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ASU scholars offer a spectrum of resources to local and state tribes

November 7, 2019

‘Doing Research in Indian Country’ conference showcases university's research in Indian Country

Some of the most innovative and groundbreaking research at Arizona State University is taking place in indigenous communities and on reservations around the Copper State and beyond.

“Tribal nations and communities are becoming more and more interested and embedded in the research process in its entirety, from the research design and implementation to large questions of data use and ownership. More importantly, they are engaged in the institutional review process,” said Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian Affairs. 

The university has a wide breadth of research and interaction taking place in Indian Country, which was showcased at the “Doing Research in Indigenous Communities” conference held Nov. 4-5 at ASU SkySong.

“Part of our work during this conference is to hear from these tribes and communities and to connect them with universities and researchers with the hopes that some synergies will emerge and so that researchers and institutions better understand the needs and wishes of tribes in the larger arena of research," Brayboy said.

Now in its third year, the conference featured more than 130 ASU scholars, researchers, staff and students making an impact in indigenous communities in the fields of history, health care, language preservation, molecular science, sustainability research methodologies and higher education experiences.

Keynote speaker Malia Villegas, who helped Brayboy with the conception and birthing of the conference several years ago, said it was like watching a child grow quickly.

“I think it’s phenomenal to see how this conference has taken off. ASU has proven they are leaders when it comes to Native American research and is a place that others look to for inspiration,” said Villegas, an enrolled member of the Native Village of Afognak in Alaska who serves as the vice president of community investments at Afognak Native Corporation, overseeing shareholder services. “Looking at this from a tribal industry lens, I’m excited to see business and industry people here, tribal members, students and faculty, all showcasing the great success across Indian Country and inviting people to take a look into the research space.”

There was no shortage of research to offer up, including a first-of-its kind look on technology use on Indian lands. The paper, “Tribal Technology Assessment: The State of Internet Service on Tribal Lands,” was released last month through the American Indian Policy InstituteThe American Indian Policy Institute is now a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions. . It showed that many Native Americans do not have equal access to the internet and that most are using smartphones to go online, albeit at much slower speeds.

“This study gives us a clearer picture of what tribal connectivity looks like,” said Brian Howard, a research and policy analyst with the American Indian Policy Institute. “We also looked at things like affordability issues that would prevent tribal residents from accessing internet service.”

The study not only identified the issue but came up with several recommendations. They included a dedicated tribal office in the Federal Communications Commission with a permanent budget allocation, a Tribal Broadband Fund, prioritize funding for tribal lands and encouraging the FCC to engage with tribes and sovereign nations on the issue.

For Lance Sanchez, a 24-year-old member of the Tohono O’Oodham Nation and a senior at ASU, his focus is more on saving teen lives and getting them more socially and politically engaged.

Sanchez, who is double majoring in American Indian studies, and community advocacy and social policy, said Native Americans have the highest teen suicide rates in the country.

“I am looking for ways to empower youth through leadership building as well as creating different programs that focus on them bettering themselves within the community,” said Sanchez, who is also a member of the National Congress of American Indians Youth Commission and United National Indian Tribal Youth. “The work has paid off because Native Americans are now taking the charge in continuing with higher education. We need more Native teachers, lawyers, nurses, doctors and researchers. This conference helps create those partnerships in tribal communities.”

Denise Bates, assistant professor of leadership and interdisciplinary studies in the College of Integrative Science and Arts, is nation-building through her work by helping other tribes in the Southeast document their histories through community-driven initiatives.

“Many southern tribal communities have not been well documented, particularly during the 20th century,” Bates said. “Colonialism and racial segregation had a huge impact on southern indigenous peoples, and it has only been recently that many tribes from this region have been actively looking for opportunities to engage the public with their histories — and on their own terms.”

Bates has been working with the Coushatta Tribe of Louisiana for the past decade through a variety of mediums, including accessing and digitizing archival material and recording oral histories. Bates has also a written book, “Basket Diplomacy,” (University of Nebraska Press, 2020), documenting how the Coushatta community worked together through multiple generations and leveraged opportunities so that existing and newly acquired knowledge, timing and skill worked in harmony to ensure their survival. The Coushatta is now one of the top private employers in Louisiana through their economic endeavors.

“ASU is an institution that has a lot of resources and helping other tribal nations should not be a regionally focused mission,” Bates said. “It impacts all of us because a lot of best practices often come up as a result of intertribal coalitions and support.”

In addition to nation-building, there was plenty of trust-building, said Bates. Last year ASU brought a Coushatta tribal elder and former chairman, Ernest Sickey, to the Valley to speak to faculty and staff. In return, Bates said, the Coushatta Tribe is encouraging their students to attend ASU.

“They know that ASU is a supportive place, one that not only supports its students but offers the potential to help tribal nations envision a future for their communities,” Bates said.

Top photo: Devin Hardin, with the Salt River Pima Maricopa Indian Community Education Division, and others listen to speakers at the "Doing Research in Indigenous Communities" conference, Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019, at ASU SkySong. More than 130 people from around the state took part in the third annual conference featuring scholars, researchers, staff and students and their impact in indigenous communities in the fields of history, health care, language preservation, molecular science, sustainability research methodologies and higher education experiences. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


Longtime supporter of ASU Law a positive force in the community

7th annual Gold 'n Gavel event to be held with support of Phoenix firm Beus Gilbert McGroder

November 6, 2019

The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University is hosting its seventh annual Gold ‘n Gavel event on Nov. 15, with the help of some of its top supporters. Chief among them is the Phoenix law firm Beus Gilbert McGroder, a longtime supporter of ASU and the law school.

Founded in 1982 by longtime friends Leo Beus and Paul Gilbert, the firm has risen to international acclaim and recently added a third named partner, Pat McGroder. The strong relationship with both ASU Law and ASU in general was borne out of Beus Gilbert McGroder’s commitment to character, which is reflected in both the firm’s personnel and clientele. photo of Beus Gilbert McGroder The Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law is hosting its seventh annual Gold ‘n Gavel event on Nov. 15 with the help of some of its top supporters. Chief among them is the Phoenix law firm Beus Gilbert McGroder, a longtime supporter of ASU and the law school. Download Full Image

“We're a firm that originally broke off from a larger firm, and we made a commitment early on to give very high-quality service and good bang for the buck,” Gilbert said. “We have a policy of only hiring the very best lawyers, and we're very careful about not only who we hire but also who we represent. We are thrilled with the recent addition of Pat, who is the premier personal-injury lawyer in probably all of the United States.”

McGroder says he is honored to join a firm whose “reputation is unmatched” and has set “the standard of care” in commercial litigation, along with Beus and Gilbert’s expertise in zoning, real estate transactions and development, and now catastrophic injury and wrongful death.

“And those aren’t just buzzwords,” McGroder said. “The historic results achieved by Paul and Leo speak to a practice of law that is highly respected. Other lawyers seek to emulate the type of quality, integrity, character and competence that Paul and Leo have exemplified for over four decades.”

