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Hispanic college-degree attainment must increase to drive economy, Crow says

Hispanic degree attainment vital to U.S. economic competitiveness, Crow says.
June 22, 2018

Gap in education is making America less competitive, ASU president tells Hispanic leaders' conference

The United States will never reclaim its position as the world’s top economic superpower unless more Hispanic people earn college degrees, according to Michael Crow, president of Arizona State University.

Currently, the higher-education attainment gap between Hispanic people and the total U.S. population is too wide and likely to increase unless radical changes are made, Crow said at a presentation to the annual conference of NALEO on Friday. The National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that advocates for Latino participation in the American political process.

About 34 percent of the overall adult population has a bachelor’s degree, compared with about 17 percent of Hispanic adults, Crow said.

There will be 100 million people of Hispanic origin in the U.S. by 2060, he noted. “That’s almost larger than Mexico,” he said.

“This is an unbelievable economic opportunity and mechanism for the building of energy in the United States."

Crow said he calculated that if Hispanic people earned bachelor’s degrees at the same rate as the national average, it would add 1.5 percentage points to the rate of national economic growth.

If nothing changes, the attainment gap will widen by 2050, with 52 percent of the overall population having a degree compared with 31 percent of Hispanics.

“The U.S. is under-realizing its full economic competitiveness because it has very uneven outcomes in the educational attainment levels of its children,” he said.

Closing the gap would require an additional 64,000 Hispanic college graduates every year.

“There are no mechanisms in place to achieve that goal right now,” he said. “Just the opposite. Universities are not redesigning themselves.”

Crow noted that Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at ASU is the largest and most diverse engineering school in the country.

“We could only do that deconstructing the entire school, re-engineering it in a different way and changing the culture of the school,” he said.

ASU moved from having less than 10 percent nonwhite students among its first-time freshmen in 1980 to about 50 percent nonwhite in 2017.

“This doesn’t happen by accident,” he said. “This is the redesign of the institution — while the institution has improved in quality, improved in impact and become a world-class research institution at the same time.”

The U.S. economy has been slipping because of the lack of investment in education, he said, although other countries have taken the opposite approach.

“We have kept ourselves down and now we’re paying an unbelievable price,” he said. “Isn’t it ironic that as our population is expanding in its diversity, just as our population is moving in the direction of the American dream, we start dropping off.”

Thirty states have set goals for degree attainment, he said. Arizona wants 60 percent of its adult population to have a degree by 2030.

“There is no method for doing this. We need new ways of moving forward,” he said.

Crow moderated a panel discussion about how to increase degree attainment.

Carlos Gimenez, mayor of Miami-Dade County in Florida: “For me the vision is, how do I diversify my economy? We’re based on tourism and real estate, and that wasn’t going to carry us through the 21st century. So we created One Community, One Goal, run by our economic-development arm. We have community groups, businesses and educational institutions.

“We’re becoming a tech center so I need these graduates to accelerate that. Everyone has to work together with that single goal in mind. That allowed us to harness that energy into a single path versus all that energy going out into 70 different places.”

Gabriella Gomez, deputy director for postsecondary policy and advocacy of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation: “There’s no silver bullet. We can’t do this alone, and partnerships are key. Over time, philanthropy has played more of a role in incentivizing the right ideas out there.

“Another thing that’s important is data. If we can think of data and information as a good thing, used properly, it’s a game changer.”

John King, president and CEO of the Education Trust and former U.S. secretary of Education under President Barack Obama: “Over the past 30 years, states have systemically disinvested from public higher education. Public higher education is our best engine of social mobility, but state after state has reduced their investment and is putting money into prisons.

“The incentive structure is off. You get more money by enrolling more students, not by enrolling more low-income students. The incentives aren’t aligned around completions. We need to change the incentive so the way you get more resources is to enroll students who are vulnerable and then get them not just through freshman year but to graduation.”

Top photo: ASU president Michael Crow addresses attendees of the NALEO 2018 conference at the Arizona Biltmore on Friday. The NALEO Education Fund is the nation's leading nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that facilitates full Latino participation in the American political process. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


Award-winning Tempe education leader to join ASU Preparatory Academy

June 20, 2018

Anna Battle, an award-winning teacher, high school principal and school district administrator, will join ASU Preparatory Academy as chief leadership development officer, effective July 1.

Battle joins ASU Prep from the Tempe Union High School District, where she has served 32 years as an educator, including 18 years as an administrator responsible for programs and schools recognized for excellence locally and nationally. She currently serves as assistant superintendent of operations, overseeing Tempe Union’s student affairs, athletics and activities, safety, transportation, maintenance and operations, and sustainability. Anna Battle Anna Battle, an award-winning teacher, high school principal and school district administrator, will join ASU Preparatory Academy as chief leadership development officer. Download Full Image

“We are exceptionally pleased that Anna Battle will become chief leadership officer with ASU Preparatory Academy,” said Beatriz Rendón, vice president of educational outreach and CEO of ASU Preparatory Academy. “She is a gifted administrator who cares deeply about students. Her energy, ideas and commitment to student success, combined with her extensive executive leadership experience, will greatly help us realize our objectives.”

ASU Prep is an innovative K–12 charter school where teachers, students and families share the same goal: college graduation. Students benefit from a rigorous college preparatory program that includes ASU courses for college credit while students are still in high school, as well as a digital curriculum infused with the acclaimed Cambridge framework, delivered in a personalized, blended-learning format.

In her new role, Battle will manage the leadership development program for faculty and staff across the organization with direct supervision of the site directors at ASU Prep’s 12 ground schools.

“ASU Prep offers students, schools, school districts, and communities education that exceeds the needs of students, with a future focus,” Battle said. “I am excited about working with an exceptional team of educators at ASU Prep. I look forward to creating relationships with them to reach and exceed educational, personal and professional goals,” she added. 

