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A blessing and a nuisance: Native American views of the annual monsoon

Some tribes view monsoon rains as life-sustaining; others, destructive.
Beliefs can vary within any one group, ASU prof says.
July 13, 2017

Tribes from around Arizona share how they view the summer rainy season

The annual summer monsoon: torrential thunderstorms, heavy rain, damaged roofs, uprooted trees, dusty vehicles and repeated trips to the car wash.

Many Arizonans approach it with a sense of dread, panic or annoyance.

They’re not indigenous peoples of Arizona.

“Moisture in any form — whether it’s flowing water, lakes, ponds, winter storms and monsoon season — is the sustenance that helps the Hopi people to survive,” said Leigh Kuwanwisiwma, director of the Hopi Cultural Preservation Office in northeastern Arizona.

“Rain is the ultimate blessing to our people and answer to our prayers.”

Given the varying degrees of beliefs among Arizona tribes, indigenous people within the same tribe often hold different perspectives about rain and water, said Tennille Marley, an assistant professor in Arizona State University’s American Indian Studies program.

“There are many different beliefs about how people view or feel about the rain, from some who don’t think about the rain to those who believe it’s sacred and necessary for life,” said Marley, a member of the White Mountain Apache Tribe near Show Low, Arizona.

Kuwanwisiwma said when the Hopi clans originally migrated from northern America to Arizona, water became a valued part of their survival in the harsh climate. As a result, they learned to plant and rotate their crops around the monsoon, considered their New Year.

He says the Hopis traditionally plant their crops — corn, beans and watermelon — in May and continue throughout the summer. Kuwanwisiwma said they’re able to harvest those crops without irrigation and on about 12 inches of annual rainfall.

“It’s really a reflection of how the seeds have adapted and are proudly among the most drought-resistant in the world,” he said.

He added that when the Hopi people hear the first thunder of the season, “it’s a great feeling that rain is going to come.”

The Ak-Chin Indian Community, about an hour south of Phoenix, also has great reverence for rain and monsoon season, said Jeremy Johns, a museum technician for the tribe.

“The first monsoon is considered our January 1st, and we refer to it as Saguaro Fruit Month,” Johns said. “It’s an important time for us culturally and agriculturally, and we look at it as a new start, a renewal, a refreshing.”

Johns said his ancestors grew their crops in flooded washes on the 22,000-acre reservation and monsoon rains were a way for them to harness water and grow their crops. When it didn’t rain, Johns said his ancestors starved and were forced to supplement their diets by hunting and gathering.

He said that today the reservation still uses a flood-based irrigation system to grow corn, tepary beans, watermelon, O’odham squash and Devil’s Claw, a wild plant used for basketry.

Johns said because Ak-Chin is one of the smaller tribes in Arizona, they often harvest their crops with other O’odham tribesThe sister tribes are: Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Ak-Chin Indian Community and the Tohono O’odham Nation. The Salt River Pima-Maricopa Indian Community includes the Piipaash. to build their food supply and stay connected.

“It’s a way to keep those cultural ties strong amongst us and work with each other as much as possible,” Johns said.

For the Fort Mojave Indian Tribe, whose land sits along the Colorado River and straddles the Arizona/California border, the monsoon is no longer as important as it once was.

“Our ancestors were once dependent on monsoon season and rotated their crops around it, but we’re not really doing that anymore,” said John Algots, director of the Fort Mojave Physical Resources Department. “Monsoon season is more of a nuisance than anything else.”

That’s because the tribe commercially farms thousands of acres of cotton, and monsoon weather can cost them millions.

“The heat combined with the humidity sterilizes the cotton,” Algots explained. “Monsoons also cause some local flooding, though we don’t really get strong ones like you do in central Arizona.”

Like the Ak-Chin Indian Community, the Fort Mojave tribe used the same flooded-wash method to grow crops, specifically corn and squash. However, since becoming a commercial farming enterprise focusing on cotton, alfalfa hay, Bermuda seed and fiber, rain is not culturally or agriculturally significant.

“Our water source comes from the Colorado River, and we have the same vegetation and the same ability to grow crops whether it rains or not,” Algots said.

That same attitude toward the monsoon is also held by Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, but they view water as sacred, said Albert Nelson, acting manager for the tribe’s Cultural Development department.

“Agriculturally, we don’t really plant here and we don’t have any superstitions about the monsoons or the rains, nor do we have any stories about monsoons or rain,” Nelson said. “But we do look at water as being sacred because that’s how our people were created.”

Nelson said the tribe believes their origins traced to Montezuma Well in the Verde Valley, about 95 miles north of Phoenix.

“At that time the well was actually dried and then a flood happened underneath the earth,” Nelson said. “Our people then climbed out of the well, and then the water rose up to the present-day level.”

Nelson said the people who didn’t make it out of the well turned into fish and other water-based creatures, and as a result, his people don’t eat fish.

“We have the belief that things that come out of the water are our relatives,” he said.

Beyond agricultural needs and spiritual beliefs, ASU’s Marley added that water is tied directly to Native American health.

“Because of colonization, water isn’t consumed as a primary beverage and has been replaced by soda and other non-indigenous drinks, which can contribute to health issues,” she said.