Relationship with ASU

Gilbert describes the firm’s relationship with ASU as extremely close and says it extends to all facets of the university.

photo of 2018 scholarship luncheon

Leo Beus (at center) with ASU Law alumnus Eric Cardenas (left) and ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester at the fifth annual Scholarship Luncheon in October 2018.

“We have tremendous respect for both ASU in general, the law school and for President Crow in particular,” Gilbert said. “We are thrilled with his leadership and consider him to be the most dynamic, resourceful and creative college president in the United States.”

A deep relationship with ASU Law involves support for a wide range of activities, serving on various panels, and working closely with Dean Douglas Sylvester. And in 2016, the law school moved from its longtime home on the Tempe campus to a new, state-of-the-art facility in downtown Phoenix, which is named the Beus Center for Law and Society in honor of a generous donation from Leo Beus and his wife, Annette.

The firm hosts a meeting of the ASU deans every six weeks called the ASU Leaders Lunch and is actively involved in supporting the university with everything from fundraising to athletics. McGroder, who has been with the firm for just over a year, says the affinity and affection for ASU is evident throughout the firm.

“Between Paul, Leo and myself, what adorns our walls are diplomas from BYU, Michigan, California, Notre Dame — none of us attended ASU,” he said. “But what has struck me is the enormity of respect and commitment that Paul, Leo and the firm have shown to ASU. And why? Because they believe that education, quality education, is really the key to the future of our country. So what has impressed me has been their commitment to ASU, which is not just philanthropic nor just hosting meetings, but their genuine commitment to this fabulous institution.”

Gilbert says ASU is a major component of the metro Phoenix community and has played a significant role in the revitalization of downtown Phoenix.

photo of asu law official groundbreaking

Leo and Annette Beus speak at the official groundbreaking for ASU’s law school building in downtown Phoenix in 2014.

“And an integral part of that is, of course, the law school,” he said. “The law school provides a great deal of stability, resources and credibility to the legal community. Having a first-rate law school helps in a myriad of ways. It helps attract first-rate law students from all over the nation, as well as ASU. Having the strong ASU faculty to provide leadership and guidance in the legal community is a significant asset. And ASU Law does a tremendous job of reaching out and working with the bar and the legal community. There's a very symbiotic relationship between the legal community and the law school. So the law school contributes in a significant and major way to the quality of the legal community in Arizona.”

With a notable record of success, the firm receives many solicitations for financial support. But support for ASU remains a top priority.

“There are many good causes out there,” Gilbert said. “We get bombarded with them every day. But our firm has decided to prioritize ASU. That's a cause we deeply believe in and champion, and we make it our first priority as far as doing work outside the technical practicing of law.”

Making a positive impact

The partners at Beus Gilbert McGroder have enjoyed gratifying careers, helping clients achieve justice and bring visions to life. But the legal world is not without its challenges, and they see opportunity for improvements throughout the industry and judicial system.

Gilbert notes the imbalances in the scales of justice, both in terms of access and the criminal justice system as a whole.

photo of Leo Beus at ASP

Leo Beus sits down with admitted students at ASU Law's Admitted Students Program in December 2018.

“I think a real challenge is making legal services affordable and making legal services available to the population in general, and not just those that are wealthy and can afford to hire lawyers,” he said. “Another challenge is that we don't have a criminal system that works. Right now, the whole system is broken, and I think the legal profession needs to help lead the way in mending the many problems that exist.”

And the ability to bring about change, to help people, has made their careers so rewarding. McGroder says achieving justice for clients goes beyond financial compensation — it restores dignity. And individual victories can play a role in strengthening the social architecture.

“We have the ability to make sure that there are changes, remedial changes, that these types of things don't happen again,” he said. “And we're able to do that in a way that reflects the best of us as human beings, but equally important, have a tremendous impact on our fellow citizens to ensure that safety, health and dignity are all in the forefront of what we do. We have the ability to do the right thing, and in doing the right thing, we change lives and ensure that lives are better moving forward. And to me, I couldn't ask for a better calling.”

McGroder says the impact of the firm, “the footprint of Paul and Leo,” is evident throughout the Valley and state, whether it be through the practice of law, philanthropy or volunteer work.

“In any of those facets, the volunteer commitment of Paul, Leo, and hopefully myself is unmatched in the legal community, whether it be sitting on boards, philanthropy, pro bono work, whatever the case may be,” he said. “I think that this firm stands for all the best that can be said about our profession.”

Tickets for the seventh annual Gold ’n Gavel Auction and Reception are available here. All proceeds support ASU Law student programs and scholarships.

Nicole Almond Anderson

Director of Communications, Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law


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Regents' Cup to showcase state university students debating free speech issues

State university students to debate free speech in new Regents' Cup competition.
November 5, 2019

Competition among ASU, NAU, UArizona teams to include storytelling, civil dialogue

Winners of the inaugural Regents Cup debate tournament with the trophy

ASU students Valielza O’Keefe and Joshua Pardhe with the Regents' Cup after their win Saturday.

 Arizona State University undergraduates Valielza O’Keefe, a physics major, and Joshua Pardhe, a computer systems engineering major, won first place at the inaugural Regents' Cup competition on Nov. 16. 

In this era of political divisiveness, social media amplification and “cancel culture,” how can people talk reasonably about tough topics?

Students from Arizona’s three public universities have been working on this issue for months and next week will participate in a series of intellectual competitions aimed at elevating respectful and effective communication.

The inaugural Regents' Cup will be held Nov. 16 at the University of Arizona, and the student teams from Arizona State University, Northern Arizona University and the University of Arizona have been preparing all semester.

“The Regents' Cup is really a way to celebrate free speech and civil dialogue,” said Bonnie Wentzel, director of the Communication Lab at ASU, which is helping the ASU teams prepare.

“People give that lip service all the time, but it’s something we practice every day as part of being inclusive. You have to be willing to listen to another perspective or opinion besides your own.”

Karrin Taylor Robson, a member of the Arizona Board of Regents and an alumna of ASU, envisioned the competition as a way to encourage democratic engagement. She hopes the event will showcase Arizona universities' commitment to free speech.

University students applied last spring and will compete in two-person teams. The competition will involve four events covering the general theme of free speech and will focus on listening as well as speaking. The events are:

Civil Dialogue: This is a formatted but spontaneous method of face-to-face communication that was developed at ASU. It involves audience interaction. The teams find out the topic 30 minutes before the start of the event. Judges are looking for the effective use of listening and the use of non-argumentative language.

Solutions: Teams are assigned a position to either support or refute a solution having to do with defamation and social media. Judges want to see the teams working together to clearly and effectively support their position.

Persuasive storytelling: One student from each team will tell a 10-minute personal story about the role of social media in free speech. The storyteller will be judged on content, emotion and effective persuasion.

Oxford-style debate: This is a traditional, competitive debate format in which teams have an opening statement, cross examination and closing argument.

All teams will compete in the civil dialogue, solutions and storytelling competitions in the morning, and the three teams with the highest scores will then move on to the Oxford-style debate rounds in the afternoon, which is open to the public. The winning teams will be awarded scholarship money.

