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New ASU program gives underrepresented students a judicious start

August 10, 2018

LSAT preparation course teaches mindfulness while increasing access to law schools and legal careers

Arizona State University student Yessenia Acosta Terrazas was torn between becoming a teacher or an attorney, but participating in a new pilot program made up her mind. 

She is headed for a law career.

“For the longest time I wanted to be a teacher,” said Terrazas, a 20-year-old ASU junior who is seeking concurrent degrees in justice studies and political science. “However, my family went through some immigration issues when I was in elementary school. Seeing how the lawyer helped my family made me want to become like him.”

Now Terrazas has the capability and opportunity to become a family/immigration attorney as one of 11 cohort members in ASU’s Critical Legal Preparation Program, conceived of and implemented by the Center for Indian Education.

The program was an intensive 20-week preparation course for the LSAT, the aptitude test for law school. Cohort members took two classes each week focused on test strategies, law school application preparation, an introduction to mindfulness and an introduction to the law community.

The goal of the course was to prepare students and recent graduates to succeed on the LSAT and in law school, while critically engaging the relationship between law and justice to spur change that benefits historically disenfranchised communities.

The center’s leader called the program “transformative.”

“Everyone in the cohort will be eligible for a top-tier law school and now have the credentials to go,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs. “This has the opportunity to change their lives.”

Members of the cohort received certificates of completion and had an opportunity to tell an audience how their lives were transformed at a celebration luncheon and networking event Thursday on ASU’s Tempe campus. In addition to a handful of cohort members, the event was attended by instructors, administration, staff, attorneys and judges.

“This work is fundamentally about how do we create and build pathways for people to become lawyers and have a career in law, and to be able to engage in a legal system that is more just?” Brayboy said. "How do we help the judiciary look more like the population of the state regarding gender and race?"

Brayboy said the pilot program was initially geared toward Native American undergraduate students seeking a law career who had limited access to law schools and pathways to legal careers. However, he said the center saw a need for all underrepresented, first-generation or Pell-eligible students at the university and extended invitations to them as well.

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(From left) Nicholas Bustamante, Hannah Duncan, Jeremiah Chin and cohort member Navona Carter talk at the podium prior to a panel discussion about the Critical Legal Preparation Program on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“The lack of representation among Native Americans, African-Americans and Hispanics in law and the judiciary is alarming,” said Hannah Duncan, a research associate at the Center for Indian Education, who along with postdoctoral research fellow Jeremiah Chin spent a year crafting the program. “All three are disproportionately low.”  

Duncan, an Arizona native who will attend Yale later this fall, is basing her statement on a 2016 report by the Commission on Minorities in the Judiciary appointed by the Arizona State Supreme Court. The numbers showed that white males dominated the playing field in terms of attorneys, judges and other positions of power.

During its inaugural year, the cohort participated in two new courses — JUS 494: Power and the Law and SST 498: Justice and Praxis. Both courses provided students with the practical skills to succeed in the law school admissions process, introduced mindfulness techniques intended to reduce test anxiety and gave students an opportunity to study directly with practicing attorneys and judges in Phoenix.

“We discovered that mindfulness based on stress-reduction research worked well for the LSAT test and was something students could also use for their entire legal careers,” Chin said. “The test is a huge source of anxiety for students, particularly those who are first-generation.”

ASU senior Erika Galindo said she had serious anxiety when she started the course, but it dissipated over time.

“The thought of studying the law was absolutely a daunting idea,” said Galindo, who is a double major in transborder Chicana/o and Latina/o studies and justice studies in ASU’s School of Social Transformation. “Taking the course has definitely helped to lessen that feeling.”

So did the mindfulness component, which was taught by instructors from ASU’s Center for Mindfulness, Compassion and Resilience. The cohort learned techniques to deal with test anxiety and stress in their daily lives, as well as healthfulness, personal balance, journaling and resilience concepts.

“When we first began, I was incredibly hesitant because it seemed a little out there,” Galindo said. “By mid-semester, I was finding myself taking what I was learning in the mindfulness sessions and applying it to my day-to-day life.”

The all-female cohort also bonded, said 22-year-old Janessa Doyle, who graduated in May with a justice studies degree and a minor in business.

“When we all gathered for the first time and we noticed it was all women, I thought it was cool,” Doyle said. “We were very comfortable around each other, and we bonded as a group.”

Together they made court visits, reviewed case law and received instruction by 10 federal and Arizona state judges on a weekly rotation. Duncan even got her parents, David and Sally, both judges in Arizona, to appear as instructors.

“I agreed to participate because it’s vital that access to judges and the law be made available to everybody,” said Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Sally Duncan. “Access to the judiciary is important because it humanizes us and makes the goal attainable.”

Duncan, who has continued meeting with several cohort members in the weeks following the course’s conclusion, said she kept her message to students short and sweet.

“Stay strong, move forward,” she said. “Keep pursuing your careers. Do not let roadblocks interfere.”

And that’s exactly what Terrazas, Galindo and Doyle intend to do.

“I want to work with minorities and be the type of lawyer that can help underprivileged people,” Terrazas said. “I’m also open to the idea of becoming a public defender.”

The cohort also included Ashlee Brown, Blanca Carillo, Navona Carter, Guadalupe Durazo, Jordan Iglesias, Nyla Knox, Daveon Lilly and Megan Tom.

Top photo: Senior Erika Galindo speaks in a panel discussion about the Critical Legal Preparation Program on Aug. 9. Eleven students were in the insugural cohort of the program that was designed to increase underrepresented undergraduate students' access to law schools and legal careers. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU interns bring imagination, creativity, cultural knowledge to Heard Museum collaboration

July 26, 2018

The recent launch of the partnership between Arizona State University's Herberger Institute and the Los Angeles County Museum of Art — to support the training of a new diverse generation of museum professionals — made national headlines. For the last three years, a hometown collaboration between ASU’s American Indian Student Support Services and Phoenix’s Heard Museum has been contributing to a similar goal. 

The Heard Museum Guild Internship Program, first piloted in spring semester of 2015, offers ASU American Indian students the opportunity to contribute to, and gain a firsthand understanding of, the many moving parts involved in sustaining this internationally renowned institution. ASU alum and Mellon Fellow Kayannon George working with bolo ties at Heard Museum “I’m kind of on a roll with cataloging,” noted ASU alumna and Mellon Fellow Kayannon George, as she neared completion of cataloging the Norman L. Sandfield collection of bolo ties. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

“ASU interns are an integral part of the imagination and creativity we hold dear here,” said Marcus Monenerkit, Heard Museum director of community engagement. A 2011 graduate of ASU’s Master of Nonprofit Studies program, Monenerkit has frequently collaborated with ASU faculty, staff and students in his 20-year career with the Heard Museum. But it’s clear that over the last three years, bringing guild interns into every dimension of the work in his area has become organic.

“They get to know our 11 galleries and we look for their input on new projects from the conceptualization phase forward.” Monenerkit explained. “We’ll go to other museums to see new ways of handling the spaces. They’ll work with artists who exhibit and conduct demonstrations and workshops here. They also get involved as we collaborate with other museums and private collectors to put together innovative exhibitions that connect art across time and cultures.”

Heard Museum membership coordinator Christina Harris, who comes from a family of artists from Zuni Pueblo, the Hopi Tribe and the Tohono O’odham Nation, said of the internship program that continuing to bring additional Native voices into the work of the museum “will make the institution even more knowledgeable and the art world, in general, more sensitive to art connected with deep meaning and ceremonial and religious significance."

“The Heard is a partner in bringing voice to that as well as to a greater understanding that, while some things in Native communities are being done the same way they have been since time immemorial, these are living, breathing communities where artists are also on the cutting edge, making art that is powerful politically, environmentally, socially,” said Harris, an alumna of ASU’s American Indian studies bachelor’s degree program. “I love that the Heard not only reflects the past but is contemporary.” 

“Over the last three years we’ve seen the internship program grow in terms of the number of departments sponsoring interns and in strengthening the depth of the experience for students,” said American Indian Student Support Services Associate Director Laura Gonzales-Macias, who was part of the original team to lay the groundwork for the partnership. “Our Heard partners very much have the same ideas we at ASU do about wanting students to be able to apply and develop career-related skills and grow their professional network.”

The internships, which carry a stipend and the potential for academic credit, are funded by the work of the Heard Museum Guild, the museum’s cohort of committed community volunteers.

“Matching students with placements also involves the American Indian Student Support Services coordinators at each ASU campus, who help in pre-screening candidates,” Gonzales-Macias said.      

To date, 25 intern positions have been filled with 18 (seven returning) ASU students in the program, assisting in areas from curation, education and community engagement to fundraising, development and finance.  

Recently, several Heard Museum Guild interns — past and present — and their supervisors sat down with ASU Now to talk about the internships and their reverberations.     

Transitioning from archaeology to fine art

Art conservation wasn’t on Kayannon George’s career radar when the Deer Valley High School graduate transferred to ASU from Glendale Community College to major in anthropology. Even when she applied to the Heard Museum Guild Internship her junior year it was motivated by her strong interests in archaeology.

“But it soon became about the fine art,” said George, who is of the White Mountain Apache and Navajo tribes and graduated from ASU in December 2016. “As a Heard Museum Guild intern I was introduced to aspects of museum work that I’d never really heard about before. I’ve become really interested in hands-on work with the art and the conservation and maintenance of textiles and ceramics.”  

Her internship experience also opened up opportunities to pursue her passion for this specialty area of museum work.

