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Alternate career paths for humanities students

Connected Academics offers ASU humanities students practical and professional skills to prepare them for a variety of careers

November 15, 2016

With a shrinking job market in tenure-track faculty positions, doctoral students in the humanities often must compete for alternative academic — known as “alt-ac” — careers, or even search for jobs outside of academia.

What professional skills and experience will best expand career options and earning potential for doctoral students? José Gómez, a Ph.D. student in Spanish and the 2016/17 CA Research Fellow / Photo by Bruce Racine “Connected Academics envisions a versatile PhD, and in this mentality we want to provide events that tap into our full potential of being 21st-century scholars," said José Gómez, a doctoral student in Spanish. Photo by Bruce Racine Download Full Image

Arizona State University is one of three institutions (the others are Georgetown and the University of California system) awarded funding from the Modern Language Association and Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for the innovative project “Connected Academics: Preparing Doctoral Students of Language and Literature for a Variety of Careers.” Participating in the program are the Department of English, the School of International Letters and Cultures and Graduate Education.

Now in its second year and with 84 fellows (52 English, 32 SILC), the Connected Academics program provides alternative options to traditional graduate training in languages and literature, including enhanced curricula and mentoring. Students complete internships, enroll in certificate programs, and engage in digital humanities and professional development workshops.

Internships are an especially valuable part of the program, said Ruby Macksoud, director of internships in the Department of English.

“It helps to give an ‘insider’ edge over other applicants when on the job market,” Macksoud said. “Many job postings ask for two to three years of work experience, and so internships are a useful way to gain that work experience as a graduate student.”

Macksoud has had great success placing students in internships with publishers, government and federal agencies, non-profit organizations like Refugee Focus, and private organizations like the Phoenix Suns.

“At the moment, the focus is on helping Connected Academics fellows reimagine what they as humanists can do to shape the world around them,” Macksoud said. “So, we are working with tech companies, startup companies, government agencies and multinational companies to create internship opportunities that reach beyond academia. How might someone with a PhD in English literature impact how a company designs its products for human communication? Or how might someone with a doctorate in East Asian languages and civilization impact how a government delivers a fair-trade proposal?”

“Academia sometimes moves at a slower pace than the rest of the world, but that is not the case with Connected Academics,” said Kalissa Hendrickson, a member of the Connected Academics administrative team.

After receiving her PhD in English literature from ASU last year, Hendrickson began working as a research advancement administrator for ASU’s Institute for Humanities Research. While not involved in the program as a student, Hendrickson’s career path is an example of alt-ac success; she has been able to use her research training and professional skills in this role as she helps faculty apply for external funding, creates grant budgets and manages the submission process.

Once admitted to their PhD programs, students are paired with mentors — their “go-to faculty champions” — not only for advice on classes, research and academic life, but also help with career development and entrepreneurial mentoring, such as is available through the Edson Project.

“It’s rewarding to be a faculty mentor in the Connected Academics program because you get to know your own advisees better and differently, as well as to meet talented students from across our humanities units,” said Devoney Looser, a professor of English and Connected Academics mentor. “The benefit of Connected Academics, for students and faculty alike, is its facilitating conversations about a variety of academic and professional future paths beyond the degree.”  

The MLA-Mellon grant also funds a research fellow who takes leadership over a range of activities related to the grant and is part of the Connected Academics team. The team works to improve options for Connected Academics fellows and to achieve and even go beyond the grant’s goal to enrich doctoral education. Ultimately, the group’s work aims to reimagine a wide array of possible skills that can be incorporated into humanities graduate training and into careers where students can become scholar-citizens, making an impact in their communities.

PhD student Shannon Lujan (English literature) served as a Connected Academics research fellow last year. One of her major projects was a digital portfolio to help organize and showcase students’ accomplishments and time to degree.

“My experience as the 2015/16 fellow helped me feel confident about voicing my decision to pursue an alt-ac career, and ultimately lead me to securing a program manager position in Graduate Education at ASU,” Lujan said. “One of the things that we, as students, often overlook is the multiplicity of skills we acquire as graduate students. Connected Academics helps us recognize our skills, learn to talk to others about our skills, and feel more positive as we enter diverse job markets.”

Highlights during Connected Academics’ first year were Friday Conversations, a k a  “Professional Fridays,” which are monthly meetings to discuss topics related to academic, innovative, entrepreneurial and professional success.