ASU is sending six teams, with one alternate team, to the Regents' Cup. They have spent the semester practicing at CommLabASU, whose mentors are perfectly suited to prepare them, Wentzel said. CommLabASU, located at the West campus, helps students and faculty hone their public speaking skills.

“The mentors are trained to be civil communicators by really listening, and they have to be able to say, ‘Here’s where your message needs organizing,' or 'Here’s where you need a story,’” she said. “They have to be able to cut through ‘I don’t like what you’re saying but I appreciate your right to say it.’

“What’s great about this is that we’re trying to help people find their own voice and discuss controversial things by focusing on the topics without tearing down another person.”

Students have been doing months of research into free speech topics and have been working on their communication skills. At a recent rehearsal, they practiced debating for 60 seconds and were interrupted with a bell every time they said “um.”

“They have to manage their nonverbals, which is everything besides the actual words — pitch, body position, facial expressions,” Wentzel said. “We lose that as we’re always looking down at our phones.”

Joshua Pardhe, a computer systems engineering major at ASU, found out about the competition through Barrett, The Honors College, and decided to participate because it’s not just a straightforward debate.

“It has these other elements that are overlooked in a debate competition,” he said.

“You’re not just graded on how well you can debate a topic but how well you can convey a story.”

Pardhe will be the storyteller for his team, and believes the skill he’s developing will help in his career.

“I want to start my own business, and one of the things you need to know is how to convey a story and present a problem effectively to investors,” he said.

The teams also have been working with ASU faculty.

“The preparation with the mentors is really in-depth and informative, and every time we meet to do research or practice, it’s very hands-on,” Pardhe said.

Eliana Lara, a junior majoring in political science and Spanish at NAU, had honed her public speaking skills when she was student body president at Maryvale High School in Phoenix. She decided to apply for the Regents' Cup at the urging of a favorite professor.

She was also drawn to the format.

“Oxford is more old school but civil dialogue, storytelling and solutions are not so aggressive, where you have to pinpoint what they say and win the argument,” she said.

“It’s more about hearing what the other side is saying and understanding. You get more of a chance to listen.”

Ashley Fredde is a senior majoring in journalism at the University of Arizona, where she’s captain of the debate team. Several of the team’s members are on the Regents' Cup team.

“I’m passionate about social issues and civil discourse, which is why I joined the debate team, and as a journalist I’m passionate about free speech,” she said.

“This format has required us to switch from being argumentative to taking a step back and listening to other viewpoints. We’ve gone from building up arguments to listening to others and even agreeing with them.”

She’s also enjoyed the storytelling.

“Some of the stories are really impactful and you get to see a different side of your teammates,” she said. “It’s definitely brought us closer together as a team.”

Lauren Beethe, a graduate student in communication studies, is the ASU coordinator of the Regents' Cup and is a graduate student director of CommLabASU. Her master’s degree focuses on advocacy.

“The goal of advocacy is to communicate issues, whether in social movements or technology, as a way of building a bridge between issues and solutions in a way that is beneficial to both parties, but is civil and doesn’t breed distance between the two groups,” said Beethe, who focuses on biometric surveillance policy.

She’s gratified that the Regents' Cup has drawn students from across ASU’s campuses and from a variety of majors.

“It’s teaching these different disciplines that these tools are relevant and can help a student who studies political science communicate with an engineering student in a way that’s meaningful and that can focus on issues greater than academics,” she said.

“Communicating ethically brings back the humanity to these topics that have lost that element,” she said.

“Communicating is the art form of humanity.”

Top image: A student holds a debate prompt during the ASU Regents’ Cup team practice at CommLabASU at West campus on Nov. 1. Student teams from ASU will compete against students from the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University in storytelling, debate, solutions and civil dialogue. Part of the competition, the Oxford debate, will be open to the public at 3 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at McLelland Hall, Eller College of Management, at the University of Arizona, Tucson. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


New exhibit shares rich history of African American communities in Arizona

Exhibit aims to document through cross-generational connections what official records omit

November 1, 2019

Between 1910 and 1970, the African American population of Arizona grew from 2,000 to over 54,000, according to a new exhibit on display at Arizona State University’s School of Human Evolution and Social Change Innovation Gallery.

This growth was part of the Great Migration, during which more than 6 million African Americans moved from the rural American South to the cities of the North, Midwest and West. A collection of photos and artwork courtesy of Rodney Grimes, C.A. Hammons; Dorthea Lange, National Archives and Records Administration Photos and artwork courtesy of Rodney Grimes, C.A. Hammons, Dorthea Lange, National Archives and Records Administration. Download Full Image

Yet cultural, economic and political systems of that time often obscured the stories and accomplishments of those who migrated here from popular narratives about who Arizonans were and the lives they led.

Titled “The Great Migration: Indiscernables in Arizona,” the exhibit aims to help dismantle that marginalization through community partnerships, artistic expressions and social scientific research. It brought together a dozen Valley students to connect with elders in the community for face-to-face conversations where they used anthropological methodologies to collect oral histories and curate personal artifacts.

Those individual experiences were then woven together to create a more complete accounting of the migration and life afterward: of survival in spite of oppression and of the establishment of rich and enduring communities in the Valley — a legacy continues.

The exhibit’s organizers — Meskerem Glegziabher, clinical assistant professor and director for inclusion and community engagement at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change and C. A. Hammons, artist and founder of Emancipation Arts, a community arts organization which aims to honor enslaved ancestors through arts practices and public historical education — shared with ASU Now an insider perspective on the story behind its creation.

Question: What is Emancipation Arts? How and when did it start? 

C. A. Hammons: I am a black artist who grew up in the downtown area of segregated Phoenix. I am also a writer, poet, activist, educator and prevention specialist. My special call is as a community builder and I have been fortunate enough to work in collaboration with numerous artists, organizations and individuals while being mindful of honoring my ancestors.

Emancipation Arts is a community organization that started in 2003 as a response to the lack of inclusiveness in public arts and a desire to participate locally.

Our mission is to raise the profile of black artists in Arizona and honor our African and enslaved ancestors through measurably influencing, constructively impacting and fortifying underserved, at-risk or neglected populations, with particular focus on African American, African and Caribbean immigrant and African refugee communities in Maricopa County, through arts and egalitarian collaborations. Our motto is “I promise you will learn what schools will not teach.” 

I have also organized many exhibitions, community engagements, concert events and activities over the years but the medium and method of each depend on what I am trying to say. We just opened another exhibit called “The Spillover Effect,” at Modified Arts in downtown Phoenix, and we also have the Emancipation Marathon, a literary marathon that will be 24 years old this June.

A photo of , organizers of “The Great Migration: Indiscernables in Arizona” exhibit

C. A. Hammons (left) and Meskerem Glegziabher (right)

Q: How did the idea for the Great Migration collaboration begin to take shape?

Meskerem Glegziabher: We met two years ago at a monthly storytelling event called Vinyl Voices, where community members share stories and songs on vinyl to a live audience. The theme for that particular month was black migration to Arizona and Emancipation Arts hosted it.

We originally collaborated around another initiative called the Citywide Black Student Union because I was interested in bringing in students of color (especially black and Latinx) to ASU’s Open Door event to talk to them about potential careers in anthropology and global health.