Last July when the Heard Museum was awarded a six-figure grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for fellowships to support the training of the next generation of museum conservators, particularly within the Native American community, George’s former colleagues at the Heard asked her if she’d consider applying.     

From more than 40 applicants, she was selected as one of the first three Mellon Fellows and completed the nine-month appointment at the beginning of June.  

“I’d like to stick around and work with the Heard collections,” said George about her future plans, “while also keeping my eyes open for interesting residencies or applied workshops in museums around the country. I’m applying for an internship at the National Museum of the American Indian, part of the Smithsonian Institution, this next year. Eventually I’ll attend graduate school in museum studies.”

Building an unparalleled archive 

In spring 2018, sophomore Modesta Molina became the second intern to assist in the Heard Museum’s Billie Jane Baguley Library and Archives. At ASU she’s majoring in interdisciplinary studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, completing concentrations in sustainability and justice studies, and minoring in American Indian studies.

Molina, a member of the Pasqua Yaqui Tribe, had worked last summer in the Maricopa County Library District branch library in the town of Guadalupe. So when she saw that the Heard Museum Guild Internship form included the library as a placement option, she thought it would be a good fit with her experience and her interest in going on to law school.

The library maintains extensive holdings about indigenous art and cultures from around the world and an unparalleled resource collection: physical files and an electronic database of information about nearly 25,000 American Indian artists collected over the last 40 years.

“The Heard Museum Guild Internship has been great!” observed Molina, who began her internship in February. “My favorite part of the internship has to be experiencing all of the events that go on at the Heard. I have also learned so much about the importance the library plays here at the Heard and with the community. It provides a reference for museum staff and knowledge for scholars. I enjoy contributing my part to keeping the library going.”

Growing a continuous revenue stream

Michael Avila, a senior majoring in global management at ASU’s West campus, jumped in and started his internship on one of the busiest weekends of the year for the museum, during the 28th annual World Championship Hoop Dance Contest in February. The 2018 event drew about 5,000 guests and 1.7 million viewers streamed the event live around the world including from Sweden, Australia, New Zealand, Belize and Canada. 

“I greeted guests and talked with them about potentially considering a Heard membership,” said Avila, whose spring 2018 internship was focused on business development. A graduate of Sunnyslope High School, he earned an associate degree in business at Phoenix College before transferring to ASU.

“Growing a continuous revenue stream depends on memberships and sponsorships, and we track about 6,300 households and contributions across three giving programs,” noted Rebecca Simpson, Heard Museum associate director of development. “So we have been seeking Michael’s help in the messaging we create to ‘sell’ our programs to those audiences as we carry out our educational mission. We’re like our own little small business with a heavy focus on marketing, data management and analytics, and event management.”

That dynamic was partly what drew Avila to apply to the program. 

“I applied for the Heard Guild Internship because I have an interest in entrepreneurship and small business management (my dad owns his own construction company) and also to explore the business side of managing a nonprofit,” Avila observed. “I also saw it as a chance to connect with my heritage.” 

Enjoying ‘a crash course in professionalization’

Helping to plan and host the 2018 World Championship Hoop Dance Contest bookended Diamond Rivera’s two semesters of internship working with Shaliyah Ben, the Heard Museum director of public programs.

Rivera, who is from the Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe and graduated from Gila Ridge High School in Yuma, said she had heard of the museum before attending ASU, but her first experience with the Heard Museum was just before applying for the internship. 

“I went up and enjoyed exploring the museum on my own,” she said, noting that the museum admission is always free to Native Americans.

“The department I was in really gives you a crash course in professionalization in the workplace,” said Rivera, who will graduate from ASU in December with a major in exercise and wellness.

“You learn to talk with a wide variety of people and I got involved in budgeting, planning and executing events,” she noted. “Into some of the programming, such as First Friday events, I was able to design elements related to making a healthy lifestyle and came up with activities that would be age-appropriate for youth and family-friendly — all directly tied into my career path. 

“It was also just really fun to be a part of the staff,” she said, “participating in movie nights or enjoying doughnuts together!” 

Doing work that encompasses every passion

Martisha “Tisha” Clyde, who held a Heard Museum Guild internship in fall 2017, said her decision to accept a staff position with the Heard Museum shortly after graduating was an easy one.

“It encompasses all I was looking for: a focus on the art world, Native American artists and tribal communities, and making connections with people,” observed Clyde, who majored in design studies at ASU. “The atmosphere while I was an intern was always energetic, and rather than feeling like I was going to work, I felt like I was going to be with my family every day.” 

In her position with the curation and education staff, she’s supporting the museum’s fundraising work, doing research for donor cultivation, and helping coordinate messaging across all of the Heard membership groups and with nonmembers.

As an intern, Clyde got very involved in planning events from the ground up, and her innovations led to some impressive results.

“Tisha took on a lot of details involved in coordinating the annual Moondance Gala, held in conjunction with a significant exhibition opening each fall,” explained Dan Hagerty, the museum’s director of strategic development and programming. “With the Silent Auction, she helped build out an online component that allowed participants to bid on items before the day of the gala. The auction raised $60,000 more than ever before.”   

Telling human stories

Samantha Toledo has also grown her Heard Museum involvement beyond the boundaries of the guild internship. Toledo first began working in the education side of the Heard Museum as an intern with Monenerkit in spring 2017 while completing her undergraduate degree in English and secondary education. A May 2018 graduate of ASU’s master’s program in educational policy, she continues to contribute to the museum as an education specialist.

“I love that at the Heard Museum we’re basically dealing with human stories,” Toledo said, “and I appreciate that I can be creative and practice intuition in doing exhibit prep work and in designing mock-ups and materials for our public programs and presentations, such as exhibition lectures, educational and outreach initiatives with artist communities, hands-on activities for families and school tours, as well as public events.”

Toledo has participated, for example, in artists’ pottery workshops in San Diego and along the Colorado River in Parker, Arizona, and a weaving workshop in Window Rock, on the Navajo Reservation, which was quite a special experience.

“My grandmas have passed away, but it was like I was learning from my grandmothers to weave the proper way,” she said.

“The Indian art community is kind of small,” Monenerkit observed. “So including interns in significant opportunities to work with artists and museum professionals regionally and nationally, they really begin to build their networks.”

“Being with the artists and their art brings new measures of resiliency and flexibility of thought, especially for Native communities and students,” Toledo added. “The art and stories turn on a light for you in facing new challenges our societies have never come across before.

“Someday I may go back home to the Navajo reservation to teach,” she continued. “I didn’t have a Navajo English teacher when I was in high school. I’d like to be a role model as kids are at a point where they’re thinking about their future.”

Broadening the partnership

At ASU’s American Indian Convocation on May 9, Toledo and doctoral graduate Jameson “JD” Lopez were recognized with Heard Museum Eagle Spirit Awards, which the museum has sponsored at this special interest convocation since 2013. 

The awards, for which students apply for consideration, honor one master’s candidate and one doctoral candidate for academic achievement and service to community. They are emblematic of how the strong sense of connection and partnership between ASU’s American Indian Student Support ServicesASU American Indian Student Support Services is a unit of ASU's University College. and the Heard Museum continues to lead to other opportunities for mutual support.

“Sometimes the museum will contact us to see if students have interest in volunteer roles for special events,” Gonzales-Macias said, “which students often appreciate to meet community service requirements for scholarships, or to broaden their resumes.” 

Spending time at the Heard Museum is now an activity that American Indian Student Support Services regularly builds into its student programming, including its SPIRIT early-start program for indigenous freshman students. This year the Heard Museum sponsored the SPIRIT reunion for the 2017 freshman cohort. 

“Experiencing the museum’s broad emphasis on intertribal connections and on knowledge, art and lived culture of the 22 federally recognized tribes with lands in Arizona, can be very orienting,” Gonzales-Macias added.

Gonzales-Macias often shares with new ASU students the impact of her first visit to the Heard Museum when she moved to Arizona in 1993 as a first-year ASU graduate student.

“I was new to Arizona from Texas and wasn’t yet feeling connected here. My husband (then-fiancé) and I went up to the Heard’s annual American Indian Fair and Market, wanting to get a stronger sense of this place where we were living,” she said. “I came away feeling more grounded and had an especially nice conversation with an artist from the Winnebago tribe in Wisconsin. I purchased from her a beaded necklace and earrings to mail home to my mother. My mother has since passed, but I now have the jewelry, as well as the postcard I sent her describing our visit to the museum. It reminds me of a treasured time and a milestone in my experience.”

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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Government policy, public perception and real-world economic consequence

July 12, 2018

ASU energy scholars confront the difficult challenges of transforming the climate narrative and enacting change through policy

Editor's note: This is the final installment in a three-part series on energy research at ASU. The first story examined the need for scalable solutions; the second story looked at the challenges facing solar power.

Earth is experiencing a Great Transition as its peoples slowly shift from fossil fuels to wind, plants, natural processes and our sun.

It’s not the first time people have changed where they get their energy sources, but as energy historian Chris JonesChris Jones is an assistant professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies at ASU. said, what makes the Great Transition different is that this time we need to get rid of something, instead of just adding something. Climate change is the binding constraint. 

“If we had a lot of time, it wouldn’t be a big deal, truthfully,” policy expert Elisabeth Graffy said. But, with the window for making progress on climate change shrinking, it gets a lot more complicated.

Arizona State University is part of a new coalition of 13 leading research universities committed to tackling climate change. The group — called the University Climate Change Coalition — includes universities from the United States, Canada and Mexico.

In the U.S., climate change has become a divisive issue because of the hyperpolitical furor that drives our politics.