Reporter , ASU Now


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Why are we so fascinated by storms? ASU experts weigh in.
Both social and traditional news media have become increasingly visual in form.
Smartphone apps like Waze can be helpful in bad-weather situations.
July 11, 2017

Alexander Halavais and Jessica Pucci provide insight into social media's influence on monsoon news coverage

Editor's note: This is part of our weeklong monsoon series; to read the first installation, "Gully washers and boulder rollers: How monsoons shape the desert," click here. For the final story, looking at monsoons from a Native American cultural viewpoint, click here.

Public fascination with the extreme weather of monsoons is surpassed only by the media’s, which has seen some interesting developments in its coverage of storm events in recent years, due in large part to social media’s influence.

In 2012, the Arizona Department of Transportation garnered attention with a dust storm awareness campaign on social media that encouraged people to submit “haboob haikus,” and in 2016, the Arizona Republic dedicated an entire story solely to monsoon social media posts.

Why the fascination with storms to begin with? How does social media play into that? What are the risks and benefits?

To gain some insight, ASU Now consulted with Alexander Halavais, an associate professor in ASU’s School of Social and Behavioral Sciences, and Jessica Pucci, ethics and excellence professor of practice at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

Halavais specializes in ways in which social media change the nature of scholarship and learning and allow for new forms of collaboration and self-government. Pucci leads social media and analytics for Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, and also teaches a course in analytics and audience engagement.

Here’s what they had to say:

(Responses have been lightly edited for length and content.)

Alexander Halavais

Question: Why do monsoon and big-storm stories do so well in the media?

Alexander Halavais: I think there are a bunch of reasons. Large-scale weather phenomena are one of the few things that seem to have an effect on everyone relatively equally across walks of life. If you live in Phoenix, a monsoon is going to have an effect on your life, along with your fellow residents. But really large-scale weather phenomena do well in the news media in large part because they are relatively easy to cover and fit into the routines of the journalist. Experts are easy to find, officials have a line ready and there is a clear connection to a local audience. They are, in some ways, tailor-made for the news values journalists favor.

Q: How has social media affected news coverage of monsoon storms?

Jessica Pucci

Jessica Pucci: Monsoons are not only highly visual — we’ve all seen the jaw-dropping before-the-dust/after-the-dust photos — but they’re phenomena exclusive to the Southwest. Visual content plays well in social media; not only is it highly shareable, but Facebook’s algorithm gives weight to video. Add to that striking imagery of a weather event that users outside the Southwest are unlikely to ever see in person, and you’ve got a perfect storm of social attention … no pun intended.

Q: What’s behind that phenomenon? Are people genuinely coming together as a community to inform each other out of concern for the safety of others, or are people just showing off who could get the best Instagram photo?

AH: I think in some cases people may share news or information in order to help others, but often it is an effort to either come together as a community over a shared experience, or to share locally interesting extremes with friends and family not affected. Certainly, there's some showing off going on: When I lived in Buffalo, it was a picture of a wall of snow outside my front door, and here it is 119-degree days or a thousand-foot-high wall of sand moving across the Valley.

Q: What are the risks and benefits?

JP: User-generated content allows newsrooms to cover weather events more widely than ever before — and that’s particularly impactful during monsoons, which can appear drastically different between locations a few miles apart. Reporters can’t be everywhere at once, so engaging with audiences to not only learn and see more, but establish our newsrooms as authoritative, trustworthy sources of information is important.

Social networks — particularly Twitter — help newsrooms get live, real-time weather information into users’ hands quicker than ever, which is undoubtedly a public good. But social media can also hasten the spread of misinformation. It’s critical that reporters and social media managers work diligently to verify audience accounts of weather events before sharing them – a simple reverse image search or provenance check using tools like TinEye can mean the difference between sharing a helpful update and radiating a fake, Photoshopped or old monsoon image.

AH: There are certainly examples of social media being helpful in recovery from natural disasters, but at least locally, storms rarely rise to that extreme. I think they serve a function of reminding people to prepare for such events.

I suspect that the most helpful kinds of contributions are not in images and stories but something a bit lower-level. When Waze users either directly or indirectly help me to avoid flooded sections of the road or accidents, that is certainly helpful. I do suspect that such sharing is helpful, but perhaps in not exactly practical ways. I think it brings local communities together in the face of shared inconvenience and lets us tell stories that connect us, and I think that can be important.


Top photo courtesy of

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Gully washers and boulder rollers: How monsoons shape the desert

Arizona's desert is sculpted by summer storms — and the small ones add up.
July 7, 2017

ASU geomorphologist talks about the types of floods that do the most to sculpt the land — and it's not the ones you'd expect

Editor's note: This is the first in our weeklong monsoon series. To read the second story, about social media's influence on storm coverage, click hereFor the final story, looking at monsoons from a Native American cultural viewpoint, click here.

Fly above the desert and the paradox is obvious: It’s a place with almost no water, but it’s entirely shaped by water. Washes that flow maybe every 20 or 30 years are etched into hardpan far from mountains.

Monsoons define the desert by driving physical change. Summer storms sculpt the land. Sediment is deposited. An old channel becomes silted up. A new channel is carved in another place. Like the creative process, some of it is a mystery.

Arizona State University geomorphologist Kelin Whipple studies how the Earth is shaped by climate, tectonics and surface processes. One time he was examining an enormous boulder at a ranch near Bagdad, Arizona. The rancher called the storm that moved it a “boulder roller.”