CH: I have been writing a manuscript about the Great Migration and being an indiscernible in Arizona for a number of years and gradually shared some of it with Meskerem. Her curiosity and training as an anthropologist made it a fit because she could recognize the veracity of my assertions.

Q: Why was ASU and the SHESC Innovation Gallery a good temporary home for the exhibit?

MG: It was clear to me that my training in ethnographic research was something I could contribute as we looked to pair high school students with seniors for oral history interviews.

I was also having discussions at the time with our school’s director, Kaye Reed, about ways that the school could be more engaged with local communities and I was convinced the institutional support that we could provide — in terms of exhibit venue, production, etc. — could help bring to life this important project.

Q: How did your work and research at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change inform or overlap with the exhibit?

MG: In my role, I apply my qualitative research training in sociocultural anthropology and intersectional feminist thought to build sustainable relationships with local communities and community-based organizations, particularly those historically marginalized and underrepresented.

My research looks at how intersections of identity, such as race, class, gender and ability, result in particular types of marginalization and how these have very tangible and even physical impacts. I also study how mainstream narratives perpetuate marginalization and structural inequities and ways that, at a micro-scale, we can disrupt, mitigate or at least expose inequities.

This informs and overlaps with the historic experiences of African American Arizonans, who have been excluded from mainstream narratives of the state's history, but are pushing back against marginalization and erasure. 

Q: What did the nature of each of your contributions look like?

CH: Essentially, the foundation grew from a quest to “honor my ancestors” as recommended by a Yoruba priest. Of necessity, the research, writing and paintings grew from my own family history and local experiences in recognition of the fact that as, a black Arizonan, I have been excluded from the narrative of the state’s history. 

Workspace, funding and access have frequently been barriers to this work and other projects, so I have had to use my own funds and maintain a level of tenacity.

MG: I provided a workshop to give a background and train the students in how to conduct oral history interviews, did archival research to provide a larger context about the history of black migration and residence in Arizona, analyzed the interviews for striking quotes and condensed the archival research into the text for the exhibit panels.

The biggest challenge I faced was finding primary sources that provided information on the lives of average African Americans in Arizona in the early 20th century. The limited archival resources available tended to focus on either a handful of prominent families or institutions. So having firsthand accounts from elders in the community provided a unique opportunity to fill in some of those gaps. 

Q: How many people were ultimately involved in and contributed to the project?

MG: Roughly 20 students and seniors contributed to the oral history and visual content. Two teachers at South Mountain High School, which has historically had a large African American student body, Fernando Sanchez and Bryan Willingham, presented the project to their students and recruited participants. The participating seniors were recruited from the extensive local networks Emancipation Art has.

CH: Many other people have supported this “obsession” as well. Asian Pacific Community in Action allowed us to use their conference room, filmmaker Bruce Nelson helped us prep students for their conversations by showing the film “Northtown” about segregated Mesa, and Donald R. Guillory — an instructor in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts — donated signed copies of his book “The Token Black Guide” to students. These are just some of the ways community have helped.

MG: With all these individuals plus our core team, I would estimate around 35 total people were involved. We worked on it consistently for about one-and-a-half years, so actual research and production hours would be around 1,500 to 2,000.

A photo of

C. A. Hammons with exhibit contributor and Arizona’s “King of the Blues” Big Pete Pearson.

Q: Is there any one piece that has special significance, symbolism or stands out to you the most?

CH: Probably the photo of my siblings and I as small children. One of my sisters passed away, but it makes me feel that she is with the ancestors smiling about the fact that blacks in Arizona will be acknowledged throughout the state and black children in classrooms throughout can hold their heads up.

MG: I think the different items featured have their own significance, but I think perhaps the most striking to me is the federal government's Home Owners' Loan Corporation "redlining" map of Phoenix from 1940. The area descriptions by local real estate professionals are so explicitly racist and classist that it provides a clear pushback against common narratives that Arizona provided a safe haven and fresh start for those fleeing the Jim Crow South. 

Q: What do you hope people think about, feel and take away with them after viewing the exhibit?

CH: People will begin to scrutinize local history presentations that profess to present Arizona history yet acknowledge that blacks are excluded, and join us in rectifying those exclusions and bringing some integrity to historical presentations.

MG: I would like them to think about their own migration stories, how they or their families came to live in Arizona, and to walk away with the knowledge that the Valley has a rich and robust African American history, even if the population size is small. I would also like people, particularly African Americans, to feel proud in the knowledge that despite the marginalization and hurdles they have and continue to experience, they have also managed to build a resilient and thriving community here.

Q: What future programming will be in the Innovation Gallery after this exhibit?

MG: (School of Human Evolution and Social Change) exhibit developer Marco Albarran is working on a project for next semester with postdoctoral research associate Katherine Dungan called "Revealing Artifacts."

The goal for future Innovation Gallery exhibits is to design them all as traveling exhibits so that they can reach a larger audience beyond their tenure here. “The Great Migration: Indiscernables in Arizona,” will serve as a model for that. After December, Emancipations Arts will move it to the Rosson House at Heritage Square, then other locations in Douglas, Buckeye and Chandler.

This exhibit is free to the public and is on display weekdays 8 a.m.-5 p.m. at the School of Human Evolution and Social Change Innovation Gallery.

Remodeled in 2018, the Innovation Gallery hosts different exhibits on the nature of the school’s work and myriad aspects of the human story and experience. 

ASU, Phoenix Children’s Hospital team up for pediatric-focused acute care program

November 1, 2019

Editor’s note: This is the second Q&A in a two-part series about how ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children's Hospital are working together to prepare students for a career in pediatric nursing and to address a looming shortfall of nurses in Arizona and across the U.S.

It’s been an exciting year for Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children’s Hospital as the two innovative organizations have expanded their partnership. Through this collaboration, they’ve been able to create opportunities to enhance the student experience in the field of pediatrics and develop some solid programs to address a looming nurse shortage, notably in specialty areas. Acute Care Pediatric DNP Student Holly Michael reviews a chart with her DNP Preceptor at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Iris Marku, PNP-AC Edson College Acute Care Pediatric DNP student Holly Michael reviews a chart with Iris Marku, PNP-AC, her DNP preceptor, at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Download Full Image

Holly Michael was among the first students to enroll in the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and certificate program for graduate-level nursing students after it launched last fall.

“I was already working in the pediatric intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s when I heard about this program. I have a huge passion for working with acutely ill children, so it sparked my interest,” she said.

To get a better idea of what the Acute Care Pediatric DNP is all about and how students identify this pathway, ASU Now spoke with Michael as well as Judy Karshmer, dean of Edson College, and Julie Bowman, chief nursing officer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Question: First, can you explain the various levels of training and areas of scope for nurse practitioners?