“We’re alone in that,” said Gary Dirks, who directs LightWorks, a network of people working together on a broad spectrum of energy issues at ASU. “The rest of the world just looks at us like we’re idiots, and it’s ending in the United States.

“The reason I can say that is because A) I’m a scientist, so these people that say ‘Well, I’m not a scientist, but …’ Well, OK, but I am a scientist. B) I was a senior executive at British Petroleum. I was there when these conversations were going on. I know exactly what the oil industry knew in the '90s, and we all knew that climate change was the issue. The American companies chose to take a stance that says, ‘We think government interference in our business is a more serious problem than climate, so we’re going to make sure government doesn’t interfere.’ Well, that era is now over. ... Climate is a very serious problem.”

What is not always thought about is the reality of getting from Point A to Point B, which involves the governing and policy dimensions Graffy studies. (As ASU chemist Ellen Stechel put it, “‘If I can make it work’ is not enough.”)

Elisabeth Graffy

Graffy is professor of practice in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. She also co-leads the policy theme for LightWorks. Graffy has spent most of her career in government, much of it at the federal level. Over the years she worked on a number of issues that all led back to energy. “Strategic management of the science-policy interface” is how she describes her field. 

No single agency makes energy policy for the federal government. 

“There wasn’t anyone with direct accountability to conceptualize this new world we were in,” Graffy said. “I knew all of it was changing pretty quickly and that universities hadn’t really caught up either, but that new ideas had to be developed, new approaches needed to be developed. We needed to deal with where things were moving fairly quickly.”

She thinks about the places where things intersect. Where can you get the most bang for your buck by making changes? You cannot change a complex system by designing it from the top down. You have to understand it as an organic entity. She finds the intersections between policy issues. 

“It requires a particular way of being able to see the big picture in the little pictures, and then being able to connect them periodically and not get super-worried about the fact you can’t connect them all,” she said. “I think it can easily be overwhelming. That’s why I wanted to be at a university. How to think about things that could be overwhelming in a way that makes them conceptually manageable and operationally tractable — that is the challenge for work in this space.”

Government officials, while often experts in their subject, rarely have the latitude to sit back and put their policies in grander contexts. While that’s possible at a university, there’s a downside to it. 

“Funding for research into energy policy and governance is almost nonexistent,” Graffy said. “Funding shows that the research is legitimate. You can build a base of people who can work on it. You can build partnerships with other faculty, and you can bring in students and postdocs and whatever and you can just do more work. The funding we’re talking about is not that much, and it’s not really clear where you find it. ... I won’t say it never happens, but it almost never happens. ... It’s very, very seldom we see a call for a $25 million proposal come out.”

The guy who owns the corner station

As research leads to energy policy changes, collateral damage will be unavoidable. What about those who make a living selling gasoline to drivers?

“Yeah, the guy who owns the gas station on the corner is toast,” Dirks said. “It’s just a question of in what way it’s going to happen. There are ways that he could survive. ... (He) won’t be like he is today, but some of them could very well survive — I hope they do — but it won’t be up to him.”

Once Clark Miller met with a federal-state partnership organization that works with the poorest counties along the Mississippi Delta — some of the poorest in the nation — about economic development. Natural gas, oil and coal activity in three-quarters of those counties will disappear over the next 50 years. 

“Did they want to talk to me about thinking strategically about how to get ahead of this problem?” Miller said. “No way. That was a political nonstarter for that organization. This is the conversation we’re trying to change.”

Miller directs the Center for Energy and Society in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society at ASU. The center is the result of a decade of his work. What the center does is put people back into the energy equation.

Some jobs and communities are not going to fare well in the Great Transition. Coal miners are only the tip of the iceberg. 

“We ought to be ahead of this problem,” Miller said. “We know it’s coming, that there are places and people whose jobs and livelihood, whose community well-being and economic lifeblood depends on fossil-fuel energy resources. We know exactly who these people are. We can map them and measure them, but no one has even begun to ask that question. People want to hide their head in the sand.”

ASU engineer Nathan Johnson points to one solution: a potential $40 billion market in microgrids by 2024. 

“The push or the demand for those technologies can’t be attained without sufficient human resource capability to do the work,” he said. “We have a series of training programs for workforce development.”

LightWorks started that work with funding from the Navy for veterans. Called the NEPTUNE project (for Naval Enterprise Partnership Teaming with Universities for National Excellence), it has trained about 100 veterans through boot camps in microgrids, cybersecurity and electrogrids, among other subjects. 

Nathan johnson

An assistant professor in the Polytechnic School of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, Nathan Johnson researches and teaches sustainable and resilient energy systems. Photo by Krisanna Mowen/ASU 

“These folks walk into jobs where they have a four-year degree, and they’re making, you know, $80,000 to $130,000 a year,” Johnson said. “So they’re doing really well for themselves for a while. And then, they have a specialized skill set in the industry that has a significant amount of retirees right now, but then also given the complexities and increasing threats to the grid, they’re adding additional types of personnel. So not only are they losing their existing human workforce, but they’re adding job titles they don’t even have people to fill. And so then we provide tailored skill sets to these niche areas.”

There are plans to extend the program through a global hub-and-spoke model. 

The Great Transition is an opportunity to improve lives, Miller said. Literally tens of trillions of dollars will be spent to reinvent and decarbonize energy systems.

“If all we get out of that is an energy system that’s clean, I’ll be happy because we have a carbon-neutral energy system at the other end of that transition — but I will also be very sad because we will have spent all that money and only gotten an energy system that does what the current one does but it’s carbon-neutral,” he said. “I’d really love to see this also be an investment in significantly upgrading the human future. How do we use these investments to create a better future for humanity?”

Once upon a time

A lot of the language about climate change and the Great Transition uses the word “sacrifice.” Let’s put that in a sentence: 

“It’s a moral issue, and we may need to reduce our quality of life or make sacrifices in order to not destroy the world for future generations.”

Not everyone is going to leap with joy upon being told they need to go vegan, live in a microhouse, sell the SUV and bike to work.

Graffy sighs. 

“That’s not a narrative that makes people want to jump up and say, ‘Sure, let’s do that,’” she said.

And the narrative about the Great Transition matters a lot. 

“We’re storytelling animals. We love stories,” said Joni Adamson, a professor of environmental humanities in the Department of English. “Human thinking on climate, human thinking on energy, on energy transitions, whatever you want to call it, is centuries, actually thousands of years old. If you look back to the most ancient almanacs, people were thinking about the stars, humans and soil.”

If you ask people if they can remember a book that changed their life or that changed their thinking, almost everyone has one. It usually involved a character that had some kind of change, whether it’s a myth where they turned into a bird or had some kind of life transition.  

“Books literally give us the tools to imagine transition,” Adamson said. “That’s why we’re being invited to be at the table now with sustainability scientists and people who are thinking about energy transitions.”

In 2010 Dirks held a retreat for ASU humanists to talk about how they could bring their insights into the School of Sustainability.

“No one can quite figure out what we have to do with the environment and sustainability, but actually we’ve been really long and really deep for 30 years in environmental issues,” Adamson said. “If you think about Edward Abbey, he was writing back in the '60s. He was drawing who would become environmentalists to a cause.”

Data produced by scientists has proven climate change is real, but it hasn’t been put into an effective narrative. That’s what Adamson and other humanists are trying to do. 

“We’re trying to think about human behavior, motivations and desires because when it comes to the reasons why we need to have energy transitions, it’s because of human behavior, motivations and desires,” she said. “It’s also because we get locked into thinking that things have to be the way we think they have to be. We get locked into ideas, and we don’t know where those ideas came from. We don’t understand why those ideas might need to change in an energy transition, so that’s where humanists come in.”

The cautionary tale of Germany’s ‘Energiewende’

The narrative coming out of Germany, one of the first countries to make a concerted effort to go green, is more horror story than fairy tale. 

That’s normal, energy historian Jones said.

“Energy transitions have always been hugely chaotic,” he said. “There hasn’t been a rational energy transition without hiccups. ... How much attention do you pay to those hiccups versus the long-term arc of whether those were the best set of investments to make?”

The “Energiewende,” or “Energy Turnaround,” is a massive German project on the scale of the American New Deal or Soviet five-year plans. A complex set of interrelated laws and regulations aimed at turning energy use green, its goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 80 to 95 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, without nukes but with renewables.

And it’s unsuccessful, according to Christine Sturm, a veteran of German energy who recently earned a PhD in sustainability at ASU. She has worked on market deregulation, as an industry spokesperson, and in several executive positions at RWE, Europe’s largest energy provider.

Exploding energy costs, failed policy tools like German and European Union trading plans, and reeling utility companies, coupled with a failure to meet goals, are the dark side of green. The hurdles are significant and unforeseen. 

wind farm

The Cedar Creek 2 Wind Farm in Colorado is owned by BP Wind Energy and Sempra U.S. Gas & Power. As the Great Transition continues, utilities will need solutions to reliably deliver power via renewables. Photo courtesy of BP Images

Energy systems, as Sturm notes, are complex stews of technologies, institutions, markets, regulations and social systems. “Nations have little experience intervening in such socio-technical systems to steer them in desired new directions over specified periods,” she wrote in an essay published in Issues in Science and Technology last year.

The big challenge for the Energiewende is integrating wind and sun into existing energy systems. Despite efforts at converting excess electrical power to hydrogen, methane, heat or other storable commodities, storing the electricity necessary to solve the problem remains “technologically, economically and politically out of reach,” Sturm wrote.

The wind doesn’t blow every day, and the sun doesn’t shine every day, either. What happens on still, overcast days?