A storm that tosses around boulders the size of minivans doesn’t come around often. People who live close to the land sit up and pay attention to events like that. “They know they’re quite rare,” said Whipple, a professor in the School of Earth and Space Exploration.

Those rare floods chisel the land more dramatically, but it’s the gully washers, not the boulder rollers, that do more work year in and year out.

“A day of high flow is still just one day out of 365,” Whipple said. “A flood that occurs on an annual basis is just not a big flood. Floods that really do the work of deepening canyons and transporting sediments, those are floods that occur at a minimum once every two years. ... It’s the smaller ones that add up. We don’t know really in a quantitative way where is the range of floods that do the most work, either in a mountain environment or a desert environment — we don’t know that very well.”

In the 1950s geologists began to learn that the floods that do the most work over time are the smaller biannual floods.

“They don’t do all that much, but it happens pretty frequently,” Whipple said. “A hundred-year flood does an awful lot, but it happens so infrequently that two-year events add up to more.”

Annual monsoon flooding doesn’t do much at all. It takes critical velocity plus depth to move large material, like gravel. (In geology, gravel is anything larger than sand: granules, pebbles, cobbles and boulders.) Certain thresholds of shearing stress, force that causes layers or parts to slide upon each other in opposite directions, need to be topped before anything happens.

“You need a certain amount of shear stress before you’re going to get gravels actually moving,” Whipple said. “Usually a two-year (flood) will get gravels moving so you get some change. If you’ve got a system that’s armored with a bunch of big boulders, or if you’re asking what floods can actually rip in and deepen the canyon, erode deeper over time, it’s got to work its way into rock and might have higher shear stresses and pull out big blocks, then you’re talking about a five- or 10-year flood to even exceed the shear stress and get anything to happen.”

There are two big rain events in Southwestern deserts: the monsoons and occasional hurricanes wafting up from the Gulf of California. Geologists have a limited amount of data to work with. It only goes back 20 or 30 years, or at most 100. Existing data hints at a tapering-off of flood size. Scientists know how big floods get, but not how often they happen. Floods that would wipe Phoenix or Tucson off the map don’t happen at all.

“They just don’t get much bigger than X,” Whipple said. “It never happens. There’s no such thing as a 5,000-year flood.”


Top photo by Nicholas Hartmann (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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July 3, 2017

Nearly 100 high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona work on research projects, live in the dorm and connect with ASU resources

It was day three of ASU’s 2017 Inspire program, the weeklong camp that offers high schoolers from tribal nations in Arizona a taste of college life, and the Arizona State University Memorial Union’s Changemaker space was abuzz.

The young scholars were working in 19 student teams, brainstorming and mapping out the action research plans they’d share with peers and families at the closing Capstone Project Showcase at week’s end. Their topic choices were informed by their own interests and the previous day’s panel presentations and discussions related to indigenous education; health; tribal sovereignty; and planning, architecture and construction in Indian Country. 

The team of Kristen Sanderson, Darian Wauneka, Mackyl Ortega and April Yazzie, all rising high school seniors, had decided to pursue a research action plan related to health and well-being. 

Sanderson’s career interests are nursing or dentistry. Wauneka leans toward optometry. Ortega is interested in working with pharmaceuticals, and Yazzie said she’d like to work for a company like Apple or Intel.

“Individually we suggested alcoholism, hospital misdiagnoses, heat-related deaths and elder neglect,” explained Sanderson. 

As a group, they eventually settled on elder neglect by deciding to draw one topic lottery-style, Wauneka said. 

Having done a lot of internet research in Inspire’s indigenous reading and writing workshop that morning, they worked quickly at the whiteboard, referring to the saved data on their phones and adding a few more ideas as they saw the flow of their research coming together.

A neighboring team had chosen to explore land conservation on tribal nations, and what can be done about the U.S. government’s pollution of the land. 

“Some of the land appears to be unused; there’s no homes or burial grounds, so the government thinks, ‘Why can’t we build out here?’ In reality, that land is used for grazing or for growing crops and the ecosystem is thrown off by it,” said Noah Anaya, a 12th-grade student.

Another group looked at the election of the Navajo Nation president and how during the race the candidates’ focus on tradition and government affect the outcome.

“If the value placed on government is too high, it’s seen as a conflict with traditional values. I would like to see these values balanced, rather than one taking precedent over the other,” senior Vanessa Lee said.

“Outstanding work!” English Professor Jim Blasingame encouragingly shouted to all, as he finished a first lap around the room offering feedback to teams. “These are topics doctoral students are doing dissertations on.

“You’re worldly and you have your heads in the right place. Remember, you are your best resource,” he continued, as he offered tips about how to discern solid, reputable research facts from opinion. “Be wary of sources that use words like would, should, could, might. That author just wants to sell you on their ideas.” 

Immersed in campus life

ASU’s college-readiness summer program Inspire, held June 18-24, saw nearly 100 American Indian students from tribal nations in Arizona participate in activities on ASU’s Tempe and Downtown Phoenix campuses and in the greater community.

Rising high school sophomores, juniors and seniors had the opportunity to practice and grow academic and personal success behaviors by integrating reading, writing and research skills in culturally relevant, project-based learning.