Julie Bowman: This is an important question, from a legal perspective, because many students don’t realize there are several different nurse practitioner tracks, and there’s not much crossover between them. To ensure they end up in the right Advance Practice Nursing program, students should determine the area in which they want to work. Their options are many, but for purposes of this article and pediatrics, their options are Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care, and by scope of practice, legally different. For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner provides for a wide array of common illnesses and injuries, with ongoing, family-centered primary care to adults and children who are medically stable. A nurse who earns the Acute Care Pediatric DNP will be trained specifically for children with acute — or, more severe or sudden — medical needs, but that training won’t translate to adults.

Judy Karshmer: Pediatric Nurse Practitioners first evolved in a primary care setting, but over time, they began to seek out specialized training to handle more complex problems and treatment intervention. Acute Care DNP programs began popping up, but they were geared toward adult care. Our partnership with Phoenix Children’s is designed expressly for students who want to work with children who have acute care needs.

We expect the role of the NP to continue to evolve as patients’ needs shift and the health care provider landscape changes. Because enrollment in medical schools is not keeping pace with demands, the shortfall of general practice physicians is looming. We expect the NP to take on a larger role in the provider model and anticipate more Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs in specialty areas. It’s an especially attractive option in Arizona, because the Arizona State Board of Nursing allows nurse practitioners to practice independently.

, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dean Judy Karshmer

Q: What does the Acute Care Pediatric DNP program entail?

Karshmer: The curriculum focuses on creating a framework for developmentally supportive, family-centered, culturally-appropriate advanced-practice nursing. It is intended to prepare students upon graduation to care for infants and children with unstable chronic, complex, acute and life-threatening illnesses. 

In addition to DNP-level coursework and clinical hours, students in this program complete a major intervention project in their third year of study. They identify an issue in patient care, conduct ongoing research and implement a solution within a department. Their insights and research are integrated into Phoenix Children’s care model.

This program also provides students an opportunity to learn nurse management and improve pediatric care on a broader scale in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.

Q: How did this idea of creating an Acute Care Pediatric DNP degree first come about?  

Karshmer: The program is a direct response to a community need. A partnership between our college and a world-class health system is exactly how you advance education for our students, improve care for patients and boost the cachet of both institutions. We are able to make this work by having an equal, focused investment in our state’s future nurses.

In addition to the Acute Care Pediatric DNP curriculum, ASU and Phoenix Children’s worked together to launch a Dedicated Education Unit program that gives undergraduate nursing students additional time at the patient bedside and ensures they’re workforce-ready.

Bowman: For Phoenix Children’s, there were two primary reasons to launch this program. Three years ago, we began working with a consultant to help us refine our care delivery approach and ensure we were maximizing the skills of our nurse practitioners to top of license. Like many other health systems, we were faced with a highly diverse pediatric patient population and long wait times in some of our specialized service areas. Today, our NPs practice more at the top of their license. They are able to see their own patients and formulate individualized care plans within the area covered by their education, ongoing training and legal scope of practice.

As part of earning their degree, Acute Care Pediatric DNP students conduct a research project for a certain area of the health system and implement clinical or operational improvements as a direct result of their research. Their knowledge and capability enhance our patients’ access to high-quality, cost-effective care with overwhelmingly positive outcomes.

Our second reason for launching this new degree was the opportunity to partner with ASU. With their entrepreneurial culture and the strong reputation of Edson College, we knew ASU was the best choice for expanding nursing education here in Arizona.

Q: Can you describe the need for this type of nursing specialty education here in Arizona?

Karshmer: It’s impossible to overstate our need for specialty nursing education. Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Our pediatric population is flourishing, as are the medical needs of Arizona’s kids. And at the same time, we’re facing a nationwide shortage of nurses and nurse practitioners.

, chief nursing officer Phoenix Children's Hospital

Julie Bowman

Bowman: In planning for the future, Phoenix Children’s knew we would need more advanced practice providers in trauma, the emergency department and critical care. This program helps fill that pipeline with expertly trained clinicians who can provide this care.

This program is also a response to our growth in the East Valley, an area of the Valley that has seen extreme growth, especially in young families. Students currently in the program are in their second of three years of study, and will earn their Acute Care Pediatric DNP degrees next year when Phoenix Children’s opens its hospital at Mercy Gilbert.

Karshmer: The program also helps address health care costs. The ideal provider model for acutely ill patients includes a mix of physician specialists and NPs. Surgeons can focus on surgery while NPs handle postoperative care. It’s a perfect and more cost-effective balance of their skills.

Over time, the goal is for more pediatric nurses to pursue their NP degree to ensure the right balance of expertise.

Q: What can students look forward to with this program?

Karshmer: It’s the only program of its kind in the Southwest — perhaps in the nation. Students are trained by expert instructors in a top nursing school, Edson College and gain clinical experience at a top hospital, Phoenix Children’s. And through their intervention project, they will make a real difference for kids in their care.

Bowman: Students are immersed in evidence-based practice and get hands-on training while identifying and solving problems, conducting their own research projects and taking that research from bench to bedside. They’re in the driver’s seat in advancing patient care. There is a sense of excellence with the program at ASU.

Q: As a DNP nursing student who was early to join this program, why did you decide to pursue this specialty?

Holly Michael: I was working as a clinical nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital when I heard about this opportunity. My heart is in pediatrics, and more specifically acutely ill children, so it appealed to me.

The program had the unique potential to help me meet my career goals and stay in Arizona. I would have the option to meet with professors in person, attend immersions and have procedure days in the lab. Beyond all this, I have a special connection with ASU — I received my undergraduate degree there. With two very reputable institutions partnering together, I felt confident in my decision. Once the application process opened, I applied and began just a few weeks later. I am currently in my second year of the program. 

, Acute Care Pediatric DNP Student

Holly Michael

Q: Can you share what you like about the program and courses you have taken so far?

Michael: I enjoy many different portions of the program. I took a great physiology course last fall which set a strong foundation and helped me gain a greater knowledge of the physiologic processes of the body. The acute care didactic courses and the acute care clinical course are also ones I particularly appreciated, along with a leadership course I took last fall. They gave me an improved sense of direction in this field, and the ability to present myself as a leader among clinical teams. As a result, I have leadership techniques to put into action as an advanced practice registered nurse — someone who must give strategic direction, deliver solutions and devise plans.

Q: Are you looking forward to the DNP project?

Michael: Every DNP program requires students to complete fieldwork in an area of interest and identify a problem, issue or gap in that area. Following identification, the DNP student works closely with stakeholders, providers and other staff to develop a project design and an evidence-based plan. The last steps are to implement, evaluate and disseminate the results.

The project is a major portion of our last half of the program. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed undertaking an effort like this. Luckily, ASU offers abundant support, and with that, I am excited about this portion of the curriculum.  From my understanding, there are few schools offering this level of resources for DNP students.

I began the initial stages of the DNP project this fall. As of now, I am interested in working closely with the neurocritical care team, observing pediatric traumatic brain injury management. This project is very important, not only to DNP students but to the clinical department and its patient community.

Q: What are your plans once you complete your program?

Michael: Once I graduate and pass my board exam, I would love to work in and be a part of the pediatric intensive care unit, neurocritical care or trauma. I am in the beginning stages of my clinical experience in acute care, so I will continue to keep an open mind on all of the possible opportunities ahead.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


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Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk

Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk.
October 31, 2019

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership holds civic discourse discussion

When people move to the United States, their journey to assimilation is a complex process that involves change for everyone in the community, according to two authors who have studied this contemporary issue.