Collapse has been averted only through two mechanisms that run directly counter to the goals of the Energiewende.

Intermittency is balanced by running fossil power plants when conditions aren’t right for renewables. On sunny and windy days, Germany produces so much power it has to push the surplus on neighboring grids, disturbing their systems and creating additional costs. “These solutions are neither economically sustainable nor carbon-free,” Sturm wrote.

The solution doesn’t exist. Moving to a low-carbon energy system requires the ability to store power at scale: batteries. Sturm doesn’t share Elon Musk’s belief that the entire world can run cheaply on 2 billion of his Powerpack batteries. And buying your way out of a bind isn’t really solving the problem. 

“It suggests that energy transitions come at low costs,” Sturm said. “Unfortunately this is all but true. If a storage volume of 10 kWh costs, as Elon Musk indicates, $3,500, Germany could have leveled wind and solar intermittences generated in 2015 — when Germany covered about one third of its energy demand with renewables — by paying $3.15 trillion on top of the already high Energiewende costs. This theoretical figure is debatable, because it oversimplifies the complexity of large socio-technological systems.”

Power demand is never flat, there are alternatives to lithium ion batteries leveling out intermittencies, and consumption patterns can be adjusted to the patterns of energy generation, Sturm argued.

“But, even if one creatively combines these ideas and finally succeeds to half the storage demand, the burden remains simply too high,” she said.

Other countries can expect to experience the same problems Germany is experiencing, Sturm said. 

“Despite all achievements in the renewable energy realm, Germany’s steadily growing regulatory labyrinth has mostly failed to induce the desired outcomes, offering instead strong lessons about the unintended consequences of such interventions,” she said.

Policy expert Graffy isn’t too surprised. She’s not discouraged, either. 

“It’s not surprising that in the early experiments there are some things that work well and some things that don’t work well,” she said. “The challenge really is to look at those things and not really get disheartened by the fact that there are things that didn’t work out right to begin with, to keep our eyes on the ball, if you will. ... Learn as we go — the stuff is very, very dynamic.”

The Navajo Generating Station

Everything you have read in this series to this point is embodied in the power plant crouched on sandstone just east of Page: the rise of renewables, policy, people, market forces, microgrids — all of it.

When populations in the Southwest exploded during the 1950s and 1960s, there was a need for more power. Suggestions of damming the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon didn’t go over well. The solution was the Navajo Power Project.

A coal-fired power plant — the Navajo Generating Station — was built. Coal was mined by Navajo miners on Black Mesa, then shipped by rail to the plant, burnt, and the electricity transmitted along 800 miles of line. The whole project was completed in 1976. 

Payments to the Navajo Nation account for about a quarter of the tribe’s revenues (and 65 percent of the Hopi tribe’s revenues). Native American tribal members, mainly Navajo, make up 83 percent of plant employees and 93 percent of mine employees, resulting in about 850 direct tribal positions.

Navajo Generating Station is the biggest coal-fired plant west of the Mississippi. It is also among the first coal plants to be shuttered because of low natural gas prices.

The Salt River Project — the plant’s majority owner — decided to shutter the plant in December 2019. Utilities are mandated by law to use the least-cost resource. That’s not coal anymore. 

“(Coal is) expensive, it’s dirty — nobody’s going to do that,” Dirks said. “It’s an expensive fuel. If you want to burn something to generate power, burn natural gas. It’s easier to work with, it’s very clean, it’s cheaper, and that’s exactly what SRP decided with Navajo Generating Station: ‘Why should I burn coal when I can burn gas? And I can burn it closer to where I need the power anyway, because I can get gas in Phoenix. I don’t need to get my power from coal 400 miles to the north.’ And that’s true everywhere on the entire planet; virtually everybody is saying, ‘Well, that’s expensive fuel.’”

Last October, the Trump administration announced $30 million worth of U.S. Department of Commerce grants to help states and regions deal with the declining use of coal and plant closings.

One grant included almost $100,000 for ASU and Northern Arizona University to help the Navajo Nation transition from coal to renewables.

Kris Mayes is a professor of practice in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. She is also a former state corporation commissioner and co-author of the Arizona Renewable Energy Standard, which requires that by 2025 utilities must generate 15 percent of their energy portfolio from renewables.

“The shutting down of the Navajo Generating Station is an enormous impact to the Navajo Nation in terms of lost jobs and lost revenues,” Mayes said. “This is huge. ASU is committed to doing everything we can to assist the nation to come out of this in a better position.”

The two universities are working in three areas.

First, they are creating an auditable decision-making process. It’s a transparent, statistically based, methodologically sound tool that allows organizations to make decisions in sound statistics and economics, and then demonstrate the thinking behind their decision. That is being led by an ASU professor who has done the same thing for Fortune 500 companies around the world. Daniel Brooks is an associate professor emeritus in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

The process “will allow the Navajo Nation to arrive at sound options for bolstering their economy in the event the (plant) does close,” Mayes said. “What are the best and highest options for them to create jobs and to fill in the economic vacuum that will be created by (the plant) going down?”

There’s a lot of pressure on the Navajo Nation government to plot a successful path.

The second area is education and outreach around development of huge solar and wind projects. Right now, there is only one solar farm on Navajo Nation land. One hurdle to solar is overcoming perceptions it could interfere with grazing leases, an important part of the local economy. “They can actually go hand in glove,” Mayes said. 

This summer she will visit 110 chapter houses with NAU and Navajo Nation reps to talk about benefits and attributes. Chapter houses are a semi-autonomous hyper-local government. They’re similar to New England town halls. 

“It’s a big assignment, and there’s no way we’re going to get it done this summer,” Mayes said. “This is more like Round One. ... It’s going to be a long journey.”

Finally, Johnson will be working with Navajo Tribal Utility Authority (the Navajo utility) on grid modernization projects and possibly microgrids for areas that aren’t electrified. Johnson will use solar for chapters that don’t have electricity and will also do some workforce training in hopes that people who lose their jobs can be reemployed.

“Our job is to make sure we can come out of the other side of this in a better place,” Mayes said. “It’s a long-term effort, but ASU is committed to seeing it through.”

The same process could be applied to Appalachia.

“You quickly realize that a lot more coal plants are going to be shut down in the not-too-distant future,” she said. “This is just the first of many that will be shuttered. ... Even as the transition occurs, we have to help the communities that the transition impacts, like the Navajo Nation. We cannot just leave communities in the lurch who have for years been supporting low-cost energy for the rest of us.”  

Energy's Great Transition series

Part 1: The need for developing scalable solutions 

Part 2: Solar, rising demand and an energy grid in a box

Part 3: Government policy and the real-world economic effects on people

Top photo: The Navajo Generating Station near Lake Powell. Photo by Michael McNamara/Salt River Project

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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New ASU program gives Native American youth a taste of college

June 28, 2018

Sally Kewayosh uses the short break in filming while students reposition their cameras to explain the 180-degree ruleThe 180-degree rule is a basic guideline regarding the on-screen spatial relationship between two characters within a scene. By keeping the camera on one side of an imaginary axis between the characters, the first character is always frame right of the second character. of cinematography, then instructs one of them to come in closer for a profile shot.

An accomplished filmmaker and a member of the Walpole Island First Nation, Kewayosh is on location at Arizona State University's West campus this week to share her knowledge with a group of high school students participating in the Native American Summer Arts Workshop (NASAW). She was invited by ASU Assistant Professor Jacob Meders, who is instructing the students in printmaking and drawing.

Meders, a member of the Mechoopda Indian Tribe of Chico Rancheria, California, attended a similar program in high school that inspired him to get his bachelor’s degree in fine arts at Savannah College of Art and Design and, later, his master’s in printmaking at ASU. So when Patrick BixbyBixby is also an associate professor of English at ASU., director of International Tribal Initiatives at ASU's New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, asked for his help organizing NASAW, he was all in.

“Coming from the family background that I came from, there was no one to really to guide me after I saw all the cool art stuff you could do in college,” said Meders, who is the founder of WarBird Press studio in Phoenix. “It wasn’t until I got older that I kind of figured it out on my own.”

An immersive, weeklong experience in which students live on campus and are encouraged to explore the university’s offerings, the arts workshop is just one of several outreach programs at ASU that are geared toward giving young Native American students an early taste of the college experience.

One week before NASAW kicked off, 50 Native American high school students taking part in the INSPIRE camp on the Tempe campus observed a mock trial, learned how to build a resume, toured the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication building on the Downtown Phoenix campus and attended a resource fair.

“This year’s INSPIRE summer program provides an unique opportunity for American Indian high school students to learn more about academic major options and potential careers from the five major themes implemented: power and place; leadership; college and career; closer look at ASU; and community partnerships,” said Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian Initiatives.

Native American students make up less than 1 percent of all college students in the U.S., and only about 13 percent of all Native American people have a college degree. Recognizing a need, ASU has created a number of college-preparedness programs aimed at Native American students. In addition to NASAW and INSPIRE, they include the daylong RECHARGE conference, featuring guest speakers and conversations on topics ranging from financial aid to wellness and careers; the SPIRIT orientation initiative, which helps Native American students adjust to college life over a two-week period; and the Tribal Nations Tour, which brings ASU to schools with high populations of American Indian students throughout the state.

woman holds a movie clapper

Group chaperone Red Gastelo, of Phoenix College, sets the clapper to start a scene as the class makes a four-minute video as part of the Native American Summer Art Workshop on the West campus on June 27.