Battle’s preparation for educational leadership began during her 12 years as a special education, reading and English teacher. As a former NCAA All-American athlete in track and field at Arizona State University and a 1984 Olympic Trial qualifier, Battle used her athletic skills to also successfully coach high school volleyball, basketball, track and field, softball and cross country. In 1992, she was honored with the NAACP Education Image Award and received Tempe Union’s Outstanding Teacher Award of Excellence in 1993. 

During her tenure with Tempe Union, Battle advanced to positions of increasing responsibility, pursuing her passion for educational leadership development.

“Leadership matters towards the successful education of students,” Battle said. “I love working on behalf of students and the teachers and staff who support them.” 

As principal of Tempe High School from 2002 to 2006, Battle and her colleagues expanded the school’s successful smaller learning communities for students and used online learning to address the achievement gap. Through these efforts, Battle and her team transformed a diverse, Title I program into a Performing Plus school with increased student enrollment, student achievement and graduation rates. 

Prior to her current position, Battle was principal of Desert Vista High School from 2006 to 2014 — a time when the school earned numerous awards and recognitions including:

  • A+ School of Excellence.
  • U.S. News and World Report top school in the nation.
  • Best college preparatory school by Phoenix Magazine.
  • Fine Arts, Theater and Speech and Debate National Championships, and many nationally ranked athletic programs.

As principal of Desert Vista, Battle was recognized with several awards for her outstanding leadership including the 2013 Arizona Interscholastic Association Administrator of the Year Award, 2011 AdvanceEd Arizona Leadership Award and the 2011 Arizona Principal of the Year award presented by the National Association of Secondary School Principals.

Battle said joining ASU Prep will “provide opportunities for me to continue working with educators to be their best for each child served.” 

“Educational leaders not only lead but also are leaders of learning,” Battle said. “I look forward to learning from the experts and working alongside them to support university goals that foster innovative education for the universal Pre-K–20 student.”  

Returning to her alma mater, Battle earned a doctorate in supervision and administration from ASU.

Written by Joan Sherwood

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ASU team uses artificial intelligence to detect wildfires before they become catastrophic

ASU team uses artificial intelligence to spot remote wildfires in early stages.
June 12, 2018

Students will compete for $100,000 prize in international Microsoft pitch this summer

In 2017, nearly 72,000 wildfires burned more than 10 million acres nationwide, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

It cost $2.4 billion to fight them.

In Arizona last year, more than 2,300 wildfires scorched nearly 430,000 acres, and the prediction for fires this season is above average, the agency reported.

An Arizona State University team has come up with a way to use artificial intelligence to detect wildfires before they grow to catastrophic intensity, and the project has a shot at winning a $100,000 prize from Microsoft next month.

The project, called Prometheus, which came in fourth placeThe top three winning teams were from the University of California at Berkeley, Johns Hopkins and Harvard universities. in the national Microsoft Imagination Cup competitionThe Imagine Cup challenges students to create cloud-based solutions. in May, was created by three students: Murong He and Facundo Santiago, who both received master’s degrees in business analytics from the W. P. Carey School of Business last month, and David Azcona, a PhD student at Dublin City University who spent the last year at ASU on a Fulbright fellowship.

The three students invented a software program that analyzes data from a surveillance drone. The drone flies about 100 meters high, taking images of the ground and scrutinizing them to accurately pinpoint whether there’s an early-stage wildfire. If there is, the software sends the coordinates to a fast-response fire-fighting group.

“It’s very difficult to teach the computer to detect fire,” Santiago said. “Instead of writing an algorithm, we are submitting a lot of images — ‘This is a fire, this is a fire, this is not a fire.’ We’re pointing out, ‘The fire is here, so please learn it and come up with the rules to classify it correctly.’

“We are pushing the complexity of the logic needed to detect the image to the computer.”

The ASU team that invented Prometheus came in fourth place in the national Imagine Cup competition in May. They are (from left) Facundo Santiago, David Azcona and Murong He. Santiago and He graduated with master's degrees in business analytics in May and Azcona is a PhD student at Dublin City University who has been at ASU for the past year on a Fulbright fellowship. Photo courtesy of Microsoft.

Current technology uses thermal-imaging devices on drones to find “hot spots” in remote areas, but that is less reliable in Arizona and other areas of the West where temperatures often exceed 100 degrees.

Experiencing a wildfire is terrifying, as He knows. She was living in San Diego last year when wildfires forced her family to flee their neighborhood.

“Thousands of people fled to evacuation sites like Qualcomm (now SDCCU) Stadium, and some of my classmates even lost their homes,” she said. “We stayed with a family friend and ended up being OK, but it was definitely a traumatic experience.

“When Santiago was telling us about his project using drones to detect soil quality, another series of California wildfires was on the news, so we thought it might be a good idea to apply the same technology in that setting.”

They had only a few days to pull Prometheus together, and then it came down to almost the last minute — their project was entered five minutes before the deadline, partly because the complicated software took so long to upload.

From the 4,000 projects submitted online, 12 were selected to pitch at the national competition in San Francisco in May. Two days before their presentation, the ASU team practiced with their drone at Golden Gate Park, using photographs of fires on the ground to stimulate the software to “detect” a fire, so they could show the judges.

During the pitch, Azcona flew the drone outside the windows on a patio for the judges to see.

“We definitely felt like the underdogs at some points,” He said. “However, after we had pitched our project and before the final results were announced, we received a lot of great feedback from the audience, so the final results weren't super surprising.”

Besides winning a spot in the international competition in July, the team won $4,000 for fourth place and a $1,000 prize for being the best artificial intelligence project.

Santiago said that the pitch audience was surprised to learn that nothing like Prometheus exists right now.

David Azcona flew the Prometheus drone outside the window during the team's pitch at the Imagine Cup competition in San Francisco in May. Photo by Microsoft.

“We said, ‘If you think there is some techie solution out there that is protecting these areas, there isn’t,'" Santiago said.

"NASA is using satellite images to map the whole world, but that will be five to 10 years down the line,” Azcona said. “That will be a real-time solution to map fires, but it’s super expensive.”