Reihan Salam, author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders,” and Tomás Jiménez, author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life,” spoke at Arizona State University on Wednesday night. Their talk, titled “Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration,” was sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at ASU.

The two men discussed how assimilation is not an either/or event.

“Assimilation is a moving target,” said Salam, who is executive editor of the National Review.

“If you’re trying to define it very narrowly, it’s becoming more like the ‘average person,’ but immigration changes the nature of the country over time. You’re not hitting a fixed target.”

Reihan Salam,who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

There’s also a difference between immigrants who circle back and forth from America to their home country and those who never return.

“Vietnamese immigrants, in the wake of the Vietnamese war, were among the most assimilated mostly because there was an expectation that Vietnam was not a homeland that one could return to regularly,” he said.

Jiménez said that assimilation involves “mutual change.”

“There’s a back and forth volley of adjustment and readjustment happening in a cultural context, with respect to notions of success and failure in school, and with respect to the notion of who belongs and on what basis,” said Jiménez, who is professor of sociology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity at Stanford University.

“If I had to distill it down, it’s the decline of an ethnic boundary, when people see each other as more similar than different.”

Population demographics in America have changed over time, and that’s shaped attitudes toward immigration, Salam said.

He noted that the share of the foreign-born population has increased sharply, to about 13%, in the context of a steep decrease in the number of native-born children. Decades ago, people believed that investing in their community would mostly benefit their own descendants, but that’s no longer the case.

“It has to do with replenishment. It’s a game of numbers,” he said.

“I believe it’s one reason why you see such intense polarization around these issues.”

Public perception also doesn’t always match what’s really happening, Jiménez said.

“One of the most underappreciated events in the demography of immigration is the end of a mass wave of Mexican immigration that had gone uninterrupted for 100 years, and it came at the end of the Great Recession,” he said.

“Since then, Mexican immigration has been a net negative. That’s had a profound impact on the population but not an impact on the way the population is perceived.

“Ten years ago, 1 in 4 people of Mexican descent were undocumented. Now it’s 15%.”

Both men agreed that the current immigration system, with waits of a decade or longer, is inefficient and inhumane, but they differ on how open the process should be.

“Today’s immigrants come overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America and those immigrants, across the generations, are integrating as fast if not faster than the immigrants of the great European immigration from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Jiménez said.

Tomás Jiménez, who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mass legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would speed that integration, he said.

“The condition of illegality is not only a drag on their integration, it’s a drag on the integration of subsequent generations,” he said. “We know from social science research that the penalty reverberates three generations into the future.”

He said that the DACA program, which is not legalization, still benefitted the young people it affected.

“The best data we have showed that their mental health improved, the mental health of their children improved, they were more likely to get married and spend money,” he said.

“The most recent polling shows that 80% of the American public favors a legalization program.”

Salam said that immigration used to be thought of in the context of the need for a lot of low-skilled labor, but with that need decreasing and the need for highly skilled labor increasing, the conversation has changed.

“I believe our system is incoherent and does not align with the values and sensibilities of a majority of America,” he said. “In our system, now you have a wait list of over 4 million people in the queue for family preference visas. If you have a job offer in the U.S. and speak English fluently, guess what? You cannot move up the queue.”

He said that the U.S. should establish a pathway of skills for immigrants, including avenues for refugees and asylum-seekers.

“When it comes to skills I believe in a blended approach rather than the binary approach we have now, where you’re either an affluent, sophisticated, highly skilled person or an underdog,” Salam said.

“Another way to think of it is a system that serves as a roadmap: ‘Here are the things that it takes for you to thrive and survive in this country.’ We want a policy that protects a certain kind of continuity and in light of a changing safety net.”

Top image: Reihan Salam (left) and Tomás Jiménez immigration at the SCETL Civic Discourse Project talk, "Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration," on Wednesday at the Memorial Union. The talk was part of the school’s Civic Discourse Project, now in its third year, with the theme “Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America.” Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU alum paving pathways for people with disabilities

Todd Lemay's gift of a TerrainHopper will enable disabled students to enjoy all adventures

October 31, 2019

Todd Lemay remembers longing for snowless days. The weather constricted the Maine native in ways others couldn’t comprehend. That wasn’t all; steps robbed him of his freedom. Beaches did the same.

“Every house, every apartment, even restaurants — they all have steps in Maine,” he said. Todd Lemay and Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell experiences the TerrainHopper with ASU alumnus Todd Lemay. Download Full Image

Lemay was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease that has led him to using a wheelchair for most of his life. He sometimes walked as a child, but that would only lead to more broken bones and more surgeries. He tired of it in his teens. “I decided it’s not worth going through all the surgeries just so that I can maybe walk 20 feet on my own,” he said.

Lemay, 48, figures he’s suffered more than 80 broken bones — a figure that quickly climbs into the 100s if he includes ribs. Those crack easily.

He doesn’t seek sympathy, though. Rather, he considers himself lucky.

“A lot of people out there are in much more difficult situations than I am in,” Lemay said. “So the fact that I can take care of myself and do so much, those are all blessings.”

Arizona opened his eyes to many of them.

A whole new world

After one of his friends talked up Arizona and urged Lemay to tag along on a trip, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the Valley of the Sun.

“I was just amazed at how flat everything was out here,” he recalled. “I fell in love with the weather, and I fell in love with how everything was just so accessible. I felt a larger sense of freedom.”

Lemay landed at Arizona State University in 1992, graduating three years later with a degree in accounting. He immersed himself in this work for some time before launching an IT management company.

A simple Google search led him to change careers.

Lemay was on the hunt for an all-terrain wheelchair and stumbled upon a company in the United Kingdom named TerrainHopper that was manufacturing exactly that — electrically powered off-road mobility vehicles that can conquer the type of challenging terrain a normal wheelchair can’t. Yet they weren’t shipping to the U.S. — that is, until Lemay persuaded them to send him one a year later.

For the first time in his life, when he returned to his summer home in Maine, he enjoyed beach trips in a way he only previously had in dreams.

“I didn't have to have someone push me and set me in one spot and that's where I would stay until they moved me,” he said. “I can go out on the beach with my wife and hold her hand. I was never able to do that before. I love the ocean, and for my entire life I’ve only been able to enjoy it from the end of the parking lot.

“It opened up a whole new world for me.”

Open for business

Everywhere he went with his TerrainHopper, he was routinely stopped. The same question always came: Why is there not something like this in the U.S.?

So Lemay again pleaded with TerrainHopper, this time for an even bigger ask. He requested licensing, manufacturing and U.S. distribution rights, insisting “that if they’re going to do something here in the U.S., I’m the right person to help them do that.”

Lemay opened his own shop in Tempe in 2017, replicating the work of his friends in Europe to create customizations that can accommodate almost every physical disability. TerrainHopper USA was born.

“We license the technology from them, so we don’t import anything from them, but we actually manufacture everything from the ground up here in Tempe,” he said.