“You’re all capable and you’re going to learn new things and will grow,” said Jacob Moore, ASU assistant vice president for tribal relations, in his welcome to participants and their families on June 18. “Open your mind to possibilities and you may see some things differently than maybe what you’ve seen in high school. This is a chance for you to envision yourselves on campus and to see for yourself what being in college is like.” 

During Inspire, students experienced university life in a Tempe campus residence hall. They ate in dining halls and enjoyed free time and team-building sessions in the Sun Devil Fitness Center. They worked with their peers and instructors in different buildings on the Tempe campus. They also enjoyed sessions at the Desert Botanical Garden, the Heard Museum and the Indian Legal Program at ASU’s Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

Throughout the program the high schoolers were guided by 11 ASU indigenous students who served as team mentors, providing tips and advice that come best from near-peers. 

“Living on campus has been interesting. Sharing a room and talking with someone else who has similar interests in going to college is great,” said senior Tyler Salt.

During one of the sessions, the students used the me3 tool to explore majors and careers that interested them, providing a glimpse of their future after high school.

“The career exploration has been my favorite part. I’ve always wanted to be a business administrator, and this is giving me the motivation to pursue it when I come [to ASU] next year,” said senior Hailey Veltha.

“I wanted to be a lawyer, but this has showed me different opportunities that are available to me in the different programs,” Anaya said. 

By the end of the program, participants were connected with American Indian students, staff, faculty and support services at the university.

“Programs like Inspire are designed to motivate high school students to begin pursuing higher education, and so it’s important to connect them to the university in general,” said Lorenzo Chavez, director of family and student initiatives for Access ASU.

The program, now in its second year, emphasized the accessibility of the different resources at each of the ASU campuses with a resource fair representing ASU’s schools and colleges.

“We want Inspire participants to feel welcome and comfortable at ASU and understand the many opportunities they’ll find in terms of academics and support. Of course, we hope they will decide to apply to, enroll in and graduate from ASU in the future,” said Jeanne Hanrahan, director of community outreach for the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and University College.

“We received about 250 applications for this year’s program and could afford to offer places to 100 students. It's clear that interest in a program like this is strong,” she added. 

This year’s Inspire program was sponsored by a grant from the Tohono O'odham Nation to ASU's University College and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, with support from Access ASU.

Chavez and Annabell Bowen, director of American Indian initiatives in the ASU Office of the President, presented a session for parents and families on the opening morning of Inspire. Bowen spoke about the cultural environment at ASU, and Chavez shared information about applying to the university, financial aid and what families can do to help their students in their decision about college. 

“We have more than 2,800 American Indian students at ASU, making it one of the largest Native student bodies in the country,” Bowen told family members, “and enrollment numbers have been increasing every year.”

As part of her work in the Office of American Indian Initiatives, Bowen heads up the university’s Tribal Nations Tour program, in which current ASU students, faculty and staff travel to all of the tribal communities in Arizona in outreach to K-12 students.

“We even talk with kids in Head Start programs,” said Bowen. “It’s never too early to encourage children to start thinking about college and to have them get firsthand knowledge of the first steps they need to take to be ready.”


Will Argeros contributed to this story;

Top photo: Students make their way to the Indian Legal Program in the Beus Center for Law and Society at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus during ASU's Inspire program for Native high school students. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Maureen Roen

Editorial and communication coordinator , College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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ASU professor studies roundabouts to ensure maximum safety, efficiency.
June 29, 2017

Roundabouts a contentious traffic feature in AZ, but an ASU professor found that they're safer, more efficient than traditional stops

Traffic roundabouts are like broccoli. Many of us don’t like them, but they’re good for our driving diets.

In the right conditions, they increase safety, lower crash severity, reduce traffic delays and can even reduce greenhouse gas emissions, says Mike Mamlouk, a professor of civil, environmental and sustainable engineering at Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering.

But despite their demonstrated safety in other states, they’re a highly polarizing traffic feature in Arizona, which is why Mamlouk decided to study their effects in the Grand Canyon State with former ASU graduate student Beshoy Souliman. Their research was funded by the National Transportation Center at Maryland, of which ASU is a consortium member.

Since modern roundabouts were first built in the United States in the 1990s, they’ve been constructed in most U.S. cities. In Arizona they began popping up more recently — in 2006. Today, the state has around 80 roundabouts, mostly in single-lane and some in double-lane configurations.

Mamlouk and Souliman studied 17 roundabouts in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Sedona, Cottonwood and Prescott to evaluate their effect on crashes and their severity.

They collected data on traffic volume and number and severity of accidents in an equal number of years before and after conversion from a stop sign or traffic signal to a roundabout. Additionally, they looked at crash severity and cost levels from damage only ($11,000 average) to fatality ($1.5 million average).

Modern roundabouts (left) are the newest traffic control system on our roadways, and smaller than older rotaries or traffic circles (right).
Modern roundabouts (left) are the newest traffic-control system on our roadways and smaller than older rotaries or traffic circles (right). Photo courtesy of Melissa Kay Photography, TripAdvisor

 Stops vs. roundabouts

Intersections are dangerous places for drivers. Almost half of all traffic collisions in the United States happen at intersections.

Transportation engineers have found that if intersections are designed to be more forgiving — especially for distracted drivers who may run red lights or stop signs — they can minimize accidents or reduce accident severity when drivers make mistakes.