The most common method of detecting fires now is human observation, particularly in remote areas, where people stand in watch towers and scan the area using binoculars, Santiago said.

Thanks to feedback from firefighters, the team integrated “red-flag alerts” from the National Weather Service into the software. Those warnings flag areas with fire-conducive conditions such as high winds and low humidity, so the Prometheus drone can be deployed more strategically.

The drone they used cost about $1,000, Santiago said, and any drone with autopilot capability would work.

Ironically, the low-tech fire-detection method could eventually be used to make Prometheus more efficient. Currently, drones can only operate for about half an hour on battery power. But fire-fighting agencies could use the watchtowers as drone-charging stations, allowing the devices to operate remotely for longer periods.

The team members went their separate ways for a few weeks — Azcona has returned to Ireland, Santiago is leaving soon for his native Argentina and He is working as a data analyst for EdPlus, the unit at ASU that creates technology and includes ASU Online. But they will reunite in Seattle on July 22 for the international competition and a chance to win the grand prize.

The team hopes to sell Prometheus as a subscription service at some point, although it’s an open-source project, Santiago said.

“If you follow the instructions, anyone can grab the code and make it happen,” he said.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Smithsonian exhibit to flow through state, exploring towns' water stories

Last winter was the driest ever recorded in Arizona.
In Page, it’s dams; in Bisbee, it’s mining — each water story is different.
ASU-developed WaterSim tool helps users visualize real water issues.
June 1, 2018

ASU contributes technology, story gathering to 'Water/Ways,' which will travel to 12 rural communities over next 2 years

The story of water in Arizona is as long and complex as the multibiomedArizona’s biotic communities represent almost all of the world's biomes. state itself, but as it snakes its way through the years — from the Pima settling on the banks of the Gila River to Charles Trumbull Hayden’s 19th-century ferry to today’s literal powerhouse Salt River Project — it remains inextricably linked to the inhabitants of the region who depend on it.

Beginning this summer, 12 rural communities throughout the state will get the chance to explore the past, present and future of water’s environmental and cultural impact in Arizona and beyond when the Smithsonian’s Museum on Main Street traveling exhibit “Water/Ways” visits their town, beginning with the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum on June 2.

Presented by Arizona State University and Arizona Humanities, the exhibit's journey continues through March 2020.

“It’s almost so obvious that it’s hard to say something profound about it here in the desert,” said ASU history Professor Paul Hirt. “Everyone can intuitively see that without water, there isn’t life.

“What that leads to is the question of, in a situation where we have an extremely important and critical resource that’s also in short supply, how do we rationally and fairly and responsibly mange that scarce resource to ensure that everybody has access to it and that we’re not wasting it?”

Three years ago, Hirt was invited along with School of Community Resources and Development Professor Dave White to Washington, D.C., to consult on the design of a national water-themed exhibit for the Smithsonian. They presented the planning group with a demonstration of a visualization tool ASU’s Decision Center for a Desert City had developed to estimate water supply and demand for the Phoenix metropolitan area.

WaterSim, as it is called, was a hit.

Paul Hirt

A systems dynamics model, WaterSim uses a web browser interface to allow users to view and alter data points — such as water supply, water demand, climate, population and policy data — and make side-by-side comparisons to understand how one variable relates to another.

For example, by adjusting certain variables, users can explore how water sustainability is influenced by various scenarios of regional growth, drought, climate change impacts and water management policies.

WaterSim was originally developed to estimate water supply and demand exclusively for the Phoenix area; a dedicated teamDavid Sampson, Ray Quay, Liz Marquez and Emily Grunspan all contributed to the project. at Decision Center for a Desert City worked with the Smithsonian to adapt the model to reflect the water data points unique to each location along the national “Water/Ways” route.

“Partnering with the Smithsonian on this project gave us an opportunity to expand the scope and impact of the work being done at DCDC to well beyond Phoenix and Arizona, to provide an informal educational experience in rural areas and reach an audience much broader in scope and background than we had previously been able to reach,” said White, director of Decision Center for a Desert City and a senior sustainability scientist at ASU.

That reach will expand even further now that a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation has made it possible for the WaterSim model to be disseminated throughout schools in each of the 12 communities that will host the “Water/Ways” exhibit over the next two years. Teachers are currently undergoing training on how to integrate the tool into their classroom curriculum through engaging activities for their students.

“We really see it as a vital, civic engagement activity and an important part of being an informed citizen," White said. “So it’s really important that students and others in the community are aware of the challenges that we face in managing water resources and how they can become informed and participate in the discussion and the decisions that affect them and their livelihoods moving forward.”

dave white
Dave White

SRP is also on board, having recently approved a $25,000 contribution to Arizona Humanities for the project.

Scott Harelson, a representative of the agency, said, “Given SRP’s role in water resource management and our leadership in educational programs, our involvement with these exhibits provides an opportunity to encourage and support greater discussion of water-related issues facing Arizona.”

In addition to taking the WaterSim model for a spin, visitors of the exhibits will be treated to the unique water story of each town it shows in. Over the past year, Hirt traveled with his students and Arizona Humanities grant manager Samantha Anderson to each of the 12 sites throughout the state, meeting with residents at museums and libraries to brainstorm ways to tell their story.

“Right at the very core of this program is the idea that if we’re going to educate and influence people on important themes, they need the science as well as the social science behind it,” said Hirt, also a senior sustainability scientist at ASU. “Water is more than something that we drink when we’re thirsty and use to grow crops and take showers. Water is something that has cultural meaning and is something that we often have intimate relationships with.

“In states like Arizona, where water is so scarce, it’s a blessing to come across natural flowing water. We seek it out, taking a dip in cool mountain streams on hot summer days, going boating and fishing on natural lakes along the Mogollon Rim and in Verde Valley streams. These things are part of our experience of being human in the dessert, seeking out water and celebrating the different kinds of ecosystems supported by water.

“The Smithsonian and ASU believe you need a holistic approach to understand something like water, in order to be able to fully address the challenges we face in seeking a just and sustainable future.”