The programs’ reaches are expanding beyond Arizona, though — a few of the students attending NASAW at ASU West came all the way from California. Mikail Morgan, who attends Sherman Indian High School in Riverside, said not many colleges where she lives have programs that speak specifically to Native American students. On Wednesday, she played one of the characters in a series of three student-filmed stories that will be showcased Friday at 7 p.m. at Art Space WestArt Space West is located on the north side of the University Center Building on ASU’s West campus. in a free and open-to-the-public exhibition of their work.

Later Wednesday afternoon, Morgan and the rest of the NASAW cohort enjoyed a special tour of the Heard Museum, one of the program’s sponsors, who also hosted them for dinner that evening. Other sponsors include the Phoenix Indian Center, the Labriola Center, the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts and the Arizona Commission for the Arts, which also provided funding.

In the future, Bixby hopes to see the program expand to other fields of study at New College, such as its flagship forensics program. For now, he and Meders are thankful to have gotten it off to a promising start.

“Everybody in the community, Native and non-Native, has really pitched in, and it’s just awesome to see the support,” Meders said. “It’s been pretty wild to see these students working so hard. … It’s obvious to us that they all have the potential to make it in college, and to excel in college. So this is great way for them to see it in themselves.”

Top photo: Instructor Sally Kewayosh looks at the screen of Patrick House, 16, of Saw Mill, Arizona, as they prepare to shoot a scene for their four-minute video as part of the Native American Summer Art Workshop on the West campus on June 27. Kewayosh is a filmmaker with Achimowin Films in Albuquerque. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

ASU Law student helps hometown devastated by Hurricane Harvey

June 27, 2018

Hurricane Harvey slammed into Texas last August as a Category 4 tropical storm, leaving a trail of death and devastation as catastrophic flooding swamped Houston and surrounding areas. Eighty-two people were killed, and damages totaled $125 billion, making it one of the deadliest and costliest natural disasters in U.S. history.

For Ana Laurel, it was personal. Laurel, a third-year law student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, grew up in Port Lavaca, Texas, a small Gulf Coast city that was among those battered by the storm. This summer, she is back home helping residents recover, providing legal assistance as a student fellow in the Rural Summer Legal Corps. Ana Laurel Ana Laurel, ASU Law student Download Full Image

“I learned about the RSLC through the Native American Law Students Association, and when I went through the descriptions, I found that Texas RioGrande Legal Aid was looking for a summer law clerk to work on their disaster relief team,” Laurel said. “Having grown up mostly on the coast, I’ve lived through many different hurricanes and evacuations, and so I became interested for that reason.”

When Laurel learned that she would specifically be serving, among other affected cities, her tiny hometown, she knew she needed to apply.

Her parents suffered roof damage at their home in Port Lavaca, and as frustrating as their experience has been, Laurel knows they are more fortunate than most residents in the area.

“People are still homeless, and they’re still out of options,” she said.

Rural Summer Legal Corps is a joint program of a pair of Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organizations: Equal Justice Works, which focuses on careers in public service for lawyers, and Legal Services Corporation, which provides funding for civil legal aid to Americans who otherwise cannot afford it. RSLC focuses on underserved rural communities, providing direct legal services. The student fellows complete 300 hours of work in an 8- to 10-week period, during which they gain hands-on experience while engaging in community outreach and education.

“Equal Justice Works recruited highly qualified candidates for Rural Summer Legal Corps through outreach to law schools across the nation, as well as public-interest job fairs and online hubs,” said Kristen Uhler-McKeown, director of public programs at Equal Justice Works. “Ana, and the rest of the talented law students selected, show passion and motivation to improve access to justice for rural residents. We look forward to seeing the incredible impact that they will have on their host organizations and the communities they serve this summer.”

Kate Rosier, director of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program, says Laurel is the ideal fit for such a fellowship.

“Ana is very passionate about serving others and making sure all people have access to justice,” Rosier said. “We need more attorneys like Ana.”

Given the option of applying to three different legal-aid organizations, the choice was simple for Laurel when she found out Texas RioGrande Legal Aid was doing disaster relief work in her hometown. The nonprofit provides free legal services to low-income residents in 68 counties across Texas, and is the third-largest provider of legal services in the nation, assisting about 25,000 clients per year.

“I’m working on a disaster relief team with fantastic women who work at TRLA offices all over Texas,” Laurel said. “My supervisor is located in Corpus, and she’s a walking FEMA encyclopedia. I have already learned so much from her. More specifically, I'm working on a few research projects that have to do with various FEMA issues and two projects involving pooling various resources together for people affected by hurricanes and for lawyers who volunteer their time to disaster relief work.”

She added, “as a woman who was raised by strong women, it has always meant a lot to me to work under other strong women. I’ve been lucky in my law school career thus far because at every position I’ve taken as an intern or extern, I’ve worked for women.”

And when helping desperate clients get assistance from big government organizations, Laurel has learned that strength and tenacity are required.

“I'm also learning how to navigate a seemingly insurmountable bureaucratic institution that holds the lives of so many vulnerable citizens in its hands,” Laurel said. “People often grow exacerbated with FEMA and quit before getting the assistance they so desperately need. What interests me about the work the women I work with are doing is that they never quit or get overwhelmed by the red tape.”

Rural Summer Legal Corps fellows.

“I’ve always told people I enjoy corporate law and tribal/federal Indian law because there’s so much potential for creativity. Here is no different,” she continued. “When you can’t accept the word ‘no’ because your client’s lives and well-being are depending on ‘yes,’ then you find alternate routes to arrive at that ‘yes.’ However long it takes.”

And that desire to serve as an advocate is what led Laurel to seek a legal career. Before enrolling in law school, she had worked as the managing director for Voices Breaking Boundaries, a community arts nonprofit in Houston.

“While we did a lot of work that I am very proud of at VBB, people in the communities with whom we were working faced a lot of issues that transcended the healing capacity of art,” she said. “I realized I wanted to become a lawyer. Whether it be to advocate for them in property disputes, in domestic violence situations, in employment disputes, and/or immigration. Though I had been peripherally connected to these issues through art and activism, I just wanted to commit myself to their causes in a different way. So I decided to take the LSAT and see what happened.”

Her partner at the time, to whom she is now married, was living in Arizona, so Laurel relocated. And she was impressed by ASU Law.

“Ultimately, what drew me to ASU was its Indian Legal Program,” she said. “Before I even applied, I had been sent to Kate Rosier, the director. I admired what the ILP was doing, both in their academic and nonprofit capacities, and meeting with Kate made my decision to attend ASU much easier.”

And since arriving at ASU Law, Laurel has seized on the abundant learning opportunities, inside the classroom and beyond. The Rural Summer Legal Corps fellowship is just the latest step in that journey.

“During my time in law school, I’ve been fortunate enough to have had several different types of internships in various fields,” she said. “I’ve worked in the Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community’s Legal Services Office and Tribal Court, and I’ve worked as a diversity writing fellow at Fennemore Craig, PC. Now I'm working in South Texas for legal aid. The practice of law demands so much of us, and I want to be as prepared and well-rounded for wherever I am most needed after law school.”

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


Expert in Native American intellectual property joins ASU Law Indian Legal Program

June 11, 2018

Trevor Reed, an expert in Native American cultural and intellectual property issues, is the newest faculty member of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University, joining the esteemed Indian Legal Program as an associate professor of law.

Reed comes to ASU Law from New York, where he earned dual graduate degrees from Columbia University’s law school and graduate school of arts and sciences and gained national prominence as director of the Hopi Music Repatriation Project. Trevor Reed Trevor Reed, an expert in Native American cultural and intellectual property issues, is the newest faculty member of ASU Law Indian Legal Program. Download Full Image

“Trevor’s research and the work he’s done with the repatriation project is beyond impressive,” said ASU Law Associate Dean of Faculty Zachary Kramer. “His passion and innovative spirit make him a perfect fit for ASU Law and our Indian Legal Program, and we are extremely pleased to welcome him to our faculty.”

Executive Director Kate Rosier says Reed is an ideal addition to the Indian Legal Program’s faculty.

“Our program always strives to make an impact in Indian Country. We do this through our alumni’s important legal work with tribes, the projects and cases we take on in the Indian Legal Clinic, and the early outreach and pre-law work we are doing through the Native American Pipeline to Law initiative. Trevor is a perfect addition to the ILP to continue this mission and work,” Rosier said.

The move to Arizona represents a homecoming of sorts, as Reed grew up dividing his time between his hometown of Seattle and the Hopi village of Hotevilla, Arizona.

“I got to experience both extremes, living in the wettest place and the driest place,” Reed said with a laugh.

Musical interest leads to law school

Reed’s diverse background extends well beyond the climates he grew up in. A Hopi member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, he attended Brigham Young University as an undergrad, where he worked as a journalist for Eagle’s Eye magazine, a university publication devoted to multicultural issues. Music has been a lifelong passion, and even within that realm, his interests cover a broad spectrum including classical, rock and indigenous music. He grew up performing both in the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestra and as a bassist in garage bands inspired by Nirvana and the city’s grunge culture.

After graduating from BYU with a bachelor’s degree in music composition in 2005, Reed joined the Utah Symphony and Opera in Salt Lake City as artistic and operations coordinator. And that’s where his musical interests began to intersect with the legal world.

“I was in charge of contracts with guest artists,” Reed said. “We did a lot of work with musicians’ unions, but by and large, a majority of my time was spent planning and then executing concert performances. You wouldn’t think it would be so rigorous, but actually Utah’s symphony is one of 17 full-time orchestras in the country, so it was there that I really learned a lot about law and the arts. I wasn’t a lawyer, but I did a ton of transactional work, and it was a lot of fun.”