Lemay, who has donated several of these vehicles to nonprofits around the area, was featured in an article in the Phoenix Business Journal around the time he started full production last fall, prompting ASU President Michael M. Crow to offer congratulations in a handwritten letter.

Shortly after the new year, a student convinced Lemay that ASU should have one.

Spreading the joy

Christina Chambers was already well-versed in the TerrainHopper. The ASU student was managing two of them while interning with Ability360, which offers programs to empower people with disabilities. Chambers was ultimately connected with Lemay, who requested her help with some photography. She, too, uses a wheelchair and sees life much like Lemay.

During a meeting one day, Lemay was pleasantly surprised to hear Chambers is majoring in parks and recreation — but also heartbroken to find that her disability prevented her from joining many off-site classes in different parks.

Hiking has become one of Lemay’s favorite hobbies since obtaining a TerrainHopper. San Tan Regional Park is a short drive from his house, and he frequents it often with his wife, Letitia.

“You look at that park with hundreds of acres and dozens of trails, and with the normal wheelchair you could probably access maybe 2% of that,” he said. “When I got my TerrainHopper, we started going out and doing a different trail every weekend and it turns that we can do about 95% of that park now.”

Lemay wanted Chambers to have that same experience. Chambers wanted it for every ASU student.

“One of the first classes we take in parks and rec talks about the important things everybody in life needs to succeed and be happy,” Chambers said. “The outdoors and nature are essential to happiness, and I was missing that component of my life for so long.”

Expanding possibilities

Chambers recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of what she calls her “Life Day.”

“It’s the day I celebrate being alive and accepting this as my new life,” she said. “I woke up one morning paralyzed from the chest down.”

Her immune system attacked her spinal cord, causing permanent injury when she was 12. Looking back, she believes that’s when she was given her purpose, even though she didn’t know it at the time.

“I was meant to be in this community and help out those in my community and kind of introduce them to all that they are capable of,” Chambers said.

For Chambers, who will graduate in December, Lemay offered the same for her. She admires the immense joy he brings, “in his own life, in his own acceptance, and in his own journey.”

She wants to help him spread that.

“It’s contagious,” Chambers said. “I post on social and I'm like, come visit me, stay at my house, we will go hiking, I will take you out on the TerrainHoppers.”

Kelly Ramella, an associate instructional professional serving as the coordinator of the therapeutic recreation program and faculty with the School of Community Resources and Development, has witnessed the impact this vehicle has had on students like Chambers.

Adventure is now accessible for all.

“She wanted to be a part of everything that all other students have an opportunity to do, even climbing “A” Mountain,” Ramella said. “Her being able to use the TerrainHopper to experience ASU like everyone else was really quite emotional for me because it's something that's really important for all of our students. We want to ensure that we’re being as inclusive as we possibly can.”

In September, Chambers and Ramella were on hand when Lemay gifted a TerrainHopper — they start at $18,000  — to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and invited Dean Jonathan Koppell to get in the driver’s seat.

“You realize what it gives individuals is independence,” Ramella said. “It gave them the ability to navigate the outdoors in their own way and at their own speed.”

Bridging the gap

Chambers was recently hiking the Buffalo Park Loop in Flagstaff when she met a man who had sustained a broken neck and a brain injury in a dirt bike accident, changing the way he experienced the outdoors. He missed the old way. 

Chambers got him on the TerrainHopper, which introduces a sensation similar to riding a dirt bike, and took in the biggest smile.

“He was crying,” she said. “His girlfriend was crying, because here he is hiking and off-roading just like he used to. That is why I advocate for this, because it not only changed my life, but I see the opportunity for it to change so many lives.

“You don’t look at it and think, that’s a wheelchair, or that’s a medical device. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s really cool. I want to try it.’ I think it bridges that gap of how people view disability and what it actually is.”

 Jane Lee

Copywriter, ASU Enterprise Partners


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The business of Halloween

Princesses and superheroes top costumes for kids; pumpkins top costume for pets.
October 28, 2019

Halloween is big business in the United States. Between the costumes, confections and cards, the holiday is expected to generate nearly $9 billion in economic activity this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Halloween’s popularity impacts the economy in Arizona, too, where approximately 5,000 temporary jobs will be created to support pop-up stores, haunted houses and other Halloween-themed offerings.

To better understand Halloween’s economic impact, ASU Now spoke with Lee McPheters, research professor and director at Arizona State University's JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Lee McPhetersLee McPheters 

Question: How big a holiday is Halloween from an economic perspective? How does it compare to other big holidays in terms of job creation, spending and overall economic impact?

Answer: According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween is expected to have an economic impact of about $8.8 billion this year, down from $9 billion in 2018, with spending per person estimated at $86. 

Compared to Christmas spending of more than $700 billion, Halloween has a smaller impact, but it has a significant impact on specific industries, including clothing for costumes and confections or candies. Note that the Christmas spending impact includes travel, as people return “home for the holidays,” while it is likely that fewer people return home for Halloween.

Here in Arizona, our estimate of the Halloween impact is $150 million over a three-month period, generating the equivalent of 4,000 to 5,000 jobs, not only in retail, but also in wholesale and transportation of products for sale.

The impact of the trade war with China is uncertain, but it is likely that many of the imported products — costumes and decorations — were already in the country before the tariffs escalated.

Q: Which retail categories experience the greatest surge during the Halloween season, and how do they compare to each other?

A: Costume spending is the single largest component of Halloween spending — over $3 billion at the national level. According to national surveys, 47% of people will wear a costume or part of a costume, and a surprising 17% of people intend to buy a costume for their pets. Among children, the most popular costumes this year seem to be princesses and superheroes, while for adults the trend is to witches and vampires. For pets, the top costume is a pumpkin.

In Arizona, our estimate of costume spending is $54 million; decorations is $46 million, candy is $44 million, and greeting cards is $6 million.

Q: In terms of dollars spent around the holiday, is Halloween getting bigger or smaller?

A: Holiday spending tends to be affected by the business cycle. Halloween spending rose from less than $5 billion in the recession of 2009 to the current level of nearly $9 billion as the expansion has continued. Spending per person has tended to increase faster than the rate of inflation, suggesting growing popularity.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay


Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Getting into the 'Spirit' of Halloween

October 28, 2019

Between the costumes, decorations and props, temporary Halloween stores — like Spirit Halloween — provide a one-stop shopping experience for all things spooky. The stores open in malls and open-air shopping centers with scant warning, and are seemingly gone before the ink is even dry on the lease.

To learn more about how Halloween pop-up stores operate, ASU Now spoke with Mathew Avrhami, faculty associate in Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

QUESTION: Every year a couple months before Halloween, Spirit Halloween (and other temporary Halloween retailers), suddenly appear around town. How do these businesses work?

Mathew Avrhami

ANSWER: Halloween pop-up stores are most widely associated with Spirit, who is the largest seasonal retailer —selling trick or treats during the fall season and closing up during the first week of November. These businesses sell seasonal items in otherwise empty spaces, and there’s no shortage of empty retail space.