To ensure that invaluable social perspective was brought to the project, Arizona Humanities provided a small amount of funding for the creation of each exhibit.

“We wanted to create conversations around the human experience with water and how it affects us all,” Anderson said. “The fact of the matter is, you’re always downstream from somebody.”

And each story, as she, Hirt and his students discovered along their tour, is different: in Page, it’s dams; in Verde Valley, it’s riparian rights; in Bisbee, it’s mining.

“Bisbee has a very personal history with water, as does everyone,” said Carrie Gustavson, director of the Bisbee Mining and Historical Museum. “Water is an important part of everyone’s life, and we are excited to explore what it means culturally, socially and spiritually in our own community.”

With this past winter being the driest ever recorded in Arizona, Hirt pointed out that the timing of the “Water/Ways” exhibition is especially relevant: “I think it’s time for everybody to start thinking about the future not being the same as the past and preparing to be more resilient and efficient.”

Top photo: Sun rises above the eastern end of Lake Mead, close to the Hoover Dam, on July 28, 2016. A hundred-food deep "bathtub ring" is a visible indicator around much of the lake of the volume of water missing from the Colorado River fed reservoir. The "Water/Ways" exhibit will address such issues of scarcity of water for desert dwellers. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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'A motivating step': ASU program works to award two-year degrees to students

Milestones can be a boost, so ASU helps students acquire associate degrees.
June 1, 2018

University's reverse-transfer partnership with community colleges results in nearly 500 additional associate degrees

Twelve years after graduating from high school, Stephen Houx had earned a lot of college credits before and after a five-year stint in the Marine Corps, but he was still working toward a degree. Then out of the blue, he was notified last year that his time at Gateway Community College plus his courses at Arizona State University added up to an associate in science degree.

“It was a nice surprise to get that,” said Houx, who will be a senior at ASU in the fall. “It was a little motivating step along the way to let me know I’ve accomplished something. It’s easy to get lost and question your major or think you’re falling behind.”

Houx is one of nearly 500 ASU students who have benefited from “reverse transfer” — a program in which their ASU credits are added to their Maricopa Community Colleges credits and they are awarded an associate degree.

Houx said it was gratifying to find out that he had earned a degree without even realizing it. He attended the graduation ceremony at Gateway Community College and hung the degree on a wall with his military honors.

“If I ever had to drop out, they can never take that away from me,” said Houx, who is majoring in criminal justice.

And that’s the point of the program.

Under reverse transfer, ASU works with all 21 tribal and public community colleges in Arizona to identify students eligible for degrees. In the 2016–17 academic year, about 43 percent of transfers from Arizona two-year collegesIn the 2016–17 year, ASU accepted about 16,000 transfer students. About 5,300 were from a Maricopa County community college, and about 740 were from another Arizona two-year institution. arrived at ASU with credits but no associate degree.

The program fulfills an important mission, according to Maria Hesse, vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU.

“This is what the state wants — more college degree completion. And this addresses that,” she said.

And even more importantly, preliminary data show that students who are awarded a reverse-transfer associate degree are slightly more likely to complete their bachelor’s degree. Ted Bland, the reverse-transfer coordinator at the Maricopa Community Colleges, found that 89 percent of students who retroactively earned an associate degree went on to get a bachelor’s degree, compared with 85 percent who did not get the two-year degree.

Overall, since 2015, the Maricopa system has awarded nearly 800 reverse-transfer associate degrees to students at Arizona universities. This summer, Bland expects to award a 500th associate degree to an ASU student.

The program is beneficial because the students will have a degree in hand if they apply for internships or scholarships or need to “stop out” of school in order to work, he said.

“Students who had been in dropout status from a university and now have an associate degree are then more eligible to re-enroll,” he said. “So it works for students whose attendance is not interrupted but it also helps those who have to stop out, who are more commonly older students.”

Every step in the postsecondary education process is reflected in earnings. People who have some college but no degree had an average annual salary of $41,700 while those with an associate degree had an average salary of $46,000, according to a 2015 report by the College Board. The average salary for holders of a bachelor’s degree was $61,400. High school graduates earned an average $36,800.

Reverse transfer is free and easy for the students, many of whom don’t even realize they’ve earned the associate degree until they get an email about it.

Fitting the puzzle pieces together

ASU started working on a reverse-transfer process more than five years ago.

“We started to think about what we could be doing to help students achieve their associate degree because the research was pretty clear that if students can achieve these milestones along the way to the bachelor’s degree, it incents them to continue going,” Hesse said.

According to the 2015 U.S. census, one in five adults in America has some college credit but no degree. But by 2020, 65 percent of all U.S. jobs will require a college education, according to the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce.

Nationwide, reverse transfer began to pick up steam about five years ago, when the Lumina Foundation gave out grants to institutions in several states to set up pilot programs. More than 20,000 associate degrees were awarded by more than 500 institutions in 17 states, including Arizona, according to a 2017 report from the Institute for Higher Education Policy. Nearly 2,000 people returned to college — some decades after leaving — to finish the degrees they were so close to achieving.

Reverse transfer also benefits the community colleges, which have faced questions about their graduation rate. The 10 colleges in the Maricopa County district had a six-year graduation rate of 21 percent for students who started in 2011. In the Maricopa system, reverse transfer retroactively increased the number of associate degrees awarded by nearly 3 percentage points for the 2016–17 academic year, Bland said.

“We started to think about what we could be doing to help students achieve their associate degree because the research was pretty clear that if students can achieve these milestones along the way to the bachelor’s degree, it incents them to continue going.”
— Maria Hesse, vice provost for academic partnerships at ASU

While the process is painless for students, it’s labor intensive behind the scenes. ASU’s technology is able to automatically flag which transcripts might be eligible for reverse transfer and then send them back to the community colleges. The ASU system finds students who have completed between 15 and 70 credit hours from an Arizona community college, and between 30 and 60 ASU credit hours, with the total credits between 60 and 100.

