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ASU Police reach a 20-year milestone

November 27, 2017

Department continues streak of national accreditations

Getting the seal of approval from the nation’s pre-eminent accrediting body in the law enforcement field is not new to the Arizona State University Police Department, an achievement they have earned since 1997.

However, this year under the leadership of Chief of Police Michael Thompson the department earned the highest rating possible from the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, better known as CALEA.

“We passed our reaccreditation ‘with excellence’ which is the highest rating you can receive from CALEA,” Thompson said. “I am first and foremost grateful to all of the department members for the hard work they’ve put forth to make sure we have a great department and that we deliver services to the best of our ability.”

CALEA announced the results of this year’s evaluations during a reaccreditation hearing in Florida on Nov. 18. Other police agencies earning accreditation included the Chandler Police Department, Penn State, Vanderbilt University and the University of Vermont, among others.

The ASU Police Department is only one of 13 accredited agencies in Arizona, Thompson said.  The accreditation process is complicated and takes tremendous commitment by a department. Not all law enforcement agencies devote the time to go through this voluntary process, which inspects all significant aspects of a police department — policy and procedures, administration, operations, and support services.

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Accreditation benefits the ASU community in that it helps create a more professional police department engaged with the best trends and practices to serve the community. Accreditation is good for four years as long as law enforcement agencies submit yearly reports confirming continued compliance with the standards under which they were initially accredited.  

As part of the accreditation process, the ASU Police Department invited members of the university and local communities to provide feedback during a public information session in August. The session took place in Tempe but was also live-streamed to the Polytechnic, West and Downtown Phoenix campuses. There was also an option for community members to mail written comments about ASU police directly to CALEA.

To qualify for the CALEA Accreditation with Excellence Award, the ASU Police Department had to meet several requirements, including having a minimum of two previous consecutive CALEA accreditation awards and submitting all annual status reports. The police department also had to achieve a minimum of 95 percent compliance rate with all standards by the end of the assessment cycle.

In a letter sent Nov. 18, Richard W. Myers, CALEA chairman, and W. Craig Hartley Jr., CALEA executive director, congratulated the ASU Police Department: “On behalf of the Commissioners and staff of CALEA, we commend you and your agency for demonstrating a commitment to professional excellence in policy and practice. It is a privilege to award your agency CALEA Accreditation, which is accomplished through a highly regarded and broadly recognized body of professional standards. This award represents the culmination of self-evaluation, concluded by a review from independent assessors and CALEA’s Commissioners.”

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Founding director of ASU’s Biodesign Institute, Charles Arntzen, retires

Arntzen's creative science led to discovery of Ebola antidote

November 13, 2017

From his roots as a fair-haired Minnesota farm boy to climbing the ladder of success in big pharma, to blazing a translational academic research path into life-saving therapies, Charles Arntzen has led one extraordinary life in science. 

During the course of a prolific career, Arntzen and his collaborators have gained international recognition and helped burnish a special shine on ASU’s star with their dedicated efforts of using plants as biofactories for the production of life-saving vaccines and therapeutics.  Charlie Arntzen Portrait Charles Arntzen was honored by colleagues at his retirement celebration on Nov. 2. Download Full Image

For these achievements and his two decades of leadership at Arizona State University, Arntzen was honored by colleagues with a retirement celebration at the Biodesign Institute on Nov. 2.

“It’s been a creative wonderland within the Biodesign Institute that has allowed us to chase ideas that maybe initially, sounded a little crazy, but bring together the parts to make them a reality,” said Arntzen, who, among his many ASU titles, served as founding director of the Biodesign Institute, co-director of the Biodesign Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology, the ASU Florence Ely Nelson Presidential Endowed Chair and a Regents’ Professor in the School of Life Sciences within the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Ebola epidemic

One of those crazy ideas that turned into a career-crowning achievement for Arntzen was an academic, federal and industry collaboration that helped create an experimental drug called ZMapp that was used to treat U.S. aid workers infected with Ebola during the 2014 epidemic in West Africa.

“What does happen in biology, rarely but wonderfully when it happens, is the application of some aspect of research in a way that changes someone's life,” Arntzen said. “On Aug. 4, in 2014, that happened to me. And to be able to draw a straight line from a hypothesis to such a dramatic outcome is rare for a biological scientist like me. I'm still amazed but delighted.”

During the height of the Ebola outbreak, two American missionaries became infected. Physician Kent Brantly and health-care worker Nancy Writebol, both near death and desperate for help, became the first people to receive ZMapp, knowing full well that it had never been tested in humans before.

Kent Brantly

“In 2014, as I was dying from Ebola virus disease, I agreed to take an experimental drug called ZMapp,” Brantly said.  “It seemed like a last resort in my fight against the infection.”

Within 24 hours after taking ZMapp, Brantly went from death’s door to walking again, and both Writebol and Brantly fully recovered.

“Since my recovery, I've had the chance to learn the miraculous history of this drug's development,” Brantly said.

“I'm grateful for the role the Biodesign Institute at ASU has played in the discovery process and in forging ties to industry collaborators who translated new ideas into the product that I received. And upon the occasion of his retirement,” Brantly said, “I offer my sincerest thanks to Charles Arntzen for his pioneering role in establishing plant-made manufacturing and especially for ZMapp. The importance of lifesaving medications cannot be overstated, a lesson I have learned firsthand!”

For his leadership role in developing ZMapp, Arntzen was nationally recognized in 2015 as the No. 1 honoree with Fast Company’s annual “100 Most Creative People in Business.” Closer to home, Arntzen received the 2014 Arizona Bioscience Researcher of the Year award, given annually to the researcher who has made the most significant contributions to Arizona bioscience advancement.

“Charlie Arntzen has been one of the most important faculty members in the history of this university. He’s a person who can think, connect, drive, create and link ... do all of that in the spirit of a scientist in either a corporate or university setting.”

— ASU President Michael Crow

A fertile mind

Little was known of ZMapp at the time of the epidemic, but since then, the world has learned how it originally sprung from the minds of creative scientists like Arntzen and his collaborators more than a decade ago at ASU’s Biodesign Institute.

“Charlie Arntzen has been one of the most important faculty members in the history of this university,” said ASU President Michael Crow. “He’s a person who can think, connect, drive, create and link … do all of that in the spirit of a scientist in either a corporate or university setting.

“Most importantly, one thing I know from working with him, is that nothing is impossible. Anything that you can imagine ... let’s see if we can take viruses that attack animals, embed these viruses genetically into plants, have these animals, humans or others ingest these plants and then be vaccinated from these viruses. Who thought that up? Someone in a science fiction story? No. Arntzen. He thought it up.”

ZMapp is a serum made in a plant with a notorious reputation as a killer, tobacco. The pathway from discovery to treatment began with an idea Arntzen had to produce low-cost vaccines in plants to fight devastating infectious diseases in the developing world.

On a trip to Thailand, Arntzen witnessed a mother soothing a hungry infant by placing a mashed banana on the baby’s lips. He wondered if plants could be a brand-new route for his research, by developing orally delivered or “edible vaccines” from fruits like bananas.

But after spending a decade formulating vaccines in bananas, tomatoes and even potatoes, his team had to veer from that initial idea. It simply took too long to grow the plants (up to three years for bananas) and it was too tough a hurdle to control the dosage from a fruit to pass FDA guidelines.

Now, they focus on making purified plant extracts from quick-growing, leafy tobacco plants (which have a very high yield) containing the vaccine or therapeutic of interest (from plants that are only a few weeks old).

This is how ZMapp is currently made.

The best defense

After 9/11 and the anthrax attack on the U.S. Senate, the government invested heavily in biodefense, including $3.7 million to Arntzen and a small San Diego-based startup called Mapp Biopharmaceutical, led by Larry Zeitlin and Kevin Whaley.

The goal was to develop defenses against pathogens, including Ebola, that could be used as potential biological threats.

“I think the real gain is from all of the money that was invested early on — our work dates back to 2002 — and it takes a long time to build up that core competency that is necessary for drug development,” Arntzen said. “This has happened for both vaccines and therapeutics in academia and companies. We should give credit to funding agencies like DARPA and NIH for giving us the tools that we need.”

With a dream team of collaborators, they modified the tobacco plants to produce a protective cocktail made of three monoclonal antibodies. In work published in 2014, this therapeutic cocktail proved to be 100 percent effective in protecting animals against Ebola, even five days after onset of infection.

“We’ve been teaming together manufacturing innovation, tobacco engineering innovation, our virus work and antibody discoveries,” Arntzen said. “I’m guessing, just in the development of ZMapp, there were about 100 different people with many different skills who came together.”

ZMapp is the leading therapeutic to fight Ebola, but because it was experimental, there were only enough doses to save a few during the 2014 outbreak. In response, the government has awarded a multimillion-dollar contract to Mapp for the massive scale-up desperately needed to stockpile enough of the drug and safeguard against another possible outbreak.

Now, commercial partner Kentucky BioProcessing has produced enough ZMapp for testing in future clinical trials to help optimize the study of how ZMapp works to fight Ebola.  


The godfather of pharming

His research as a scientist at the ASU Biodesign Institute has put Arizona on the map in new ways, as people all over the world are fascinated by the idea that it is possible to produce modern protein drugs inside a plant.

The discovery that tobacco plants could be medicine-machines earned Charlie the title of the “godfather of pharming.” In other words, he was “farming plants in a way that would turn them into medicines — also known as “farmaceuticals.”

These have included plant-based anti-cancer agents, therapeutic agents to protect populations from bioterror threats, proteins to combat rabies, plant-derived vaccines against Hepatitis C, noroviruses and many infectious diseases.

Arntzen's longstanding ASU research team, which includes Tsafrir Mor, Hugh Mason, Qiang “Shawn” Chen and many others, has been a pioneer in producing pharmacologically active products in transgenic plants, overcoming health and agricultural constraints in the developing world as well as the use of plant biotechnology for enhancement of food quality and value.

“Most scientists only plow in one plot,” Mor said. “So few transcend the disciplines as Charlie Arntzen did. Thank you for allowing me to go bananas with you, and being part of this exciting time.”

Together, they will carry on Arntzen’s quest to pursue plant-based vaccines and therapeutics to combat West Nile virus, dengue fever, nerve agents and even cancer.

ASU leadership

Arntzen was recruited to ASU from Cornell, where he served as president and CEO of the Boyce Thompson Institute for Plant Research.

“Charlie joined us in August of 2000, and little did we know that it was such an inflection point for this university,” said Lattie Coor, ASU president from 1990–2002. “Everything I saw when I got here was that this university was already better than it knew it was, but this message hadn’t reached the rest of the world. Once we determined where our strengths were, we began looking actively on how we could build out a better, stronger research platform for the university.

“Charlie was the very first member of the National Academy to join as an ASU faculty. He paved the way for ASU in that kind of pioneering fashion that he showed.”

Arntzen was elected to the prestigious U.S. National Academy of Sciences in 1983. He is known throughout the scientific community for his basic research contributions to plant structure and function and increasing the efficiency of plant photosynthesis for agricultural improvements.

“My research career evolved over 40 years, but always focused on basic research in plant molecular biology and protein engineering, with a goal of enhancing food quality and value,” Arntzen said.

In the late 1980s, he left academia to work as director of plant science and microbiology in DuPont's agricultural products division, where he gained valuable expertise in bringing crop biotechnology to the market, with a focus on herbicide and insect resistance to help boost crop yields.

Once at ASU, he and Coor put together plans to bundle a new source of state funding, the voter-approved Proposition 301 sales tax, into supporting the growth of ASU research in a new interdisciplinary concept of nature-inspired research called the Biodesign Institute.

Their guiding principles were to move away from individual investigators and use multidisciplinary teams to tackle the world’s biggest challenges, with much closer ties to industry to translate groundbreaking discoveries to benefit Arizonans and beyond.

“We wanted to put these components into practice, that as a team, we could never do as individual researchers,” Arntzen said.

Arntzen served as the founding director of the Biodesign Institute (originally called AzBio) until May 2003, and as co-director of Biodesign’s Center for Infectious Diseases and Vaccinology until 2007.

Arntzen was also the director of two NIH-funded cooperative research centers at ASU, working on the development of hepatitis C vaccines and vaccines and microbicides to prevent sexually transmitted infections.

Arntzen’s early, big science team pursuits set the tone for the massive expansion of ASU research, and for the more than 400 creative scientists and students now at the Biodesign Institute who continue to produce groundbreaking discoveries.

These include: linking gut microbial composition to autism, identifying diseases like cancer at their earliest stages, generating renewable energy and making polluted water and soil clean, all with the goal of advancing global health, energy and the environment. 

Most recently, the Biodesign Institute capped another fiscal year with almost $40 million in annual research expenditures, and approaching nearly $700 million in research funding since the bright early days of Biodesign under Arntzen’s leadership.

Since its inception, Biodesign Institute scientists have disclosed nearly 700 inventions, resulting in 97 patents, 53 licensing agreements and 22 spin-out ventures. In its first full decade of operations, Biodesign has had a $1.5 billion impact on the regional economy and supported more than 3,000 jobs. Researchers at the institute currently are studying more than 100 diseases, including cancer, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, immune disorders and infectious diseases.

With their game-changing approach to breaking traditional boundaries between biology, chemistry, physics, computing, engineering and mathematics, Biodesign scientists have launched such new technologies as the world’s first mobile metabolism tracker, an effective treatment for Ebola, a $1 diagnostic for Zika, systems for turning algae into clean energy and a diagnostic platform that can detect some 90 diseases with a single drop of blood.

“Thank you for all that you have done for ASU,” Crow said. “For getting Biodesign off the ground, and most importantly for helping us understand that human beings, when they connect to nature and they understand nature, can really do anything.”

National leadership

Throughout his career, Arntzen has also served the nation through science societies and policy.

Arntzen provided expertise and national service from 2001–2008 on the President’s Council of Advisers on Science and Technology (PCAST). This policy panel met with former President George W. Bush and members of his administration to provide technical summaries and proposals for advancing the U.S. research capacity and economic growth. As part of PCAST, Arntzen made significant contributions to multiple reports, including biodefense. These reports were the basis of many budget proposals, including the successful establishment of the federal Project Bioshield and expanded university research funding.

Arntzen was selected by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) to receive the inaugural fellow of ASPB Award and the Botanical Society of America Centennial Award in 2007. The 2007 fellow of ASPB Award was granted for: “recognition of distinguished and long-term contributions to plant biology and service to the Society by current members in areas that include research, education, mentoring, outreach and professional and public service.”

He is a fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) and also of the American Society of Plant Biologists, and a member of the National Academy of Inventors. He received the Award for Superior Service from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for international project leadership in India 1980, and the American Society of Plant Biology Leadership in Science Public Service Award in 2004.

Forging ahead

An avid golfer, nature photographer and global traveler, Arntzen will now have ample opportunity to take advantage of Arizona’s year-round sunshine and enjoying life with his wife, Kathy, his son's family and especially his grandchildren.

Yet he’ll still keep an advisory role, hoping to help ASU’s plant experts and his academic family with bringing more vaccines and therapeutics to the market.

“I have been fortunate to work with a wonderful team of people at ASU, and with companies with extraordinary and complementary skills at Mapp, ICON and KBP,” Arntzen said. “I am not yet ready to quit just yet, as I believe that a plant-made norovirus vaccine will only come if we can find a formulation that will work, and we still have ongoing research with that goal in mind.”

Due to the Ebola epidemic of 2014 — and continued concern about the spread of newly emerging dangerous viruses — the number of scientists and pharmaceutical companies interested in finding cost-effective new vaccines and drugs is expanding. 

Arntzen will cheer on the continued developments in the use of plants as “medicine machines” and trying to save many more lives, particularly in developing world.

“In my mind, ZMapp has been a success both as a medicine and to show that ‘pharming’ works,” Arntzen said.

“I’m happy to retire, but will certainly keep watching what you do.”

Joe Caspermeyer

Managing editor, Biodesign Institute


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Scenes from ASU Homecoming 2017

Check out the sights and sounds of this year's #ASUHomecoming.
October 29, 2017

The Arizona State University community came out in droves to celebrate spirit and tradition at ASU Homecoming this past weekend. From the 100-year celebration of the Lantern Walk to the Homecoming Parade and Block Party, there was fun for Sun Devils of all ages.

Take a look in our gallery and video below.

Video by Krisanna Mowen/ASU


Top photo: ASU's Thunderbird School of Global Management float travels under the University Drive bridge at the annual Homecoming Parade on the Tempe campus, on Oct. 28. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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The velocity of change

October 26, 2017

Fifteen years ago, Michael M. Crow brought his idea of the New American University — an agile and radical reimagining of higher education — to ASU. Neither naysayers nor the Great Recession could derail his vision, and he has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

In the first years after arriving at Arizona State University in 2002, Michael Crow began handing out a short handbook to managers called “High-Velocity Culture Change.” The 44-page book is filled with pithy sayings intended to jolt your thinking and motivate action: “You’ll have trouble creating a new culture if you insist on doing it in ways that are consistent with the old one.”  

More than a decade later, Crow is still giving this slim volume to managers, still seeking to spur disruption like he did when he first arrived. Scanning its pages, he reads out loud another call to arms: “It’s time for ‘tough love.’ Caring harder. Caring enough to take the company through the tough, unpopular struggle of culture change so it can survive.”

Crow pauses, reflects on how this resonates to him.

“I am willing to take any amount of abuse. Any amount,” he says. He’s not kidding. “It’s not about me. I’m not here for me. Literally, I’m not. I am here to deliver an organizational culture and a set of services to people who can get them in no other way. I’m responsible to them. I’m an expendable commodity.”

This is verbatim Michael Crow. Confident. Straight up. Makes you think. Built for action. In the same moment that he tells you he cares about improving lives, giving people a chance to better themselves, he lets you know that he’s up for a good fight. It’s this bracing style that makes an impression instantly.

“He speaks his mind,” says Sybil Francis, his wife and executive director of the Center for the Future of Arizona. “I admire that about him. He is who he is. It’s almost like he’s constitutionally unable to do anything differently.”