José Gómez, a PhD student in Spanish and the 2016/17 Connected Academics Research Fellow, is working to bring to campus three outstanding faculty in the humanities to offer a variety of workshops.

“Connected Academics envisions a versatile PhD, and in this mentality we want to provide events that tap into our full potential of being 21st-century scholars," said Gómez. “Connected Academics allows a space for this kind of expansive thinking.”

The Modern Language Association/Mellon Foundation grant was authored at ASU by co-principal investigators Eric Wertheimer, associate vice provost of Graduate Education; George Justice, professor and dean of Humanities; and Pamela Garrett, senior manager of Graduate Programs. Other co-PIs are Mark Lussier, professor in the Department of English, and Joe Cutter, professor in the School of International Letters and Cultures (SILC). Both English and SILC are academic units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Written by Sheila Luna

Kristen LaRue

coordinator senior, Department of English


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ASU takes top spot for international students

ASU holds position as No. 1 public research institution for global students.
November 14, 2016

University maintains position as No. 1 public research institution for international scholars, according to newly released survey

Arizona State University has maintained its position as the No. 1 public university in the U.S. for hosting international students, and moved up a spot to No. 3 overall for colleges or universities, according to a newly released survey.

The 2016 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange released Monday also ranked ASU in the top 25 for domestic students studying abroad.

The report, issued by the independent non-profit Institute of International Education (IIE), indicated the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities surpassed 1 million for the first time during the 2015-2016 academic year. 

ASU's international student enrollment topped 12,750 such students, trailing only New York University and the University of Southern California.

The international Sun Devils represent more than half of the global scholars attending a college or university in the state of Arizona.

Degree-seeking international student enrollment at ASU has more than doubled in the past five years. In that time, students from more than 150 countries have enrolled in undergraduate and graduate programs in every discipline.

In last year's Open Doors Report, ASU took the top spot among public research instutions and was No. 4 for overall colleges and univerisites. 

Karan Syal, a student from India, is a doctoral student in the biological design program, a branch of Biomedical Engineering in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. Syal is passionate about solving problems in health care. What attracted him to study abroad was the flexibility in research that American universities allow; he said he chose ASU for the cross-disciplinary environment it provides.

“I strongly believe that the most interesting health-care challenges of our times are at the intersection of science, engineering, business and regulatory fields,” he said. “At the Biodesign Institute at ASU, I solve for the complex real-world problems in health care. I have great mentors in helping me bridge multiple diverse fields while attempting to solve global health-care challenges in my research.”

Students including Syal find success through the guidance of world-renowned faculty and the support services provided by the university that makes it a priority to help students achieve their academic aspirations.

The ASU International Scholars and Student Center provides international student support and facilitates the success of international students and scholars during their stay in the U.S., including advisement on a variety of concerns such as visas and job placement. Additionally, the center facilitates the integration of students from other countries into life at an American university and helps with cultural adjustment.

“The university is a place where value is placed on inclusivity and success of all of our students,” Holly Singh, senior director of the International Scholars and Student Center, said. “Our center provides holistic student support to ensure international students and scholars feel welcome and have the tools necessary to succeed in their endeavors.”

In addition to the International Scholars and Student Success Center, ASU is committed to offering programs that provide academic and student support. ASU’s Global Launch provides English language training and academic preparation services designed to help students succeed in their new academic environment, and the Coalition of International Students unites university cultural groups and promotes increased understanding among cultures within and outside the university.

While international students benefit from attending U.S. universities and colleges, the continued growth of international students coming to the U.S. also benefits American students, according to the IIE. Students from around the world bring international perspectives into U.S. classrooms and provide a global viewpoint to scientific and technical research, helping prepare American students for a globally connected society.

Likewise, American students are finding studying abroad beneficial to their academic and professional careers. ASU students are studying abroad in increasing numbers — more than 2,100 last academic year. ASU offers 250 study-abroad programs in more than 65 different countries.

The growth is attributed to the university’s focus on seeing more students engage globally. This includes first-generation students and graduate students who are studying abroad. Growth is expected as ASU continues to strive for accessible study-abroad opportunities for all ASU students. This is part of an effort to bolster the personal, academic and professional benefits that come with interacting with people from different cultures and experiencing different views from around the globe.