If you keep noticing more going-out-of-business sales, there's a startling reason: Forever 21, Walgreens, Dressbarn, GameStop, Gap and other chains have already announced over 8,500 store closings in 2019 — way more than we saw during all of 2018. That's according to Coresight Research, which predicts the number could hit 12,000 by the end of the year. As online shopping continues to grow, another 75,000 stores could be lost by 2026, according to investment bank UBS.

Halloween pop-up stores like Spirit Halloween bring revenue to empty big box spaces for landlords, who appreciate the extra income. Typically, even if a landlord signs a four-month lease with Spirit Halloween and a new potential tenant shows up the next day, it’s at least four to six months before the lease actually gets signed, so there really is no loss in income.

Landlords are figuring out that retail competes with online by offering some combination of one or all of the following: a special experience, instant gratification and assurance of purchase. Trying out seasonal or temporary pop-up retail concepts can bring in shopping center traffic and test out new concepts, so the idea isn’t strictly for Halloween.

Q: How profitable are these stores?

A: There are reportedly “over 1,300” Spirit Halloween stores in the United States. Not to be outdone, in 2018 Party City opened approximately 250 Halloween City pop-ups.

Not wanting to invite competition, the stores try to keep their numbers under wraps. However, the Halloween retail industry is worth approximately $9 billion, and an estimated combined 67% will be spent at a retail location, according to the National Retail Federation.

So, while we don’t know specifics, we can conclude that well-merchandised Halloween pop-up stores in good locations can perform very well during the season.

Q: How do they find the retail space for such a short lease?

A: Spirit Halloween’s senior director of real estate, Frank Pacera, has stated in the past that, “pretty much Nov. 1, the minute our door is closed, we are — or actually, before our doors close — we are prepping for the next season. We literally are, 12 months out of the year, getting ready for this holiday. … Right after we close our doors, we have a field operation of people who are based throughout the country, and they basically scout their entire markets that they’re responsible for on a regular basis.”

Those agents spend months negotiating the deals. The typical store is somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet, though some are smaller. In suburban areas, Spirit Halloween’s agents look for vacant real estate in shopping centers that have “other national tenants,” like Best Buy, Target, or Walmart.

Q: How do online retailers compare to brick and mortar stores in terms of sales? Has online shopping made these in-person stores less profitable or popular?

A: Chainstore Age reports that online search remains the top source of Halloween inspiration, cited by 35% of consumers surveyed, followed by browsing in stores at 28%, and ideas from friends and family at 20%.

Inspiration from social media has increased across several platforms since 2015. Pinterest was cited by 18%, up from 13% in 2015; 14% cited both YouTube (up from 8%) and Instagram (up from 7%).

However, shoppers know Halloween costumes have varying degrees of quality, because some costumes, more than others, are essentially disposable clothes. Shoppers want to touch, see and feel the costume not only for quality, but for fit, style and inspiration too.

Spirit and other Halloween retailers have reported the busiest Halloween shopping occurs in the last two weeks before Halloween, which isn’t a lot of time to order, return for sizing, style or fit, and re-order costumes online; but, there is plenty of time to cover that in person at a retail store.

So, in conclusion, yes online shopping has taken some retail sales away from brick and mortar stores, however the stores continue to do very well because of consumer demands that online shopping just can’t provide.

Top photo courtesy of Mike Mozart, Flickr.


Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Assessing the quality of water to improve the quality of life

ASU engineer Otakuye Conroy-Ben recognized for research with Native communities

October 25, 2019

Research that is helping regional communities solve their wastewater pollution problems has earned Otakuye Conroy-Ben a Technical Excellence Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

The award is presented to an indigenous professional who has made contributions to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — by developing a product or a solution and is actively involved in the Native American community. Otakuye Conroy-Ben researches wastewater pollution and their effects on local Native American communities. Photographer: Deanna Dent/ASU Now Otakuye Conroy-Ben researches wastewater pollution and its effects on local Native American communities. Download Full Image

Conroy-Ben, an assistant professor of environmental engineering in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was one of five 2019 recipients of the AISES Professional of the Year Award presented at the organization’s national conference in Milwaukee on Oct. 10-12.

Conroy-Ben, who is of Oglala Lakota descent, got involved with AISES as an undergraduate student and has increased her involvement over the years. She was a recipient of an AISES graduate student research award and later joined the organization’s board of directors. She is currently involved in the mentorship program.

“This is an organization that's near and dear to my heart, and so I was thrilled to be recognized for my hard work and my years of dedication to the organization,” Conroy-Ben said.

Since she joined the Fulton Schools in 2016, she has continued to be active in the organization as an adviser to the ASU chapter of AISES.

Now a tenure-track faculty member, Conroy-Ben studies environmental endocrine disruption and antibiotic-resistant genes that arise from wastewater, as well as the transport of microbes in water. Her work on the biological effects of polluted water has direct applications to the challenges facing the tribal communities she works with.

As an engineer, Conroy-Ben has been focusing on improving the lives of people in local tribal communities. Her research lab, the Emerging Contaminants Laboratory, focuses on wastewater contaminants and epidemiology. Beyond laboratory research, she also works directly with members of the tribal communities to better understand their needs and to provide her expertise in water quality.

“I'm working with tribal communities in the Great Plains, so I'm working with my tribal community on different aspects of water pollution,” Conroy-Ben said. “For Arizona, I'm working in collaboration with the Intertribal Council of Arizona, who works directly with 21 Arizona tribes.”

Conroy-Ben was nominated for the award by Fulton Schools Professor Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at ASU. Halden and Conroy-Ben are collaborating on tests to evaluate the overall health and potential environmental threats facing Native American communities.

“I think that Conroy-Ben is an exceptional faculty member for multiple reasons, for the work she is doing as well as for her cultural background,” Halden said.

“The fact that she is one of the few, if not the only, female environmental engineering professor of Native American descent puts her in a position to understand the environmental health concerns that exist in Native American communities and reservations across the nation and to implement interventions that can improve both the water quality and the health status of those communities.”

Conroy-Ben credits much of her success working with tribal communities in the Southwest and the Great Plains region to the vast resources ASU offers to help connect with these communities.

“ASU's a great place; we have a lot of support not only for students but for faculty and staff when it comes to tribal initiatives,” Conroy-Ben said.

“There is an administration, there's two associate VPs for Indian affairs, and to bridge that work, they have introduced me to some local tribes interested in agriculture, air pollution and water. I wouldn't have had that opportunity at any institution that doesn’t have these types of positions or doesn’t have those strong relationships with the local tribes.

“Part of the process is going out in the community, meeting with the tribal institution review board, and working with them, not only doing research but different services that I can provide as an engineer or as someone who specializes in water quality.”

Her efforts to provide cleaner water to tribal communities in Arizona and the Great Plains have taken four years to come to fruition.

“I would say that working with these tribal communities does take time,” Conroy-Ben said. “I started these projects when I first arrived at ASU, but to go through the tribal approval process and then to look for funding and get preliminary results, we're just now seeing the effects of all of this hard work four years later. It's not like working with just any community — it takes time.”

Karishma Albal

Student Science/Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering