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Native Narratives program embraces storytelling, supports future leaders

November 20, 2020

Native students in two-year program complete specially designed courses, connect with university mentors

Storytelling is a tool that has been used cross-culturally for centuries as a means to teach lessons, express viewpoints and build communities. Arizona State University’s new Native Narratives program strives to expand on the tradition of storytelling in Native American culture by using it as a tool to prepare students for careers in the humanities and academia. 

In the two-year program, Native students from a variety of schools, departments and disciplines within ASU complete specialized courses designed to help them gain tools to effectively share their stories, connect with university mentors and receive ongoing support. Supported by a three-year, $750,000 grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the program is a collaboration between The College of Liberal Arts and Science’s Center for Indian Education and Center for Imagination in the Borderlands

Bryan Brayboy, President’s Professor in the School of Social Transformation, director of the Center for Indian Education and special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs, and Natalie Diaz, director of the Center for Imagination in the Borderlands, associate professor in the Department of English and the Maxine and Jonathan Marshall Chair in Modern and Contemporary Poetry, launched the first interdisciplinary cohort in 2019. 

Brayboy, a member of the Lumbee Tribe of North Carolina, and Diaz, a member of the Gila River Indian Tribe, said they are fueled to do this work through their own personal experiences as Native scholars. The idea for the program came to be when they were exploring ways to build a community where Native students feel accepted and empowered to move forward in higher education.

“Natalie and I are both engaged in and grew up in and around communities where stories were one medium through which we learned lessons,” Brayboy said. “We thought about who we were as members of communities and as Native peoples, while drawing on who we are as cultural beings in a way that is consistent with the challenges of what it means to be an Indigenous person in the academy, which is not always kind to Native peoples and our lived realities. This was a first attempt for us to begin thinking about how we can create the conditions for students to think about themselves as writers and as intellectuals.”

Providing the tools to empower students

Chael Moore, an undergraduate student studying English and creative writing and a citizen of the Navajo Nation, is one of eight students in the first cohort. Moore grew up in Crystal, New Mexico, on the Navajo Reservation with her siblings and parents. As the youngest in her family and the first to pursue a degree in the humanities, she said she has independently made connections and forged her path in higher education.

“My siblings are all in STEM and other things like architecture or law. My mom was focused on environmental science, and when my dad was going to school he was thinking about architecture. For me it was creative writing,” Moore said. “I was very hesitant to declare that to my family because of that. But it's also very rewarding because my family doesn't have any connections in that world. So I'm very proud of where I'm at right now, considering that I kind of did it all on my own in a way.”

Moore said through writing about her lived experiences as a Diné woman, she strives to honor her family while shedding light on a perspective seldom shared in mainstream literature. In one of her most recent writings, “Woshdee’ (come on in),” she passionately expresses some of the difficulties and prejudices she regularly encounters throughout her life.

"The first time I ever felt shame for being who I was
was in the first grade.
Sitting in my chair with ch’izhii brown skin, a little girl from the Rez
shielded from the world, I heard
‘Welcome Chael everyone, she’s Native American!’
Her words made me feel like I was her prize.
one she had just won from an ad that said:
Indian children for sale!
A second time I was at a bar.
I stood in line, minding my own damn business when this white couple approached me.
I tried my best to avoid conversation
She stood closer, inhaled my air, then said
‘Wow you have a very exotic face. Can I touch your cheek bones?’
Her husband nodded in agreement gazing over what was left of me
A third time, I was at a club with my friends.
A man approached me asking if he could take me home by whispering
‘Will you be my Pocahontas tonight?’
I stood there thinking not again.
You see, it is not all fun and games.
Because while you hear it, you see it, you condone it?
I experience it."

— Chael Moore, excerpt from "Woshdee’ (come on in)"

Moore said through the program she has not only honed her writing skills, she has also collaborated with researchers from around the world and made new connections.

“The program gives us the opportunity to rewrite our own narratives, instead of other people writing them for us,” Moore said. “I'm really appreciative to be in the spaces I've been in, like collaborating with Dr. Brayboy and his colleagues and Natalie Diaz. That's something I never imagined doing. My experiences in the program have opened a lot of doors for me because I’ve been able to connect with people who are interested in the things I want to do in the future. I've also been able to make new friends, and it’s just really nice to know more Indigenous students on campus.”

Every student in the program is assigned a mentor at ASU, each bringing a different set of skills, background and expertise for the students to learn from. Through the program, students are paired with an established ASU professor who has interests that align with their own. Students meet regularly with their mentors to assist with research and other scholarly projects, attend events together, and ask questions or express concerns they might have, both academic and personal in nature.

“What we know is that when Native students have positive relationships with someone at the university, they are more likely to persist and they are more likely to be successful than if they don’t,” Brayboy said. “Human beings broadly, but Native people in this case specifically, go through life with mentors who guide us and offer wisdom when it's necessary to help people navigate difficult situations.”

Brayboy and Diaz have found that through this aspect of the program, the student-mentor relationships have been mutually beneficial for the students and the mentors.

Native Narratives

Members of the Native Narratives cohort with Canadian writer and guest speaker for "The Power of Story" workshop Terese Mailhot: (standing, from left) Napolean Marrietta, Tally Totsoni, Elena Morris, Mailhot, Shauntel Redhouse and KaLynn Yazzie; (kneeling, from left) Chael Moore and Andra Gutierrez. Photo courtesy of Native Narratives

“The majority of our mentors are non-Native and we feel like that's really important because too often, just by default in our country, one of the ways we categorize and compartmentalize is by race or ethnicity. There's a presumption that Native students should stay in a certain area, in certain classes with certain mentors,” Diaz said. “What this program has shown is the immediate impact of our students interacting with some of our most visible faculty and scholars is that it creates a reciprocal relationship. Our students are benefiting from watching them research and from their interactions with them, and our faculty are building their own capacity to imagine Natives in their classroom and imagine Natives as being successful in these fields.”

Victoria Jackson, a sports historian and clinical assistant professor of history in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, serves as a mentor to Shauntel Redhouse, a human nutrition major and a citizen of the Navajo Nation. Redhouse is currently assisting Jackson with research related to high school sports and Title IX, the federal civil rights law that prohibits sex discrimination in education programming.

“Working with Victoria has helped widen my view of everything — from different research that is out there to all the resources that ASU has to offer,” Redhouse said. “If Native Narratives weren't around, I wouldn't have been able to make the connections I’ve made. I wouldn’t have the mentors I have now and I wouldn’t have met the people I'm surrounded by. Within the class structure, our professors talk about what it means to them to be Indigenous, and that has really motivated us to speak about our history and tell our stories.”

As a student who comes from a more scientific background, Redhouse said she most enjoyed the introductory narrative course she took through the program because it gave her the opportunity to explore other disciplines outside of her major.

“Native Narratives has challenged me to write my own story so I can help others,” she said. “I think that's what the program has helped us with the most, connecting us with other students and creating a space where we can share feedback and help each other out.”

Paving the way for future Native scholars

According to the U.S. Department of Education, despite an increase in the number of Native students attending college over time, they remain the highest underrepresented group in postsecondary institutions, representing less than 1% of enrolled students.

MORE: ASU strives to promote and advance Native American higher education

The underrepresentation of Native students also exists at the graduate level and among full-time faculty. Less than 0.5% of all students across the U.S. enrolled in graduate programs identify as American Indian, and faculty who identify as American Indian, Alaska Native or who are two or more races, each make up 1% or less of full-time faculty.

The Native Narratives program is one of many ASU initiatives working to improve these numbers and create new opportunities for Native students. This fall, ASU has seen a growing number of Native students enrolled, with 2,874 undergraduate and 596 graduate students. In addition, ASU is one of the nation's leaders in degrees granted to American Indian students annually. For the 2019-20 academic year, 663 Native undergraduate and graduate students earned 679 degrees from ASU.

A major goal of the Native Narratives program is to encourage and prepare students to pursue graduate school and eventually professorship or other careers in higher education. In addition, the program is aligned with the greater aspirations of The College and the humanities division to enable students to create the future of the humanities disciplines and make them their own.

Evolving with student and university needs 

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, the Native Narratives program has evolved to be primarily online, with classes, events and mentoring sessions being held via Zoom. Although these experiences are quite different than the traditional, in-person gatherings that the cohort has become accustomed to, the community continues to thrive and meet students where they are.

Brayboy said he sees this shift to online learning as a metaphor for how he hopes to approach the evolution of Native Narratives. He and Diaz said they are intentionally unsure of what the future holds for Native Narratives, as they hope to evolve the program based on student and university demands.

“The idea that we're going to have 17 cohorts isn't something that I aspire to necessarily,” Brayboy said. “I'm much more interested in how we can evolve our thinking about this, but also the program and the students' presence in it. How does it evolve the institution so that the institution begins to behave and engage differently — to think about knowledge and writing and stories differently? That's going to create other opportunities for us to explore.” 

Brayboy and Diaz said they hope the efforts of this program will eventually eliminate the need for a program like this, because that would mean they accomplished what they set out to do — meaningfully increase Native American representation and participation in the university setting. With the first cohort underway and the second beginning in summer 2021, they are confident and hopeful that they can create a new future for Native students in higher education.

“As the university continues to evolve, we won't need this particular program because in a way, this program was a call to action as we imagine together in a very different way. It was a call to our mentors, to see who among our colleagues will join us in this collective imagining for how to receive Indigenous students better,” Diaz said. 

“Our students are teaching us the things that they need that are not the same things our students needed five years ago. We began this program, and that should be enough for Native presence; however, as with any program, we think a lot about innovation. Indigenous communities and imaginations are very innovative. So this program will continue to morph, to shift, to leap and become the next iterations.”

Top photo by ASU

Emily Balli

Communications Specialist and Lead Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences

ASU Community of Care advances Sun Devil well-being with the daily health check

Learn how the whole process came together

November 18, 2020

Samantha Sokol, a junior studying electrical engineering, is getting ready to head out the door for a lab on Arizona State University's Tempe campus, face covering on and sanitizer in her pocket. 

ASU Sync offers her a hybrid learning experience, a blend of in-person and live online instruction, with her peers and faculty. Sokol is heading to her lab where her in-person classmates are taking social-distance precautions to converse with their instructor while remote students join via Zoom. Before she leaves, Sokol is reminded, via push notification from her ASU Mobile App, of a crucial step to keep herself and the ASU community healthy in the age of COVID-19: the ASU Daily Health Check. ASU West students and their instructor stay socially distant in their hybrid learning environment. Photo by UTO Download Full Image

“I think everybody has to do their part because we’re in uncharted waters,” Sokol said. The health check, requiring students, faculty and staff to self-report their health status daily before coming to campus, prioritizes and promotes the health and well-being of the ASU community.

The ASU daily health check is a part of the university’s Community of Care, a greater effort to keep its members safe with further testing info, face coverings, social-distance guidelines and more. The health check is a process that caters to users and is enacting a behavioral change across campus by asking questions to help community members monitor their health through a website, the ASU Mobile App or phone calls to the Experience Center.

Creating a new normal together

Improved engineering from UTO enabled effective communication between those in physical and virtual classrooms. Photo by ASU

Partners across the university knew that this process needed to be accessible for everyone. Starting in July 2020, UTO managed four cross-university workstreams — experience and communication, data and privacy, process and systems, and technical integration — consisting of  individuals with varied skills and subject matter expertise, united for work on specific aspects to create the health check process. 

Faculty member Heather Ross, who teaches jointly at the College of Global Futures and the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation, joined the data and privacy workstream to contribute to the ethical viewpoint of the project. Ross worked with faculty members, lawyers, technical experts and others to determine the best approach to handle personal information of the ASU community.

“The group was very productive,” she said. “The right assemblage of voices were at the table.”

Those voices centered their discussions around the question, “What are the ethical implications?” Where those discussions ended up, Ross explained, was that only information deemed absolutely necessary was collected, which simply includes the answers to the self-reported data from the ASU community. “Everything the health check process was doing had to be in service of protecting public health,” she said.

Engineering the Community of Care

Bobby Gray, UTO director of digital transformation and a part of the daily health check leadership team, explained the four workstreams’ foci. As mentioned, the data and privacy group found the ethical gathering of data incredibly important from the start. 

That sentiment was carried into conversations with the process and systems workstream, which was concerned with the day-to-day operation of the health check.

Gray posed the question, “From the medical side, what is the process we need to follow?”

Project planners joined with ASU Health Services teams to ensure that HIPAA guidelines were followed while crafting the questions asked of the ASU community.

Meanwhile, the technical integration workstream, made up of UTO engineers and developers, was reflecting the decisions made in all of these groups in the “final” (and continuously evolving) product. This team demonstrated constant collaboration supported by integrating Jira, the project management software, into real-time collaboration tool Slack for continuous testing and the quick updating of improvements.

Mike Sharkey, UTO director of data and analysis, oversees the health check’s reporting features, making sure that ASU’s Community of Care stays on target with reminder emails and password resets if the daily health check is missed. And those features are demonstrating their effectiveness, with over 4 million health checks completed since it was introduced in August.

“We know that the core purpose of this process was to do our part to keep everyone in the ASU community safe and healthy,” Sharkey said. “What's impressed me the most is the wonderful support and positivity from the vast majority of ASU folks I've interacted with.”

Crafting the best experience possible

The ASU Mobile App provides a quick and easy way to complete the daily health check.

“With something as high-profile as COVID, we knew how we communicated would be important,” Gray said.

That’s where the experience and communication group came into play, working on the messaging, visual experience and follow up information to make the far-reaching process as easy as possible.

It was understood that it is a difficult time in the era of COVID-19, and ASU’s Experience Center was ready to help. Dedicated to customer delight, the Experience Center quickly trained its service agents to be HIPAA-compliant and to be able to guide callers through the health check process. At its peak, the Experience Center was supporting more than 3,000 calls per day to help the community submit their health checks.

“We took a human-centered approach,” said Gigi Speaks, Experience Center director. “Words matter. How we communicate with our community matters. It was a process of providing a safe space for callers, and letting them know we are all in this together.”

After their conversations with Experience Center agents, she added, callers walked away with a better understanding of how to keep themselves and their ASU peers healthy.

The ASU Mobile App was also a crucial tool in bringing the ASU Sync experience to the university, and the hard work of many university staff and faculty members made it possible.

“There was an openness as we were working this out together,” Gray said. “There is no playbook to open a university during a pandemic. Sometimes we were caught in the nuances, but we realized we had to keep executing around the idea of doing good.”

Human-centered results

Accessing the daily health check can also be as easy as visiting Photo by ASU

Many moving parts had to come together very quickly to get the ASU daily health check up and running.

“We are very proud of the partnership across ASU teams to make this happen, and in collaboration, we are appreciative that the daily usage of this tool is doing its part to help remind our students, staff and faculty of the importance of their health as well as giving them tailored information about resources when they do exhibit symptoms,” said Chris Richardson, UTO deputy CIO of product ownership and leadership development.

Students and faculty recognized the results, and while there is of course no simple answer to COVID-19, the health check brought some comfort to its users. 

“There were a lot of questions about it at the beginning,” Ross said. “But people understand that this is not a normal time. This is a time when, in the face of a global pandemic, we have to understand we are not individual islands. We have to understand that as we step through this experience, we have to do so with the greater good in mind.”

And Sokol, now leaving her technology-enabled lab, has a new way to stay mindful for herself and for the entire ASU community.

“It’s important to remember (that COVID-19) is not going away any time soon,” she said. “Sustaining that thought into the next semester and beyond is a very important and necessary thing. It feels good to know that (the daily health check) is holding us accountable.” 

Editorial specialist, University Technology Office

ASU Dean’s Medalist to attend law school, become a public defender

Anjali Mistry was inspired by her passion for gender studies, Black feminism and politics

November 16, 2020

Editor's note: This story is part of a series of profiles of notable fall 2020 graduates.

In December, Chandler, Arizona native Anjali Mistry will graduate summa cum laude from Arizona State University with a Bachelor of Arts degree in women and gender studies, and political science with a perfect 4.0 GPA. Anjali Mistry School of Social Transformation Dean's Medalist Anjali Mistry Download Full Image

In the classroom, Anjali has been an excellent student and has earned outstanding grades. Anjali’s course instructors have been particularly impressed by the thoughtfulness and insightfulness of Anjali’s contributions to class discussions. Anjali has centered her time at ASU learning about Black feminisms and Black history. Learned from the pioneers of Black feminism, she uses intersectionality as a critical lens to inform her academic work. She is a reader of authors such as Angela Davis and Audre Lorde who have inspired much of her passion for gender studies and politics.

Michelle McGibbney, a senior lecturer and current faculty head in the women and gender studies program in the School of Social Transformation, remembers having Anjali in the WST senior seminar this semester.

