennials are teaching him that he must stay relevant to their issues and concerns in order to engage them in the classroom.

“I want them to think analytically and to articulate their views as well as they can and improve,” Fixico said. “They are teaching me that I must stay in tune with what’s going on in the world, and if you can keep an open mind, you can learn something new every day. … It’s refreshing to stay young in that way.”

Top photo: Regents' Professor of history Donald L. Fixico, of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, is the author of more than a dozen books on American Indian issues. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176

 
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Conference helps tribal governments develop strategies for e-commerce

January 24, 2019

ASU College of Law brings together talent to host 5th annual 'Wiring the Rez'

With the growth of e-commerce and other assets that can be earned through the internet, Indian Country is no longer bound to geographic borders.

Tribal governments have enormous opportunities to grow their economic-development abilities through their sovereignty, including web-based businesses, sports betting, tax initiatives, blockchain and a multitude of new industries.

That’s the goal of the “Wiring the Rez: Innovative Strategies for Business Development Via E-Commerce" conference, which is specifically geared to tribal governments, indigenous businesses and Native peoples. Offered through Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the Indian Legal Program, the conference will take place Jan. 31–Feb. 1 on the Gila River Indian Reservation.

ASU Now spoke with Robert J. Miller, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the faculty director of the Rosette LLP American Indian Economic Development Program, ahead of the conference.

Man in red tie smiling

Robert J. Miller

Question: Why the need for this conference, and what do you hope participants will get out of it?

Answer: This is our fifth annual Wiring the Rez conference at ASU College of Law. We have begun to focus more heavily on economic-development issues in our Indian Legal Program because American Indians are the poorest people in the United States. On reservations and Indian lands, more families live below the poverty line than any other Americans. Unemployment can reach as high as 80 to 90 percent on some reservations, and most reports state that unemployment averages 50 percent on the 300-plus reservations across the United States. Indian peoples are also the least educated, with the shortest life spans, and with the poorest health and housing conditions for any identifiable group of Americans. The need for economic development of any and all kinds is self-evident in light of these facts.

Much of the American economy today is based on the internet and e-business, so it is only natural that Indian nations and tribal communities should look to improve the e-commerce conditions in Indian Country for tribal governments and Indian entrepreneurs. On the flip side, though, some tribal governments have succeeded very well at "regular" economic-development activities, and some reservations are becoming more prosperous due to tribal economic activities and gaming. Yet every economy needs diversification, and even for those successful reservations, where the standard of living has risen, tribal governments and reservation economies need to diversify their economic activities and “thicken” and thereby strengthen their economies. E-commerce is a natural candidate for economic expansion in the 21st century.

Conference participants will be exposed to new ideas about how tribal governments and Native entrepreneurs can better access the web and can better profit from business conducted online. Our conference attendees also benefit from networking with tribal representatives and Indian business people at such gatherings.

Q: E-commerce, as you have stated in your literature, has helped to create thriving economies on a few reservations, but has also led to a complicated tangle of legal issues. Give us an example of the legal issues that tribes face?

A: One of the first legal issues that Indian nations face is the federal “trust responsibility.” The United States plays an important and sometimes overwhelming role in Indian affairs, including in economic activities. So one of the legal issues that tribal nations have to deal with is the paternalistic role of the United States and the various federal approvals and laws that must be complied with to engage in many businesses on reservations. Some tribes have also encountered state interference with business activities such as gaming and e-commerce, and all tribes face the question of state competition and jealousy over successful tribal businesses. While these last two points are not specifically legal issues, they do become legal issues when dealing with states and fighting over jurisdiction and power, which includes subjects like the power to tax. Jurisdiction, regulation and taxation are definitely legal issues that tribal governments and individual Indians have to navigate with federal, state, county and city jurisdictions.

Some tribes have done very well in the e-lending world, and they have faced questions of both state competition and federal and state control. Ample litigation has ensued over this particular business activity, and our conference will discuss many of these pending cases.

Q: What are some of the other real-life issues that some tribes face as they look to get wired to the internet?

A: Due to the trust relationship that I mentioned above, and the fact that the United States is the legal owner of a lot of the land within Indian reservations, the United States has approval authority over various land leases and development projects that can involve issues concerning telephones, cable and internet. I do not think this has been much of a problem, however.