Once the transcript gets to the community college, the process of manually auditing each student’s coursework is like putting together a puzzle, according to Bland. This is because students might change majors multiple times or attend several different colleges.

“As they move around, those puzzle pieces don’t fit together as neatly as they once would have 30 years ago, when much of the higher education architecture was put into place,” he said.

Bland not only combs over the courses to make sure they fulfill the requirements for an associate degree, he also will tell students what courses they are missing so they know what to take to complete the degree. That’s how Allie Dake received her associate in arts degree from Rio Salado College last fall.

“I found out about the program from an email and wondered what I needed to get an associate, and I found out I only needed one class,” said Dake, who will be a senior at ASU in the fall. She had accumulated many credits from Rio Salado through dual enrollment while she was in high school.

Dake took a communications class, which completed her associate degree. She is spending this summer applying to medical school, which she hopes to attend after graduating from ASU with degrees in biochemistry and psychology in 2019.

“So it’ll be cool to have three degrees in four years,” she said.

Hesse said that ASU will soon look at leveraging its technological prowess to improve the process.

“We’re kind of ahead of the game in terms of doing this work, but it’s still very labor intensive,” she said. “We’d like to think about some ideas for how technology might help us streamline it even more.”

Shortening the time to a degree

One obstacle to reverse transfer is data privacy. Students must give permission for their universities to share academic records with their community colleges. Typically, the opt-in rate for this is extremely low.

“What we learned pretty quickly by looking at the data is that when students are doing admissions forms, they’re not reading all that fine print. We were not getting many permissions,” Hesse said. “We tried doing several email campaigns to promote it and we got very low response rates.”

ASU has overcome this hurdle for one group of students: People who register for one of the designated degree tracks, such as the Maricopa-ASU Pathway Program, or MAPP, are automatically signed up to be considered for reverse transfer. Students outside of a pathway program who want to investigate reverse transfer can visit the website.

“There’s almost no downside … to allow the university to send your information back to your community college,” Hesse said.

Although the number of students who transfer to ASU with an associate degree has been trending upward, there are many reasons why people leave two-year colleges before completing, Hesse said.

The main reason is that the coursework offered at some of the colleges isn’t broad enough, particularly for more specialized majors.

“If you live in Show Low and are attending Northland Pioneer College, they don’t have a journalism program. You could do general studies but you would run out of classes that would apply to the journalism degree, and you don’t want to waste money on courses that don’t shorten the time to degree completion,” she said.

Engineering and architecture are two common majors in which students transfer before completing an associate degree.

“Although many community colleges will have physics and calculus courses, only a few have the full breadth of freshman and sophomore courses that would parallel what the university is offering,” she said.

Another reason is timing.

“We interviewed students to try to get a better understanding of why, if we have these programs in place that incentivize you to finish, you’re leaving your community college six credits short of a degree,” she said. “The range of answers was stunning.”

Some students want to make sure they start at ASU in the fall semester, she said, and others don’t want to stay at their community college part-time to complete only a handful of credits.

“They’d say things like, ‘I had an offer to become a roommate in an apartment with another guy I wanted to live with, so I decided to leave.’"

Houx said he loved the small class sizes and close relationships with faculty at Gateway, which he attended for three semesters, but the GI Bill will cover his tuition no matter where he goes.

“I knew the university had so many great research resources and facilities, and I needed to go for that.”

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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ASU's Piper Center celebrates local writers

May 31, 2018

Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing ramps up outreach initiatives that include classes, readings and events

Getting a bunch of high school students to show up for a poetry reading on a Friday afternoon in the summer is quite a feat. Actually getting them excited about it is another level of accomplishment entirely. Peoria-based poet and Liberty High School English teacher Cody Wilson managed to do both.

Last week at Union Coffee in Peoria, a group of about 20 of his students settled into the bright, industrial-themed space to listen to each other, Wilson and others read their work. On June 4, the Arizona State University alumnus will be reading his work in public again, this time in celebration of the release of his first book of poetry, “Nobody is Ever Missing,” at 6:30 p.m. at Crescent Ballroom in Phoenix.

The book release is being hosted by up-and-coming local publisher Tolsun Books in partnership with ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing. The collaboration is a testament to the center’s recommitment to community impact through the ramping up of several outreach initiatives that include classes, readings and events that celebrate and support local writers.

“In some respects, it’s a natural evolution of Piper’s history here in the community,” said Jacob Friedman, Piper Center communications specialist. “For a long time Piper has provided an array of programs and services to writers.”

But when Alberto Rios, ASU Regents' Professor of English and Arizona’s inaugural poet laureate, came on as director in August 2017, he encouraged staff at the center to think even harder about how it could “operate with a bias toward meaning.”

Friedman calls Rios “a poet of the community” because of his long history of engaging Valley residents in his work, as he did last May with students at Dunbar Elementary on a public art project that turned sights into sound in celebration of South Phoenix. He says Rios challenged him and his Piper colleagues to be more mindful about how they could get the most out of their resources while creating the greatest good and having the largest impact.

“To think about how we can serve you, not even as a whole writer, but as a whole person. How can we serve you socially, how can we serve you culturally, how can we serve you professionally? [It’s about] taking that larger approach,” Friedman said.

For the past 15 years, the Piper Center has hosted an annual conference, Desert Nights, Rising Stars, and each year, it awards scholarships to students of Maricopa community colleges and local educators to attend. This year, Wilson was chosen as the recipient of the Arizona Educator Scholarship.

“[The conference] was awesome,” Wilson said. “There’s a level of approachability in what the Piper Center offers, and I really appreciate all of the different opportunities — I got to meet local writers as well as established writers.”

At 27 years old, with an armful of tattoos and a laid-back personality emphasized by his casual T-shirt-and-jeans approach to fashion, Wilson doesn’t fit the mold of a typical high school teacher — and his students love him for it.

“He finds this way of connecting with his students that is so important, and the way he talks about poetry and life in general, I feel like it’s very important for a young, impressionable mind, especially in a high school setting,” said Manny Timm, a recent Liberty High School graduate.