“I was impressed by the work she produced in this course. Her research paper was theoretically sound and her discussion posts were thoughtful and insightful. She is an excellent student who is extremely motivated and is a critical thinker.  She is well-deserving of this award and we are excited that this outstanding WST major will be recognized.” McGibbney said.

Furthermore, Anjali has worked tirelessly to promote inclusion and awareness of critical social issues. While at ASU, Anjali was a political reporter and opinion columnist for the State Press and a co-coordinator of the Clothesline Project to raise awareness about domestic and sexual violence.

“Anjali was enrolled in my WST 477: Gender and Violence course in fall 2018," said Dr. Alesha Durfee, associate professor in women and gender studies and who has led the School of Social Transformation's Clothesline Project since 2014. "We cover difficult, complex material and then use it to change society by raising awareness about domestic and sexual violence. Anjali thrived in the course and earned an "A". Anjali was also an integral part of the 2018 Clothesline Project. She worked a shift where she was available to students to talk with them about domestic and sexual violence and provide them with information about resources. 

“She also helped with the set-up and tear-down of that event, which is a big job! She also co-organized and co-hosted a separate mini-Clothesline Project on campus. She was always prepared for and very engaged in class, gave insightful comments, worked well with other students, and was clearly passionate about social justice. Anjali was a pleasure to work with, and I'm tremendously happy to see her be recognized through the receipt of this award."

In addition to her work with the State Press and the Clothesline Project, Anjali also interned throughout her junior and senior semesters at various government institutions. Last year she worked as a Senate page at the Arizona State Senate. There she learned the ropes of the legislative process and the intricacies of state government. She then went on to intern at the Arizona Attorney General’s Office of Victim Services, where she spent time doing casework and attending court hearings to help fine-tune her understanding of the justice system

This fall, as part of her work with the Humanities Lab, Anjali has collaborated on projects to develop a new sex education curriculum that is more inclusive of the disabled community and to create a zine sharing student experiences as part of a call for reform to improve accessibility at student counseling services.

After graduation, Anjali plans to attend law school and become a public defender. Anjali’s career ambitions are motivated by her dedication to advocate for marginalized populations and to work to address racial disparities in criminal sentencing. 

We met with Anjali (virtually) and ask a few more questions about her experience at ASU and what motivated her to choose her career path.

Question: What was your “aha” moment, when you realized you wanted to study the field you majored in?

Answer: My aha moment was after the inauguration of Donald Trump when millions of people all over the nation and globe gathered together to demonstrate the power of women with the women’s march. I was so inspired I decided to dedicate my time at ASU to the study of feminism to better understand how to empower myself and the women around me. 

Q: What’s something you learned while at ASU — in the classroom or otherwise — that surprised you or changed your perspective? 

A: I learned that every person on this earth is ignorant in some type of way, myself included. The amazing professors/mentors I have had at ASU have taught me that I need to work every day to unlearn my ignorance and better my understanding of various communities.

Q: Why did you choose ASU?

ASU is such an enormous university I knew that the diversity of people and the professors here were going to open me to a whole world of knowledge I hadn’t even known existed yet.

Q: Which professor taught you the most important lesson while at ASU?

It is a tie between Professor Vinas-Nelson and Professor Stanlie James in the African and African American studies department. They introduced me to Black feminism, whose scholarship and literature has shaped my personal perspective on social issues and has taught me to view the world through the lens of intersectionality.

Q: What’s the best piece of advice you’d give to those still in school?

I would say, don’t go for the easy classes. Take the classes with topics you have a genuine interest for or are even curious about, it will make your time in undergrad so much more fulfilling.

Q: What was your favorite spot on campus, whether for studying, meeting friends or just thinking about life?

I love Charlie’s Cafe in the Design North Building!

Q: What are your plans after graduation?

I am applying to law school this fall and planning on attending law school by fall of 2021 with hopes of working for a public defenders office.

Q: If someone gave you $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would you tackle?

I would put the money towards funding for biosecurity measures so we can continue to fight the current pandemic and prevent future ones.

Enrique Martin Palacios

Communications and Marketing Coordinator, School of Social Transformation, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU strives to promote and advance Native American higher education

November 13, 2020

The university is a national leader when it comes to support, education and graduation for Indigenous students

It was seeing herself reflected that made the college decision for Maria Walker.

The high school senior had been all set to go to Columbia University on a full scholarship, but then Tribal Nations Tour visited her school in the White Mountain Apache community. The outreach program brings Arizona State University students to schools throughout the state with large populations of American Indian students.

That spring 2017 visit made all the difference for Walker.

“It was heartwarming to see other Native Americans from ASU, who were successful and took the time to share their stories with us,” said Walker, now a senior in ASU's College of Health Solutions. “It made me realize that if I went to ASU, I’d be studying with fellow Native Americans and be taught by Native staff who could help me along the way.

"I decided that I’d rather have a community at ASU rather than travel across the country and not know anyone or have the support I have now.”

Walker is part of a growing number of Native American students at ASU, which reached almost 3,500This number reflects students who self-identify as Native American. ASU's enrollment according to IPEDS — the data program for the National Center for Education Statistics that is commonly used to compare institutions — is lower, because if a student identifies as both Hispanic and Native American, the Hispanic category takes precedence and the student is counted only as Hispanic. — 2,874 undergraduate and 596 graduate students — this fall. That number appears to be the largest among U.S. colleges and universities, according to ASU Now's research. ASU also is one of the nation's leaders in degrees granted to American Indian students on an annual basis; for the 2019-20 academic year, 663 Native American undergraduate and graduate students earned 679 degrees here.

Maria Walker

Maria Walker, shown here on Palm Walk on the Tempe campus, chose ASU in order to be part of a community of Native American students. Photo by Ashlyn Young

American Indian students make up less than 1% of all college students in the U.S., according to the National Center for Education Statistics, and only about 13% of all Native Americans have a college degree. Those numbers are starting to change, and ASU — whose Tempe campus sits on the ancestral homelands of many Indigenous peoples, including the Akimel O’odham (Pima) and Xalychidom Piipaash (Maricopa) — is striving to do its part.

"There is so much potential here, and indeed, potential that is already being realized in very big ways," ASU President Michael M. Crow said. "There is unbelievable energy to be found by asking, 'Where is there opportunity to grow in understanding?' ASU is making it a priority to serve Native American students, and in turn, these students are enriching the ASU community."

What follows is how ASU got here, and how it is working collaboratively with tribal nations to help them become stronger and more vibrant by building capacity. This work is accomplished through community engagement, research and offering place and space for American Indian and Alaska Native students, faculty and programs to create futures of their own making.

The beginning of a change

Sixty years ago, when ASU opened the Center for Indian Education, the university had 17 Indigenous students enrolled at the university. Peterson Zah, the last chairman and the first president of the Navajo Nation and a consultant to ASU's Office of Tribal Relations, first attended the university in 1959. He said getting to ASU was an adventure and an education in life.

Zah packed his luggage — a brown paper sack — placed his clothes and whatever possessions he owned in it, and hopped in the back of a pickup truck, commandeered by his uncle with his aunt riding shotgun.

“On the way down from the reservation, we stopped at a store in Payson to eat and gas up,” Zah said from his home in Window Rock, Arizona. “I could barely read or speak English, but I noticed a sign in the window that read, ‘Any good Indian is a dead Indian.’ I asked my uncle what that was about. He shrugged his shoulders and said, ‘People are just that way around here.’

“I asked him, ‘What am I going to school for?’” Zah said.

Soon he would find out — to help build capacity for his people and other tribes. When Zah graduated in 1963 with a degree in education, he had several jobs. He taught high school in Window Rock, worked as a construction estimator for the tribe, did a stint with the AmeriCorps VISTA volunteer program, and helped the Mashantucket Pequot Tribe build the one of the earliest major Indian casinos in Ledyard, Connecticut. In 1995, Zah was hired and tasked by then ASU President Lattie Coor to look for innovative ways to increase the number of American Indian students at ASU, which numbered 672 at the time.

Twenty-five years later, that number is far more substantial.

Donald Fixico

Regents Professor Donald Fixico. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“I have always marveled at the number of American Indian students receiving their degrees every year in December, and especially at spring graduation in May,” said ASU Regents Professor Donald Fixico, one of the nation’s preeminent American Indian history scholars. “It is impressive to see all of the families, relatives and friends that fill the auditorium. At last, ASU has reached a milestone by graduating more Native students than any other university in the United States. This says a lot — that ASU is a university that welcomes and supports American Indian students.”