For those who don’t know him, they sometimes need a double take to realize he really is after something that’s not about him — that he is willing to spend nearly every waking hour (he’s fabled for sleeping just four hours a night) doing what he can to move the university forward. He doesn’t have much patience for platitudes that are not based in reality or won’t lead to clear, productive outcomes.

As he moves into his 16th year as president, he remains a man on a mission. And nothing — not reaching 100,000 students faster than expected, not dramatically improving graduation and retention rates, not topping the list as the nation’s most innovative school, not even frequent calls from recruiters or the public flattery of being called a potential contender as Harvard’s next president — is likely to shift his focus from accelerating ASU’s impact and producing an educational environment that allows the widest possible population to reach its potential.

An economic blow

Crow’s ambitious vision has been severely tested. Rewind to 2008 and 2009, when the Great Recession coursed through the United States like an unrelenting tsunami. There was serious reason to doubt that a New American University ambitiously pursuing growth and access, excellence and societal impact would endure.  

Bear Sterns collapsed; Lehman Brothers and General Motors filed for bankruptcy. The housing market imploded, and home foreclosures skyrocketed. The unemployment rate doubled, and the Dow Jones suffered an 18 percent drop in a single week, its worst ever. And in Arizona, one of the states hardest hit by the housing crisis, the budget deficit climbed to $1.5 billion in 2010 and threatened to reach $3.4 billion in 2011.

In quick succession, ASU saw its state funding plummet, down $87.5 million in fiscal year 2009, down an additional $22.6 million in fiscal 2010 and then a $95.4 million hit the following year. All told, it was a brutal blow, by percentage the deepest cuts to higher education in the nation. Already, by March 2009, the university eliminated more than 500 jobs, including deans and department chairmen and chairwomen; shut down 48 academic units; and instituted unpaid furlough days for some 12,000 employees.

Many were asking what would become of ASU’s plans, including the dramatic expansion of transdisciplinary research and the commitment to a socioeconomically diverse student body. The New York Times pointedly questioned whether Crow would have to rein in his ambitions. Plenty of faculty members wondered whether they and their departments would survive. The State Press, ASU’s student paper, was particularly blunt in its assessment: “The New American University has died; welcome to the Neutered American University.”

Some were also wondering whether Michael Crow would stick around. But the naysayers sorely misjudged the man at the helm.

Here’s how he recalls his mindset at the time: “The country is in deep trouble. I don’t know exactly what all of the casualties are, but this is the greatest financial disruption since the Depression — and captains that leave ships at these moments should be executed.” With typical bravado, he told Tamar Lewin of The New York Times, “I don’t retreat very easily.”

When others were inclined to manage decline, make across-the-board cuts and simply hold on, Crow responded by accelerating the strategic vision. He had his eye on the prize: “The last thing you want to do in an economic recession is reduce your capacity to produce more highly trained individuals,” he says.

That included accelerating plans for the Downtown Phoenix campus, designing a new set of online initiatives, seeking new partners and taking a hard look at which programs and schools should survive.

“We needed to take advantage of the chaos around us,” he says.

Crow doesn’t minimize the hardship of those years, the economic and social dislocation that it caused, the pain for individuals and families. But he also recalls those days with great pride and how they demonstrated that the cultural change was in full swing. By law, those on unpaid furlough are not expected or obliged to work. Yet many ASU people chose to work without pay.

“It was amazing,” Crow says. “People just stepped up. It was really a proud moment for me on behalf of the institution.” And more, “what that meant was our culture had shifted, and had shifted to the point where we were deeply committed to our mission. People said, ‘Maybe this can work. Maybe we can come out of this even stronger.’ We did.”

‘This guy sounds different’

In fall 2001, Don Ulrich flew to New York City to meet Michael Crow. Ulrich, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and chairman of the search committee to find a new ASU president, had already interviewed five sitting university presidents and three provosts. He was not happy. “You’re giving me the same old, same old,” he told the headhunters. The way he saw it, “they were maintenance people. They weren’t going to change anything. That was not what this place needed.”

Then, ASU President Lattie Coor told Ulrich he had a guy he should meet, a guy at Columbia University who was neither a president nor a provost.

Ulrich met Crow at 8 a.m. over breakfast at the Ritz-Carlton near Central Park. He had a plane to Atlanta after the meeting.

“I sat down and we just started talking. I thought, ‘This guy sounds different.’ So I listened more closely.” Ulrich was impressed. “He has ideas. He has a track record that’s pretty damn different. His delivery was unbelievable. I couldn’t ask him a question that he didn’t have an answer to.”

Ulrich, a quick study with a background in corporate reorganizations, would later describe Crow as a creative thinker, a man with an iron will and fearless. They ended up talking for 3 ½ hours and Ulrich missed his plane.

The coming months would be the first time many members of the search committee met Crow, Columbia’s executive vice provost, who was also founding director of its Earth Institute; founder of its Consortium for Science, Policy and Outcomes; and chief strategist for its research enterprise. But he had visited Arizona frequently over the previous decade as an ASU consultant to help design a new research agenda and identify opportunities. He had formed a picture of what could change and the prospects for redesign at such a young university and open culture like Arizona. As he puts it today, “The soil was conducive to a new idea.”

While he was not already using the phrase “New American University,” he was thinking deeply and reading widely about what kind of public university was needed in America. His reading list then — he typically reads many books simultaneously — was a window into his evolving vision. [See “A reading list for rethinking education” at the end of this story.]

When Crow met with members of the search committee, he explained his view that the status quo in higher education was outdated and that innovation was needed “across everything: the structure of the university, the design of the university, the financial mechanisms for funding the university.” He shared his experience as a lead architect of what he called knowledge enterprises, designing “dozens and dozens” of research centers and research networks — at Columbia, at his alma mater Iowa State University and around the world.

What Crow had not done, what he wanted to do, was “architect the whole thing.” He also was clear about what he did not want to do: “I told them I didn’t want to manage anything. I don’t want to run anything. I have no interest in being an administrator of anything. If you want some hospital administrator or some academic administrator, there’s thousands of them out there. You should go get one. That’s not me.” The search committee took notice.

What struck him first, recalls José Cárdenas, a search committee member and now ASU general counsel, was Crow’s attitude: brash, aggressive, intense, someone who created excitement. Asked how he’d feel about a president’s duty to beg for money, Crow offered a less than politic answer, “I don’t beg,” he said, then proceeded to detail his system for making a case with donors. Then he repeated, “I don’t beg.” It was the kind of moment that galvanized the room, Cárdenas says, and it clarified his own assessment. “If we hire this guy, he’ll either be a spectacular success or a spectacular failure. Either way, we’ll be in for a hell of a ride.”

"Well, you guys can wish all you want. Why don’t we just do it?"

To be sure, much of Crow’s passion and urgency was fueled by years of experience with education leaders who longed for change but felt hamstrung from taking action: “For decades, people said, ‘We wish we had universities that were more connected to the people … more responsive … had research with greater impact for social outcomes … that weren’t becoming so elitist.’” His response: “‘Well, you guys can wish all you want. Why don’t we just do it?’ No other institution had had the opportunity to step back and look at every aspect of its entire design and redo that. Why don’t we do it?”

Soon he would have his chance, something he had dreamed about since he was a boy.

A young man fueled by ideas

In 1968, when he was 13, Crow watched his family’s brand-new color TV as astronauts from Apollo 8 circled the moon. He was gripped by the idea that these people took off in a rocket and flew to the moon. It led him to think that you can do anything if your mind is ready, if you work hard enough.

Earlier that day he had visited a family who lived in a shack with a tarpaper roof and a dirt floor. It seemed so unfair, so clear that something must be done. That picture, those dual thoughts, stuck with him. Fueled him.

By the time the 17-year-old was off to Iowa State, the first in his family to go to college, he had moved 21 times. His father was an enlisted Navy man and his mother passed away when he was only 9. He had learned how to manage this peripatetic lifestyle, including periods in Maryland, Kentucky, Florida, Illinois and California. One constant was the public library. Another was his thirst for knowledge and the growing awareness that, even in tough circumstances, it’s possible to advance.

When he arrived in Ames, Iowa, after a six-hour drive from Chicago with his dad, he had less than $10 in his pocket; he had cobbled together a handful of scholarships to cover all four years of college and his expenses. He wanted to do five majors but had to settle for two: political science and environmental science. And he continued to percolate on his notion that it’s possible to predict, design and control the future — and that higher education is the way to get the tools necessary to design what doesn’t yet exist. This included structures, systems and organizations.

Crow took as many classes and independent studies as he could. He was hungry to engage and synthesize multiple ways of thinking, not just for knowledge’s own sake, but to solve problems. And he wanted to apply his learning to drive change and make something new.

While still a junior, he was designing and building his own grant-funded engineering project, a way to increase food production, and landed a job designing energy-related projects at Ames National Laboratory right after graduation.

It wasn’t long before he was envisioning universities that work across disciplines and create opportunity for as many students as possible.

Altering a culture and reorganizing a university

In November 2002, four months after his July start, ASU’s new president delivered an inaugural address introducing his concept for the university’s future. Following hundreds of hours of meeting and thinking, Crow considered it a design proposal that sought to move away from the model of increasingly elitist private universities that were failing to address huge social inequity.