In addition to being in the top public institution for international students, ASU was ranked as the most innovative school in the United States for the second year in a row by U.S. News & World Report and rated in the top one-half of 1 percent of institutions of higher education worldwide by the Center for World University Rankings.


Top photo: International students work on their English composition skills in lecturer Amy Shinabarger's Intro to Academic Writing class on the Polytechnic campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

ASU named a top 20 United Way partner

November 10, 2016

Many children in the Valley who depend on school breakfasts and lunches throughout the week may go hungry on the weekends. This fall, as part of the annual Sparky’s Day of Service at Arizona State University, thousands of students lined up to make “WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks” that contained non-perishable food that children in need could take with them on Friday, supplementing their meals at home.

It’s just one of the many partnerships between ASU and United Way that helped the university be named one of the Valley of Sun United Way’s top 20 community partners.

United Way’s dedication to the Valley, and its mission as a whole, struck a chord with senior Nathan Baker, president of ASU Student United Way. Sparky Sparky gets ready for the fall 2016 Sparky’s Day of Service, where thousands of students filled "WeekEnd Hunger Backpacks" in partnership with the United Way for children in need. Download Full Image

“I chose United Way to end hunger, homelessness, and increase financial stability for families located within the Valley,” Baker said. “One in three kids do not know where their next meal is coming from, which is why we need to make the largest impact we possibly can.” 

The 20 organizations on the list play critical roles in helping communities around the metro Phoenix area. Other companies on the inaugural list include Target, Macy’s, American Airlines and Bank of America.  

“By working together, the top 20 help ensure kids have access to a good education, families have a roof over their heads, and a safe place to call home,” said Nancy Dean, chief development officer of Valley of the Sun United Way.

Since 1925, Valley of the Sun United Way has been bringing together donors, business supporters, nonprofits, government and faith-based communities and is the largest nonprofit investor in health and human-service programs in the Valley.

Currently, ASU is more than 80 percent to making its goal during its 2016 United Way campaign. To learn more or donate, visit

Reporter, ASU Now

ASU Pat Tillman Veterans Center again recognized as 'Military Friendly'

November 10, 2016

For the eighth consecutive year the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and Arizona State University earned the designation of Military Friendly School from Victory Media —publisher of G.I. Jobs, STEM Jobs SM, and Military Spouse.

The 2017 award announced Thursday recognizes ASU as one of the top institutions in the nation for service members and their families to receive the education and training needed to pursue a civilian career. Pat Tillman Veterans Center New students attending the Veterans Welcome Orientation in the Memorial Union received a T-shirt from the Pat Tillman Veterans Center. Military veterans are introduced to the support resources available on each of the four campuses, including part-time employment, veterans’ benefits and study practices. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU News Download Full Image

“ASU is going to continue to be a strong choice for veterans and their families,” said Steve Borden, Pat Tillman Veterans Center director and former Navy captain. “Particularly because of the number of programs that we have available, the quality of our education and our focus on student success.”

Some of the Pat Tillman Veterans Center student success initiatives include the use of outreach teams to engage veterans and facilitate their college transition and strong advocacy among key university units and with the Department of Veterans Affairs.

Institutions earning the Military Friendly School designation were evaluated using both public data sources and responses from Victory Media’s proprietary survey. Ratings methodology, criteria, and weightings were determined by Victory Media with input from the Military Friendly Advisory Council of independent leaders in the higher-education and military-recruitment community.

Final ratings were determined by combining the institution’s survey scores with the institution’s ability to meet thresholds for student retention, graduation, job placement, loan repayment, persistence (degree advancement or transfer) and loan default rates for all students and, specifically, for student veterans.

“Our ability to apply a clear, consistent standard to the majority of colleges gives veterans a comprehensive view of which schools are striving to provide the best opportunities and conditions for our nation’s student veterans,” said Daniel Nichols, a Navy Reserve veteran and chief product officer at Victory Media, “Military Friendly helps military families make the best use of the Post-9/11 GI Bill and other federal benefits while allowing us to further our goal of assisting them in finding success in their chosen career fields.”

More than 5,200 military-affiliated graduate and undergraduate students pursue their education at ASU. The university also conducts extensive research for the Department of Defense and has established multiple defense-related centers that explore global security challenges and potential solutions.