The decision to award the Piper scholarship to Wilson was “not simply an investment in an individual writer but somebody who’s going to take that value and bring it back to their community,” Friedman said.

The way in which Wilson was able to do that was on full display at Union Coffee last week, where Megan Bromley, an ASU senior and former student of Wilson’s, joined the festivities. A creative writing and astrobiology double major, Bromley read a poem she’d written to the asteroid Psyche. (ASU is leading a NASA mission to visit the all-metal space object.)

“As somebody who studies STEM and the arts, I think that there are skills in both that are really vital in leading a life that is fulfilling on multiple fronts,” Bromley said.

And as someone who was educated in the Peoria school district, then went on to ASU and is still active in the community’s literary scene, Bromley mirrors the trajectory of her former teacher in a way that Friedman hopes the Piper Center can continue to facilitate.

“These individuals are on a continuum.” Friedman said, “These are the future visiting writers.”

Tolsun Books founders David and Brandi Pischke, both local teachers, were also on hand at Union Coffee. The pair launched the small press in March of this year to address what they saw as a lacking literary scene in the Phoenix area, and it already has an impressive roster of authors and publications.

“There are some really talented people who are here and have something to say and have a unique voice, and this is a unique place,” Brandi Pischke said. “So we thought it would be a great idea to bring a publication here and feature some amazing local artists like Cody.”

But they weren’t expecting it to grow so quickly.

“We’re moving way faster than we thought,” David Pischke said.

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Friedman knows from personal experience, as the founder and editor-in-chief of the independent literary magazine Four Chambers, which recently went on an indefinite hiatus, just how “hard and draining” it can be. So, acting on behalf of Piper Center, he offered to partner with Tolsun Books to help promote and co-host Wilson’s upcoming book release.

“I think these grass-roots organizations are really the lifeblood and the heart of the literary community here in Phoenix,” Friedman said.

However, he added, such small organizations “cannot accomplish their goals without structure and support from a larger institution. … As a larger institution, Piper can serve that role, of not just being presenters of content but supporting writers working in the Valley, providing them with professional development opportunities … mentorships [and more]. We are not here to be in the spotlight — we are here to shine a light on others and increase the value of what they’re already doing.”

Piper’s successful Distinguished Visiting Writer Series has brought authors such as Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith and Marlon James to smaller audiences on ASU’s Tempe campus. But the center’s longstanding relationships with several local event spaces and bookstores, such as Crescent Ballroom, Valley Bar and Changing Hands, means they’re also able to present lesser-known local authors like Wilson to a wider audience.

Bringing distinguished authors to ASU is important, Friedman said, “but it’s also important for us to be presenting individuals who might only have a few books out. Cody Wilson’s event is really the strongest example of this, where we want to be able to serve the larger community here in Phoenix.”

Another example is how the center is working to expand the Desert Nights, Rising Stars conference to be more inclusive to those outside of ASU, by making it more affordable and flexible for people’s schedules. For the first time next year, it will feature a free exhibitors' fair, where 30–40 local writers and community organizations will showcase their work and wares.

This fall, the center is partnering with Phoenix’s Open Air Market for a day of literary programming, as well as downtown Phoenix’s cinephile haven FilmBar to present eight films inspired by poetry. A fresh schedule of classes will also be announced soon, as will projects with Rios and the ASU creative writing student-helmed literary journal Hayden’s Ferry Review.

“Piper is a nationally recognized literary institution, but I think it’s important to maintain a focus on the local community and creating networks and points of exchange there,” Friedman said.

“There are all these places with really well-established traditions of culture and arts, but I think Phoenix is in a different place for a few reasons — because of its political climate, because of its history, in terms of its newness and ongoing development … So I think creating arts and cultural programming and educational opportunities is not just a luxury … it’s actually a step towards having a more socially conscious and responsible community as a whole.”

Top photo: ASU alumnus and Liberty High School English teacher Cody Wilson reads from his newly published book, “Nobody is Ever Missing," during a poetry reading at Union Coffee in Peoria, Arizona, on May 25. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

ASU psychology graduate student wins American Psychological Association dissertation award

Michael Sladek will study how cultural background affects response to stress

May 30, 2018

Starting college is exciting, but it also can be stressful, especially for minority students. Researchers in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology are studying ways that Latinos adapt to the stressors of higher education and what promotes their academic success.

Michael Sladek, a psychology graduate student, won a doctoral dissertation research award from the American Psychological Association (APA) for his proposal to study Latino students as they transition to college life at ASU. Mike Sladek, ASU Psychology Michael Sladek, a psychology graduate student, won a doctoral dissertation research award from the American Psychological Association for his proposal to study Latino students as they transition to college life at ASU. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

“I am interested in how cultural influences affect how people deal with stress,” Sladek said.

The APA funds allowed Sladek to study how Latino students in their first semester at ASU handle stress. Sladek’s experiment is part of a larger study run by his advisor, Leah Doane, associate professor of psychology.

“We are interested in how culture affects development,” Doane said. “We are looking at how culture impacts the effects that stress from adjusting to a new environment can have on health, mental health and academic success.”

The Doane lab “Transiciones” study tracks how ASU Latino students adjust to college by following them starting in their senior year of high school through their third year in college. It is funded by the William T. Grant Foundation and receives logistical support from ASU admissions and Educational Outreach and Student Services.

Last year, Doane’s lab began tracking over 200 Latino students who had committed to attend ASU. The first part of the Transiciones study was an eight-day period when the students were still living at home and attending high school. The researchers asked the students to complete smart-phone based daily surveys, monitored the quality of their sleep and collected information about their stress levels and general health. The lab repeated the same eight-day protocol one year later, when the Latino students were in their second semester at ASU.

Sladek’s experiment included a smaller group of Transiciones students who first watched a video and then spent a few minutes talking about themselves before a panel of two judges. The judges were trained researchers and the public speaking situation was designed to create stress. To measure stress, the researchers asked the students questions about their mood and collected saliva samples before and after the experiment. The saliva samples were used to measure changes in cortisol, a hormone produced by the body during stress.