“The New American University will cultivate excellence in teaching, research and public service,” he stated. It would “embrace the educational needs of the entire population” and “be measured not by whom the university excludes, but rather by whom the university includes, and from this inclusion will come its contribution to the advancement of society.”

ASU, he asserted, “is uniquely poised to become such an institution.”

"I love to have my idea replaced by somebody else’s idea."

But getting to that promised place required disruption of the status quo. He expected criticism and got a bellyful. Who was he to come in and redesign the joint? How could he ever pull this off? Besides, the president’s job is to run the trains on time. He heard it from faculty. He heard it from staff and other administrators. That was OK by him.

“I love debate. I love argument,” he says. “I love to have my idea replaced by somebody else’s idea. Not everybody thinks that way, and people might not have realized that’s the way I am.”

Plenty saw his confidence, his intense drive, as self-serving ego. But he could live with that, too, on the path to pursuing the goal.

“Basically, I began, just grinding this out,” he says. “I’m just a fullback. Give me the ball. I’ll gain three yards, two yards, four yards, two yards. Throw me a pass every once in a while. Just grind it out, grind it out, grind it out. Day after day after day. And then, people began to see we were making progress. We were doing new things.”

New things, indeed, motivated by the desire to do things better and increase impact, not just replicate what had already been done. Rebuild and redesign departments, for example, to empower faculty, encourage transdisciplinary thinking and research, spur new insights, attract more students and produce different outcomes.

One design team report from 2004 described accelerating and institutionalizing “intellectual fusion,” to “break out from the confines of traditional academic organization” and become more fluid.

“This was not simply advancing a strategy,” Crow says. “We were attempting to alter a culture, and I hope that the faculty here feel like they can advance any idea.”

Still, there were skeptics aplenty. One faculty member asked if Crow was “making this stuff all up.” Crow’s response was to have his team assemble two 6-inch-ring binders filled with intellectual arguments for new academic designs and what they could yield.

The biology department became part of the School of Life Sciences. Geology, astronomy and other sciences evolved into the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

The School of Sustainability — bringing together experts in environmental science and renewable energy, business and policy and designed around an outcome much like a medical school aims for a long, healthy life — was the first of its kind in the country.

Traditional engineering programs — such as civil, mechanical and industrial — were reorganized around Grand Challenges. This was inspired by Chuck Vest, the president of MIT and then president of the National Academy of Engineering, who was advocating creative ways to attract more young people to engineering. “We took a year of arguing to work our way through that,” Crow notes. Today the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering serve double the number and a far more diverse population of more than 20,000 engineering students.

And there was more: The push to create one university, for example — one faculty, one accreditation, aligning the campuses to do away with the hierarchy of a main campus and branch campuses — led to a single university administration and a growing commitment to online education that equally values students from any location.

Such moves earned Crow new supporters, but it also intensified resistance from some academic traditionalists and doubters who worried about the pace and scale of change. One professor, unhappy with the redesign of his department, publicly called Crow “a thug in a suit.” Less thick-skinned than he might seem, Crow did his best to take it in stride. “There’s been no project that hasn’t been difficult,” he says without rancor. “But I knew this stuff was going to work once we found enough people who could be empowered by design. I mean, there’s a lot of really smart people here and a lot of really smart people that could be here.”

Consider the case of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Before Chris Callahan became its dean in 2005, it was housed within the School of Social Programs on the Tempe campus. Crow wanted to make it a stand-alone school and move it to downtown Phoenix as part of an emerging collection of schools and students in the city’s urban core.

Although some faculty and deans thought it was an awful idea, that it represented exile from the Tempe campus and could lead to its early demise, Callahan was excited by the opportunities it would create for journalism students to engage more closely with the nation’s fifth-largest city. That same thinking influenced the decision to move the law school, nursing school, social work and public affairs and others that would thrive by becoming more embedded in the community.

"We knew that we could make these new ideas work."

“You can walk outside and cover things that look like the rest of America,” says Callahan. Rather than resist the move, he found it “intoxicating,” a rare opportunity to design something new. “How often do you get to do that?”

Jazzed by the creative mindset, Callahan has introduced all kinds of innovations, including modeling the journalism school on the teaching-hospital concept that allows students to practice the profession virtually from day one.   

Crow cites 2011, nearly a decade after he arrived, as the point when ASU had turned a corner following the economic downturn and a series of reorganizations.

“I think by 2011 we knew we had cleared,” he says. “We knew that we could make these new ideas work … implement these new technologies … lower our costs … continue to find resources and partners … successfully reengineer the way the university worked.” In short: “The sky did not fall.”

No slowing down

Far from it. ASU is well ahead of the 2020 timetable to grow to 100,000 students, thanks largely to nearly 30,000 online degree-seeking students. It continues to expand the population of first-generation college students and achieve high national rankings for its myriad programs, including 18 transdisciplinary schools.

In 15 years, research expenditures have grown from $110 million to more than $500 million, placing ASU in the top 10 of the National Science Foundation’s rankings of institutions without a medical school. (The goal is to reach $700 million by 2020.)

Perhaps no ranking has provided more reason for self-congratulation than topping the U.S. News & World Report list as the nation’s most innovative university. Crow acknowledges its value, seeing it as part of an American story of advancement.

“I hear a lot of students, a lot of people, talking about it. They see us as this creative, innovative place. America’s always been seen as an innovative place, where there are inventors, dreamers, people doing things in these new ways,” he says. “To be a part of that within this sector is fantastic. That’s the American way.”

But Crow is not about to sit back and rest on laurels. Or slow the velocity that has gotten ASU this far.

“I’m not interested in finding equilibrium,” he says. “Most universities sit in equilibrium. I think that equilibrium doesn’t allow you to be adaptive. It doesn’t allow you to scale.”

And what’s true for ASU remains true for ASU’s president. Fifteen years on, the last thing he’s looking for is a slower pace. When Crow was still at Columbia, recalls Francis, he would pull all-nighters now and then to get things done. After moving to the desert, he told his wife that he would not keep doing that. “People ask, ‘Does he ever slow down?’” She laughs. “This is slow.”


Bonus content: A reading list for rethinking education

During the time Michael Crow was meeting with the search committee at ASU and rethinking the idea of an American university, his reading list included the following:

• Frank Rhodes’ “The Creation of the Future: The Role of the American University,” which describes universities as “the most significant creation of the second millennium” and “the decisive catalyst in modern society.”
• Herbert Simon’s “The Sciences of the Artificial,” a classic work on artificial intelligence.
• Thomas Kuhn’s “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions,” a book on the history of science whose publication was a landmark event in scientific communities.
• Two works by William Manchester. One, “The Glory and the Dream,” narrates four decades of American history and the workings of democracy starting in 1932. The other, “A World Only Lit by Fire,” casts back much farther to the Dark Ages and the extraordinary role of universities and education to escape that time of squalor, illiteracy, mindlessness and violence.


This story originally appeared in the ASU Thrive magazine; find more at Top photo: ASU President Michael M. Crow with freshman Medallion Scholar Trey Leveque. Photo by Jeff Newton

Steven Beschloss

Director of Executive Communications & Strategic Initiatives , Media Relations & Strategic Communications

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ASU offers several pathways to a bachelor's degree that save money

ASU offers several ways to earn a degree with reduced tuition costs.
October 24, 2017

Robust community-college transfer program is one way to reduce tuition bill

As Arizona State University tackles the challenge of getting as many people as possible to complete a bachelor’s degrees, it also offers several ways for Arizonans to do it at a reduced tuition rate.

Degree completion is a critical need in Arizona, where 28 percent of adults age 25 and older hold a bachelor’s degree, compared with the nationwide rate of 30 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. ASU is working with the state in support of Achieve60AZ, an alliance of 60 community and business groups to make Arizona more competitive by supporting  a goal of achieving 60 percent of adults, ages 25–64, with a professional certificate or college degree by 2030.

By 2020, 68 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require some form of postsecondary education, such as a certificate, two-year, bachelor’s or graduate degree, according to estimates by the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce. In addition, the Institute of Medicine has recommended that 80 percent of all registered nurses have a bachelor’s degree by 2020.

There are several ways to save money on tuition costs at ASU. The most popular way to pay a reduced rate is by transferring from a community college. ASU, which had about 16,000 transfer students in 2016, saw transfer enrollment more than double in a decade, increasing 124 percent from 2007–08 to 2016–17.

The university has worked closely with community colleges to make transfer as simple as possible, and ASU is still improving the process.

“It should not be rocket science to know what courses you should be taking at your community college that have relevance to the degree here,” said Maria Hesse, vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU.

Typically, students will attend community college for one or two years and pay a much lower tuition rate — $86 per credit hour at the 10 Maricopa Community Colleges — and then transfer those credits to ASU and complete the credits needed for a bachelor’s degree.

A few years ago, ASU set up a transfer agreement with the Maricopa colleges — called the Maricopa-ASU Pathways Program, or MAPP — that specifies exactly which courses are needed for each majorStudents who are unsure of a major can sign up for an “exploratory” track, such as health and life sciences or humanities, fine arts and design. They then take a career-exploration class. and the sequence, so that students can avoid wasting time and money on classes that don’t apply to a degree. Students who meet the requirements are guaranteed admission and get help from ASU advisers while they’re still in community college.

