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Schools, communities tackling food insecurity but policy changes needed, experts say

ASU forum highlights complex issue of improving family diets in South Phoenix.
May 3, 2019

ASU forum on family nutrition in South Phoenix highlights complex issue

Improving the quality of food for families in South Phoenix will likely require many changes, ranging from policy updates at the federal level to a stronger focus on culture at the family level, according to a group of experts who tackled the issue last week.

“Feeding Families” was a panel discussion sponsored by the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center at Arizona State University, which held the event at the Verna McClain Wellness Center in South Phoenix.

The Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center has federal funding to study health disparities and how research can be applied to directly help communities, according to James Herbert Williams, interim executive director of the center, which is part of the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“One thing we work at very hard is trying to understand what a community needs to address — and to be empowered to solve — problems,” said Williams, who is the Arizona Centennial Professor of Social Welfare Services. “We decided to come to South Phoenix so we can hear from you.”

Here’s what the experts said about food insecurity and nutrition:

Working with families

Sonia Vega-López, associate professor of nutrition, College of Health Solutions, ASU: I’ve been focusing on Hispanic families and how to promote healthy eating for prevention of chronic diseases, specifically on how to change behavior. A lot of people say, “You need to educate,” but we know that’s not enough to make people make better choices on what to buy, cook and eat. 

Our approach in recent years has been to focus on families, not individuals, and to look at factors to motivate people to change not only for themselves, but for other members of their families.

Lawrence Robinson, president of the governing board of the Roosevelt School District, described programs in his schools that include gardening, cooking and nutrition at the "Feeding Families" forum on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


The pleasure of eating

Vega-López: I’ve been thinking about diet quality, not just food insecurity. We’ve been very good at getting the public very confused about what we shouldn’t eat. We’re starting to talk about whole foods and utilizing foods from farms and preparing more meals from scratch. We’re using simpler messages and focusing on the pleasure of food.

Lawrence Robinson, director of Leadership for Educational Equity and governing board president of the Roosevelt School District: We shouldn’t talk about food without saying that it’s delicious and people enjoy it. With food comes culture. At Lassen Elementary School, we gave the students a task to take one ingredient and go home and talk to their families about it. By the end of the project, they learned not only how to grow and cook and consume that ingredient but how it related to their families.

Then we had a dinner with all that produce. We shared the dinner together, and the kids shared their stories. People came together and were fed. They learned responsibility. And all of that made them healthier. If you cook it, they will come and hopefully it will transform the academic outcomes in our district.

Food and culture

Vega-López: We forget that traditional foods include a lot of healthy foods. A traditional Mexican diet is not what you see on the list of items at a Mexican restaurant. They eat a lot of fruits and vegetables and fish.

We can tell people that those are the foods they already know how to cook and they don’t need to invent new meals. They need to go back to their roots.

Robinson: This area is now a food desert, but I remember as a kid picking collard greens, with miles of fresh produce tended by African American families. You have the neighborhood that had the fresh food that now has obesity and diabetes and is deemed a food desert.

It’s now the policy of land use to wipe out the healthy, safe neighborhood culture that was just here a minute ago.

Shifting the conversation

John Wann-Ángeles, founding director of the Orchard Community Learning Center, a farm and educational organization based in South Phoenix: I’ve read about the "100 things we can do to reverse global warming." A plant-rich diet is No. 4 on the list, and we know a plant-based diet is the only one proven to reverse heart disease.

Why aren’t these questions at the center of school curriculum, not as add-ons? If this were the center of curriculum, a generation could change this conversation.

Federal policy effects

Angie Rodgers, president and CEO of the Association of Arizona Food Banks, which serves 450,000 people per month: We have to recognize the role of the federal government. SNAPThe Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, a federal program that provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families. feeds more than a million families but the benefits are so low, about $230 a month, that your choices are based on your pocketbook and not on what’s appropriate.

There are constant discussions about who should be able to buy what types of food, but until they raise the amount that allows it to be a true choice, we shouldn’t have conversations about restricting SNAP choices.

If you go into our food banks now you’ll find the result of the trade war — food the growers were unable to sell to governments like China, which includes pork and a significant amount of all dairy products. We’re thankful for the food. But we’ve received 24 million pounds of pork and dairy in the last eight months, and now you’ve changed the expectations and the palate of the clientele. Could we do that with fresh fruits and vegetables? We absolutely could.

Linda Rider, director of nutrition services at Tempe Elementary School District: The policy changed about 10 years ago to require more whole-grain foods. The current administration has taken a step back, and that’s frustrating because we work hard to make sure we have the right foods. We had that extra 6 cents in reimbursements for healthy foods, and when you take a step back, it will allow them to take back that reimbursement.