To learn more about the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, visit For more information about ASU’s military and veteran initiatives, go to

ASU, Liberia partnership to strengthen educational ties

November 9, 2016

Arizona State University President Michael Crow has penned a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between ASU and the Liberian government, led by Vice President Joseph Boakai during a visit from the Liberian delegation in Tempe this October.

The MOU aims to strengthen educational and political ties between ASU and the African nation, which has dealt with major blows to its infrastructure and educational systems due to a 14-year civil war and the Ebola outbreak of 2014. two people signing papers Liberia Vice President Joseph Boakai signs a memorandum of understanding with ASU President Michael Crow on Oct. 18, with Senior Vice President Christine Wilkinson looking on, signaling their intent to share expertise between the University of Liberia and Arizona State University. The Liberian vice president stopped at the university as part of his four-day tour of the state to promote cooperative business and educational ventures. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

“Liberia is reaching to partner with countries to draw resources and industries together,” Boakai said. 

MOUs were also signed between the University of Arizona, Northern Arizona University, the Maricopa and Pima Community College Systems, the Tempe Union School District and several other Arizona school districts.

Liberian native and ASU alumnus Robert Sherman helped organize the historic trip. Sherman earned three degrees from ASU’s Thunderbird School and W. P. Carey School of Business and has served as Liberia’s assistant minister of financial banking.

“What this MOU will do for us is assess our education system, some of the structural deficits,” said Sherman, who also taught at the Thunderbird School for 10 years and currently heads the Liberian Association of Arizona. “It will allow us to find solutions at ASU.”

The MOU will also allow Liberian and ASU students to attend college in both countries, as well as enable the exchange of faculty members who have an interest in global development.

Sherman said it’s possible for other African nations to follow ASU and Liberia’s lead.

“There are things to come that we can’t even think of now,” Sherman said. “But once this relationship is formed, people begin to work together, then we can begin to say ‘What can we do now, 10 years from now?’ It really lays the foundation for a tremendous amount of cooperation.”

Reporter, ASU Now

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ASU organizes more than 20 Salute to Service events across Valley campuses.
One-week Salute to Service celebration coincides with Veterans Day.
November 4, 2016

Annual tradition honoring military members kicks off across university campuses; public is invited to service-focused events

Arizona State University will honor America’s men and women in uniform, past and present, and their families during the annual Salute to Service celebration held across the university's campuses Monday through Veterans Day.

Organized by ASU’s Alumni Association and the Pat Tillman Veterans Center, Salute to Service is a yearly university tradition to pay homage to the nation’s veterans through special recognition and service-themed events.

ASU President Michael Crow in a Salute to Service video message to the university community thanked all who have served and underscored the impact of military service.

“This is our time when we step back from our day-to-day life here at the university, and we recognize all of those who have sacrificed and served our country so that we might be here,” Crow said. “So that we might be free to advance our ideas, free to advance our thinking, free to work on whatever problem or project that we want to work on, free to do whatever we’d like to do.”


ASU students, faculty and staff have organized more than 20 events across all Valley campuses, ranging from letter-writing projects to panel discussions with senior military leaders to Sun Devil Athletics events where veterans and military families will be recognized.    

“The energy is crazy on Salute to Service,” said ASU student Oksanna Scheidt, who grew up in a Navy family, works part time in the Pat Tillman Veterans Center and has attended previous Salute to Service activities including the ASU vs. Oregon football game in 2015. “I helped unfurl the flag last year, and it was so much fun. They provide those opportunities not just for the military personnel but the family members as well. It’s a really nice bonding experience for everybody.”    

The event is scheduled to coincide with Veterans Day, and there will be no shortage of events for the public.

“I think we have a good reflection of programming on each of our different campuses,” said Steve Borden, Pat Tillman veterans director and former Navy captain. “Different schools and colleges have come up with different ways of not only thanking veterans on those respective campuses and welcoming them, but also in ways of recognizing some of the research and other aspects of interaction between the institution, our military branches and the Department of Defense.

sign advertising ASU's Salute to Service week

Fulton Center on the Tempe campus proclaims Salute to Service week.

“It speaks to trying to connect veterans with the heart of ASU, and to use the Pat Tillman Veterans Center as a way of doing that. Our veterans have volunteered to serve their country, and they’ve been successful. We believe they can come here to ASU and succeed as well.”

“Bound by service, driven by innovation” is this year’s Salute to Service theme — one that resonates strongly with the ASU office responsible for the success of all military-affiliated students using Department of Veterans Affairs education benefits.    

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center constantly pursues innovative approaches to better assist the more than 5,200 military-affiliated students at ASU, and it’s not always about technology.

“Innovation is about taking a different approach to doing things,” said Borden. “It’s how we address each individual veteran with their needs and trying to figure out what’s going to help them be successful. That’s where innovation comes in — taking an individual approach to meeting veterans where they are and helping them map out success, whatever that means for them.”

University veteran centers can often just be places for veterans to congregate and where a small staff of people process the VA benefits for students. But ASU’s approach goes beyond the basics. It’s holistic, said Michelle Loposky, Pat Tillman Veterans Center military advocate and Army veteran.

“We want people to know our veterans aren’t just a number; the center is not just transactional,” Loposky said. “Veterans are individuals. And there are multi-layers of who they are, and we want to tap into all of that so they can be successful at school and in life.”

Among the center’s most recent initiatives are the implementation of student veteran outreach teams that stay connected with first-year students, answering their questions and guiding them as they transition from military to college life. This year the center also incited the creation of a women’s veterans club as a way to expand student interests beyond the classroom and provide a mechanism for them to engage with other university groups and initiatives, Loposky said.

On the more technological side of innovation, the center is working to further automate the process by which veterans sign up for classes, Borden said. Testing of the new initiatives is slated for next spring with possible implementation of new and more efficient procedures as early as next summer.

Through a deliberate path to enable military student success and embracing defense-related research, ASU has earned a reputation as one of the best schools for veterans. Subsequently, military student enrollment has increased by 15 percent each year for the past three years.

“I do see a continued increase for a reason,” Borden said. “ASU has fantastic programs, both on campus and online. I think it’s going to allow us to continue to grow at some pretty incredible rates.”

For more information about Salute to Service, visit the website here.


Steve Borden, Arizona State University Pat Tillman Veterans Center director, has been selected to be the grand marshal for the East Valley Veterans Day Parade in the city of Mesa at 11 a.m. Friday, Nov. 11.

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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Veteran-friendly ASU scores among top schools for active-duty students

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is the heart of ASU’s military student efforts.
November 1, 2016

Military Times, publication for service members and families, releases annual rankings; recognizes Pat Tillman Veterans Center programs

Arizona State University has forged a reputation as one of the nation’s most military-friendly schools thanks to programs aimed primarily at veterans who have left the service.

And this year, ASU has scored a spot among the top 100 four-year schools for active-duty students, as well.

The Military Times, a publication for active-duty military members and their families, released its annual rankings today.

The “Best for Vets” colleges survey asks colleges and universities to document services, special rules, accommodations and financial incentives offered to students with military ties; and to describe many aspects of veteran culture on a campus.

The 500 institutions which participated were evaluated in several categories, with university culture and academic outcomes bearing the most weight.

The Pat Tillman Veterans Center is the heart of ASU’s military student efforts, and director Steven Borden wasn’t surprised by the ranking.

“We’ve had a fair numbers of veterans feel the center has made a huge difference in preparing them for college and helping them connect with other veterans,” Borden said, noting that most of the 5,200 service members attending ASU are veterans, not active duty.

The 5-year-old center employs two full-time military advocates who help engage student veterans in campus life and pass hurdles during their studies. About 60 student veterans are employed at the center, which has locations at all five ASU campuses.

“We are continuing to take a concerted approach to outreach to our students to get them engaged on campus,” Borden said. “Engagement on campus is a huge part of student veteran success.”

ASU offers a veteran-specific introductory course: Student Success for Veterans. Designed for the veteran student, the course provides an outstanding opportunity to get to know other veterans and to learn about various resources available from Arizona State University, the state of Arizona and the Department of Veteran Affairs. The objective is to forge positive relationships among a small network of veterans for academic success, university integration, resource management and transitional support.

Joining clubs and activities, working in internships or undergraduate research opportunities, or studying abroad all help round out resumes and prepare student veterans for life after graduation.  

“Many of them are not aware of the importance of engaging on campus,” Borden said. “A lot of them don’t necessarily think about all of the things they can do to be engaged on campus.”

Tuition at ASU is offered at in-state rates to all veterans who have been honorably discharged from all branches, including the National Guard and Reserves. The university has been named a "Military Friendly School" by G.I. Jobs magazine for seven years in a row in 2015.