“If you want to maximize the time and the effort and money you’re spending at community college, we’ll show you exactly what to do. This takes all the guesswork out of it,” Hesse said.

ASU also has transfer pathways with other Arizona community colleges, including tribal colleges, as well as institutions in California and other states.

New this year is the ability for students to sign up for a transfer pathway onlineOnline sign-up is not yet available for students in the Maricopa colleges. rather than making an appointment with their advisers.

And students also will now get four years to complete the community-college portion of their studies instead of the three that was previously required. The extra year will allow high school students who take dual-enrollment courses to sign up for a transfer agreement, as well as students who need time to complete remedial classes.

“We wanted the time frame to be long enough so that the first time a student says, ‘I’m interested in going to the university,’ we try to capture their information. We didn’t want the time frame to be a problem,” Hesse said.

ASU has expanded the opportunity for a bachelor’s degree to community college students who earn a vocational degree, such as an associate’s of applied science, in fields such as welding and respiratory therapy, she said. Previously, there was no way for those students to transfer their vocational credits to ASU and then earn a bachelor’s.

“The problem is that at a certain point in many of these people’s careers, they want to become a supervisor, or move up, but they can’t get a bachelor’s degree. It would be like starting from scratch,” she said.

But a few years ago, ASU developed several bachelor’s of applied science degree programs that allows those people to transfer.

“So if I got an AAS in respiratory therapy at Gateway Community College, I can now get a BAS in health sciences and transfer those 60 credits,” Hesse said. People who hold an associate’s degree in aviation mechanics from Chandler-Gilbert Community College can later earn a bachelor’s in aviation from the Polytechnic School at ASU.

Dimi Wassef

Dimi Wassef transferrred to ASU after earning an associate's degree from Estrella Mountain Community College.

"After I high school, I wasn’t sure what the next four years were going to look like for me, and I was unsure what I wanted to do," said Wassef, who started out majoring in biology and then switched to English literature, where the classes "felt like they were meant for me."

The transition required some adjustment at first, but she connected with a professor, studied abroad in London and found a lot of networking opportunities. A senior, Wassef serves as an ASU "transfer ambassador," answering a lot of questionsQuestions about parking and class sizes top the list, she said, along with queries about what it's really like to attend ASU. "As students, we can offer that perspective to them," she said. from prospective transfer students.

"In our culture, there's this idea that right after high school you have to go to a university and move away, but the community colleges offer a good transition and prepares you. It's a more approachable setting than throwing yourself into a very complicated university setting, where you don't use all the resources if you don't know about them," she said.

'You're taking the same classes at much lower cost. There's no better way to go in my opinion."

There are several other ways that students can earn a four-year degree from ASU for less tuition than a traditional program. Here are some examples (tuition amounts are for the fall 2017 semester and do not include fees or housing costs):

Concurrent enrollment programs

ASU partners with the Maricopa Community Colleges in a program to accelerate the path to a bachelor’s of science in nursing. Students begin at a community college, and then start taking ASU Online classes at the same time. By the time they earn their associate’s degree, they have only one more semester at ASU before they earn a BSN. Students in the program pay $435 per credit hour for their ASU Online courses, compared with $702 per credit hour for students in the face-to-face nursing program.

Options by location

Some programs in locations other than Tempe offer reduced tuition. For example, freshmen and sophomores in the Polytechnic School in Mesa and the New College of Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences on the West campus receive a 10 percent discount on tuition.

The Colleges at Lake Havasu charge lower tuition as well. The price of a year at Lake Havasu is $6,376 before gift aid and need- and merit-based scholarships.

Stay-in-place in rural Arizona

ASU partners with three institutions in rural areas to offer a handful of bachelor’s degrees on the community college campus with reduced tuition — $2,953 for a full-time course load this semester. For example, students at Eastern Arizona College in Thatcher can earn an ASU degree on their campus in organizational leadership, applied leadership, nursing or secondary education. ASU also partners with Arizona Western College in Yuma to offer degrees in secondary education and criminology and criminal justice, and with Central Arizona College in Coolidge in organizational leadership and applied leadership. Leaders from Arizona Western College will visit ASU on Friday to learn more about the university’s college and programs. The university plans to expand this program to other rural Arizona locations.

ASU decides which degrees to offer in these areas after working with the local communities to determine the needs of the biggest employers and which programs the community colleges can prepare students for.

Global Freshmen Academy

Another way to earn credits at a reduced tuition rate is through the Global Freshman Academy online program. Students can choose among 14 freshmen-level courses, such as pre-calculus, English 101 and Introduction to Solar System Astronomy, tuition free, paying a $49 fee to verify their identification. If they pass a course, they can then choose to pay for ASU credit at the rate of $200 per credit hour.

Fast-track degrees

For students who are looking to finish quickly, there are 18 degree options, including health sciences and business communications, that can be completed in two and a half or three years. These options don't have reduced tuition but do lessen the time required to pay for housing for students that choose to live on campus. Find details here.

For more on ASU tuition, click here.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU Online offers the opportunity to earn degrees, advance careers

For transplant survivor, ASU Online was a chance at a college degree.
October 8, 2017

In 7 years, 75,000+ students have taken ASU classes wherever they are in the world

The sun-soaked campuses of Arizona State University are beautiful places to take college classes, but it’s an experience that’s not available to everyone.

Some potential students are working or taking care of families, or they’re not able to be in a classroom for health reasons. Others are on active duty in the military or running companies in other countries.

But they still deserve to earn a college degree from a prestigious institution.

Now in its seventh year, ASU Online has offered that opportunity to nearly 75,000 people all over the world. Almost 27,000 students are enrolled this semester in one of 150 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.

And that degree is key to improving the lives of ASU Online’s students.

Jennifer Johnson earned a two-year degree 10 years ago at age 35 and always intended to get her bachelor’s in nursing, but she put it on the back burner as she continued to work in the nursing field and raised her son in Minnesota. But she noticed that hospitals were starting to require four-year degrees when they hire nurses.

In 2014, she was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a bilateral mastectomy and a hysterectomy after genetic testing revealed that she has the gene that predisposes her to cancer. After chemotherapy, she reassessed her life.

“I thought, if I have a second chance at life, I have to go back to school,” she said.

She was visiting her parents in Arizona when she saw a billboard that ASU was named No. 1 in innovation. She thought it was cool but didn’t know about ASU Online.

“Then I was looking at my Facebook feed and saw an ad for ASU Online’s RN to BSN degree, and I thought ‘this is good timing.’ ” So she registered.

ASU Online student Jennifer Johnson visits Ethiopia to volunteer
ASU Online student Jennifer Johnson visits Ethiopia to volunteer at a hospital.

One reason Johnson put off college was that she was terrified of having to take the required class in statistics.

“I didn’t know if I was smart enough to get through a nursing program,” she said, “But I thought, ‘Nope, I made a commitment to myself that if I got a second chance I would do things that scare me.’ ”

She got a B in statistics.

“My job is really busy, I work 40 hours plus, but I’m still able to do my schoolwork,” said Johnson, who works in a hospital near Minneapolis.

She likes the flexibility, which allows her to travel with a nonprofit that improves medical care in developing countries. She has been to Addis Ababa in Ethiopia several times to volunteer in a hospital there.

“I’m so glad I made that commitment to myself,” Johnson said.

'They're stuck'

Degree attainment is a critical issue in Arizona and the nation. The Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce estimates that by 2020, 68 percent of all jobs in Arizona will require some form of postsecondary education, such as a certificate, two-year, bachelor’s or graduate degree. In Arizona, 37 percent of adults have a degree.

Bachelor’s degree holders can expect to earn three times more incomeLatinos who earn a bachelor’s degree will earn 3.5 times more in their lifetimes than those with only a diploma. over their lifetime than people with only a high school diploma, according to College Success Arizona.

About 60 percent of adults in Arizona have been enrolled in a postsecondary institution at some point, but half never completed the degree.

So then two things happen, according to Phil Regier, university dean for educational initiatives and CEO of EdPlus, the unit that houses ASU Online.

“First, they’re stuck. They can’t move ahead in their job or even apply for another job because they don’t have a degree,” he said.

“Second, they almost certainly cannot attend a brick-and-mortar institution. They’re probably already working one or two jobs and have family commitments. They can’t go to a class that meets three times a week at 9 a.m. and another that meets Tuesdays and Thursdays at 2 in the afternoon.”

Until a few years ago, there were few choices for those people, Regier said.

When ASU Online was launched in 2011, administrators feared the program might lure students away from attending one of the ASU campuses.

“But the 18- to 23-year-olds are getting a degree and maturing and moving into society,” he said.

“The students we serve are already in society. They have significant life experience; they are mature. They just lack a degree.”

The average age of ASU Online students is 30, and overall the ages range from 22 to 60.

Not out of reach

ASU Online is available wherever the students are.

Emily Gorsky lives in New Jersey. She was born with cystic fibrosis, and in her senior year of high school, her condition started progressing.

Emily Gorsky

“I was living on the couch, stuck at home, hooked up to two oxygen concentrators,” said Gorsky, who’s 27.

Her parents were taking turns staying up at night to care for her.

“They were afraid that if they stopped watching me, I would stop breathing, because by that point I had to consciously think to breath,” she said.

At age 22, she was hospitalized and as her condition worsened, the doctors told her she had 10 minutes to consent to life support before she had permanent brain damage. She later woke up on life support, a painful and immobilizing process that she was told could sustain her for about two weeks. She needed a transplant.

Gorsky’s church held a prayer meeting on the 12th day she was in the hospital, and on the 13th day, she got a call that a pair of lungs were available. Then she was told the lungs were unsuitable.

Gorsky said she prayed for something to happen either way, “because I couldn’t stay like that.”

Then another pair of lungs became available and she had the transplant operation. She recovered so quickly that they let her go home early, and as she recovered she began to think about college. She took classes at a community college, eventually earning an associate’s degree in psychology. She wanted to get a bachelor’s degree, but as she was still immunosuppressed from the transplant, she couldn’t live on campus.

So she found ASU Online, where she is majoring in criminal justice.

Gorsky said she has gotten more out of the online program than she ever imagined.

“A few months ago, I canceled plans so I could stay in and watch an interview with a special agent from the FBI, and I was starstruck,” she said.

“I’m in an online program, but I’m actually getting more opportunities than people on campus at other schools.”

Gorsky still has challenges, and the professors at ASU Online have worked with her. In December, she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, which required surgery and radiation, and a few months ago, she had to have an emergency blood transfusion.

“Two days after that, I had a paper due. I had my boyfriend go home and get my books and laptop,” she said, and her professor worked with her on a revised schedule.

Working toward her degree has been a motivator.

“It’s weird to be 27 years old and not be graduated and have friends getting their master's and being in their career,” she said.

“I’ve always loved school, and there have been a few times in my life when I had to be home-schooled. When you’re not allowed to go, it brings a whole new perspective to your education and how blessed you are to be able to get one.”

Gorsky is considering pursuing a master’s degree from ASU Online after she completes her bachelor’s, hopefully next year.

“The recruiter was so encouraging. She didn’t know about my story, so it wasn’t pity encouraging,” Gorsky said.

“She was telling me I could do it — that it wasn’t out of my reach.”

'Their lives continue'

While ASU Online students can log into their classes anywhere, they are never on their own. Human engagement is crucial, both in the course and outside of it.

Students engage with faculty and with each other through discussion boards.

“When the student engages and how the student engages is much more in control by the student than in face-to-face classes, but that engagement is critical,” Regier said.

Working with ASU Online staff also is crucial for everything that happens outside class. The coaches in the Student Success Center are there to help keep students on track.

“With an on-campus student, if their financial aid doesn’t come in, they have to go stand in line and it’s a hassle,” Regier said.

“For an online student, it’s a disaster. They can’t stand in line and they don’t know who to talk to. They’ll drop the course. If their books don’t come in time, they’ll drop the course.

“If their mother-in-law has hip surgery and they have to take care of her, a lot of online students would say, ‘I have to drop this course.’ ”

The success coach will say, “Wait a minute. Let’s work through this.”

“They’re there to deal with those non-academic issues that for this population of students may appear insurmountable, but do in fact have a solution,” Regier said.

“These students aren’t putting their lives on hold while they attend school. Their lives continue with all of the things that happen to working adults.”

Applying lessons immediately

For Jimmie Munoz, school and work have been intertwined since he began taking master’s classes through ASU Online.

Munoz earned a bachelor’s degree in religious studies from ASU in 2005 and then started a tour company in Mexico City called PassportMX. He wanted to earn a master’s degree but couldn’t leave his business. So he started the ASU Online program in sustainable leadership.

Jimmie Munoz runs the PassportMX tour company in Mexico City.

“In the tour company, what I’m really interested in is making sure that whatever work that’s done, whether excursions or accommodations or transportation, is done in a socially responsible and eco-conscious way,” Munoz said.

He has been able to take what he studies in class and apply it immediately to the business, for example, in working with local vendors.

“In the classwork, there was a lot of discussion about the social implications of tourism and how to examine the operations of the company so that we can help improve the quality of life of local people,” he said. So he discussed the origin of coffee beans with the owner of the café where he takes his tourists.

“It’s given me a lot of confidence in what I’m doing because sustainability is a new field, but I’m finding new ways to address these issues.”

For details on ASU Online, click here.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Grand opening of Student Pavilion celebrates ASU's greenest building

October 6, 2017

Arizona State University celebrated the grand opening of the Student Pavilion Thursday night, the newest — and greenest — building on the Tempe campus. The pavilion is the first net zero energy building at ASU, meaning it uses no more energy than it creates.

The new building now houses the Undergraduate Student Government (USG), Council of Coalitions, and the Programming and Activities Board, and its sustainable practices have inspired the organizations to incorporate “green” practices in their own events.

“It’s really given us this awesome challenge of figuring out ‘How can we be sustainable at all of our events?’ and really think about the environment as we’re doing them,” said Kavitha Ramohalli, president of the Programming and Activities Board on the Tempe campus.

The grand opening included brief remarks from several speakers including USG President Brittany Benedict, ASU President Michael Crow, Black African Coalition President Navona Carter, and included a building blessing by the American Indian Coalition.

In addition, a ceremonial ribbon cutting took place, along with the announcement of the burial of a time capsule, to be opened in August 2067, 50 years after the building's opening. 

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University Innovation Alliance shows the power of collaboration

September 28, 2017

Number of low-income graduates increased by 24.7 percent at alliance's member institutions, including co-founder ASU

Three years ago, Arizona State University co-founded the University Innovation Alliance (UIA), a coalition of 11 major public research universitiesThe 11 member schools of the University Innovation Alliance are: ASU, Ohio State University, Georgia State University, University of California-Riverside, Iowa State University, University of Central Florida, Michigan State University, University of Kansas, Oregon State University, University of Texas at Austin and Purdue University. across the country, with the goal of graduating more low-income and underserved students. In that period, the number of low-income graduates increased by 24.7 percent among participating universities, and the number of undergraduate degrees awarded overall increased 9.2 percent (from 79,170 to 86,436).

These figures represent significant progress toward the alliance’s goal of graduating an additional 68,000 undergraduates — at least half of whom are low-income — by 2025. Currently, about 50 percent of ASU’s in-state undergraduate students are from low-income families.

The increased degree attainment sets the UIA firmly on the path to exceed its original goals, predicting an additional 94,000 graduates by 2025.

As it stands today, the United States is 3 million graduates short of what is needed to fill the 63 percent of jobs in 2018 that will require a postsecondary education. By 2025, that gap is predicted to grow to 16 million. The graduate deficit is particularly acute among low-income students, raising serious concerns about the nation’s future prosperity and the economic mobility of millions of Americans.

“The future economic competitiveness of the United States depends on higher education’s ability to innovate together in order to improve learning and outcomes at scale,” said Michael M. Crow, chair of the UIA and president of ASU. “Our progress in creating opportunity for a growing population of low-income and underserved students bodes well for the role of the UIA and other institutions to expand and diversify the nation’s talent pool and workforce. That’s good for everyone. ” 

In just three years, member institutions have implemented and scaled numerous successful initiatives that address student retention and success, many of which had their start at ASU. The success of ASU’s eAdvisor system, for example, inspired participating universities to implement similar solutions at their colleges. This nationally recognized innovation has helped improve freshman retention at ASU by 9.5 percent and helped increased six-year graduation by 19.3 percent.

UIA members have developed systems that use predictive analytics and academic advising to identify and intervene with students at risk of dropping out of college. Universities have also created innovation fellowships to build internal capacity at UIA universities and scale effective programming, in order to drive student success.

“We believe the progress we’re announcing is significant,” said Bridget Burns, executive director of the UIA. “We hope that more universities join us in setting and reporting on ambitious goals so that together we can help unlock the promise of a postsecondary degree for more students.”

The UIA recently announced its latest scaling project to provide students at its member universities with completion grants to ensure that potential graduates aren’t derailed by financial challenges. Preliminary data from the UIA shows that as many as 4,000 Pell-eligible seniors in good academic standing are at risk of being dropped from classes or not allowed to graduate because less than $1,000 is owed to their respective institution. Through funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Great Lakes Higher Education Corporation & Affiliates, UIA members will provide completion grants to students beginning this fall.

“At its core, the UIA will bring the American dream within reach of many more deserving students,” said Michael V. Drake, president of Ohio State University, a founding member institution.

In 2018, the UIA will host a groundbreaking national convening, bringing together campuses from within and beyond the alliance to share strategies that advance student success and transform higher education.

By piloting new programs, sharing insights about their relative costs and effectiveness, and scaling those interventions that are successful, the alliance is catalyzing systemic changes in the higher education system. 


Top photo: Some of ASU's newest graduate make their mark on a chalkboard wall set up at the May 2017 Undergraduate Commencement. Photo by Andy DeLisle/ASU

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer, Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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A growing tradition of excellence attracts more of state's top high school graduates

ASU drawing more Flinn Scholars — the elite of Arizona's high school graduates.
September 28, 2017

In early years of prestigious scholarship, few Flinn Scholars chose ASU but the flourishing Barrett, The Honors College is now a draw

More than 30 years ago, a scholarship program was set up to coax promising young Arizonans into attending one of the state’s public universities rather than going out of state.