Roundabouts are one solution to this problem. In a roundabout, drivers are required to yield to cars already in the circle before they can merge, and raised lane splitters and medians help reduce traffic speed.

This configuration eliminates the potential for head-on and right-angle crashes.

“If a motorist runs the red light at a signalized intersection or does not stop at the stop sign, the vehicle will be on the path of crossing vehicles or opposing vehicles when making a left turn, which may result in a major accident,” Mamlouk said. “However, if a motorist enters the roundabout and does not yield to vehicles already in the circle, vehicles will crash at a small angle, causing a low-severity accident.”

Roundabouts have fewer dangerous conflict points, making accidents less likely to occur and less severe when they do occur.
Roundabouts have fewer dangerous conflict points, making accidents less likely to occur and less severe when they do occur. Graphic courtesy of Mike Mamlouk

 Reduced traffic speed as drivers approach the roundabout intersection also reduces crash severity.

He added that the geometry of a roundabout means there are fewer conflicting points where crashes can occur. So in addition to reducing the severity of crashes, roundabouts reduce the chance of crashes.

Mamlouk and Souliman found that single-lane roundabouts decreased the total accident rate by 18 percent per year, and decreased the injury rate by 44 percent per year.

To Mamlouk’s surprise, two-lane roundabout accidents increased the total accident rate per year by 62 percent. However, these accidents were less severe and the injury rate decreased by 16 percent.

There was one fatality at a single-lane roundabout before conversion and one fatality at a double-lane roundabout before conversion. After roundabout conversions there were no fatalities for both single- and double-lane roundabouts. Also, the average accident cost per intersection decreased for both single- and double-lane roundabouts.

Constructing roundabouts in the right conditions

Though safety improved at the roundabouts the researchers studied, they are effective only in the right conditions, called warrants, which include levels of traffic volume, traffic fluctuation during the day, peak-hour factor, pedestrian volume, school crossing, crash experience and roadway network.

The Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices lists warrants for various intersection control types, except roundabouts. Guidelines exist, but the decision is often more subjective than decisions to install stop signs or traffic lights.

“Although no warrants are currently available, engineers use the available guidelines together with previous experience to decide if a roundabout is suitable at an intersection,” Mamlouk said. “Warrants make the decision easier, consistent and more objective.”

When placed correctly, roundabouts also result in non-safety improvements for drivers.

“Instead of stopping at the stop sign or at the red light when no other vehicles are at the intersection, roundabouts allow motorists to proceed with caution without stopping, allowing for free-flow movement,” Mamlouk said. “Reducing stopping has the benefit of increasing the intersection capacity and reducing traffic delay and greenhouse gas emission.”

However, when poorly placed, roundabouts can cause increased traffic congestion and crash rates.

Warrants also help determine when a roundabout is no longer needed as traffic conditions change.

Educating the public

Mike Mamlouk
Professor Mike Mamlouk

As Mamlouk’s research concludes, he is presenting his findings to public officials to help them carefully assess the specific conditions at intersections before converting them to roundabouts.

As he and other researchers continue to observe and report on roundabout performance, warrants adhering to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices will begin to be developed.

Mamlouk also hopes to work with public agencies to help educate drivers about the proper use and advantages of roundabouts.

With only 80 roundabout intersections among the thousands of roadway intersections in the state, they’re still fairly rare, and using them correctly can take some practice

“When they introduced the traffic signals in the 1920s, it took people several years to get familiar with the three-color system and understand the rules of the traffic signal,” Mamlouk said. “I am sure people will get familiar with roundabouts with time and experience.”

Just as with the basics of using the traffic signal — now a no-brainer to alert drivers — the rules of the roundabout are simple:

“Remember, when getting close to a roundabout, slow down, look left, let vehicles already in the roundabout pass first, and then proceed with caution,” Mamlouk said.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Grand Canyon project to mark centennial

ASU Library part of collaboration that will make thousands of archival photos available to public

June 29, 2017

Thousands of high-quality archival photographs and documents about the early history of the Grand Canyon National Park will be made accessible to the public through a new project called "One Hundred Years of Grand."

The project helps mark the Grand Canyon National Park centennial on Feb. 26, 2019. Grand Canyon National Park "Colorado River in the Grand Canyon," 1925. From the McCulloch Brothers Inc. Photographs collection on the ASU Digital Repository. Download Full Image

University Archivist Rob Spindler said the project, which was recently awarded funding from the Library Services and Technology Act, not only holds significance to state historians but to the more than 280 million people who visit national parks each year, in addition to Arizona businesses and educators.

"Visitors to the park will enhance their experience by exploring historical details of early park history, students and teachers will illustrate class lectures and create assignments on Grand Canyon history, and Arizona businesses that rely on Grand Canyon tourism will use these materials in their advertisement and marketing efforts," Spindler said.

The project, endorsed by the Arizona Office of Tourism, is a collaboration between ASU Library, Northern Arizona University (NAU) Special Collections and Archives and the Grand Canyon Museum, National Park Service.

High-quality digital materials will be presented and delivered via online repositories, such as the ASU Digital Repository and NAU's Colorado Plateau Digital Archives.