A much larger problem is the fact that Indian Country and Indian families are still grossly underserved by the internet. Somewhat similar to rural America, Indian Country lacks access to the best and highest-speed internet and the best telephone service. A 2018 Federal Communications Commission report demonstrated that more than 1.2 million residents of tribal lands lack access to high-speed internet! Extrapolating from those numbers infers that the FCC found that nearly every Indian living on any reservation lacks high-speed internet. In today's modern world, this is both highly regrettable and — in light of the federal trust responsibility for Indian nations and Native peoples — highly inexcusable. How can one function in the modern day and in the modern business world without access to high-speed internet and telephone connections that help "smart" phones really be "smart" and business people and economies on reservations conduct business efficiently, effectively and profitably?

Q: What are some of the unique e-commerce you’re seeing come out of the reservations?

A: I am of course not aware of all the e-commerce that Indian nations and individuals are engaged in. But I do know that some tribes are doing very well in the e-lending business, for example. Other tribal enterprises are working in the internet technology field itself, such as Cayuse Technologies, which is owned by the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation in northeastern Oregon; the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma's Cherokee Nation Technologies; and the Navajo Nation's DDC IT Services.

Furthermore, most of the thousands of Indian entrepreneurs and artists across the United States obviously use the web to promote and sell their products. For examples, I would note Native American Natural Foods, LLC, Tanka BarsBethany YellowtailBeyond Buckskin BoutiqueTribal Tech; and a platform for indigenous artisans, SOLVE.  

Q: What is the future of Native entrepreneurs and e-commerce?  

A: As for all Americans, our future seems to be intimately connected to the internet and e-commerce and e-life. Indian nations, Indian entrepreneurs and reservation economies must get fully connected and fully involved in the current, and the emerging, e-universe. Rural Americans and Indian peoples on reservations deserve the same access to the internet as all other Americans, and they must aggressively pursue their rights in this arena and the options available to make rural and reservation areas more prosperous and sustainable. I honestly believe that the future of Indian reservations as tribal homelands and the sustainability of tribal cultures depends on increasing the income levels and the living standards in Indian Country. The ASU Indian Legal Program's Wiring the Rez conference is a good step in that direction.

For more information on the Wiring the Rez conference, visit ASU Events.

Reporter , ASU Now

480-727-5176

The work of writing: Bojan Louis announced as inaugural Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence


January 9, 2019

Combining the artistic space of a traditional residency with the teaching and professionalization of an academic fellowship, the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing at Arizona State University is proud to announce the Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence: a new, yearlong, full-time, benefits-eligible position presented in partnership with ASU’s Department of English and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ humanities division.

The inaugural Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence is Bojan Louis, an indigenous writer and Arizona native who graduated from the MFA program in 2009 with a focus in fiction. Picture of Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence Bojan Louis Bojan Louis (2009 MFA in fiction) is the inaugural Virginia G. Piper Fellow-in-Residence. Photo by Sara Sams Download Full Image

As a writer, educator and community organizer, Louis is uniquely qualified to serve as the center’s first fellow-in-residence. Widely published in multiple genres, Louis’ debut collection of poems, "Currents," received the American Book Award in 2018. Louis also has diverse and comprehensive experience in the classroom, having taught across the Valley since 2012. Throughout, Louis has given back to the community through extensive volunteer and organizing work, playing foundational roles in journals like Waxwing and RED INK while connecting and advocating for indigenous writers in the state of Arizona and the national field. 

While the position has some analogues and other points of reference in the academic and creative writing fields — the Stegner fellowship at Stanford University for one — the Piper fellow-in-residence is unique in spirit and design, reflecting and embodying the values of outreach, inclusion, public service and social embeddedness that distinguish ASU and its creative writing program.

Over the course of a year, the Piper fellow-in-residence will teach one creative writing course a semester to undergraduate students through the Department of English and present talks, readings and other programs for the public through the Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. Candidates for the fellowship are drawn exclusively from alumni of ASU’s MFA in creative writing program. 

“The English Department is delighted to welcome Bojan Louis as the inaugural Piper fellow-in-residence,” said Department Chair Krista Ratcliffe. “His teaching will support our creative writing students interested in writing poetry, fiction and creative nonfiction.”