Feeding children in school

Rider: We’re in the process of putting salad bars in the serving line because of research we did with ASU. One of their great findings was that when you put salad bars in the serving line versus outside the line, kids will take more fruits and vegetables and actually eat them. When it’s outside the line, they already have their food and are too interested in talking to their friends.

Robinson: Getting farm to table is extremely hard for schools. You have to certify all the health and safety processes. And we’re required to accept the lowest bidder so we can’t buy locally sourced food if it’s not the lowest bid.

Top image: Sonia Vega-López, associate professor of nutrition in the College of Health Solutions at ASU, makes a point at the "Feeding Families" forum held by the Southwest Interdisciplinary Research Center in South Phoenix on May 2. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Predicting Arizona's 2020 economy

May 2, 2019

ASU experts meet with local business leaders to forecast the health of the state's economy

Arizona’s economy is thriving and is likely to flourish at least for another year, according to economics experts at Arizona State University.

“We’re coming off a super-strong year, and it’s giving us a lot of momentum,” said Lee McPheters, research professor of economics in the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU and director of the school’s JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center. He spoke at the annual economic forecast luncheon held by the Economic Club of Phoenix, a unit of W. P. Carey.

McPheters said that 2018 surprised even analysts like him. He predicted that 69,000 new jobs would be added in Arizona for the year, when in fact, 78,800 jobs were added. Arizona was fourth in the nation for job creation.

“We’re continuing to get the benefit of more people moving here and a relatively robust birth rate and that’s a key driver for the economy,” he said, noting that Arizona is also fourth in the nation for population growth. “There is no recession in sight for our forecast.”

The job growth is mostly in construction, followed by health care, professional/scientific, manufacturing and transportation.

McPheters said that people remember the recession of 2008, when the vigorous housing market collapsed.

“Are we on the verge of a bubble? Well, as a percent of all jobs, construction is about 5.7%, not the 9 or 10% it was in 2006,” he said.

Also, the additional construction jobs are supporting job growth.

“It’s construction of office space, distribution space and public-sector investment.”

McPheters sounded an alarm about affordable housing. He said that wages have gone up 12% while home prices have increased 31%.

“That is putting a squeeze on people,” he said.

economic forecast

(From left) Dennis Hoffman, Lee McPheters and Mark Stapp answer questions at the Economic Club of Phoenix's annual economic outlook luncheon on Thursday. The three offered views ranging from national trends to local factors in their consensus view that the Arizona will continue growing, but will slow down a little in the coming year. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

McPheters said the biggest threat to Arizona’s economy is the national economy. On that front, Dennis Hoffman was optimistic.

“We’re in a strong employment expansion that has been unrelenting since 2014 and should continue for the foreseeable future,” said Hoffman, an economist and the director of the L. William Seidman Research Institute at the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“What’s fueling the economy? Less regulation is behind some of it,” he said. “People argue about regulation and the long-term consequences, but I think it sustained the growth in 2017 and 2018.”

Hoffman discussed several potential problems ahead.

“People worry about global warming, but I worry about global graying,” he said. “For the first time ever, we have more people 65 and older than 5 and younger.

“That will change the way people consume, what they’ll buy and how much they spend.”

He’s also worried about the increasing national debt.

“What’s driving it is mandatory entitlements. Nobody wants to hear this, but we simply do not have enough in receipts to pay for the Medicare that Baby Boomers expect.”

The commercial real estate market also is booming as workers are filling up all the new space, according to Mark Stapp, the Fred E. Taylor Professor in Real Estate in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

“Whatever we’re building, we’re absorbing,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll run the risk of oversupply. If we want to see job growth, we have to have space for those jobs to go.”

One interesting trend has been a change in the use of retail space. More than 6,000 stores have closed nationwide this year, while only 2,600 have opened. 

“But now we’re seeing other kinds of users,” he said. “Eighteen percent of medical offices now occupy retail space. This is a shift to put them closer to where people need them.”

Stapp echoed McPheters’ concerns about affordable housing.

“We are building what we need to house the population that is moving here and not building in excess, and that continues to push prices up,” he said. “There’s no slack in the inventory.”

Stapp said that new housing is gobbling up 6,000 acres a year in the Valley.

“Where do you get those 6,000 acres? We are pushing toward the edges again — Coolidge, Florence, Queen Creek, Casa Grande, Buckeye.”

Stapp said that one positive effect of the recession, when 10 million people nationwide lost their homes, has been the de-stigmatization of renting. One new trend he expects to grow is the construction of single-family rental communities.