"Community members will benefit because they will be able to acquire and reuse archives, enhance their tourism experience with historical context, learn about balancing public and commercial uses of public lands, and celebrate the Grand Canyon National Park centennial with creative uses of historical materials," Spindler said.

The Grand Canyon project is supported by the Arizona State Library, Archives andPublic Records, a division of the Secretary of State, with federal funds from the Institute of Museum and Library Services.

Britt Lewis

Communications Specialist, ASU Library

ASU's Cronkite School hosts media innovation camp for high school students

June 27, 2017

Twenty-two high school students from across Arizona are participating in an intensive, two-week media innovation training camp at Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.

The High School Media Innovation Camp, a joint venture between the Cronkite School, The Arizona Republic/ and the USA Today Network, pairs high school students with entrepreneurs, technologists, journalists and professors to learn how to create compelling content for digital audiences. Cronkite Innovation Camp Retha Hill (left), director of the Cronkite School's New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, works with high school students at the High School Media Innovation Camp. Download Full Image

The residential camp on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus is free to participants thanks to support from The Arizona Republic’s Media in Education program, which is funded by subscribers who donate the value of their subscription during vacations or other temporary stoppages.

Zach Wilson, a senior at Snowflake High School in Snowflake, Arizona, is one of the students experimenting with 360-degree video, virtual reality and game development software at the Cronkite School.

“When I applied for the program, I was expecting to just learn the basics of journalism and virtual reality,” Wilson said. “But we’re going a lot deeper, and I really like it.”

The camp, which started June 18 and runs through the end of the month, is led by Retha Hill, director of the Cronkite School’s New Media Innovation and Entrepreneurship Lab, and Anita Luera, the school’s director of high school journalism programs. Classes are taught by Cronkite faculty and Arizona Republic/azcentral staff.

Hill said the camp is designed to help develop the next generation of technology-savvy journalists. “A lot of these schools are already teaching iOS coding and 360-degree video,” she said. “This camp is helping to create a cadre of journalism coders who can do a whole lot more.”

The program culminates with a competition in which students develop project concepts and pitch them before a panel of judges. The winners have the opportunity to continue to collaborate on their project with industry experts from both the Cronkite School and the USA Today Network.

ASU has topped the U.S. News & World Report rankings as the most innovative school in the country for two consecutive years. The Cronkite School has played a key part in the university’s drive to innovate with recent initiatives that include the hiring of an innovation chief, the launch of a daylong celebration dedicated to journalism innovation and a journalism crowdfunding campaign.

2017 Media Innovation Camp Participants

Michelle Ailport
Greenway High School

Camille Avila 
Mountain Pointe High School

Jamie Bennett
Youngker High School

Samantha Chow 
Mountain View High School

Jamieson Clawson
McClintock High School

Kaleb Clyde
Winslow High School

Anthony Delphy
Maryvale High School

Vaughn Duplantis 
Madison Highland Prep

Jesus Franco
San Luis High School

Jacob Gurrola
North Canyon High School

Saja Indigo Hicks
North High School & Metro Tech High School

Carlos Jimenez 
Western School of Science & Technology

David Jutzi
Phoenix Coding Academy

Samuel Kurtz
Thunderbird High School

Destiny Martin
Cienega High School

Cory Pfeifer
Arizona Agribusiness & Equine Center

Carlos Rodriguez
San Luis High School

Sheldon Sargent II
Wiliams Field High School

Miranda Schindler
Horizon Community Learning Center

Ignacio Vazquez
Alhambra High School

Bronson Williams-Shaw
Apache Junction High School

Zach Wilson
Snowflake High School

Communications manager, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication


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ASU empowers young people who commit to a career of teaching

As schools struggle to hire teachers, ASU reaches out to future educators.
June 22, 2017

Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College a sponsor of Educators Rising event in Phoenix

As many schools in Arizona are struggling to hire enough teachers this summer, Arizona State University is reaching out to support hundreds of high school students who want to be educators.

The Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College at ASU is a sponsor of the Educators Rising National Conference, a gathering of hundreds of young people and professional teachers. The event will be held at the Phoenix Convention Center on Friday through Monday. Educators Rising is a nationwide program that provides support and training to future and current teachers.

ASU faculty, staff, students and alumni will talk about teaching and give practical advice on affording college. On Sunday night, the teachers college will hold a huge dance party for the teens at the Tempe campus, according to Karina Cuamea, assistant director of undergraduate recruitment for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College.

“We stress to them that this is the most important profession you can do, and we make them feel empowered by that,” she said. “We tell them that we’re here to support them, and that teaching is a leadership position and an innovative profession.”

Carol Basile, dean of the Teachers College, will give opening remarks at the conference on Friday, and the keynote speaker on Saturday is Daniela Robles, an alumna of the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and the director of teaching and learning in the Balsz School District in Phoenix.

Moesha Crawford, a student ambassador for the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, will talk to future teachers at the Educators Rising National Conference in Phoenix.

 Teaching has been in the spotlight in Arizona for the past few years as many have left the profession and schools deal with hiring problems.

In May, the Morrison Institute for Public Policy at ASU released a report that highlighted some of the issues: Forty-two percent of Arizona teachers hired in 2013 were no longer teaching in an Arizona public school by 2016, and, when adjusted for statewide cost-of-living, elementary school teacher pay is the lowest in the nation.