In 2007, he moved to New York and enrolled at Columbia, beginning a decade-plus of music-inspired study that would result in three master’s degrees, a PhD and a Juris Doctor. He initially went to Columbia hoping to break into the music industry, figuring his best shot at a career in the arts would require being in either New York or Los Angeles.

“When I got there, it opened up so many new issues for me,” Reed said. “It just so happens that Columbia owns this massive archive of Native American musical recordings that I don’t know if anybody had really ever heard about. When I learned about that, it sparked an interest in wanting to return music and other types of archival collections, artifacts and other types of intellectual property back to Native American tribes.”

That led to the Hopi Music Repatriation Project, a joint project of the Hopi Tribe and Columbia University, which Reed began leading as a master’s degree student. Think Indiana Jones, the fictitious archaeologist and university professor, but the complete opposite. Instead of “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” plundering wondrous works from indigenous cultures, it was “Returners of the Lost Art.” The project focused not only on returning recordings and rights, but also working with tribal leaders, educators and activists to develop contemporary uses for the materials.

“I stayed on at Columbia well after my business degree had finished, and I joined the PhD program in ethnomusicology, which is essentially the anthropology of music,” Reed said. “And we just set to work on this project, and it carried through law school, and I was able to refine my work in copyright and cultural property. It’s been an interesting ride.”

When asked why he applied for law school, Reed said it was merely an extension of his research interests.

“The focus of my PhD program in ethnomusicology was to understand how intellectual property affects people’s lives on the ground, and how it shapes societies that are not used to copyright or those types of frameworks,” he said. “I was preparing to go out and do my field research, and I realized that there was this whole piece of the equation that was missing. I wanted to understand the law, I wanted to understand how lawyers think about the law, how law has come to shape the creative industries, and why intellectual property law plays a role in the way that innovation happens in the U.S. and abroad.”

While continuing his PhD studies, he was accepted into Columbia’s law school. As Reed said, it was convenient — he could simply walk across the street and start taking his law courses — but a big change.

“It was a world of difference,” he said. “It took a lot of getting used to. Legal training is so different from the PhD training that I had. It was like learning a whole new language, a whole new way of doing scholarship and doing research. Fortunately, it has been a very productive place to be: between two disciplines, music and law. I’ve been able to venture into new areas that I never would have thought of.”

ASU Law the perfect home

Several years ago, he met Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, faculty director of the Indian Legal Program. She was intrigued with his research work and the repatriation project, and she suggested he look into ASU Law once he graduated.

“When I interviewed with the faculty, it was amazing to hear about all the innovative work happening at ASU Law,” he said. “Especially how so many faculty are engaged with Native American issues. And I was able to have a really insightful and deep conversation about the issues that I have been working on with faculty from very diverse areas. And I fell in love with the institution.”

He also got a chance to meet with the students of the Indian Legal Program and said he was blown away by both the innovation of their work and the passion for what they’re doing.

“I wanted to be a part of it,” he said. “I did receive offers from other institutions, but ASU Law really has everything that I wanted, and it also feels like the right place for me to be to expand on the research that I’m doing to benefit indigenous groups in the area.”

Ferguson-Bohnee agrees that Reed and the Indian Legal Program are a great match.

“Trevor’s energy, ideas and commitment to Indian Country fit perfectly with the Indian Legal Program,” she said. “As a rising star in the field of Indian law, he has already contributed to reshaping the cultural property discussion for indigenous peoples, and will continue to help us rethink indigenous rights across disciplines.”

Reed said he has always been impressed with the scholarship that has come out of ASU Law’s Indian Legal Program, pointing specifically to landmark work in the areas of constitutional law, tribal sovereignty, economic development and voting rights.

“The faculty have done so much to advance tribal and federal Indian law. The students are a diverse group, and yet very united. I’m extremely excited to be working with both the students and the faculty of the program and feel privileged to play a small role researching and teaching with them,” he said.

In addition to ILP courses, Reed will be teaching courses on copyright and trademarks, while also continuing his research.

“One of the big things that I’ve been working on is trying to find ways to help tribes develop their intellectual property infrastructure,” he said. “Essentially, trying to help them develop legal systems that will help them to promote and protect creativity and innovation happening on tribal lands. Many tribes already have systems in place that help them determine who owns creative works and technologies, whether it’s music, art, medicine or other innovations. They have customs and norms for deciding how those things circulate and who profits from them. Unfortunately, those customs and norms don’t often get translated into our European-American legal system very well. So what I’m hoping to do is work at that intersection, trying to bring those concepts into dialogue with our global intellectual property frameworks.”

That type of impactful outreach is the foundation on which the Indian Legal Program is built.

“Trevor wants to make a difference and help tribes,” Rosier said. “He wants students’ research projects to be helpful and meaningful to tribes. With Trevor on our team, we will be able to reach more people and continue to build partnerships with tribes in Arizona and across the country.”

In addition, he will continue with his repatriation efforts, trying to ensure that tribes can reclaim intellectual property from museums, archives and other institutions.

“I’m a part of a working group that’s actively trying to develop model legal agreements — repatriation agreements, for example — between museums and Native nations, so that you can have an easier, more efficient flow of their creative, ceremonial or cultural materials back to tribes, including their IP rights,” he said. “I’m also really interested in the music industry outside of Native American issues, specifically how intellectual property law is changing, given digital technology. I’m exploring the concept of fair use in light of global conversations about cultural appropriation and social inequality, and my research will focus a lot on that.”

An advocate for students, tribes

What does Reed want ASU Law’s students and faculty to know about him?

“The first thing I want them to know is that my door is always open,” he said. “Law school is a hard period of anybody’s life. And having a faculty advocate in your court is always important. That’s how it was for me. I’ve had some of the best faculty mentors that I could imagine in my graduate training. I’m there, I want to support the students where they’re going. That’s my first priority.”

And his open-door policy extends beyond ASU Law’s Beus Center for Law and Society, to all corners of the state.

“One of the first things that I’m planning to do is to hit the road to visit each and every one of our tribes in Arizona, to start a dialogue with them,” he said. “I know there are already deep and long-lasting relationships between the ILP and Arizona tribes, and I want to continue to develop these relationships, especially around issues of cultural property. And to listen. To find out what issues are on their minds and how I can utilize my own resources and also hopefully draw upon the intellectual power of our students to help advance some of these issues for them.”

And as a happy father of seven children, Reed has developed some pretty good listening skills. He has five daughters and two sons, and his children range in age from 10 years old to a newborn daughter.

“I love kids; I’m a family guy,” he said. “I really appreciate the chance to be able to raise my kids in an environment like Phoenix.”

Executive Director, Marketing and Communications, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


Two ASU students receive Udall Undergraduate Scholarship for their interest in the environment

May 25, 2018

Two Arizona State University students, Kinley Ragan and Karen Ibarra, have been awarded the 2018 Udall Undergraduate Scholarship.

They are among 50 students from 42 colleges and universities chosen for this year’s group of Udall Scholars on the basis of their commitment to careers in the environment, native health care or tribal public policy; leadership potential; record of public service and academic achievement. Kinley Ragan Kinley Ragan, a conservation biology and ecology major, has won the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship. Download Full Image

This year’s class of Udall Scholars was selected from 437 candidates nominated by 209 colleges and universities. Thirty-four Scholars intend to pursue careers related to the environment. Ten Native American/Alaska Native scholars intend to pursue careers related to tribal public policy and six Native American/Alaska Native scholars intend to pursue careers related to native health care.

Each scholarship provides up to $7,000 for the student's junior or senior year. Since the first awards in 1996, the Udall Foundation has awarded 1,624 scholarships totaling $8,440,000.

Kinley Ragan is a Barrett, The Honors College student majoring in conservation biology and ecology with a certificate in geographic information sciences. She won the Udall Scholarship in the environment category.

As president of the Central Arizona chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology, she prepares future conservation leaders for success in the field. Ragan conducts research at the Phoenix Zoo, using wildlife cameras to study community ecology throughout Arizona and Mexico.

In a self-designed project this summer supported by the Barrett Global Explorers Grant, she will study human-wildlife conflict management at the borders of national parks in Thailand, Australia, Nepal, South Africa and Colombia. She said she is driven by her admiration for wildlife, passion for coexistence, and love for her family.

Ragan received assistance with her Udall Scholarship application from staff in the Office of National Scholarship Advisement (ONSA) located in the Barrett, The Honors College Tempe campus complex.

“Receiving the Udall Scholarship is a great honor and accomplishment. This award has become extremely competitive, with just 34 scholarships in the environmental category given this year out of 355 well-qualified applicants,” said Brian Goehner, ONSA program manager.

“Kinley is an exceptional young woman who has already made an impact in her field, and this opportunity will accelerate her professional development. When Kinley accepted the award, she received a notice that said ‘Welcome to Team Udall!’ What that means is she is now part of the Udall alumni network that is over 2,000 strong. These alumni are policy makers, leaders in their field and committed to issues related to Native Americans or to the environment,” he added.

Karen Ibarra

Karen Ibarra is in her third year at ASU where she is studying sustainability and justice. She transferred into ASU from Phoenix College. She also was selected for the Udall Scholarship in the environment category.

She has participated in natural resource management and conservation through extensive field programs.

She is an active member of Living United for a Change in Arizona (LUCHA), a Phoenix-based organization that advocates for social, economic and racial justice. Ibarra leads a LUCHA campaign focused on alleviating the effects of mass incarceration within heavily impacted areas in Phoenix.

Ibarra has many passions that all share the theme of advocating for marginalized communities and natural spaces. In the future, she hopes to extend the restorative properties of natural spaces to underrepresented communities by promoting diversity within public lands.