Louis’ class, “The Narrative and Poetic Forms of Work and Apprenticeship” is a multi-genre creative writing and English literature undergraduate class exploring the narratives, themes and poetics of what it means to work. In modern society, Louis explains, it’s easy to forget the people who build and design the products and experiences we enjoy.

“So the texts I had in mind are these people who are involved in work and have sort of vainglorious dreams of becoming something more, or not. Maybe they don’t want to, or maybe they’re just stuck. The poetic stuff is getting into the language of work and how we use terminology and words, (and) how they affect not just the person working with them but the audience or people they’re directed at. So through this I want my students to then become apprentices of taking apart these stories to sort of write their own.”

As a nontraditional student from a working-class background — Louis spent years working as a general contractor and electrician before entering the MFA program at the age of 26 and continued with the profession throughout graduate school and his own teaching — he hopes the class will create a haven for people who may not feel comfortable in academic spaces. 

“There’s such a disconnect between this working class and intellectualism,” Louis said. “Especially with this sort of presidency, this divide has gotten really big. Sometimes we throw all of these terms around in the academy like equity and unity and diversity and intersectionality, and at some point it stops meaning anything once you get outside of the academic circle.”

While Louis is still thinking about his programs, he’s already figuring out ways to empower young people, particularly those who come from community colleges or are otherwise nontraditional students. 

“How do we create conversations with people who might feel invisible?” he asked. “And before that, how do we get to students who are interested in community college and don’t know what to do? A lot of this comes with self-reflection, so giving them a moment or a workshop where they can self-reflect, so it’s not me telling them what to do or being all motivational, but asking them who they are and what they see.”

Louis is also thinking about a translation project with the Navajo Nation as a way to continue and advance his work with Native American communities. 

Whatever they end up being, Louis’ programs will be developed organically as the fellowship unfolds, as Louis and the center assess various community needs.

“His initiatives are by purpose designed to be new to the world,” explained Alberto Ríos, a Regents’ Professor of English who directs the Piper Center. “They’re going to, I hope, startle us in the obviousness of how good they are — they’ve been right in front of us all this time, and now we get to act on them. It’s rare today to be able to get the wherewithal to do something that isn’t already being done. They’re going to take some thinking through.”

Jeffrey Cohen, dean of humanities in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is excited about the new fellowship's possibilities.

“I believe that the best future for the humanities involves working to ensure that the field better resembles and resonates with the students attending universities like ASU — students who represent the future of the United States,” he said. “They deserve a humanities that attends to them — and talented writers like Bojan Louis are creating exactly that.”

Jake Friedman

Coordinator, Virginia G. Piper for Creative Writing

480-965-6018

 
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New online degree takes hassle out of getting a tassel

January 3, 2019

ASU’s School of Social Transformation will offer master's degree in indigenous education to graduate students in remote areas

Putting mortarboards on Native Americans has historically been a challenge for colleges and universities.

Indigenous peoples’ pathways to higher education are littered with hurdles: Many live in remote areas, commutes can take hours and access to the internet is difficult. That especially rings true for Native American graduate students, who often work and stay in their communities after graduation.

Arizona State University’s School of Social Transformation and the Center for Indian Education have figured out a way to bring the campus to the reservation (and other remote parts of the world) with a new online master’s degree program that will debut this month.

“The center develops programs that first begin with a conversation: listening to the needs of indigenous communities who are seeking support to provide new opportunities that meet the needs of their own individual communities,” said Deborah Chadwick, interim co-director of the Center for Indian Education.

ASU Now spoke to Chadwick about the new program, which starts this semester.

Question: How did the idea for this program come about, and how long did it take to develop it?

Answer: The idea for creating an online MA in Indigenous Education program was first prompted by tribal communities and nations located within Arizona and outside the state. In conversations with them, they stressed a need for a graduate program in indigenous education that would allow potential students to stay in their Native communities and/or jobs while earning a graduate degree. This online program provides students the opportunity to stay within their own communities while strengthening their ability to work in the field of Indian education and within tribal nations’ education programs. 

Although initial conversations about developing an online program started in the fall of 2012, the actual development of the indigenous education program of study began in spring 2016 by a core of indigenous faculty from the School of Social Transformation and other faculty and staff with many years of experience working with tribal communities and Native students. This group of individuals were mindful in the development of a program of study that engages individuals who are either interested in or currently working with and in indigenous communities or schools serving indigenous children.

Q: Since this is an online degree, who will be your audience and what is your reach? 