Sladek wanted to know whether the video watched by the students affected their stress levels.

“One video was made by ASU, and it focuses on how culture, diversity and inclusion are all really important at ASU,” Sladek said. “The other video was a generic tour of campus.”

Sladek and Doane thought that the students who watched the video about how ASU values diversity and inclusion would feel less stress during the experiment. Sladek thought that reminding students of their background would help them feel more connected to their culture while they navigated the university environment.

“We wanted to see if the students who watched the ASU inclusion video felt more comfortable and could draw from their own background when they stood up in front of the judges,” Sladek said.

Sladek compared the answers to the questions about mood and the amounts of cortisol measured from the students who watched the supportive inclusion video to the students who watched the campus tour. He found that the students who watched the supportive inclusion video did not react as dramatically to the stress task, an effect that was strongest for students with a greater connection to their cultural heritage, like valuing family and respecting authority figures.

“We’re excited by these findings because they supported our hypothesis and show that the initiatives and messages ASU is already giving to incoming students can make a difference,” Sladek said. “The findings from this study highlight the cultural diversity among Latino students, which has important implications for students as they start college classes (and) interact with professors and other students.”

To apply for the APA dissertation award, Sladek wrote a summary of the experiments he wanted to include in his doctoral dissertation. His application was one of two selected to be sent to the APA by Laurie Chassin, Regents’ Professor and director of graduate training in the psychology department.

Sladek and fellow psychology graduate student Carter Daniels both were among the approximately 40 students nationwide selected by the APA for dissertation awards.

“The APA dissertation award is an honor for our ambitious and entrepreneurial students,” Chassin said. “And it is a credit to the training they receive in the Department of Psychology.”

After completing his doctorate at ASU, Sladek will move to Harvard University to work with former ASU professor Adriana Umaña-Taylor.

Research Assistant Professor, Psychology Department


ASU student shows refugee children science research, opportunities of higher education

May 30, 2018

Arizona State University Department of Psychology undergraduate Ashley Thompson's to-do list probably looks different than her peers'. In addition to her course load at ASU, Thompson volunteers in a Phoenix elementary school, working with refugee children.

Thompson recently organized a field trip so that the refugee students at David Crockett Elementary School could experience psychology research first hand. The students spent the day in the Dynamics of Perception, Action and Cognition Lab (DPAC). Ashley Thompson, ASU Department of Psychology Arizona State University Department of Psychology undergraduate Ashley Thompson. Photo by Robert Ewing Download Full Image

“I wanted to show the kids that higher education is possible even if they had not thought about it before,” Thompson said.

Thompson was invited by a friend to join the ASU Community Outreach and Advocacy for Refugees (COAR), a student-run organization that provides assistance to the large refugee population in the Phoenix metro area. She started working with Crockett Elementary School through COAR.

COAR volunteers work as tutors at local elementary schools with large refugee populations. Thompson decided to reach out to the Balsz Elementary School District to see what she could make happen. After numerous attempts, she connected with the principal of Crockett Elementary, who happily facilitated an introduction to Patricia Skains’ class. Instead of just tutoring the students in the class, Thompson suggested and organized the “science day” field trip at the DPAC lab.

“Ashley is really special. She was a star student in my learning and motivation class, and to learn about all that she does for these kids is really exciting,” said Nia Amazeen, associate professor of psychology and co-director of the DPAC lab. “She is the one who really connected us for this event and was integral in getting the day together.”

Thompson also rallied her friends to help with the field trip. Even though it was the end of the semester, she convinced five of her friends to come to the DPAC and help introduce the children to psychology.

Thompson grew up in Scottsdale and decided to come to ASU to pursue her dream of becoming an advocate for children in foster care. She studied psychology because she wanted to understand how the brain processes information and how it affects the decisions we make.

Question: What is one piece of advice you have for students coming to ASU?

Answer: The one piece of advice I would give students would be to find something you are incredibly passionate about, and if you don't find a club already on campus, start one! ASU makes it incredibly easy to take a passion and run with it and without the support from the university, it would have been almost impossible for me to do what I did.

Q: What do you do for fun when you are not working in a research lab or volunteering?

A: I really enjoy working with kids; to me that is fun! When I'm not working with kids, I really enjoy baking and traveling.

Q: What was rewarding about volunteering at Crockett Elementary?

A: The most rewarding part of volunteering at Crockett Elementary was seeing how the kids improved in school. Knowing that our efforts are actually making a difference in their education and are at the same time keeping them interested in continuing education is so heartwarming.

Q: If you were given $40 million to solve one problem on our planet, what would that be?

I would improve education funding in the U.S., especially for arts classes. Children are our future. If we want to continue to improve and tackle some of the biggest issues we are currently facing as a nation, it's important to educate our future generations to the best of our abilities.

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


The CLASroom: ASU PhD candidate examines the science of magma

May 29, 2018

Volcanic eruptions have a way of leaving people awestruck. And the recent eruption of Hawaii’s Kilauea has been no different: the photos and video of glowing, unstoppable lava flowing across the island are just remarkable.

While visions of erupting volcanoes in Arizona might not often come to mind, the state’s youngest volcano, Sunset Crater, erupted less than 1,000 years ago. And at Arizona State University, students have ongoing research into the different elements of volcanic activity. PhD candidate Hannah Shamloo mimics magma in a lab PhD candidate Hannah Shamloo discusses the study of magma. Download Full Image

Hannah Shamloo, a PhD candidate at the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, is a petrologist. A petrologist is a geologist who studies magma and how it turns to rock, so Shamloo spends her time studying how magma is formed, how it changes and how it sometimes erupts on the surface.

Below are four facts Shamloo discussed about volcanoes. Hear her discuss these facts and more in the latest episode of The CLASroom.

1. The mantle, where magma is formed, is solid rock.

But because there is a temperature difference between the hot core and the cool surface, the solid mantle is actually convecting.