In one of the most alarming findings, the report said that Arizona is losing more teachers each year than it is producing from its three state universities.

That’s why it’s important to recognize teenagers who have already decided to make that leap, according to Cuamea.

“When they say, ‘We want to change the world,’ we will help them with that,” she said.

At one conference panel, students will learn how the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College provides hands-on training for teacher candidates through iTeachAZ, its innovative program that places college students in a classroom with a mentor teacher for a full academic year.

Moesha Crawford, a junior at ASU, will participate in a panel called “What to Expect When You’re Becoming a Teacher.” She’s an ambassador for the teachers college and was part of Educators Rising when she was a student at Washington High School in Phoenix.

“It’s a great network for students so they can understand that there are other people like them,” said Crawford, who has wanted to be a teacher since she was a child.

“I used to play school with my siblings and draw on the TV with dry-erase markers,” she said.

“In sixth grade, I had a teacher who actually believed in me, and that changed my perspective on everything.”

Click here for details on the conference.

Mary Beth Faller

reporter , ASU Now


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Internships turns ASU Sports Law and Business students into franchise players

ASU Sports Law and Business program helps students land coveted internships.
June 20, 2017

Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law program the only one of its kind in the country

Arizona State University student Zade Shakir is on a roll.

Two weeks ago he reported to work in Oakland as an intern for the Golden State Warriors. Last week they took the NBA championship title away from LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers.

“First week on the job and we’re the champs,” Shakir said. “What a job!”

A former collegiate soccer player and a self-described “sports junkie,” Shakir interns for the Warriors’ legal department, working directly under their legal counsel and team vice president. He has been busy reviewing vendor agreements, corporate sponsorships and even helped organize the team's victory parade on June 15, which cost the Warriors an estimated $4 million.

“It’s everything I thought it would be and more,” Shakir said. “I’ve found my calling.”

student standing in front of Golden State Warriors sign
ASU student Zade Shakir reporting for work on the first day of his internship with the NBA's Golden State Warriors.

Shakir got the job in large part through the help of the Master of Sports Law and Business at the Sandra O’Connor College of Law at ASU, the only graduate program in the country that combines sports law and business.

Recognizing that sports is big business, ASU Law partnered with the W. P. Carey School of Business and Sun Devil Athletics in 2014 to begin offering the one-year, 36-credit hour degree designed for students seeking careers in the sports industry.

Shakir is one of 48 students enrolled in the program, which has placed 100 percent of its current students in internships, clerkships, legal externships and as graduate assistants in a variety of positions.

That means the program, now in its third year, is batting a thousand.

“The internship is a culminating experience in an academic component,” said Glenn M. Wong, executive director of ASU’s Sports Law and Business Program. “It gives them the opportunity to implement what they’ve learned in the classroom in the field.”

Wong added that their placement percentage in these internships, which include professional sports franchises, collegiate sports and nonprofit businesses, are “recognition that the industry feels these people are prepared and it’s a credit to students to be qualified enough to land these positions in a highly competitive field.”

He also gave significant credit to Professor Sam Renaut, the program’s assistant director, who joined the program in 2015 and was one of the driving forces behind its creation as a student of the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law from 2008-2001.

Renaut now spends a large chunk of his time talking to sports franchises and teaching students how to approach prospective employers.

“A lot of students will say, ‘I’m interested in this job. Do you know anyone there?’” Renaut said. “Chances are that we do.”

In the past few years, students have worked internships for NASCAR, the National Football League, Major League Baseball, Fiesta Bowl, Make-A-Wish Foundation and the NCAA.

Those possibilities exist because Renaut has spent years doing legwork in the sports and business community, knocking on doors, talking to sports and business executives, finding out what their specific needs are.

He said one of the things that franchises are facing is getting people to fill the seats at sports venues.

“Sitting on the couch in front of your 70-inch screen in an air-conditioned house is better to a lot of people,” Renaut said. “You don’t have to deal with traffic, pay for parking or concessions.”

And that’s where his students can offer help.

Renaut said niche efforts such as the Fan ExperienceThe Fan Experience is a variety of promotional opportunities to enhance a live sporting event. , social media and attracting a more diverse audience are rapidly expanding in sports. Young minds, he said, have their finger on the pulse of what entices new blood to attend a sporting event. 

In the case of 22-year-old Kwyn Johnson, a new Las Vegas hockey franchise is looking for her to help the build the brand as well as create a new following.  

Johnson started working for the NHL’s Golden Knights on May 15. In a month’s time she has written bios for their media guide, compiled a media list of contacts and worked on a “Kids for Sticks” community event that drew more than 1,500 local youth.

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ASU's Kwyn Johnson on top of the Stratosphere in Las Vegas, promoting the city's newest NHL franchise, the Golden Knights.

“Las Vegas historically has not been a hockey town, so education is huge,” Johnson said. “It’s an insane amount of work we’re doing every day and an insane list of things that need to get done. It’s crazy, but it’s a ton of fun.”

For 24-year-old Kelli Benjamin (pictured at top of this story), she has found that college sports is her calling mainly because of the academic component. Her internship is with ASU’s Office of Student Athlete Development, which helps keep athletes on track with their studies.

“Every student athlete has different goals, but I remind each one to think about the long term because some of them unfortunately won’t make it to professional sports,” Benjamin said. “Seeing them get to the overall goal of graduation is what I want for every one of them.”