“It solves the problem of ‘I don’t want to buy. I can’t afford it. But I still want a single-family home.’” 

Top photo: JP Morgan Chase Economic Outlook Director Lee McPheters speaks at the Economic Club of Phoenix's annual economic outlook luncheon at the Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch on Thursday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Criminal justice reforms will require changes in culture, experts say

Criminal justice reform will take courage, broad changes, ASU experts say.
April 30, 2019

More treatment, shorter sentences among recommendations at ASU panel

Crime is down in Arizona but more people are in prison, and confronting that issue will require a broad range of changes plus a lot of courage, according to a group discussion on criminal justice reform held on Tuesday by the Morrison Institute for Public Policy.

“Some people will say that crime is down because we’re locking up the bad guys, but others will argue just as passionately that we’re wasting money by locking up people at a time when crime is down,” said Dan Hunting, senior policy analyst for the Morrison Institute for Public Policy, which is part of Arizona State University.

“There’s a lot of discussion about this in academic circles. It’s a very complex issue.”

The discussion, held at the Downtown Phoenix campus, was based on the 2018 initiative of Arizona Town Hall, a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization that educates and engages people to solve problems. Last year, the group addressed criminal justice reform, holding a statewide town hall and producing a report that was edited by Hunting. He covered some of the highlights of the report at Tuesday’s talk:

• Since 2006, violent crime has decreased 20% and property crime has decreased 36%.

• The state’s population has doubled since 1987 but the prison population has increased 3.5 times.

• The estimated cost of the criminal justice system is $525 per person per year in Arizona.

• Arizona has the fourth highest incarceration rate in the country at 585 incarcerated people per 100,000 population.

Recommendations from the statewide town hall included:

• Focus on evidence-based decision making.

• Provide early interventions to keep people out of prison.

• Establish a statewide task force to determine best practices.

• Encourage the Legislature to reinstate laws requiring cost comparisons between private prisons and those run by the Arizona Department of Corrections.

• Create and fund an adequate number of inpatient and outpatient treatment facilities.

At Tuesday’s talk, a panel of experts discussed the recommendations.

Kevin Wright, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU, said he was surprised about the recommendation on comparing costs for privately and state-run prisons.

“If we were to go down that road, the research is mixed,” he said. “It takes us further away from the right question to be asked: Why do we have so many people in prison?”

The public doesn’t always grasp the ramifications of long prison sentences, they said.

“On paper you can add up any number of years … think about where you were five years ago in your life. Think about 10 years, 20 years. I think it’s way too much time,” said Wright, who is director of the Center for Correctional Solutions, a year-old unit in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice devoted to research, education and community outreach.

Wright said the research describes an “age crime curve.”

“People peak in criminal behavior in their 20s and then decline rapidly,” he said. “When you’re incarcerating people in their 50s, 60s, 70s, in terms of public safety, what are you doing?” 

Khalil Rushdan, community partnerships coordinator for ACLU Arizona, makes a point during the audience discussion at a panel discussion on criminal justice reform on Tuesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Paul O’Connell, operations director of the Community Corrections Bureau of the Arizona Department of Corrections, said that Arizona is a “truth in sentencing” state, meaning that prisoners must serve 85% of their sentence no matter what. And that leaves much less time for supervision and support for people on parole after they leave prison and try to reenter their communities.

“If their risk level is minimum, we see them only twice, and if they’re really bad, we see them six times,” he said.

“We have this person coming out after 20 years not knowing how to get a job or take the bus. What I would like to see is have them serve more time under community supervision so we get to work with them, build relationships and do a better job.”

O’Connell said that addressing criminal justice reform must be a broad effort.

“There’s more to public safety than locking people up. Public safety is better roads, better education, stronger families.

“It’s not just a criminal justice problem, it’s a societal problem. It takes courage to initiate these recommendations. That’s where the battle lies.”

Wright said he frequently encounters two myths about the criminal justice system.

“Some people want to lock people away and forget about them and not care what happens to them while they’re in prison,” he said.

“The statistic is that 95% of people who go to prison will return to their communities. They will be your future neighbors. Why do you want them to be worse than when they went in?”

And while the criminal justice system costs $1 billion a year in Arizona, Wright said that more resources are needed for people who work with prisoners.

“Whatever you think about why people engage in criminal behavior, we couldn’t figure it out on the outside and then we put them in one place and ask this one department to figure it out with limited resources,” he said.

“It should be one of the most important jobs in America and yet as someone who educates people who will go into these professions, it’s not. It’s low pay. People use it as a springboard to something else. We have to devote more resources and think differently.”