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Science. Communication. ASU celebrates 20 years of bridging gap

ASU Center for Biology and Society program celebrates 20 years.
October 26, 2016

Science is complex. Communication is making the complex simple. The Center for Biology and Society in the School of Life Sciences has them both covered.

The scientist was deep into his lecture. He spoke quickly, using a stream of long words. He disparaged people he didn't agree with. He had an imposing beard.

“This leads to two central processes of extended evolution,” he said, before continuing with a phrase that included the words “… spatial temporal sequence of regulatory states …”

That’s science. Interpreting such phrases in a way that welcomes people into the world of science is communication. And the Center for Biology and Society program in the School of Life Sciences at Arizona State University is celebrating 20 years of bridging those two disciplines.

Author Lydia Pyne earned a doctorate from the center in 2008.

“That’s a rough phrase,” said Pyne, whose latest book, "Seven Skeletons: The Evolution of the World's Most Famous Human Fossils," takes a look at finds such as Lucy, Piltdown Man, the Taung child, and the Indonesian “hobbits” of Flores Island, examining them from discovery to museum display to their legacies in pop culture. 

She weaves in the Beatles, Charles Darwin, Arthur Conan Doyle, Stanley Kubrick, Richard Leakey, J.R.R. Tolkien and Ayn Rand, along with journeys to archives, caves, and a fascinating hominid vault at a South African university.

Her degree from the center allows her to bridge a lot of worlds.

“I look at the wide range of topics I work with, and I realize a program like Biology and Society created an environment about students to be excited about a lot of subjects,” Pyne said. “It was almost like you were bilingual in history and science, and I appreciated the duality in the program.”

Center founder Jane MaienscheinMaienschein is also an ASU University Professor, Regents’ Professor, President’s Professor and Parents Association Professor. said a degree from the center plants a foot in the science communication world.

“When students come to us and say, ‘What I can do with this degree?,’ I say ‘Everything,’” Maienschein said. “You can find a niche, if you look and have the confidence. The goal is to help everyone find a niche.”

It’s not a watered-down biology degree. It’s more than biology. “Not everyone can do that,” she said. “There are relatively few people in the country who are getting that education.”

Cornell has a program with some parallels, but ASU is the only university that confers a degree combining the two disciplines.

“Most of the programs are the society side or the science side, but not putting them together in a formal way,” Maienschein said. “I don’t know of anywhere that quite does all that.”

Scanning contemporary non-fiction shelves (bookshelves are another topic Pyne has written about), it’s easy to see the trend the center foreshadowed. Books about historical events such as "In the Heart of the Sea," "The Perfect Storm," and "The Lost City of Z" rely on science as much as archives and libraries. Having a physiologist explain what extreme thirst or drowning does to the human body puts a whole new perspective on events.

The interdisciplinary trend in non-fiction “is wonderful,” Pyne said. “Having that kind of perspective and being really interested in finding a lot of perspectives is going to be helpful for creating a successful book.”

Pyne had a background in paleoanthropology and archaeology, with bachelor’s degrees in anthropology and history.

“I realized by the time I got to grad school I realized the questions I was interested in exploring were better suited to a program like Biology and Society,” she said. It was a perfect fit for what she eventually delved into: “an emphasis on a familiarity with the language of science and the practice of science that could complement historical enquiry.”

As Maienschein pointed out, grads can find a lot of niches. Some have headed into academia. One is head of education and research at a Toronto blindness nonprofit. Others have gone into health and policy work.

The catalyst behind the center were public discussions about biology 20 years ago, when headlines about stem cell research, the human genome project, and Dolly the cloned sheep were common and discussions about climate change were just starting to reach the public.

“A lot of students didn’t want to just go into the lab and not think about the social implications,” Maienschein said. “’Should I do a double major?’ It all started with students saying they wanted something different, and inventing a new major. … We started with a bunch of undergrads who wanted to do something that wasn’t just biology. I’m pleased to think back that we did manage to bring together biology and society in some way and keep undergrads at the center of that effort. … It’s provided a place for people to feel comfortable and interested.”