A: We have marketed this online program throughout the U.S. and internationally. We envision people will come to the program from multiple backgrounds — education, social science, human services, environmental studies, tourism, tribal and state government entities — with an interest in building their knowledge base that focuses on indigenous education.

The primary audience for this degree are those working in indigenous education, those working for tribal nations with education programs, those businesses working on tribal land for or with tribal members and those interested in American Indian education. 

Interest in our program has come from as far away as a high school administrator and science teacher in the Philippines. We have received applications from prospective students from Ohio, Washington and Arizona. We foresee the demographics of students will broaden, as recruiting students will be ongoing.

Q: What is the benefit of learning this particular material online?

A: The online format of delivery of the indigenous education program is a way to reach a greater audience of potential students that might not have the opportunity to leave their community. I believe online courses are more accessible to students who do not have the privilege to leave their communities due to family responsibilities, employment and desire to continue supporting their tribal community.

This online program will focus on indigenous knowledge systems, current issues in American Indian education, history of American Indian education, issues of indigenous language and culture, American Indian education policy, American Indians in higher education and critical indigenous research methodologies and community-based participatory action research. 

Q: Is there a central theme in this program?

A: The MA in Indigenous Education program seeks to explore differences between the indigenous educational processes, or the ways knowledge has been passed down through generations, and Western institutions of schooling.

The goal of this degree is to provide students with an advanced theoretical foundation and current practices in indigenous education, strengthening their ability to work in the field of Indian education and within tribal nations with education programs.

Learn more about the degree on the ASU Online site. Top photo: Deborah Chadwick, project director and senior research professional at the Center for Indian Education, is leading a new online master's degree program, the MA Online Indigenous Education, with three courses being offered in the spring. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

 
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Cultural relevance laying foundation for meaningful engineering education

December 11, 2018

Support from a National Science Foundation CAREER award aids professor's efforts to draw Navajo students to STEM subjects

Shawn Jordan took a risk five years ago with his proposal for a project he hoped would earn one of the most sought-after National Science Foundation awards granted to young academic researchers.

Jordan knew the proposed endeavor to partner with Navajo Nation educators to develop engineering curriculum for their schools would challenge him both as a researcher and educator.

To understand the Navajo culture deeply enough to design effective curriculum “was going to present me with a very large learning curve,” he said. “So that was the risk.”

But based on the knack for innovative approaches Jordan was demonstrating as a young faculty member in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, the NSF decided to throw its support behind his aspirations.

In 2014, Jordan received the NSF Early Career Development (CAREER) Award, which recognizes university faculty members deemed to have the potential to become leading researchers and educators in their areas of expertise.

The award has funded Jordan’s collaboration with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education specialists with the Navajo Nation Department of Diné Education’s Office of Diné School Improvement (Diné is what many Navajo people traditionally call themselves) to introduce middle school students to the engineering design process.

The challenge isn’t about bringing conventional approaches to teaching engineering to Diné students. The idea has been to develop culturally relevant ways of instructing youngsters in the fundamental technical and conceptual aspects of engineering while also instilling in them a sense of the rewarding possibilities STEM studies could make happen in their futures.

The goal is also “to teach engineering in a way that each individual discovers and defines for themselves what it means to be both Diné and an engineer,” Jordan said.

“Navajo culture is grounded in Diné epistemology and guided by traditional teachings that influence our societal and environmental values,” said Colin Ben, a citizen of the Navajo Nation and a postdoctoral research scholar in the Fulton Schools and ASU’s School of Social Transformation.

“Navajos evaluate projects and potential partnerships based on how the end product will improve the quality of life for our people, strengthen economic stability and/or enhance educational services for our youth, but only if it is carried out with respect and sensitivity to Diné protocols,” said Ben, who is doing research on Navajo education

“Culturally, today’s decisions are made with the understanding that it will impact future generations of Navajos,” Ben said. “Therefore, the decisions require high-quality outcomes that will last for a long time.”

Similar thinking guides the Navajos’ outlook on subjects such as natural-resource extraction.

“Land is sacred in the Navajo culture,” Jordan said. “So, if you are using engineering in mining or drilling, even if it’s very efficient and profitable, it can be seen as a horrible travesty if it violates their traditional relationship to the land.”