Rising above the challenges

The COVID-19 pandemic has hit tribal communities particularly hard in 2020. Long-standing health disparities have left American Indian people more vulnerable to the pandemic. Relatives and family members have died. Reservations have implemented weekend-long lockdowns and curfews. Inadequate infrastructure in water, housing, education, health care delivery and limited or no broadband accessibility has been exacerbated, and funding for scholarships have taken a big hit.

But that didn’t stop American Indian students from seeking their education. This group has historically been driven by a sense of community and purpose, according to Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s senior adviser to the president on American Indian affairs. Native students often get a degree to pay it forward, by going back to their community and helping to strengthen and sustain it.

Students like Mariah Black Bird.

The 27-year-old is a citizen of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe in South Dakota, and she is enrolled in ASU’s Indian Legal Program in the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law.

With financial burdens growing up, the death of her father when she was 14, and coming from an impoverished tribal community, Black Bird has had a lot of obstacles to overcome. But she knew education was her pathway to a brighter future.

“There were a lot of sacrifices that had to be made. I sold my car, worked summers and my mom let me borrow her car to come down to Phoenix,” said Black Bird, who is on an ASU scholarship, which she says covers about 75% of her costs. “Sometimes I don’t get to have a social life because I have to study, or I need to stick to a budget because things are tight. But I know it’s only temporary.

Mariah Black Bird

Mariah Black Bird. Photo by Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law

“I look at our history and know that even though we’re no longer battling it out at Wounded Knee or other famous sites, we’re still fighting. … I want to try to help my tribe any way I can, and our weapon of choice has to be education.”

That’s a statement that resonates with Megan Bang. As the senior vice president of the Spencer Foundation and as a learning sciences professor at Northwestern University, Bang believes that higher education degrees for Native peoples is of the utmost importance for tribes and also advances the possibility of a just United States.

“The success at ASU is remarkable on multiple fronts, and the multitiered work is critical to appropriately recruiting and serving Native students,” said Bang, an Ojibwe tribe member and renowned researcher who serves on the Board on Science Education at the National Academy of Sciences. “ASU has also made substantial investments in Indigenous faculty and staff, Indigenous research and dedicated centers, support for students to engage in and with each other around important communal and cultural practices, and long-term partnerships with Indigenous communities, amongst other remarkable efforts.”

Bang added: “The university has built the institutional capacity to serve Native students with a rigor and seriousness unparalleled. ASU’s leadership is a model for the rest of us to learn.”

From the reservation to the campus

In the not-so-distant past, an academic recruiting trip to a reservation in the state of Arizona was almost inconceivable. The trips were long and the reservations were hard to navigate, with populations spread out over wide spaces. The barriers were great.

That mindset changed about a decade ago, said Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian Initiatives for the Office of University Affairs. That’s when her team, with the help of Zah, created the Tribal Nations Tour outreach program. Each year, the tour holds presentations on wellness, college readiness, career preparation and the pursuit of academic degrees.

“ASU can’t be viewed as invisible, and we’re not waiting for students in tribal communities to come and visit us,” said Bowen, who schedules visits to all of Arizona’s tribes and has plans to visit other states such as California, New Mexico and South Dakota. “Through these visits, Indigenous youth are able to see themselves in our students and faculty.”

Shaandiin Parrish

Then-ASU senior and Miss Indian Arizona Shaandiin Parrish speaks to a group of students at the Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation reservation on Nov. 5, 2016, as part of the Tribal Nations Tour. Parrish spoke with youth in the community to inspire them to further their education. Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

In addition to the Tribal Nations Tour, ASU has built a suite of programs to recruit, retain and build a sense of community for its Indigenous students.

Those pathways begin with RECHARGE, a one-day college and career readiness day put together in collaboration with ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services. In spring 2019, the program attracted approximately 700 American Indian students from around the state. The second offering is INSPIRE, a weeklong summer bridge program for high school students that, pre-COVID-19, drew more than 250 applications for 100 slots. Another community engagement program is SPIRIT, a two-week final ramp-up orientation before the start of the fall semester for incoming American Indian first-year students. The program moves students into the dorms early in order to get acclimated to their new environment and make new friends in anticipation of often-experienced culture shock during what, for many students, is their first time away from home.

“Many times when Indigenous students come to this university to visit our campus, they are accompanied by their families,” Brayboy said. “Nine times out of 10, the parents will say to us, ‘We are entrusting you to take care of our child.’ It’s a promise and responsibility we take seriously at the university.”

Additional resources are the American Indian Student Support Services, the Alliance of Indigenous People student-led coalition and the American Indian Graduate Student Association.

Inspire program

Window Rock High School sophomore Quentin Tsosie (left) works with mentor and Assistant Professor Henry Quintero during ASU's Inspire Program for Native high school students held at Coor Hall in Tempe on June 23, 2017. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Beyond creating a welcoming environment, ASU realizes that connection is a worldview in how Native Americans are brought up, and that leaving the reservation is, in a way, a loss. Staff have worked hard over the years to present experiences of connection, belonging and shared identity. The university does that in a variety of ways and initiatives.

In 2017, ASU began publishing Turning Points, a first-of-its-kind magazine that comes out twice a year. It is geared specifically toward Native American students and is written by an all-Indigenous staff of students.

A year later, the Dream Warriors, a collective of Native American artists, came to ASU’s Tempe campus to kick off the “Heal It Tour,” which included two days of poetry, music, sharing, self-empowerment and healing.

For more than three decades, the university has hosted the ASU Pow Wow. The annual event draws thousands of spectators representing more than 100 tribes from around the U.S. and Canada for a three-day gathering. In April 2019, dancers and singers wore traditional regalia and continued the social and spiritual practices of their ancestors in Sun Devil Stadium, the first time the event had been held at the stadium since its inaugural year in 1986.

At the West campus, the Veterans Day Weekend Traditional Pow Wow has been a campus fixture since 2000. Unlike the spring event on the Tempe campus, which is a dancing competition, the West one is a traditional social gathering whose focus is honoring the military service of Native Americans. Because of COVID-19, its 20th anniversary will be celebrated in 2021.

The university also has plans underway to redesign the campus to reflect Indigenous culture. Last year, the ASU Library announced its expansion of the Labriola National American Indian Data Center, which features thousands of books, journals, Native Nations newspapers and primary source materials, such as photographs, oral histories and manuscript collections. The Labriola Center now has two locations; Fletcher Library on the West campus and Hayden Library on the Tempe campus.

Future ideas include adding traditional Gila River pottery artwork to Sun Devil Stadium and building a storytelling pavilion and gathering place on campus. A “welcome wall” that includes the languages of the nearly two dozen tribes in Arizona was incorporated into the renovated Hayden Library.

Through these efforts, ASU is raising awareness of its Indigenous connection to all students, not just Native Americans.

Seeing themselves in faculty

When Native students arrive on campus and are taught by Native faculty, they don't just see their physical selves reflected, they also find a reflection of their experiences and values of community, said Natalie Diaz, a poet, associate professor in ASU’s Department of English and winner of a 2018 MacArthur "genius" grant.

“ASU is building a community in which our Native students won’t have to become someone else to arrive here and succeed, and where they instead can be themselves and who they are will be impactful to our entire community at ASU,” said Diaz, who was born and raised in the Fort Mojave Indian Village in Needles, California, and is an enrolled member of the Gila River Indian Tribe.

“One of the things I love about being at ASU is that I have the freedom to be 100% Native while I’m here, as well as all the other things I believe I am. It isn't necessarily a new home; rather it is an extension of my home, which I carry with me everywhere I go.”

Natalie Diaz

Associate Professor Natalie Diaz. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Diaz is one of many world-class Native professors at ASU. Others include Brayboy (Lumbee), director of the Center for Indian Education; Gary F. Moore (Powhatan Pamunkey) assistant professor in the School of Molecular Sciences and a researcher in the Biodesign Center for Applied Structural Discovery; K. Tsianina Lomawaima (Mvskoke/Creek Nation) in the School of Social Transformation; and Fixico (Shawnee, Sac and Fox, Muscogee Creek and Seminole) in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies — all of whom have either been inducted into major academies or had significant awards bestowed upon them.

In the last year alone, ASU added several new Native American faculty hires. One of them is Matthew Ignacio, an associate professor in the School of Social Work.

“I feel like I hit the jackpot because this is where I’m supposed to be,” said Ignacio, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation who specializes in the study of diversity, oppression, healing and wellness of Native Americans. “ASU is so vibrant on so many levels and across all four campuses. They work with tribal nations and understand the challenges of Native American students. I’m honored to be in this position and to give back to the students. I want to be a role model.”

So does Benjamin Timpson, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Art who runs a nationally ranked photography department.

“I love being at ASU because it’s an incredible place to be and they have a built-in outreach platform for Native American students,” said Timpson, who is a Yale-Smithsonian Poynter Fellow and descendant of the Pueblo Indian Tribes. “I’ve been at other schools where it’s an every-man-for-himself kind of place, and those are not healthy institutions. Not here. They really do a great job of building people up. Students come here and right away they’re all treated as equals no matter what level they were in the past. This is a very progressive place.”

The university’s latest superstar hire is Professor Rebecca L. Sandefur, a sociologist with the T. Denny Sanford School of Family Dynamics. Sandefur, who won a MacArthur “genius” grant the same year as Diaz, said she is impressed with her new academic home.

“The ASU Charter highlights the importance of serving ASU’s many communities and fostering inclusive success,” said Sandefur, an enrolled member of the Chickasaw Nation. “As Native American faculty, I am gratified to learn that ASU is the No. 1 educator of Native Americans in the country. I look forward to ASU’s continuing progress in supporting the success of Native American students.”

RISE meeting

From left: Justice studies student Nicholas Bustamante, Assistant Research Professor Colin Ben and justice studies JD student Jeremiah Chin assign tasks during a weekly meeting at the Center for Indian Education on Feb. 1, 2017. The center is celebrating its diamond jubilee this year. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now 

Success is a two-way street

True success begins when you start giving back — that’s a lesson ASU has learned over the years when interacting with vibrant tribal nations, communities and students. ASU scholars also offer a spectrum of resources to tribes locally, regionally and beyond, and the university has a wide breadth of research and interaction taking place in Indian Country.

Last year, the American Indian Policy Institute at ASU offered an insightful and timely look at technology use on Indian lands. The paper, “Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands” revealed that many Native Americans do not have equal access to the internet and are using smartphones to access it, although at much slower speeds and with less reliability.

Denise E. Bates, a historian and assistant professor of leadership and integrative studies in the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts at ASU, is nation-building through her work by helping tribes in the Southeast document their histories through community-driven initiatives. She does this through archiving material, recording oral history and writing books.

School of Social Work Assistant Professor Shanondora Billiot studies how climate change is affecting tribes in Louisiana due to rising sea levels. According to Billiot, the state's coastal areas have lost about 35 square miles a year for the last half century.

“Many who feel threatened by these changes have mental health challenges or meet criteria for depression, anxiety or PTSD,” said Billiot, who is a member of the United Houma Nation in southern Louisiana. “The second leg of my research is trying to discover what is the tipping point for people when they decide to move. It’s confusing and often heartbreaking.”

Realizing that many Native Americans live in remote areas, ASU has figured out a way to bring the campus to the reservation and other parts of the world. In 2012, ASU’s School of Social Transformation launched the Pueblo Indian Doctoral Program, which facilitates the training of practitioner-researcher-scholars within Pueblo communities in New Mexico. Five years later, the school also developed an online MA in Indigenous Education program that allowed students to stay within their own communities while strengthening their ability to work in the field of Indian education and within tribal nations’ education programs.

ASU is also civic-minded when it comes to helping tribal communities. The Native Vote Election Project through ASU’s Indian Legal Clinic aims to ensure that Native Americans exercise their right to vote in federal and state elections. The program trains volunteers to offer aid at polling sites around the state, helping Indigenous peoples navigate problems such as intimidation, acceptable forms of identification and legal procedures on Election Day.

The San Carlos Apache Tribe was able to open the third tribal college in the state in 2017 after 18 months of intense planning and preparation, much of it done with the assistance of ASU. Tribe Chairman Terry Rambler had a vision to create a college, and he asked Crow for help. The San Carlos Apache Tribe leveraged the expertise of Maria Hesse, then vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU, and Jacob Moore, the university’s associate vice president for tribal relations.

“I'm very thankful to ASU for what it's done for us and also for our people, because this is a game changer for our people,” Rambler said. “ ... Hopefully somewhere down the road, when I'm not around – way down the road – our community becomes an educated community. And they will look back to that time when a few stepped up – like ASU – and helped us.”

San Carlos Apache College is currently a two-year college. Rambler said the goal is for the school to have its own bachelor's degree program someday, linked to ASU.

And his hopes extend beyond the classroom.

“Someday, hopefully the environment will be better where we can create our own San Carlos Apache College basketball team,” he said. “I can't wait for that day.”

Over the summer, a team of ASU alumni instituted the First Peoples’ COVID-19 Resource Drive, an initiative to deliver much-needed supplies to tribal communities struggling with the impact of the pandemic. They sent emergency supplies Navajo, Hopi, Hualapai, Havasupai and White Mountain Apache communities.

“Initiatives like the First Peoples’ Drive assist tribal governments and agencies with relief efforts,” said Marcus Denetdale, program director for ASU’s Construction in Indian Country program. “In this case, the supplies went from Sun Devil Stadium to tribal doorsteps in three days or less.”

COVID drive

Volunteers for the First Peoples’ COVID-19 Resource Drive line up near the Sun Devil Stadium on ASU's Tempe campus before the drop-offs begin on May 7. Photo by Marcus Denetdale/ASU

The university has also provided to tribal communities COVID-19 test kits, testing research, medical and public health support, and PPE supplies. In the upcoming months, Ignacio of the School of Social Work will be traveling to various reservations to discuss the efficacy and safety of a COVID-19 vaccine. He doesn’t know if he can talk reluctant members into taking the vaccine, but he does know the door is always open for discussion.

“That relationship is there, and that’s a necessary part of being engaged with the community,” Ignacio said. “ASU’s attitude has always been, ‘Let’s make this a win-win situation and create positive change.’ Wherever the need is, I’m willing to help.”

That willingness to help is what makes ASU stand out in the field of American Indian studies, said Teresa McCarty, the G.F. Kneller Chair in Education and Anthropology at the University of California, Los Angeles.

“In many respects it’s not surprising that ASU has realized these milestones,” McCarty said, who is a member of the National Academy of Education. “All of this is a credit to ASU, but it is equally a testimony to the committed efforts of Native nations, communities and individuals who have reached out to ASU to build partnerships and offer their expertise. It is heartening to see the fruits of these reciprocal tribal-university investments reflected in ASU’s enrollment and degree-conferral milestones.”

These community ties, the record numbers of enrolled students and the fact that ASU is producing PhDs, lawyers, judges, nurses, artists, CPAs, chemists, social workers and educators — all of it brings a smile to Zah’s face. It's a far cry from when he was one of just 17 Indigenous students on campus.

“What does it do to my heart … the fact that ASU is the No. 1 educator of Native Americans?” Zah said. “Well, it makes me feel good and it’s something to be proud of. There’s a lot of joy in that statement, and I’m very, very happy.”

Infographic breaking down the Native American enrollment numbers at ASU

Infographic by Alejandro Cabrera Ramirez/ASU

Top photo: Air Force veteran Janilda Garnier receives her hood from Clinical Professor Andrew Carter for earning a Master of Legal Studies at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law Convocation at the former Comerica Theatre, on May 10, 2017. She is a member of the Navajo Nation.

Desert Financial teams up with InStride to provide its employees with an ASU education

November 12, 2020

Desert Financial’s InvestED program follows the Starbucks College Achievement Plan, the first-of-its-kind program offered in partnership between Arizona State University and Starbucks, to provide its employees with an opportunity to learn and grow while working with the company. 

The Arizona credit union recognized how quickly the world and jobs are changing, and it decided to adapt by implementing a world-class program through ASU and InStride.  InvestED student Greg Schaffran works from home with his son. Schaffran is pursuing a dual degree in business administration and physics. Download Full Image

Desert Financial employees pursuing higher education have the support of the company to keep learning and acquiring new skills as adult learners. Desert Financial hopes to build loyalty, engagement and retention with the company as Desert Financial CEO Jeff Meshey believes in “lifelong learning and continuous education.” 

InStride works with companies to provide exclusive learning experiences to its employees and is excited to work with Desert Financial. 

“We are proud to partner with a company like Desert Financial Credit Union that prioritizes its people and encourages them to pursue career advancement through education,” said Vivek Sharma, CEO of InStride. “InvestED is a meaningful program that will contribute to the company’s reputation as an employer of choice and will drive even further employee engagement.” 

The InvestED program allows employees to earn a bachelor’s degree, master’s degree, certificates, and more. This fall during its first cohort,100 students enrolled in classes. One of those students, Greg Schaffran, jumped at the opportunity to go back to school at ASU. 

When Schaffran was 19 years old, his plans to pursue a bachelor’s degree at ASU quickly shifted when his son was born. By word of mouth and several recommendations, Schaffran applied to Desert Financial’s call center. He’s moved up quickly and now holds a quality analyst position. At his job he values giving back to his customers. 

“It’s always been a passion of mine to get a degree as a way to move forward in my career and give back,” Schaffran said. He says he can already see the difference in his education, and he's excited he doesn’t have to leave his son or the same desk he works from every day, to pursue his passion.  

Schaffran is pursuing a dual degree in business administration and physics, his first love. So far in his education journey with ASU and InvestED, he’s noticed how in-depth his classes are from the explanations, assistance and application of the content. He appreciates how dedicated each person and organization is through this three-way partnership. A piece of advice he received from an academic adviser was, “It doesn’t matter where you start, as long as you get started.” Schraffan and other Desert Financial employees have the chance to get started and continue learning at ASU.  

Desert Financial Executive Vice President Cathy Graham hopes that more students will join Schraffan and participate in at least one course. “One day we’ll have 100% participation from all of our employees because ASU education is the crown jewel to employees with dependents and families.”

Get more information about InvestED.

Elon Graves

Student worker, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU's Herberger Institute launches two new schools

The move reimagines the genres of music, dance, theater and film

November 12, 2020

Earlier this year, the Arizona Board of Regents formally approved a plan to create two new schools in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts: the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and The New American Film School. The two new schools take the place of the former School of Film, Dance and Theatre and the former School of Music.

“As the largest comprehensive design and arts college in the U.S. we must center and support student learning, academics and research that are aligned with the larger cultural and creative sectors,” said Steven J. Tepper, dean and director of the Herberger Institute. “In the next three years, we are expanding our regional growth — adding a learning space and creative micro-retail in downtown Phoenix, co-designing a film, immersive media and innovation center with the city of Mesa, and building direct programming in Los Angeles with the acquisition of the Herald-Examiner Building. Scene from the Herberger Institute production of the play "She Kills Monsters." Four actors appear in a 2016 production of "She Kills Monsters," produced by the theater program in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts. Photo by Tim Trumble. Download Full Image

The downtown Phoenix location will serve as the home of ASU’s newly launched popular music program, the first popular music bachelor’s degree in the state. The film program will be housed in the new state-of-the-art facilities in Mesa.

The new School of Music, Dance and Theatre is defined by some of the top faculty in the world, in all three of its disciplines, Tepper said, and “embraces a spirit of collaboration and a push for innovation, while remaining committed to craft and practice.”

“Our aim with the new School of Music, Dance and Theatre is to create a dynamic, collaborative unit that respects what each of the disciplinary faculties has achieved individually,” Tepper said, “while inviting the faculty to think together to leverage their resources, talents and reputation.”

Heather Landes, formerly the director of the School of Music, has stepped into the new position of director of the School of Music, Dance and Theatre. Landes served as director of the School of Music for the past eight years and prior to that was associate dean of students for the Herberger Institute. 

Under Landes’ leadership, the School of Music has seen growing diversity among its faculty and students, the launch of new degrees in musicology, conducting and popular music, minors in music performance and musical theater, certificates in music theory pedagogy and music entrepreneurship, more than $25 million in philanthropic gifts, the formation of the Gospel Choir and the Philharmonia, and an increased commitment to community engagement and social embeddedness. 

“I’m eager to work with faculty and staff in music, dance and theater on the design and evolution of a new type of school, one that is inclusive at its core, with extraordinary opportunities for students, new forms of creative expression, and powerful ways to engage our communities," Landes said. "Together, we can combine our strengths in production and design, devising and creating new work, collaborative performance, education and more to build new multidisciplinary projects and support the music, dance and theater of the region.” 

New faculty in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre include Erin Barra, director of the new popular music program.Barra is one of eight new faculty who joined the school this fall.

Learn more about the faculty in the School of Music, Dance and Theatre 

Last year, the film program at ASU was ranked among the top 25 film bachelor’s degree programs in the nation. Tepper said that over the course of the next two years, The New American Film School will seek to operate across three cities as the institute opens the new facilities in Mesa and Los Angeles.

Jason Davids Scott is serving as interim director of the new school. Scott is an associate professor of film and served as an assistant director in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre. Scott has been a key driver, along with faculty colleagues, in the growth and development of the institute’s top 25 film program.

“The school is dedicated to finding and supporting new creative voices that are fully representative of the nation’s growing diversity,” Scott said. “We are assembling a team focused on building the most dynamic, diverse and technology empowered film and media production program possible, with the goal of quadrupling the number of film industry partnerships and relationships and building significant philanthropic support for this program.”

“A film school focuses on the making of film as a creative art, with its own technical language, professional practices and histories of practice and creativity,” said Tiffany López, vice provost designee for inclusion and community engagement at ASU and professor in the new school. “ASU’s New American Film School will be the most egalitarian film school in the U.S. because of its foundations in our charter and its focus on access and inclusion. The growth of our faculty and curriculum over the past several years illustrates our honoring of the charter and its design principles.”

Recent film faculty hires include two-time Emmy award winning writer and producer Peter Murrieta, best known for his Emmy Award-winning work as head writer and executive producer on the Disney Channel sitcom “Wizards of Waverly Place,” and currently working on the hit Netflix series “Mr. Iglesias.”

See a full list of New American Film School faculty

Tepper said that working groups are helping determine the structures, programs and resources necessary for everyone in both the School of Music, Dance and Theatre and The New American Film School to thrive.

“We are advancing new degrees with access to new spaces and technologies that will prepare our graduates to thrive in the growing creative economy,” Tepper said. “Our new schools position us well to navigate these exciting changes and opportunities.” 

Deborah Sussman

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


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ASU completes $50 million in recent facilities upgrades

November 10, 2020

Classrooms, office space and residence halls just a few projects overseen by Facilities Development and Management

While campus life looks different this fall, Arizona State University continued its commitment to a healthy and welcoming environment through recent campus improvements. Spearheaded by Facilities Development and Management — and in collaboration with many departments, partners and essential personnel — ASU completed more than 100 projects totaling more than $50 million over the past six months.

The enhancements included the unique challenge of developing and delivering a comprehensive plan to prep ASU for students and employees to return this fall.

“This pandemic certainly was an unprecedented event,” said Bruce Nevel, vice president of Facilities Development and Management. “Taking advantage of the availability of unoccupied campuses across ASU took hard work, collaboration and ingenuity from FDM and others to mitigate the COVID-19 risk to the greatest degree possible.”  

This effort produced new protective measures, such as physical-distance warnings, facility-cleaning protocols, Plexiglas installations, classroom seating limitations and face-covering requirements to reduce COVID-19 spread.

Personnel also improved and repaired facilities, classrooms, residence halls, laboratories and made critical enhancements to university buildings and common areas on the Downtown Phoenix, Polytechnic, Tempe and West campuses in response to current public health issues. Below are several recently completed projects:

COVID-19 safety upgrades

ASU COVID-19 prevention signage

Student-workers deliver COVID-19 spread prevention signage to the Tempe campus prior to the start of the fall semester. Photo by ASU Now

  • Added various levels of Zoom installations around the university. Upgraded approximately 380 spaces with electrical, data, microphones and cameras to support ASU Sync learning. 
  • Completed a domestic water flush; a heating, ventilation and air conditioning flush; and deep cleaning in all buildings to eliminate lingering bacteria and pathogens. 
  • Created outdoor rooms at four locations on the Tempe campus, each with a large ceiling fan, lighting, Wi-Fi access and outdoor furniture to provide additional options for students to learn remotely or take a break in the shade.
  • Installed several thousand hand-washing stations, a half-mile of Plexiglas and thousands of signs advising people to maintain physical distancing, wash their hands and wear a face cover. 

Visit the Campus facilities webpage for more information on ASU efforts to provide a safe return to campus.

Durham Hall

ASU’s “historic core” on the Tempe campus saw the first completed phase of Durham Hall’s $65-million improvement with several north-wing upgrades. The renovations to the four-story wing with a lower level include 26 new classrooms with state-of-the-art audiovisual technology, 17,200 square feet of School of International Letters and Cultures office space with new furniture and open work areas, and remodeled restrooms with modern amenities. The building’s skin was replaced with brick veneer and windows to allow more natural light indoors. An updated west-side building entry side better welcomes visitors. In addition to internal improvements, new bike parking and landscaping grace the outside. The next renovation phases include the central tower and the south wing, with completion slated for summer 2021.

Lantana Hall 

Lantana Hall

The new residence facility on the Polytechnic campus, Lantana Hall. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

Offering its residents amenities like two dedicated study rooms and full gaming space on each of its four floors, Lantana Hall is ASU’s newest residence hall on the Polytechnic campus. In the naturally landscaped courtyards common to the campus, students may enjoy the outdoors while attending campuswide events, cooking with friends, or finding shade to study. The $35 million, 115,400-square-foot building includes ample office space, study spaces, a relaxed and versatile event space, and two international classrooms with technology to permit live interaction with classrooms worldwide. The hall also is the new home for Barrett, The Honors College administrative suite. All of this is housed in an energy-efficient building that is tracking for the U.S. Green Building Council’s LEED certification.

Sun Devil Stadium | 450 Level 

Sun Devil Stadium office space

Office space at a newly developed part of Sun Devil Stadium in Tempe. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

When the east sideline of Sun Devil Stadium was rebuilt last year, an area under the upper-seating section with beautiful views of the Hayden butte was intentionally left unfinished. The 12,500-square-foot renovated space now is home to the Public Service AcademyGlobal Sport Institute and a Pat Tillman Veterans Center branch office. The office area will allow these groups to work hand-in-hand to serve ASU veterans, students and athletes. 

Music Plaza redevelopment

ASU Gammage music plaza

The view of ASU Gammage from the Nelson Fine Arts Center's upgraded amenities. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

The ASU community will benefit from a better outdoor experience at the central Nelson Fine Arts Center Music Plaza. Enhanced pedestrian circulation and accessible routes throughout the site open up to new landscaping and seating for student enjoyment. The creation of two outdoor stages provides an opportunity for student productions. The addition of a large shade structure, which was repurposed from Orange Mall, has special lighting for student use and special presentations. 

Novus Innovation Corridor

Novus Innovation Corridor office space

Brand new office space will serve multiple units in the Novus Innovation Corridor. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

The Novus Innovation Corridor is quickly filling the northwest corner of Rural Road and University Drive with a new hotel, office building and parking structure. 

The office building will be the new home to several Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts programs and ASU departments. Students will be filling the Herberger Institute gallery with The Design School projects and lecture series in the main first-floor lobby. ASU’s University Real Estate Office and Office of University Affairs will occupy first-floor office suites, putting them in the heart of future Novus land development. On the second floor, the Herberger Institute fills the entire floor with The Design School studio programs, including Innovation Space, Masters of Design and the new fall 2020 program, Masters of Innovation and Venture Development.

The first three floors of a new parking structure are set to open with approximately 750 stalls to serve ASU students, employees and Novus Innovation Corridor office and retail space users. It also provides parking for large campus and sporting events. The remaining four floors will be complete in late 2020, bringing seven floors and 1,800 stalls. The structure will be ASU's first Parksmart Gold structure, a top rating for environmental sustainability. 

Additional capital projects

ASU athletic fields

New athletic fields on the north end of the Tempe campus. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

  • The southern portion of the old Karsten Golf Course was transformed with four renovated and new athletic fields and a large intramural field. The fields include new lighting, turf, sound systems, restroom facilities and parking lot.
  • In addition to the new Mirabella at ASU retirement community, Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts programs will be included on the building’s first floor. Renovations include critique space, a new classroom and a 2,000-square-foot gallery.
  • Classroom improvements include: 
    • The Tempe campus’s Armstrong Hall basement received four new classrooms with all modern finishes, carpet and audiovisual packages.
    • On the Downtown Phoenix campus, a midsize computer classroom and math lab in University Center was turned into two smaller traditional classrooms with all new lighting and updated ADA accommodations.
  • New ASU Arboretum signage adorns the Tempe campus as nearly 75 community volunteers helped install 300 signs to identify trees and plants along the main four malls of campus: Cady, Forest, Lemon and Orange. 
ASU arboretum

New arboretum signing on the Tempe campus. Photo by Facilities Development and Management

In addition to capital projects, Facilities Management completed numerous infrastructure projects — electrical, paint, maintenance — on classrooms, laboratories and offices across all ASU campuses.

These completed projects are only part of existing ASU capital projects currently in planning, design or construction phases. Ongoing projects include:

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

Top photo: The newly renovated north wing of Durham Hall on the Tempe campus is designed to let more natural light into classroom and office spaces. Photo by Zoltan Racz/Courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross

Communications program coordinator , Facilities Development and Management


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Outdoor music classes a high note for ASU students, faculty alike

November 3, 2020

Cooler weather means more opportunities for Sun Devils to take their learning outside

Arizona State University is entering that golden time of year when the desert at last turns its back on a relentless summer, and months of excellent weather stretch ahead.

And with the risk of coronavirus transmission lowerRisk is lowered but not eliminated. Wear face coverings in all of ASU's outdoor spaces and practice physical distancing. outdoors than inside, some professors are finding ASU's beautiful outdoor spaces a great option.

"I moved my class outside because the weather is beautiful," said Associate Professor Brian DeMaris, who has held his opera repertoire class outside the Music Building. "And all my colleagues at other institutions are going inside or going home."

Watch below how DeMaris' and other Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts performance classes took to the fresh air to reconnect. (And yes, those are trumpet masks.)

Video by Deanna Dent and Joshua Belveal/ASU

To make it easier for more of the ASU community enjoy its outdoor spaces, the university added 272 tables, 1,088 chairs and 113 benches across its four Valley campuses during the fall 2020 semester.

And in Tempe, there are four new "outdoor rooms" — shade structures with seating, power, lighting and Wi-Fi. They are located west of the Memorial Union, where Interdisciplinary A and B meet; southeast of Schwada Classroom Office Building; west of Mesquite Hall; and on Palm Walk, next to the Bateman Physical Sciences Center. Starting in the spring semester, professors will be able to reserve them.

“Whether it’s a study session on the library’s patio or a class in one of our new Wi-Fi-equipped outdoor rooms, ASU’s welcoming outdoor spaces allow professors and students to reconnect in person while reducing COVID-19 risk,” said Mark Searle, executive vice president and university provost. “We’re encouraging faculty to find creative ways to utilize all of ASU’s spaces in their classwork. Let’s enjoy our beautiful campuses.”

ASU faculty, are you taking your classes outdoors? Please contact the ASU Now team at and let us know about your plans.

Top photo: Second-year opera performance graduate student Michael Nanney practices "Ah! Mes Amis" by Gaetano Donizetti as more than half the 12 members of Associate Professor Brian DeMaris’ opera repertoire class meet Oct. 22 to practice outside the Music Building on the Tempe campus. The rest of the class participated through ASU Sync on Zoom. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

ASU honors college thanks Craig and Barbara Barrett for 20 years of involvement and support

October 12, 2020

Craig and Barbara Barrett weren’t looking to have a college named after them when they created a $10 million endowment to support the University Honors College at Arizona State University 20 years ago.

The Barretts – known for their business and civic engagement in Arizona and throughout the country – were more interested in bolstering efforts to grow a world class honors college that would attract outstanding students from Arizona and throughout the world to ASU and provide them a place where they could live, learn and thrive. Barrett gift Business, civic and education leaders Craig and Barbara Barrett present a check to Ted Humphrey in 2000. The gift of $10 million was the largest of its kind at the time and changed the name of the University Honors College to Barrett, The Honors College at Arizona State University. Download Full Image

The couple’s ties to ASU and the business, political and philanthropic communities were strong. Barbara earned bachelor’s, master’s and law degrees from the university and went on to distinguish herself in business, education and government, including serving as ambassador to Finland. She currently serves as U.S. Secretary of the Air Force. Craig was chairman of the board and CEO at the Intel Corp., a leader in science, and a higher education advocate. He currently serves on the faculty at ASU’s Thunderbird School of Global Management. They also shared a long friendship with then ASU President Lattie Coor and his wife, Elva.

According to Ted Humphrey, founding dean of the honors college, the Barretts’ gift — which was the largest individual contribution to the university at that time — came about after a conversation the Barretts had with the Coors.

“ASU was entering the final stages of its to-then largest capital campaign. The Barretts and the Coors were longtime good friends who often had dinner together at one another’s homes. As I understand it, on a Sunday evening, as the Barretts and Coors were doing dishes after one of those dinners, Craig and Barbara told the Coors they wanted to ‘do something substantial for the campaign,’” Humphrey recalled.

As Craig Barrett remembers it, “we wanted to join in the vision of making the honors college the academic heart of the university that could attract great students from Arizona and all over the country.”

“We weren’t looking for any naming opportunity. We really wanted to bestow money on the honors college to help it grow,” he said.

About a week after that conversation between the Barretts and the Coors, then-President Coor contacted Humphrey to discuss directing the Barretts’ gift to the University Honors College and asking how the funds would be used.

“I drew up a plan for using $100,000 immediately, putting about $150,000 in a reserve fund and investing the rest. Lattie took the plan to the Barretts and then, having consulted me, suggested the gift be an endowment and that the college be named for the Barretts.”  

While the Barretts agreed to the financial terms of the gift, “it took some time for them to agree to the latter,” Humphrey said, referring to their preference to keep the spotlight on the honors college and not on the source of its support.

In addition to that serendipitous conversation between the Barretts and the Coors, there were several factors that led up to the gift that included a new name for the honors college, said Kristen Hermann, Barrett, The Honors College senior associate dean for students.

“First, Craig and Barbara Barrett were community stakeholders dedicated to the economic, social and cultural vitality of Arizona and they knew that for intellectual capital to flourish there needed to be investment in high quality academic experiences in the state,” Hermann said.

Second, President Coor — who understood the value of an honors college at a public university that was giving access to high performing students and elevating the academic profile of the university as a whole — had a very critical role in providing the college with resources and support, she said.

“He was exceptional at articulating the value of the college while crediting his predecessor President Russ Nelson and Ted Humphrey with doing the heavy lifting by establishing the honors college in 1988,” she said.

A third significant factor was the honors college’s rapid success under Humphrey’s leadership.

“Ted was the individual who conceived of the college, nurtured it through an institutional process and undertook building the college as a college. He led it through the states of collegiate honors program, institutional honors program, and institutional honors college and then finally endowed and named college with the Barretts’ gift,” Hermann said.

Humphrey had developed the University Honors College as a residential college and recruited 137 National Merit Scholars in the year the Barretts endowed and named the college, she added.

The Barretts’ gift not only gave the college a new identity, but helped put it on the honors higher education map.

“The gift gave Barrett a distinctive name, one associated with excellence in education. Although we were among the first three University Honors Colleges, by the time of the gift, there were more than 75, and we needed to distinguish ourselves from the pack. The name allowed us to (do that),” said Humphrey, who passed the reigns of the honors college to Barrett Dean Mark Jacobs in 2003 and retired as ASU emeritus professor in 2015.

And importantly, the Barretts’ gift inspired others to support the honors college.

“I believe the gift had an impact on several donors who wouldn’t otherwise have considered us,” Humphrey said.

Barrett Honors College Dean Mark Jacobs said the Barretts’ support was “absolutely critical to the growth in quality and the concomitant increase in visibility of the honors college” that is now known as the “gold standard” among public university honors colleges in the U.S.

“It has always been not only about the extra funds for critical programs that their gift supported, but the confidence that the people of Arizona have in the Barretts’ vote for this honors college by making it the recipient of their largesse. Once Barrett Honors College became known as super high quality, many other donors have supported us for that reason alone,” Jacobs said.

Barrett Honors College has lived up to the expectations its namesakes bestowed upon it, Jacobs added.

“Hundreds of top students – National Merit Scholars, National Hispanic Scholars and ASU President’s Scholars – who would have gone out of state (to college) even 20 years ago are now staying in state and in state at Barrett. This influx of hundreds more of these students than we ever had before has lifted not only the high school GPAs and SAT scores for all of ASU, but improved the class participation across the university,” Jacobs said.

Barrett, The Honors College graduates routinely attend top graduate schools and professional programs, as well as gain employment in top firms and in government, he added.

The Barretts’ gift not only helped grow the honors college, but it strengthened the university too.

“Through their namesake college, dedicated engagement and generous support of ASU, Craig and Barbara Barrett have advanced our mission to enhance access and excellence among students from all walks of life and exemplified true leadership,” ASU President Michael Crow said. “While all Barrett Honors College students are high achievers, it is their diverse backgrounds and experiences that make BHC and our university stronger, and we are grateful to the Barretts for making that possible.”

The Barretts’ support of the honors college didn’t stop with their major gift 20 years ago.

They routinely attend honors college convocations where they deliver inspirational remarks and stand for hours shaking each graduate’s hand as they walk across the stage, offering them congratulations and posing for photos. Whenever they can, the Barretts attend the annual Celebrating Honors Symposium of Research and Creative Projects, a showcase of honors students’ theses and creative work.

The Barretts also have helped students grow professionally, with Craig connecting students to internship and employment opportunities at Intel and Barbara assisting students with government internships and jobs.

At the 2017 Barrett, The Honors College convocation, Jacobs announced another significant gift from the Barretts to the honors college. They contributed $2 million to support global citizenship programming for students.

Their second major gift, Jacobs said, “will allow the honors college to support its students as they become responsible, global citizens while educating them about the issues and challenges that the international community and planet face.”

Under the banner of the Barretts’ support for global programming, the honors college has hosted events with distinguished speakers from around the world, including former U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, former U.S. Vice President Dan Quayle, former President of Latvia Vaira Vike-Freiberga and Finland’s first female defense minister Elisabeth Rehn.

Twenty years after the Barretts’ gift, the honors college that bears their name has grown in size and stature.

“The reputation is not so much in a name, it’s in the results. And I see those results at every honors convocation we attend,” Craig Barrett said, explaining that honors graduates often tell him they are going on to law school or medical school or teaching positions where they can make a positive difference.

“We see the results of the opportunities we support and how students take advantage of them. It’s absolutely rewarding to see the continuity of the honors college and its results year after year. It gets better and better.”

View a video about the impact of the Barretts’ gift.

Nicole Greason

Public relations and publicity manager , Barrett, The Honors College


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Mark Searle to step down as ASU provost

September 30, 2020

Searle will transition to the role of University Professor, assisting the president and next university provost with the implementation of strategic initiatives

Arizona State University today announced that Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle will step down from his position on June 30, 2021. Searle has held the post since November 2015 after serving as interim for seven months prior. He will transition to the role of University Professor, assisting the president and next university provost with the implementation of strategic initiatives.  

“I am deeply grateful to Mark for the time, energy and expertise he has dedicated as university provost,” ASU President Michael M. Crow said. “Our academic enterprise has been led to new heights under Mark’s leadership with record enrollment, student diversity and retention and graduation rates. We have become a stronger, better university because of his unwavering commitment to excellence.”

An accomplished university administrator and distinguished scholar, Searle joined ASU in 1995. He began his career at ASU as the founding dean of the College of Human Services and advanced through leadership roles at the university. He served as provost of West campus, vice president for academic personnel, and deputy provost and chief of staff to the provost.

Searle’s time as university provost has been marked by tremendous increases in access for students, exponential growth in research activity and gains in academic achievement. Over the last six years, the university saw significant growth in enrollment with notable gains in first-generation students, underrepresented minorities and international students.  Searle also expanded the number of degrees offered to students, introducing more than 125 new choices for students to engage and advance their aspirations. Research productivity, including scholarly recognitions, publication profile and external funding also increased markedly. And with first-year retention up substantially at nearly 87%, the university is closing in on its goal of a 90% first-year retention rate.  

The university has also jumped in a number of rankings over the last six years including grabbing and retaining the No. 1 in Innovation ranking by U.S. News and World Report for six years; landing at No. 1 in the U.S. and the top five in the world for global impact by Times Higher Education; and for the first time ever breaking the top 50 of public schools in the U.S. as determined by U.S. News and World Report.

“It has been a true honor and privilege to serve at ASU during such a phenomenal time of growth and achievement,” Searle said. “Over the last decade and a half, ASU has grown into such a strong community of scholars, educators and public servants that share a common commitment to our charter. And that commitment has been nothing short of inspiring and truly transformative as evidenced by the impact this university has had on students’ lives, our community and innumerable fields of research.”

Searle told Crow in January 2020 that he planned to step down in June 2021. Shortly thereafter, COVID-19 arrived. “Like everyone else, I could not have predicted the effect the pandemic would have on the university, but the tenacity and resiliency of our students, faculty and staff to persevere has been remarkable.” 

ASU will conduct an internal search to identify the next executive vice president and university provost. The search committee will be co-chaired by Tiffany Ana López, incoming vice provost for inclusion and community engagement, and Pat Kenney, dean of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. Full membership of the search committee will be announced shortly.