To celebrate the program’s 20th anniversary, the center is sponsoring a conversation series running through the academic year. For information:


Director Jane Maienschein speaks during the Center for Biology and Society's conversation series focusing on "How Does Something Genuinely New Emerge in Evolution and History," at the School of Life Sciences on the Tempe campus Monday, Oct. 25. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


Children’s literature activist to speak at ASU indigenous lecture

October 12, 2016

For Debbie Reese, cutting classes in high school was an opportunity to indulge her passions. Rather than finding trouble, however, she used that time to volunteer at Head Start, a program dedicated to helping impoverished youth.

The Illinois-based educator has always been drawn to helping others, especially kids, which was inspired by her upbringing. Debbie Reese / Courtesy photo “What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” says scholar and critic Debbie Reese about her work dispelling literary stereotypes of Indigenous people. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” Reese will give an ASU-sponsored lecture on Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. Download Full Image

“I remember that as a child growing up at Nambé Pueblo, our elders taught us that the things we do are not for us as individuals, but for our community.”

Reese has incorporated those values into her life’s work as a scholar and activist. She is the publisher of the blog American Indians in Children’s Literature (AICL), which provides critical perspectives and analysis of Indigenous peoples in children’s and young adult books, school curricula, popular culture and society.

“What I'm doing isn't for me and my well-being,” she said. “It is for the children, Native and not, who will read those books.” 

Reese will speak about the work of dispelling misconceptions in her presentation “Some Truths, but Lots of Lies: Indigenous Peoples in Children’s Literature” in the fall 2016 Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community. The ASU-sponsored lecture will take at 7 p.m. Oct. 20 at the Heard Museum in Phoenix. An on-campus, meet-and-greet reception with Reese will take place at the Labriola Center in Hayden Library also that day at 10:30 a.m.

In public and for the public

Since its beginning in 2006, AICL has been a heavy influence on authors and readers alike — sometimes even prompting authors to make revisions to their work.

“A good example is Ashley Hope Perez's ‘Out of Darkness,’” Reese said. “It isn't about Native people, but it did have a character saying he was the ‘low man on the totem pole.’ That is one of those common phrases people use that embodies lack of knowledge of the Native peoples who create and use totem poles. I wrote to her, and she edited that passage out of her book. It does not appear in the second printing.”

Reese shares that this immediate impact is precisely the reason she does public-facing work.

“I launched my blog with the goal of making my research accessible to anyone who had access to the Internet,” she said. “Most scholars publish in journals and books that teachers, parents, and librarians never see or can't afford.”

It wasn’t until pursuing her doctorate at the University of Illinois that Reese became aware of the extent of the misrepresentation of Native peoples. To her amazement, she found an overarching ignorance of American indigenous culture outside of indigenous communities, even at the university level.

Reese remarks that her acknowledgment of her Nambé heritage at school, “led to people asking or inviting me to dance at their gatherings. I was surprised by that and realized how deeply they were miseducated by the university's stereotypical Indian mascot, ‘Chief Illiniwek.’

Starting at the beginning

When she also struggled to find books with accurate portrayals of Native culture to read to her own young daughter, Reese decided to change her focus of study from family literacy to depictions of Native peoples in children’s texts. Reese had come to understand that she could help address the rampant misconceptions with young children, long before they reached university.

“I started looking critically and found images like that of the mascot in much-loved books: dearly-loved characters, like Clifford the Big Red Dog, [who] wears a headdress in one of Norman Bridwell's books,” Reese said. “My research found that children were far more likely to see that sort of thing in their books than stories and images that accurately portray us.”

With a refocused passion, Reese became a vocal leader while at the University of Illinois; she helped establish the Native American House and an American Indian studies program at the university.

Reese has amassed a plethora of awards and achievements. She regularly travels around the country to speak publicly about Native American culture and representation. As a touchstone, she points to a widely cited concept discussed by Rudine Sims Bishop in the 1990s — that books can function as “mirrors, windows and sliding glass doors,” validating and reflecting children’s lived experiences. Reese’s motivation is to create more opportunities for accurate reflections of, and for, American Indians.

“We need those mirrors for Native children,” Reese said, “and we need more people in our communities and university settings to speak up about those distorted mirrors.”


The Simon Ortiz and Labriola Center Lecture on Indigenous Land, Culture, and Community at Arizona State University addresses topics and issues across disciplines in the arts, humanities, sciences, and politics. Underscoring Indigenous American experiences and perspectives, this series seeks to create and celebrate knowledge that evolves from an inclusive Indigenous worldview and that is applicable to all walks of life. Simon Ortiz, a poet of Acoma Pueblo heritage and the series namesake and organizer, is a Regents’ Professor of English and American Indian studies at ASU.