Ron Reinstein, a judicial consultant for the Arizona Supreme Court and a former judge, said that legislators typically know little about the criminal justice system and have been a missing voice in the discussion on reform.

“What’s really important is the business community — they haven’t weighed in enough,” he said.

Wright said that academic voices also need to be heard because they’re the ones who produce the evidence that everyone wants to see used in decision-making.

“We collect the evidence and make sense of the evidence and say, ‘I don’t care what the answer is. I just want to produce the answer.’”

And the public needs to hear from incarcerated people themselves. Wright wrote the chapter on reentry and recidivism in the Arizona Town Hall report. A few years ago, his center trained men who were incarcerated to interview their peers in prison.

“They interviewed over 400 guys in six weeks,” he said. “It’s their own words of what motivated them and led them to fulfilling lives. It’s not just rewarding positive behavior. It’s setting up sustainable and fulfilling lifestyles.”

After the panel discussion, the audience discussed potential solutions, including addressing homelessness and restoring voting rights for ex-offenders, funding more treatment centers and eliminating barriers to family communication with incarcerated people — like expensive fees for phone calls.

Khalil Rushdan, the community partnerships coordinator with the ACLU of Arizona, said that a “punitive culture” in the state leads to overcharging people.

“We need leaders who are willing to change this culture, and that goes to the county attorney’s office,” he said.

“And before we give one more dollar to the (Department of) Corrections, we should have more transparency and an audit to see where these dollars are going.”

Top image: A panel of experts discussed criminal justice reform at a panel discussion at the ASU Downtown Phoenix campus. From left: Paul O'Connell, operations director for the Arizona Department of Corrections Community Corrections Bureau; Ron Reinstein, a judicial consultant for the Arizona Supreme Court and a former judge; and Kevin Wright, an associate professor in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at ASU and the director of the Center for Correctional Solutions. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Science Olympiad builds Arizona’s STEM pipeline

April 30, 2019

On a recent sunny Saturday at Arizona State University, the Tempe campus was buzzing with middle and high schoolers in lab coats and goggles, sprinting between buildings and labs.

The students were taking part in the state competition of the Arizona Science Olympiad on April 6. This is the third year that the event has been held at ASU, showcasing science, technology, engineering and math fields as well as campus life to young students. ASU 2019 Arizona Science Olympiad student in goggles and lab coat Photo by Bryan Pietsch Download Full Image

A totoal of 66 teams from middle and high schools around the state competed in 23 events at the state competition. Winners will advance to the national competition in June at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. The team from University High School in Tucson won the high school division, and the team from Paragon Science Academy in Chandler won the middle school division.

Reina Gomez, state director for Arizona Science Olympiad, said that the event is an opportunity for students who excel academically to get awards, medals and trophies that are usually awarded in athletic events.

She also said that having the event, presented with Access ASU, at the university allows the students to become familiar with the campus and college in general.

“They understand that, ‘Hey, I could go to ASU, I see other people there that look like me. They’re like me. They’re doing events that I like,’” Gomez said.

Events ranged from tests of academic knowledge — like identifying live reptile specimens — to physics and chemistry activities.

Nikita Kumari, a fourth-year PhD student at ASU studying biophysical chemistry, hopes to teach after graduation. She facilitated one of the chemistry activities where students tested the pH levels of household liquids like Sprite and mouthwash.

“It’s interesting because I get to see high school students excited about science, and that is fun for me,” Kumari said.

Students were all smiles at the herpetology activity that featured live snakes, geckos and tortoises.

Marshall Frank, an eighth grader from Prescott Valley, said that he likes the Olympiad because of the different events.

“No matter what field of science you’re into, there’s always something for you to do here,” Marshall said.

Lorenzo Chavez, assistant vice president for outreach at ASU said that the university is proud to have a legacy of presenting the event.

“ASU is excited to host the state science olympiad tournament for the third year in a row because the event exemplifies the innovation and creativity that the institution prides itself on,” Chavez said.

“The students attending are some of the best and brightest in the state of Arizona, and it is an honor to be part of this special day. As an institution that is dedicated to the Arizona community, we see our support for the event as an opportunity to connect participants to the university, faculty and staff.”

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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ASU pursuing deeper veterans' wellness engagement

April 25, 2019

Symposium brings together community stakeholders, ASU staff and faculty to investigate how to better serve veterans

Arizona State University representatives from across campuses attended a symposium April 17–18 in Phoenix to gain insight into the veteran space, network with local and military veteran community leaders and gather ideas on how the university can help further.

ASU was a key sponsor of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families — a highly attended event that included White House representation and a national Department of Veterans Affairs lead.

The coalition serves as the programmatic arm for the Arizona Department of Veteran Services. 