The moving mantle drags the thin crust sitting on top of it. At the surface, we call this plate tectonics. The average temperature of the mantle is hot – but not hot enough to melt rocks on its own. Only when certain conditions are met, will the mantle undergo melting.

2. Hotspots are one of three conditions that can create magma.

Hotspots represent areas where large columns of hot rock rises through the mantle from possibly as deep as the core. The hot column has enough power to melt the surrounding mantle rock. Geologists often think of the island of Hawaii or Yellowstone as examples of hotspot volcanoes.

3. Over 600 million people live close to an active volcano.

Close enough that they could be affected by an eruption. In addition to being a threat to people, volcanoes can also affect animals, agriculture and climate.

4. Magma becomes lava once it reaches the surface.

Until the hot substance erupts above-ground, it is called magma.

Kirsten Kraklio

Content Strategist and Writer, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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Young people find a transformative path in ASU nonprofit program

Young people transformed by ASU Lodestar Center's nonprofit apprenticeship.
May 25, 2018

Apprentices find purpose, motivation with Lodestar Center's Public Allies

Just before Beatriz Mendoza graduated from Arizona State University a year ago, she joined her engineering classmates in figuring out where to apply for jobs.

“While everyone else was applying to Honeywell, Intel, Microsoft and Apple, I was applying to nonprofits,” said Mendoza, who graduated with a degree in industrial and organizational psychology with a focus on consumer and human systems engineering.

“I thought, ‘I have to apply to something that means something to me,'" she said.

Mendoza is among 34 young people in Public Allies Arizona, an intense, full-time apprenticeship program that pairs participants with nonprofit organizations. Public Allies is part of the ASU Lodestar Center for Philanthropy and Nonprofit Innovation, in the School of Community Resources and Development.

Mendoza worked with the Million Dollar Teacher Project, a nonprofit that placed her as a technology integration specialist at Granada Primary School in Phoenix. There, she created time-saving student-data spreadsheets for teachers and a simplified progress report for parents.

“I want to have many stories attached to my name and after the first year of working in a nonprofit, I have 40. I have 40 students in the class and that’s the greatest achievement I’ve ever done,” she said.

Mendoza and several other allies described their powerful experiences during “impact presentations” at ASU's Downtown Phoenix campus on Wednesday. They made posters about their accomplishments and several spoke about how the 10 months changed them.

This was the 12th cohort of the program, which pays the allies to work at more than 20 nonprofit organizations in the Phoenix metro area. After completing Public Allies, which is part of the federal AmeriCorps program, the participants receive a $5,800 award to pay for tuition or professional development or to apply toward student-loan debt. More than 250 young adults have participated since the Arizona program was launched in 2006.

Since last fall, the current allies have planted zucchini at an urban farm, taught art to children at a museum, delivered meals to homebound elderly people and helped high school students fill out college applications. They sorted mail and entered data in computers. They overcame their fears of being overwhelmed and underqualified. They learned about teamwork and what it feels like when no one shows up to an event they organized. They had doors slammed in their faces and made someone's day with a few minutes of attention.

The allies come from a wide variety of backgrounds. Some are college students, some have degrees and a few joined right out of high school. One is a single mother who had been out of the workforce. Some chose Public Allies as a deliberate pathway, and for others, it was a miraculous opportunity.

By the time Damonte Johnson came to Phoenix a year ago, he had flunked out of several colleges, derailed from his studies by a series of family traumas.

“I had given up hope completely of ever going back to school. I had chased success as far west as L.A. and as far east as Baltimore,” said Johnson, who found out about Public Allies at a job fair.

He’s worked at two organizations and with both experiences, he helped kids who were like him. At the Creighton Community Foundation, he served after-school meals to children who often did not have food waiting for them at home. He also is a youth outreach coordinator with Opportunities for Youth, a group that connects young people who are neither in school nor employed with resources to move ahead.

“It was exactly where I had been many times in my life,” Johnson said.

Jill Watts, director of capacity building for the Lodestar Center, said that Public Allies aims to be life changing not only for the young people but also for the nonprofits.

“We have a lot of metrics around how the allies advanced the capacity of the organization during their time there,” she said. For example, if the ally is doing volunteer outreach, they have to quantify how many new volunteers they recruited, how many returning volunteers they brought back, how many hours they served and the economic value of the volunteers’ contribution to the organization.

Last year, 90 percent of the organizations reported that the ally improved the nonprofit’s performance, she said.

“We take people you might not expect or who might not look like what you think of as a leader and we engage them in this program,” she said.

“For 10 months, we’ll take them by the hand and we’ll drag them, if we have to, across the finish line and for some of them, it really is a journey getting across the finish line.”

Not everyone makes it, Watts said. A few will leave the program despite all the support. But for most, the practical job experience and sense of accomplishment are transformative.

Taylor Polen joined Public Allies a few months after graduating from high school in 2016. She knew she wanted to go to college but she didn’t have a clear sense of her path.

“I never felt like a doctor. I never felt like a teacher. I never felt like any conventional career that we’re taught growing up,” she said.

When she discovered the program, “It dawned on me that nonprofit work is a career.”

Allies can opt to stay for a second year, which Polen did. She worked as program specialist at the Alzheimer’s Association, where she staffed the helpline, did data entry and helped with the family support groups.

“They helped me to find my direction and opened my eyes to what’s out there,” said Polen, who in the fall will be a freshman at ASU, where she’s been accepted into the Next Generation Service Corps of the Public Service Academy.

At the impact presentation, many of the allies expressed wonder at how far they’ve come in 10 months.

Johnson recalled that as a child, he was enthusiastic and certain that he would be a success, but the struggles of the past few years had dimmed his optimism.

“Public Allies rekindled it. They gave me purpose and they gave me hope and they gave me a way to succeed.”

Top photo: Beatriz Mendoza, a 2017 graduate of ASU, described her work at Granada Primary School at the Public Allies impact presentation on Wednesday at the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now