A group of teachers from the Navajo Nation participate in a hands-on training workshop on culturally relevant engineering curriculum modules in preparation for piloting the modules in their schools. Photo by Shawn Jordan/ASU

Those factors are why designing curriculum for Navajo Nation schools won’t work if it’s based on one-size-fits-all models of education.

Jordan’s NSF project has led to ongoing pilot programs in Navajo middle schools that involve culturally relevant engineering design studies. The programs are showing encouraging results.

Students are demonstrating an understanding of how skills in engineering and other STEM fields can serve the interests of the nation and be pathways to improving the lives of those in their communities.

Jordan said the project is proving the effectiveness of focusing on cultural relevance as a cornerstone of a solid foundation for educational improvement, especially in underserved communities. 

“Periodic interventions to improve curriculum are not going to change the paths of education systems,” Jordan said. “We need holistic approaches that establish the connections between what and how students are being taught and the challenges they face in the communities they are living in.”

One of the major outcomes of the project is the work now underway to support Navajo Nation middle schools to become certified as STEM schools. The certification provides schools professional guidance and support to boost the quality of their education programs.

Jordan said results so far are showing educators can bridge cultural divides and bring lessons from each other’s experiences into efforts to improve education.

“I think my research could be used as a model for how to successfully and respectfully carry out research and curriculum development in partnership with cultural or ethnic groups that the researchers and scholars involved are not a part of,” Jordan said.

Jordan is also spending some of his time on sabbatical during the 2018-19 academic year learning new methods he can use to help schools spark students’ interest in STEM subjects.

Through studies at the Storytelling Institute at South Mountain Community College in Phoenix, Jordan will develop a framework for using oral storytelling as a tool for engineering education.

He wants to help engineers and students learn how to craft and tell the stories of their own pathways into the profession.

The approach is contrary yet also complementary to the way engineering education is often marketed by colleges and universities.

“The focus is usually on degree programs and academic disciplines and the skills they give you and the jobs they prepare you for. The focus should instead be more on people who do engineering and the positive impacts they are making in society,” he said. “We can use storytelling to help young students envision a life as an engineer and the impact they can have in their communities.”

Fulton Schools Associate Professor Shawn Jordan gives a presentation about his project, "Career Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community and Society," to a gathering of the Trustees of Arizona State University and ASU President Michael Crow. Jordan is helping to develop engineering curriculum for Navajo Nation middle school students. Photo by Jamie Ell/ASU

Jordan’s work has been gaining interest among his peers.

He has given talks, presentations and workshops at gatherings of the American Indian Science and Engineering Society, the National Indian Education Association, the ASU Office of American Indian Initiatives, at an NSF Engineering Education meeting and at the Innovation Arizona Summit, among other events.

In 2017, Jordan’s contributions to engineering education earned him the NSF Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers, which recognizes innovative research and community service leadership in education and community outreach.

From a big-picture viewpoint, Jordan said the Navajo Nation education project is one of many undertakings that could eventually bring different sociological and cultural perspectives into the practice of engineering — and the NSF is trying to encourage that change by supporting efforts to bring diversity into the engineering workforce.

“That would make the engineering profession more inclusive,” Jordan said, “which in the end will make for better engineering.”

Shawn Jordan shares credit for his progress on the Engineering Design Across Navajo Culture, Community and Society research project with the ASU students and staff members who have been on his research team in recent years:

  • Christina Foster, who earned an undergraduate degree in biomedical engineering and a doctoral degree in engineering education at ASU.
  • Ieshya Anderson, who is Tohono O’odham and Navajo, and a doctoral student in the Fulton Schools’ Engineering Education Systems and Design program.
  • Courtney Betoney, who recently earned an undergraduate degree in mechanical systems engineering at ASU and is now working for Raytheon.
  • Tyrine Pangan, who recently earned an undergraduate degree in software engineering at ASU and will pursue a doctoral degree in engineering education.
  • Project manager Jay Fernandez, who earned an undergraduate degree in electrical systems engineering at ASU.

Top photo: Shawn Jordan (standing) has directed a series of STEAM Machines programs that integrate science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics by applying concepts from each of those disciplines to the design and construction of chain-reaction machines. Jordan is pictured working with students in ASU’s INSPIRE program for American Indian high school students. Photo by Jessica Hochreiter/ASU

Joe Kullman

Science writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering

480-965-8122

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