The 2018 Udall Scholars will assemble Aug. 7–12, in Tucson, Arizona, to meet one another and program alumni, learn more about the Udall legacy of public service and interact with community leaders in environmental fields, Tribal health care, and governance.

Learn more about the Udall Undergraduate Scholarship and the 2018 scholars.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


ASU Difference Maker brings positive impact to university, indigenous communities

May 11, 2018

Arizona State University's College of Liberal Arts and Sciences is proud to announce K. Tsianina Lomawaima as this year’s Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award winner.

The annual award was established through generous contributions of faculty, staff and friends of ASU to honor a faculty member who personifies the spirit of difference-making as demonstrated by Krahenbuhl, a former dean of the college. Professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima listens as cohort member Porter Swentzell presents the defense of his dissertation. Professor K. Tsianina Lomawaima, pictured listening to a dissertation defense last month, has been awarded the Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award. Download Full Image

Lomawaima (Mvskoke / Creek Nation, not enrolled) joined ASU in January 2014 as a professor in the School of Social Transformation and Center for Indian Education. She is an interdisciplinary scholar whose work covers indigenous studies, anthropology, education, ethnohistory, history, legal analysis and political science.

Though her work covers many areas, Lomawaima has defined herself as an indigenous studies scholar since she made the switch from an anthropology department at the University of Washington to an American Indians Studies program at the University of Arizona in 1994.

“That was a liberating moment for me, to realize I’m aware of what I want to be which is to say: I’m an indigenous studies scholar. I don’t define myself as an anthropologist, I don’t define myself as a historian ... although I do that work, I define myself as an indigenous studies scholar. That was a wonderful moment,” Lomawaima said.

Lomawaima is a prominent American Indian academic and author; her research includes the status of Native people as U.S. citizens and Native nations as indigenous sovereigns, the role of Native nations in shaping U.S. federalism, and the history of American Indian education.

Her first dissertation project and book, “They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School” focused on the history of the Chilocco Indian Agricultural School, one of the federal off-reservation boarding schools. She interviewed 60 students of the school, including her father who was removed from his mother by court order in 1927 and sent to the school for the majority of his childhood, until 1935.

“My most recent project is looking at the early 20th century conversations and debates in the U.S. about U.S. citizenship. The late 19th century is really when those conversations came to a head after the civil war, after reconstruction, all of a sudden the U.S. has to deal with emancipation, enfranchised African American voters. That really raises the question, what does citizenship really mean? It was taken for granted before that it was property [owning], white males and now that radically shifted.”  

This upcoming academic year, Lomawaima is taking a research leave and research fellowship at the Clements Center for Southwest History at Southern Methodist University in Dallas to focus on her scholarly work. She’s currently working on two books and says as much as she loves it, a year without teaching nor administrative responsibilities will allow her more time for research and writing.

“I’m enthusiastic and hopeful that I can — at the very least — get a good chunk of the citizenship book finished if not in really good shape. And then I have a second book project that’s more focused on what was happening in Indian Country in that 20th century moment as a follow up.”

Though she says her research on schooling and Indian Country has been fairly widely read, she believes her largest scholarly impact has been helping to found the Native American and Indigenous Studies Association in 2007.

“[The association] is now a very robust international meeting that draws about 1,000 people a year from across the world. That’s really what has enabled the fluoresce of international indigenous studies work is how many of us have come to know one another,” Lomawaima said.

“I think one of the things we’ve seen, in the way research questions are being formulated and the way in which publications are resulting from that and intervention practices, is that we’re seeing international collaborations. ... Anthologies and encyclopedias and handbooks are being published that are not so nationally insular anymore in terms of the authors they draw upon and the perspectives they share,” she said.

In addition to her teaching and research, Lomawaima has distinguished herself as a Difference Maker at ASU. She served for the past three years on the CLAS Dean’s Faculty Advisory Committee, the elected panel of scholars responsible for reviewing all promotion and tenure cases for the college. This role in particular, she said, is one that she enjoyed and learned the most from.

“You learn so much about the phenomenal, inspiring work that people [in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences] are doing. I think it’s fair to say that committee does its work very, very carefully, very scrupulously, with great integrity and you feel like it’s worthwhile work,” she said.

“Dr. Lomawaima has been a thoughtful and powerful voice on this committee,” said Nancy Gonzales, Foundation Professor and associate dean of faculty. “She consistently offered a balanced understanding of the diverse ways in which faculty achieve excellence.”

Throughout her 30 years in academia, Lomawaima has dedicated significant time and energy to program building and institutional service, so receiving the Gary S. Krahenbuhl Difference Maker Award has been particularly meaningful.

“I really believe in understanding how our institutions work and I don’t know a better way to do that than to participate in the various ways you’re called upon to help out at the college and university level. It’s really quite rare or unexpected or unheard of in my experience for there to be any recognition for that. I’m very touched by this.”

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU's second Pueblo Indian doctoral cohort puts community first

May 9, 2018

Indigenous doctoral graduates ready to make a difference after three years of intense study

Most people go to college to enhance their education, bolster their professional status and increase their earning power. But a doctoral cohort from New Mexico got their degrees to enrich their communities and build up their nation.

Meet the Arizona State University Pueblo Indian doctoral program Class of 2018.

“When our tribal leaders came to our orientation to give their blessing and a word of encouragement, they told us that we were about to embark on a spiritual journey,” said Doreen Bird, who received a doctorate from ASU’s School of Transformation this week after three years of hard work, research and sacrifice. “We realized at that point it wasn’t about us anymore. It’s about our communities.”

Bird is one of six people in the cohort, which saw its second class graduate on May 7.

Weeks before, Bird wore traditional Pueblo attire to her dissertation where she faced a roomful of Native American scholars.

“They were tough and challenged us every step of the way,” said Bird, who quit her job to finish her dissertation on Pueblo research methodologies. “I’m relieved it’s over but excited for the new journey that awaits all of us.”

Native American group photo

Pueblo cohort members Christina Castro, Porter Swentzell, Amanda Montoya (front), Peggy Bird (front), Rachell Tenorio and Doreen Bird pose for a portrait following the defense of their dissertations on ASU's Tempe campus on Thursday, April 12, 2018. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The program was launched in 2012 as a partnership with New Mexico Pueblos to find solutions to complex issues facing their communities. The hope was for the graduates to be able to establish research agendas, engage in policymaking and enact strategies to address these challenges.

Built with the Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, which is under the leadership of the 19 Pueblos of New Mexico, the program facilitates the training of practitioner-researcher-scholars within Pueblo communities.

The members of the cohort conducted their studies in New Mexico, creating a unique set of logistical opportunities. Coursework was conducted primarily through in-person courses with ASU-based faculty and focusing on issues of Pueblo peoples. These included Native health, education, families and communities. Their coursework also included international indigenous-community visits and concentrated training in indigenous research methodology and methods.

The program is led by School of Social Transformation faculty members Elizabeth Sumida Huaman, associate professor of indigenous education and a senior researcher with the Leadership Institute, and Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs.

“This program is a testament to what awesome results can be achieved from real collaboration with indigenous communities, which involves trust, creativity, and hard work,” Huaman said. “All of us who put this program together — the generations who produced the students, and the students themselves — exemplify this … this graduating cohort is the realization of our collective best hopes. They are intensely strong, intellectually and as researchers, and they are among the best people I know.”

Brayboy said Pueblos receiving their degrees is a monumental achievement; only one out of every 5,000 Native Americans and indigenous peoples in the U.S. who reach the ninth grade will go on to obtain a doctorate. He believes the achievement will help cohort members strengthen their pueblosThe term pueblo can also be used to describe the community, in addition to the people..

“I love this program, because it allows us to enact ASU’s vision that we work with tribal nations to create futures of their own making,” Brayboy said. “This process is exactly what self-determination looks like: tribal peoples doing work for their tribal communities. It’s an honor to be a part of the work.”

Amanda Montoya is a Taos Pueblo community planner and defended her thesis in April. Her work is focused on why educated people end up leaving their pueblos, otherwise known as “brain drain.”

“They might leave for a time but they always come back for cultural connections,” Montoya said. “I’ve discovered it’s not just a problem with pueblos but rural communities.”

Montoya said she experienced a brain drain of another kind in obtaining her degree.

“It was a huge sacrifice,” Montoya said. “The day I finished my dissertation, I took a deep breath and said, ‘I can be part of the world again!’”

The program was also a struggle for Christina Castro, whose grandfather Benjamin died on Feb. 6.

“I wasn’t sure I was going to make it. I was going to give up but then I thought, ‘My grandfather wouldn’t have wanted that for me,’” she said. “He was so proud that I was going to be the first doctorate in the family. I was coping with that loss, then gained strength from that loss.”

Peggy Bird, who is a pro tem judge in the Nambe and Taos pueblos, presented a powerful dissertation on Pueblo women’s voices, knowledge and resilience in the face of colonization, which she says still exists.

“We’re still dealing with colonization and different policies that are being imposed upon us,” said Bird. “But if you think about our survival, it’s amazing we’re still here … and we’re going to continue to be here.”

Porter Swentzell, a faculty member at the Institute of American Indian Arts, said there were moments of levity in those three intense years of study.

“One of the special things about this cohort is the humor we share,” said Swentzell, whose dissertation was on place-based education and sovereignty. “We have our own inside jokes. We spent a lot of time laughing, joking around, having a good time. All of that laughter is valuable in getting us to this point.”