ASU sponsors include the American Indian Policy Institute; American Indian Studies Program; Department of English; School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies (all units in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences); the Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law; Labriola National American Indian Data Center and ASU Libraries; School of Art in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts; and Women and Gender Studies in the School of Social Transformation. The Heard Museum is a community partner.

More information about the Indigenous Lecture Series is available on its website.


Written by Josh Morris

Kristen LaRue

coordinator senior, Department of English


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October 10, 2016

A new way to fund highly efficient buildings provides the resources for two of ASU's newest buildings

As the new Student Pavilion rises on ASU’s Tempe campus, much is being touted about its green qualities. “Net zero energy,” “zero waste’” and “90 percent project diversion,” proclaim fabric posters on the fence surrounding the construction site. 

The building is designed to achieve a LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design) Platinum ranking, the highest ranking of efficiency by the U.S. Green Building Council. It also will be ASU’s first “net zero energy building,” meaning it will use no more energy than can be produced on site annually. 

But there is another side to the greening of new building construction at ASU.

The bonds used to fund the construction of the Student Pavilion and the Biodesign C building are “green bonds.” These bonds are a relatively new finance instrument that allows investors to invest directly in projects identified as promoting environmental sustainability on ASU’s campuses, said Joanne Wamsley, vice president of finance and deputy treasurer.  

This is the second time green bonds have been used to fund ASU building construction. The first, in 2015, provided the funding for the Beus Center for Law and Society, the new building on the downtown campus that houses the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law and other organizations. 

Wamsley said ASU’s green bonds have enjoyed strong investor interest from insurance companies, investment companies and individual investors.  

“These bonds call attention to our on campus sustainability efforts,” Wamsley explained. “They show that sustainability is a core value of the university.”

For the Student Pavilion, to be a net zero energy building means it will showcase the university’s goals for carbon neutrality and sustainable systems, Wamsley said. 

The Student Pavilion will be a 74,650-square-foot student-centric facility. On the first floor of the building will be event space for up to 1,200 people, which can be reconfigured into three smaller spaces. The second floor will include space for student government and student organizations, and the third floor will include classrooms and house other academic functions.

construction on ASU building

The new 74,650-square-foot Student Pavilion, rising on the Tempe campus just northeast of the Memorial Union, will provide new event space, office space for student government and student organizations, and classrooms. The goal for the structure is to be a net zero energy building and be certified LEED Platinum. Construction began in March and is expected to be completed next August. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


Green features of the building include:

  • Water efficiency achieved through water-efficient landscaping, bioswales — landscaping features used to collect and filter stormwater — for landscape irrigation and purple pipe installation for future interior reclaimed-water use.
  • Energy and atmosphere strategies including implementation of full rooftop photovoltaic solar cells, high-efficiency HVAC system, chilled beams and a high-performance building exterior.
  • Materials and resources, including use of recycled and regionally sourced materials and a 90-percent-plus construction waste diversion from landfills.
  • Indoor environmental quality will be achieved using low-emitting materials, LED energy-efficient lighting, interior day lighting and solar tubes to draw in natural daylight.

The Biodesign C building, which recently began excavation just east of the Biodesign complex, will be a multi-functional research building that will add about 188,000 square feet of space. It will include a mix of wet and dry lab space, lab casework and research support space. The five-story-plus-basement building will promote research “neighborhoods” that foster collaborative research and maximize opportunities to advance ASU research.

Green features of Biodesign C include:

  • Water efficiency achieved through design measures to reduce water usage of laboratory equipment, as well as the indirect water usage associated with building cooling.
  • Energy and atmosphere strategies like advanced HVAC and energy-recovery systems designed to optimize energy performance, chilled beams and a high-performance building exterior.
  • Indoor environmental quality will be achieved through use of low-emitting materials, high-performance laboratory fume hoods and energy-efficient lighting with daylight and occupancy controls.

The building is being designed to meet, at a minimum, LEED Silver certification.

In all, Wamsley said the recent green bond sale to fund these buildings provided about $160 million, making both buildings 100 percent funded through the green bond sale.

Associate Director , Media Relations & Strategic Communications