The Flinn Scholarship, a prestigious, merit-based scholarship, offers full tuition and other incentives to end the “brain drain” by sending about 20 top high school graduates to the honors programs at Arizona State University, the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

In the beginning, few chose ASU. But in recent years, as the prestige of the university has grown — and as Barrett, The Honors College has flourished — ASU is a top destination for these top Arizona high school graduates, drawing 58 percent of the Flinn Scholars The number of scholarships has varied over the years from 16 to 23. in the past 10 years.

“I remember I was pretty chill about the interview because the attitude we were brought up with in high school was that to get a prestigious education, you had to go out of state,” said Rebecca Bruner, who was in the first group of Flinn Scholars in 1986. She went to McClintock High School in Tempe and was accepted by Swarthmore and Amherst colleges. After she received the scholarship — which nobody had heard of in 1986 — she decided that having all her tuition and expenses paid was too good to pass up.

Two of the first Flinn Scholars to choose ASU, Rebecca Bruner (left) and Sara Zervos, celebrate graduation with Barbra Barnes, director of the Flinn Scholars Program in the 1980s. Photo contributed by Flinn Foundation

“What is most encouraging about it is knowing that somebody believes in you enough to invest in your future,” said Bruner, who is now an author.

And that’s how the Flinn donorsRobert and Irene Flinn established the Flinn Foundation in 1965 as a privately endowed grant-making organization to improve the quality of life in Arizona. The nonprofit has other programs besides the scholarship. saw it — as an investment more than an award, according to Matthew Ellsworth, vice president of communications for the Flinn Foundation.

“It was targeting young people who were mostly leaving the state but had the potential to be great leaders for Arizona,” said Ellsworth, who was himself a Flinn Scholar in 1993.

The scholarship not only includes tuition and room and board, it also offers two study-abroad opportunities, a paid internship program and mentorship and cultural activities.

In the early years of the program, not many of Arizona’s best and brightest chose ASU. Only 20 percent of Flinn Scholars in the first 10 years became Sun Devils. In 1989, none of the 18 winners chose ASU.

In the inaugural group of 18 scholars in 1986, only two chose ASU at first. Bruner started at the University of Arizona and transferred to ASU in her sophomore year.

Overall, 36 percent of the 606The breakdown by numbers is 221 ASU Flinn Scholars, 374 for the University of Arizona and 11 for NAU. Flinn Scholars have gone to ASU, 62 percent to the University of Arizona and 2 percent to NAU.

Transformation at Barrett

Although Barrett, The Honors College is a bustling community within ASU, it wasn’t always so. In the 1980s, the University of Arizona had a much more established honors program than ASU, which didn’t launch the University Honors College until 1988. At that time, McClintock Hall was converted into an honors dorm and the honors professors moved their offices nearby.

ASU’s program was transformed in 2000 by the $10 million endowment from Craig and Barbara Barrett, and the initiative was later renamed Barrett, The Honors College.

“I don’t think there is any doubt that the increased number of Flinn Scholars attending ASU correlates with the changes that have been made and the development of new programs at Barrett,” said Mark Jacobs, the current dean at Barrett, who came in 2003.

“This is due to the total ASU experience becoming much more attractive to Flinn Scholars, and that experience includes stellar faculty, entire new schools with new majors possible and new and exciting research opportunities,” said Jacobs, adding that Barrett has added more courses, support services and square footage over the years.

Even though the number of Flinn Scholars on the Barrett campus at any one time is less than 50 of out a total of about 7,200 honors students, they make a difference, Jacobs said.

“Excellent, motivated, service-oriented students make a difference in every class they are in. In a very real way, it is a microcosm of the effect all honors students have on ASU,” he said. “Flinn students are a group of great students who have already been screened by a very intelligent, thorough committee of statewide status.”

Ellsworth said the foundation would like to see more scholars choose NAU, which has drawn 11 winners since 1986. That could change now that NAU is building a new honors community with living space, classrooms, a support center and a fitness center. It will open in 2018.

About 750 students apply for the scholarships every year, and Ellsworth said the foundation is reaching out to rural areas to make sure the opportunity is as accessible as possible.

“How can we ensure that we’re doing all we can to reach students of great potential who are outside of our normal area?” he said. Some high schoolsThe high schools that have produced the most Flinn Scholars who went to ASU are University High School, Tucson, 17; Mountain View High School, Mesa, 16; Corona del Sol High School, Tempe, 12; Hamilton High School, Chandler, 10; and Desert Vista and Prescott high schools, nine each. in the Phoenix area produce 20 to 30 applicants every year, as teachers, counselors and students have become familiar with the process.

Ellsworth was thrilled that the 2017 class of Flinn Scholars, currently university freshmen, included students from five schools that had never produced a winner before: Desert View High School in Tucson, Tri-City College Prep in Prescott, Mohave High School in Bullhead City, and ASU students Daniel Nguyen, the first winner from Liberty High School in Peoria, and Brittany Duran, the first from Santa Cruz Valley Union High School in Eloy.

In 2003, William Valencia was the first Flinn Scholar from Rio Rico High School. He decided to go to ASU during the interview process for the scholarship when he met Michael Crow, then in the first year of his presidency at ASU.

“His focus on access and impact and being inclusive as opposed to being exclusive — those all rang true to me,” said Valencia, who now is a program director in the College of Public Service and Community Solutions at ASU.

Life-changing travel

International travel is one of the most important Flinn benefits, added a few years after the program launched. At that time, students received a pot of money with the hope that they would study abroad at least twice. In the late '90s, the program made international travel a group trip with a second, independent study-abroad experience. For several years, the scholars went together to Hungary, which was an emerging democracy and not very Westernized. For the past five years, the scholars have traveled together to China, visiting Beijing and then staying with families in a rural area.

Ellsworth said the group trip is much better than when he traveled alone in the early 1990s.

“I had never been on a plane. I was clueless and scared. I don’t think I had near the quality experience as if I had traveled as intentionally as they do now,” he said.

The travel can be life-changing.

Valencia was majoring in supply-chain management and took Mandarin 101.

“Owing to that experience, I added Mandarin Chinese as a major, and the travel allowed me to not only broaden my horizons but to understand the context of my supply-chain education,” said Valencia, who started a consulting firm in Beijing after graduation, teaching Chinese entrepreneurs best practices and business English. 

Nesima Aberra, a 2009 scholar, was a double major in journalism and global studies at ASU and traveled to Guatemala, where she did an internship learning about international development and nonprofits.

“It was really important because it made me understand that that was a viable career path and also to check my bias as a student who wanted to change the world. I learned that the world is more complicated than what you learn in the classroom,” said Aberra, who just started working as an audience engagement editor at the nonprofit Center for Public Integrity.

Taking risks

Many of the ASU Flinn Scholars have gone on to become accomplished professionals who are changing the world. The foundation doesn’t keep track of all alumni, but it does keep some statistics: Of ASU’s Flinn Scholars, 115 have gone on to earn graduate degrees, and of those, 30 have earned a second graduate degree. There are 21 ASU Flinns who have earned a medical degree and 20 who acquired a law degree.

The students are accomplished when they arrive at ASU. Nguyen, the first Flinn from Liberty High School in the Peoria Unified School District, is a freshman majoring in biological sciences who would like to be a military surgeon. He has already earned certification as an emergency medical technician from Glendale Community College.

“I got to spend some time doing what EMTs do, which influenced my outlook on my career as well. The ability to work with patients on the provider level is amazing,” he said.

Swaroon Sridhar presented the pitch for 33 Buckets at the Pakis Social Entrepreneurship Challenge in 2016. The nonprofit builds modular filters in poor communities so local people can sell clean water. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Many of the talented alumni cite their ASU education and being able to graduate debt-free as important factors in their success.

Swaroon Sridhar said that being a Flinn Scholar allowed him to take risks.

“The financial benefits of the scholarship made it easier for me to explore my interests in Indian classical music by enrolling in Phoenix Gharana, a Scottsdale-based music school, without worrying about the costs on top of my university costs,” he said.

“Making this decision was heavily influential in my life, as I'm still very passionate about studying and performing the art.”

Being in the program also allowed him to explore entrepreneurship, which led to his work with 33 Buckets, a clean-water nonprofit he co-founded with other ASU students. A 2013 Flinn Scholar, he’s the director of business development at 33 Buckets and also a graduate student at Columbia University.

“It was the security of knowing that it was OK to spend time on things outside of my academic major's focus that allowed me to venture into social impact via 33 Buckets,” he said.

Being connected is another benefit. Last spring, three students who met at networking events for Flinn Scholars launched an entrepreneurial venture and won $100,000 to fund their project, which makes wearable technology for people with visual impairments. Shantanu Bala and Ajay Karpur, both ASU grads, created Somatic Labs with Jacob Rockland of the University of Arizona.

“The honors colleges do a wonderful job of taking a big university and making it smaller. We want our program to make it an even tighter community, not to become insular but to become mutually supportive,” Ellsworth said.

“They are eager to see one another succeed. I’m sure some of them find themselves overwhelmed by each other’s accomplishments, but they’re intent on seeing one another reach their individual goals.”

Sara Zervos, after working for decades in finance, recently launched, a network of businesswomen to help educate younger people about financial literacy. She said that being a Flinn in 1987 made her part of a circle of academic colleagues who had curious minds and wide interests. 

“As such, this circle has created a benchmark for me for 'awesome people' that I want in my life going forward,” she said.

Brian Indrelunas, a journalist and 2004 scholar, said that the scholarship and connection to other Flinns broadened his world view.

“Seeing how fellow Flinns are using what they learned in Arizona to do incredible things — in-state, around the country and around the world — is a constant source of inspiration,” Indrelunas said.

Some of the scholars have taken the message of both ASU and the Flinn Scholarship to heart.

“I’m the product of a public education, and seeing ASU deliver on its promises of accessibility and impact and having the opportunity to play some small part in that is personally and professionally fulfilling,” said Valencia.

“I owe this state a great debt, and every day when I walk into the office I see myself as repaying the state and its people for everything I have.”

Applications for the Flinn Scholarship are open through mid-October. Find details here.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU completes $42M in facilities upgrades over summer

September 13, 2017

New projects include Tooker House, Student Pavilion, stadium improvements

A new academic year brings a host of new buildings and significant facilities upgrades to the Arizona State University community. During summer break, ASU Facilities Development and Management completed 60 projects totaling $42 million of investment across all campuses.

“Summer is our busiest time of year from a building renovation and construction perspective, and this summer was no exception,” said Bruce Nevel, Facilities Development and Management associate vice president and chief facilities officer. “I encourage the ASU community to take notice of some of our newest buildings and renovated classrooms and lab spaces.”

New Tempe campus buildings this fall are Tooker House, the Student Pavilion and Sun Devil Stadium’s Student Athlete Facility. At ASU’s West campus, a state-of-the-art educational facility was unveiled as the new home for the Herberger Young Scholars Academy. Facilities Development and Management also made improvements to classrooms, laboratories, offices and grounds across ASU’s campuses.

Tooker House

This $120 million, 450,000 gross-square-foot, state-of-the-art residence hall for the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering includes fully furnished rooms with 1,600 student beds, a 525-seat dining facility, recreation and fitness centers, student lounges and academic success space. The fully Wi-Fi-accessible facility also includes the following notable amenities:

• a new Amazon Echo Dot in each room, which represents the first voice-enabled, learning-enhanced residential community on a university campus

• Bluetooth-connected washers and dryers that notify students when cycles are complete

• collaborative maker space environments, including access to 3-D printers

• a beautiful courtyard with outdoor pavilions and covered terraces

Student Pavilion

The 74,653 gross-square-foot Student Pavilion was designed as a Net Zero Energy building, which means it uses no more energy annually than can be produced on site. The building’s sustainable elements include:

• chilled-beam and indirect evaporative cooling

• energy-efficient office, classroom and kitchen equipment

• exterior shading of windows and walls

• LED and energy-efficient lighting

• roof solar-ready for future photovoltaic installations

• Zero Waste strategies

The building hub is a new 1,200-seat event space for guest lecturers, musical shows, comedy acts and student productions. At the center of student traffic and activity near Hayden Library and the Memorial Union, the Student Pavilion houses office space for student government and organizations, university classrooms and other academic functions.

Sun Devil Stadium – Phase 2

Construction concluded this summer on the new Student Athlete Facility embedded in the stadium’s north end, club-level premium areas on the stadium’s west side and a massive video board.

• The Student Athlete Facility is equipped with offices, training facilities, locker rooms, counseling space, a players’ lounge, meeting rooms and other amenities to support Sun Devil athletes.

• The west side club level features air-conditioning, televisions, lounge areas and many other conveniences for fans, including food and beverage service.

• The new video board (seen in top photo) on the north end is 47 feet high and 113 feet wide and is among the 10 largest video boards in college football. The board will showcase replays, statistical updates, graphics and videos.

Phase 3 work on the stadium’s east side begins immediately after the 2017 football season and will lay the groundwork for a facility capable of hosting sporting, academic, and community events and programs throughout the year.

Herberger Young Scholars Academy

This 19,500 gross-square-foot building provides new, purpose-built program space for the Herberger Young Scholars Academy, designed for gifted students in grades 7–12. The ASU West campus building includes state-of-the-art classroom space and a maker space to enrich the teaching program. The building is linked to a dedicated landscaped area that provides opportunities for outdoor teaching and relaxation. The new facility was made possible through the charitable support of Gary and Jeanne Herberger.

Mall updates

Cady and Orange Mall improvements are among the first implementations of the Tempe Campus Hardscape Master Plan. These mall updates are significant to this program, as it sets the standard for future phases.

• Cady Mall now provides additional campus monuments at key points along the Tempe campus perimeter. This includes two campus identification monuments flanking Gammage Auditorium on Apache Boulevard and Mill Avenue as well as a new ASU Charter monument sign at the entry to Cady Mall near University Drive. These Cady Mall additions provide photo opportunities for students and visitors and strengthen the beauty and identity of the Tempe campus.

• A revitalization and extension of Orange Mall delivers an ecologically sustainable pedestrian walkway. The mall was designed to create a sustainable environment and green infrastructure that manages wet-weather impacts. The extension also provides an event space for the Student Pavilion and serves as an ASU community social gathering spot. Seating and a shaded palm court offer visitors an enjoyable outdoor space.

Additional capital projects

• Palm Walk rehabilitation concluded its second and final phase this summer with the replacement of 68 failing fan palms with new date palms, located between University Drive and Orange Street. The date palms will grow to a maximum height of 80 feet and deliver more shade for pedestrians and fruit for the university’s annual date harvest.

• Tempe campus Memorial Union renovations provide building enhancements and improvements for greater student accessibility and experiences. Renovations consist of approximately 13,000 gross-square-feet in lower-level improvements, which include a feature staircase installation from the first level to the lower level, meditation space, student recreation space, and collaboration and meeting areas. The project also includes restroom facilities modernization, a new elevator and floor tile throughout, as well as functional improvements to the facility.

• The Sun Devil Fitness Complex field on the Tempe campus received 151,100 gross-square-feet of new sod.

• Palo Verde East and West residence halls received updating in the elevators with new cabs, machines and controls. Roofing also was replaced around the perimeter of the mechanical penthouses.  Additional work is planned on these halls following the current academic year.

• Phase IV of Access Management continued to address conflicts among pedestrians, bicycles and cart vehicles on Tempe campus malls, and included:

- installation of bike valet shade canopies, additional bike racks, bike share racks, skateboard docks and cart parking
- new landscaping, screen fencing, benches, bike signage and site lighting

Classroom and laboratory renovations

The summer provides a brief prime opportunity to upgrade and refresh heavily-used classroom facilities, and this summer was no exception:

Tempe campus

Increased the capacity of two lecture spaces in Business Administration C Wing for W.P. Carey School of Business. Classrooms include all new finishes, updated audio/visual systems and improved accessibility features.

• A mid-size auditorium in College of Design North enjoys increased occupancy, new auditorium seats, finishes, LED lighting, an audio/visual package and improved ADA accommodations.        

• A large auditorium in the Bateman Physical Science H Wing includes all-new finishes, fixed auditorium seating, updated and upgraded LED lighting and audio/visual packages, as well as improved overall occupancy and accessibility features.

• A new traditional classroom was created in Computing Commons, including a new separate collaboration area for study.

• 2,400 gross-square-feet of classroom space in Coor Hall received improvements.

Downtown Phoenix campus

• 3,477 gross-square-feet of newly-leased space became three new classrooms and one small seminar space

• Updated furniture in an existing large, flat-floor classroom in the Arizona Center created a new active-learning classroom.

• First and second floor renovations at Grant Street Studios accommodate additional studio spaces, a print work area and photo dark room.

Polytechnic campus

• Sacaton Hall received two new classrooms, a new teacher resource room and staff restrooms.

• Two old classrooms converted into one 3,120 gross-square-foot active-learning classroom with all new finishes, furniture, an LED lighting package and an audiovisual system with distance-learning capabilities. 

West campus

• A new media-enhanced lab with multiple workstations and collaboration space was added to Sands Classroom and Lecture Hall.

• Two computer classrooms also were converted to teaching laboratory spaces in the Classroom/Lab/Computer Classroom (CLCC) Building.


These completed projects are only a part of the ASU capital projects now in some phase of planning, design or construction. These ongoing projects include Biodesign Institute Building C construction, Greek Leadership Village, renovations of Armstrong and Ross-Blakley Halls, and a new building for the ASU Polytechnic Preparatory Academy High School, among others.

Morgan R. Olsen, ASU executive vice president, treasurer and chief financial officer, noted that this large volume of work completed in such a narrow window is critical to the ongoing success of the university and its people. 

“Congratulations and a thank you are in order for the many ASU personnel in FDMFacilities Development and Management and beyond, as well as our contractor, vendor and design professional partners, who made it possible to achieve all these great outcomes that advance the university in so many important ways,” he said.

Learn more about ASU’s past, present and future construction projects and follow Facilities Development and Management on Twitter @ASUfacilities.

Top photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now