June L. Lorenzo, a member of the 2015 cohort, attended last month’s dissertation defenses and was relieved to be an observer and not a presenter.

“It’s interesting to see how the energy of the first cohort has continued,” Lorenzo said. “I’m extremely proud of everyone.”

The cohort capped off the program with a visit to Canada in March for an academic exchange with indigenous health scholars at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. While there, the cohort competed in an Indigenous 3-Minute Thesis competition held at the University of Winnipeg where cohort members Rachell Tenorio and Doreen Bird took first and third place, respectively.

In addition to Swentzell, Montoya, Castro, Tenorio, and Doreen and Peggy Bird, there are five other Pueblo cohort members on a separate track set for graduation in the 2018–19 academic year.

The Pueblo Indian doctorate cohort receives support from The Leadership Institute at the Santa Fe Indian School, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and ASU’s School of Social Transformation in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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'Soul sisters': Never too late to get degree

May 8, 2018

Members of Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort support each other as they earn ASU master's degrees

In the 1950s, after the Indian Relocation Act was enacted, Priscilla Espinoza’s family moved from the Gila River Indian Community in the far southeast Valley to Southern California.

She met her husband, Phillip, there. They raised three sons. And they felt the sting of discrimination and racism that was commonplace to her people in those days. They became activists, joining the Brown Berets, a group modeled after the Black Panthers in the 1960s.

Espinoza was marching with them in Los Angeles during August 1970 when newspaper editor Ruben Salazar was killed. Salazar was struck by a tear-gas canister fired by a sheriff’s deputy.

“I was there, marching and dodging tear gas,” she said. “It really did make an impact, and a lot changed in Southern California. Because of that big march they started getting more minority teachers, and there was a big push for equal education.”

She put her own higher education, however, on the backburner. Through it all, she never forgot her place among the Akimel O’otham people in Arizona.

“I never lost my identity when I left,” Espinoza said. “I take it with me wherever I go.”

After Phillip, to whom she was married for 42 years, passed away seven years ago, the 69-year-old great-grandmother of two and grandmother of six felt a pull from home and a push from her late husband, who had told her to “keep going, keep living.”

“He was my greatest supporter,” she said.

Now she is among five women from the Gila River Indian Community who call themselves the “soul sisters.” Now, they are graduating grandmas and mothers — and remarkable role models for the people of their community and beyond.

Edwardine Thomas

“We incorporate the O’otham language in our visits because a lot of the parents do not know our language. So they learn along with their kids.” — Edwardine Thomas

Ranging in age from 36 to 69, Espinoza, Edwardine Thomas, Nina Allison, Marcella Hall and Starleen Somegustava have completed work on master's degrees in interdisciplinary studies as members of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort, a partnership between Arizona State University’s Center for Indian Education and New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences, and the Gila River Indian Community Tribal Education Department. The first-of-its-kind program trains future teachers on their home reservation with a focus on tribal history and keeping alive the Akimel O’otham language.

The group has formed a tight bond.  

“We have all been through a lot of stuff together,” said Thomas, a 56-year-old grandmother of four. “These are my sisters. We’ve gone through a lot of stuff. We’re still going through a lot of stuff. Every week we come to class and we lean on each other.” 

All have experienced similar challenges while pursuing their education — from getting back into good study and attendance habits, to feeling a sense of responsibility for their immediate and extended families that is such an important piece of their culture, to balancing work and school, to solving the mysteries that are laptop computers and PowerPoint presentations.

Perhaps the greatest challenge was simply believing that, despite their age and responsibilities, they could achieve an advanced degree from ASU.

“I’ve been going to school off and on since 2014, starting at South Mountain (Community College), and I would say this year has been the most stressful year ever,” said Hall, 36, a cultural instructor for fifth- through eighth-grade students at Sacaton Middle School, about an hour south of Phoenix. She has a daughter and is caring for a niece and nephew.

“I’m handling it, and it’s hard,” she added. “Coming here and letting the ladies know and having their support, it gets easier.”

Espinoza and Thomas are the elders of the group. Each happened upon the cohort by happenstance.

“I always tell people I’m a lifelong learner,” Thomas said. “I’ve been going to school since after high school. I went to college for one year but had to drop out, just for family things. I had to take care of my siblings. So I had to work.”

She has worked for 26 years at the Blackwater Community School in Coolidge. When she attended an in-service teacher training program at the Wild Horse Pass Hotel and Casino, it led her back to school.

“There were people there from South Mountain (Community College), and they asked if any people were interested in obtaining their degrees,” she said. “So that’s where it started.”

Priscilla Espinoza

“I’m so proud of who I am and proud of what I represent to the people here. They trust me because they know I’m a member of the community, too. So my heart is full.” — Priscilla Espinoza

Now, she is the only member of her family to earn a college degree. Her work at Blackwater focuses on making home visits to people in the community and working with parents and children to reach child-development milestones in gross and fine motor skills and language.

“We incorporate the O’otham language in our visits because a lot of the parents do not know our language,” she said. “So they learn along with their kids.”

She said her ultimate goal is to establish a full-immersion school in the Gila River Indian Community that all of the soul sisters might someday work at.

To that end, the women will join forces this summer to bring together members of the community’s seven districts for a camp that would immerse participants in the O’otham language and culture. 

“We’re going to try to do it for three weeks and see how that goes,” Thomas said. “The rest of my cohort members are going to be in on that, too.

“It’s going to be limited to about 10 families per district, and hopefully this will be like a steppingstone for other people to come and join our group, because we’re open to anyone helping us — other community members that are fluent in language or dances or basket making.”

When Espinoza returned to the area to be near one of her sons living in Maricopa, she paid a visit to the Gila River Indian Community Governance Center to complete some paperwork. She and her husband had hoped to retire in the community.

“I had retired from a school district in California, where I was a special education (instructional assistant),” she said. “I was at the governance center to talk to a lady about my paperwork. I wasn’t looking for a job. This young lady was putting up flyers that said ‘special needs (teacher) urgently needed.’

“I said, ‘I used to do that for years.’ Long story short, they interviewed me that day, got my paperwork and hired me on the spot.”

She was asked to work with a young boy with cerebral palsy, who couldn’t walk or talk.

“He could only say ‘mama’ and ‘no,’ ” she said. “I put all my energy into this little boy. ... 

“I would see him every morning and say, ‘Good morning, what is your name? My name is Priscilla.’ I said that over and over for six months. One morning I said, ‘Hi, buddy,’ and he looked at me and said, ‘Hi, ’scilla!’ Oh my gosh, I knew then that this is it.”

Gregory Mendoza, who was Gila River Indian Community governor at the time, told her he had gotten a report about her work with the young boy, who now uses a walker.

“He said, ‘I want you to get into this program we have going on, this cohort. We want you to get your degree. We need people like you to help our people here.’ So that was it,” Espinoza said.

“I’m so proud of who I am and proud of what I represent to the people here. They trust me because they know I’m a member of the community, too. So my heart is full.”

The women in the cohort — many of whom are able to participate because of private giving — agree that they are motivated most by what they represent for their families and community members. Espinoza said the cohort members hope their successes will “snowball.”

“When family members see each one of us, the five of us, I think it will trickle down,” she said. “It will snowball, pick up momentum. That’s what we’re hoping for.”

Members of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort

“I told myself I had to get back on track. You do it for your kids. You do it for your family. You’re that role model. You’re that example.” — Nina Allison (left, pictured with fellow cohort member Marcella Hall)

“I tell my students, ‘Don’t be a statistic,’” Hall added. “We have a lot of high school dropouts, and not many of our people are going to college. I say, ‘Make your people proud. Make your family proud of you. We need our people in our communities sitting in the seats we are in as teachers, as educators, as tribal council members. You are all going to be filling our seats.’”

Allison, a mother of four and grandmother of three, briefly stopped her studies in the program when a nephew was killed in a car accident. He had just graduated from high school. 

The desire to set an example for others kept her from giving up.

“I didn’t do homework. I didn’t do readings. That was a struggle for me,” she said. “... I told myself I had to get back on track. You do it for your kids. You do it for your family. You’re that role model. You’re that example.

“You have ups and downs and have struggles, but you go on.” 

Thomas tells young people to get their education while they’re young instead of waiting like the members of the cohort.

“If I could turn back time, I wish I would have stayed in school and finished (college) after high school,” she said. 

“(I tell them) ‘You can do it. Just set your priorities straight and know your family will always be behind you.’” 

The Akimel O’otham language

In 2009, the Gila River Indian Community adopted an orthography — a system of written words — for their Akimel O’otham language. Keeping that language alive is part of the mission of the Gila River Culture and Language Teacher Cohort. 

A sampling of words from the language:

  • Soith (pronounced: so yeth) — love
  • Sha pai masma (pronounced: sha pie masama) — How are you?
  • Sape (pronounced: saw pa) — fine
  • Tho epom ñei (pronounced: do umpam nyeh) — will see you again
  • Je’e (pronounced: j’uh) — mother
  • O:g (pronounced: awg) — father
  • Ga ga’a (pronounced: ga ga ah) — paternal grandmother
  • Lu lu’u (pronounced: luu luu ooh) — maternal grandmother
  • Vosk (pronounced: vawsk) — paternal grandfather
  • Ba ba’a (pronounced: ba ba’a) — maternal grandfather

Written by Bob Young; this story originally appeared in the summer issue of ASU Thrive magazine. Top photo: (From left) Priscilla Espinoza, Marcella Hall, Edwardine Thomas, Nina Allison and (not pictured) Starleen Somegustava have formed a close relationship through the Gila River program. Photos by Deanna Dent/ASU Now