It’s a vision similar to what Renaut has for his students, but his vision of graduation are students who land good jobs and passionate about their work.

“It’s important to educate our students, but it’s equally important they get good jobs,” he said. “The goal of the program is to get everybody to that next step.”


Top photo: Sports Law and Business graduate student Kelli Benjamin is working a summer internship mentoring football players; above, she and ASU safety Jeremy Smith are pictured at the Carson Student Athlete Center on May 23. Benjamin is a former collegiate swimmer and works in the Office of Student Athlete Development. Smith is in his second year and is studying business and sports media. All of Benjamin's Sports Law and Business classmates are accepted in internships. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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One of largest Western film history collections goes on display

ASU-owned Western film collection to debut at Scottsdale's Museum of the West.
The Wild Wild West, as portrayed in film, will be on display in Scottsdale.
June 19, 2017

Acquired by ASU Foundation and Scottsdale's Museum of the West, Rennard Strickland Collection provides unique perspective

One of the largest collections of Western film memorabilia has found a home, appropriately, in the Southwest.

The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History debuts tomorrow at Scottsdale's Museum of the West. The collection was acquired jointly last October by the museum and Arizona State University's Foundation for A New American University. More than 100 posters and lobby cards will be on display, out of the more than 5,000 in the collection, dating from the 1890s to the mid-1980s. The exhibit runs through Sept. 30, 2018.

“The collection, which numbers more than 5,000 works, represents Dr. Strickland’s passion for Western film and the extraordinary graphic abilities of artists from past to present,” chief curator Tricia Loscher said. "It's unique in that many stories about the posters and films are told from Dr. Strickland's perspective." 

Strickland, a professor at University of Oklahoma's College of Law, began to collect the memorabilia in the 1970s. He then passed the collection along to the Museum of the West and ASU to serve as a resource for the university's faculty and students. Strickland himself is of Osage and Cherokee heritage and an expert on Indian law.

Because many of the films were shot in the area, the move made plenty of sense. 

Test your Western film trivia below.

"We have brought his collection home," Loscher said. "This is one of the major centers of the Western region where film has been produced, and it is an honor and privilege for us that Dr. Strickland selected this partnership to see that his collection is shared by present and future generations from around the world."

To celebrate the acquisition, an event will be held for museum members from 5 to 7 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26. Attendees will have the opportunity to view the exhibition and meet Strickland, Loscher, ASU President Michael Crow, museum director Mike Fox and others. 

Museum hours are 9:30 to 5 p.m., Tuesday through Saturday and 11 a.m. to 5 p.m., Sunday. Closed Monday. (Thursday hours are extended to 9 p.m. Nov. through April.)

Admisison prices for the museum are: $13, adults; $11, seniors (65+) and active military; $8, students (full-time with ID) and children (6–17 years); free for members and children 5 and under.

For more information visit

Top photo: The Rennard Strickland Collection of Western Film History is on display at Western Spirit: Scottsdale's Museum of the West from June 20, 2017 to Sept. 30, 2018. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now



Did you know? 

Only two Western films have ever received a “Best Picture” Academy Award (Oscar).

“Cimarron,” released in 1931; received the “Best Picture” Oscar in the same year.
An adaptation of Edna Ferber’s novel, it tells the story of a young woman who marries a drifter-gunfighter during the Oklahoma land rush, who go their separate ways. It starred Richard Dix and Irene Dunne.

“Dances with Wolves,” released in 1990, the film received the “Best Picture” Oscar in 1991.
A historical drama set during the U.S. Civil War, it tells the story of Union Army Officer Lieutenant John J. Dunbar and his relationship with a band of Sioux Indians. The film stars Kevin Costner.


Although hundreds of thousands of movie posters rolled off the presses, relatively few have survived.

Posters were shipped from theater to theater, and became worn, ragged and outdated. Paper drives during World War II emptied film-studio storage warehouses, making silent film posters particularly rare.


An 1889 Budweiser saloon poster of a painting entitled “Custer’s Last Fight” was the basis for movie poster art.


“Stagecoach” is considered one of the most important Western films ever made and one of Director John Ford’s greatest achievements.

It demonstrated to the Hollywood studios that there was a viable audience for Westerns films. It also rescued John Wayne from his B-picture status, propelling him to fame.

The historic drama, based on a short story by Ernest Haycox, is about a group of passengers traveling by stagecoach to the town of Lordsburg in the New Mexico Territory. Shot on location in northeastern Arizona’s Monument Valley, John Wayne plays Ringo Kid, an ex-con and the only one among the group who possesses the survival skills to keep them alive.


The earliest Westerns were filmed in New Jersey.

They derived from the Wild West shows that were touring the country in the late 1800s. California’s long days of sunshine and variety of outdoor settings quickly lured film companies to the West.


Silver-screen singing cowboy Tex Ritter was the father of actor Jon Ritter — known by millions for his role as bachelor Jack Tripper in the television series “Three’s Company.”

Tex Ritter appeared in numerous Western films, primarily in the mid-1930s and 1940s, and went on to achieve even greater fame as a Western recording artist.            


Trivia courtesy of Scottsdale's Museum of the West.       

Connor Pelton

Reporter , ASU Now