“These are significant times as we look to improve the quality of life of every veteran in Arizona,” said ASU alumna Wanda Wright, director of the Arizona Department of Veterans' Services and a retired Air Force colonel.

Due to the Arizona Coalition for Military Families and the collective efforts of many other groups to support veterans, Arizona is unique.

“This kind of work does not happen in most other states,” Wright said. “We are unusual in the way we are able to work together to influence the veteran echo system to manifest goodness for servicemembers, veterans and their families.”

ASU’s interest in the veteran echo system is twofold, supporting student veterans on campus and those out in the communities, plus driving innovative research and curriculum opportunities. The school’s military-affiliated student population grows each year, and currently hovers at well over 8,000 with continued growth expected. The university also owns comprehensive tools and resources to socially embed with public agencies that are on the front lines of veteran/military support.

One of ASU’s colleges with a significant number of student veterans is the College of Health Solutions. The college is aware of the unique challenges veterans face when they transition out of the military and onto campus. Its counselors, some of whom are also veterans, are there to assist.  

“We are trying to understand the veteran experience,” symposium attendee and College of Health Solutions Dean Deborah Helitzer said. “And how their education at the College of Health Solutions can be enhanced by thinking about their situation from a more holistic perspective. We recognize that the veteran students come from a team environment to the university where they are individual learners. We believe our collaborative, experiential approach to education will be effective for veterans who are interested in careers in health.”

The college engaged with the VA to look at different areas where new collaboration may be possible, the dean said. Both ASU’s College of Heath Solutions and Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation participated in strategic working sessions with the Phoenix VA Medical Center in January.

One of the key Arizona Coalition for Military Families programs College of Health Solutions faculty and students are engaged in is “Be Connected.” Launched in 2017, Be Connected is a collaboration between public and private stakeholders in Arizona aiming toward “upstream” suicide prevention in the veteran community.

“Right now Be Connected is a responsive model,” said Nicola Winkle, coalition project director. “You call, the team answers. You need help, it is provided. What we’ll be adding to complement this responsive approach is a proactive approach where we actively seek out and connect to segments of our military veteran and family population.”

Transitioning Be Connected to a proactive model requires data for focusing efforts, Winkle said. Data can prove what works, show how training and support increases intervention and reveal risk and protective factors of the military population. It can also help identify vulnerable populations within veteran communities with higher risk and lower protective factors.  

The symposium featured two days of programming and 11 learning tracks “all focused on increasing knowledge, skills and abilities for serving and supporting the military, veteran and family population.” The Pat Tillman Veterans Center hosted a roundtable discussion on building a veteran-supportive college campus, Veterans Upward Bound reps provided on-site resources throughout the event and ASU’s School of Social Work, a unit within the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, conducted a mindfulness and meditation session.

ASU participants also included around 25 faculty and staff from ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, Enterprise Marketing Hub, Office of Government and Community Engagement, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, Office of the President, Flag Officer Council, the Public Service Academy, and affiliate ASU Research Enterprise.

Top photo: Attendees of the Arizona Coalition for Military Families' 10th annual Statewide Symposium in Support of Service Members, Veterans and Their Families mingle at the exhibitor fair in Phoenix on April 16. Photo by Jerry Gonzalez/ASU

Jerry Gonzalez

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU Teachers College, Avondale school district blaze new path in training educators

April 25, 2019

Editor's note: This story first appeared in the spring 2019 issue of Impact magazine, which is published twice a year by the ASU Foundation as a reminder of how private support enables and enriches ASU's creative and innovative enterprise.

In 1891, Karl Elsener invented a folding pocket knife for soldiers. His client, the Swiss army, had stipulated that their new knife should enable troops in the field to disassemble their rifles and open cans of food. And also cut things. Copper Trails Principal Stacy Ellis, center, oversees efforts to prepare teacher candidates for the classroom. Copper Trails Principal Stacy Ellis, center, oversees efforts to prepare teacher candidates for the classroom. She checks in with Elisa Samano, left, and Kaitlynne Paul. Photo by Philamer Batangan Download Full Image

In the century and a quarter since then, Elsener’s company, Victori­nox, has been producing the “Swiss Army Knife.” Deluxe models grew to include wood saws, fish scalers, magni­fying lenses, hoof cleaners, chisels, toothpicks, pens and digital clocks. Not yet available is a built-in sewing kit to repair overloaded pants pockets.

But what works for tools doesn’t work for schools. And by packing too many functions into too small a package, schools, too, are coming apart at the seams.

The education equivalent of the Swiss Army Knife is to­day’s teacher, enlisted to be not only an expert in content and in classroom management, but also assessment, indi­vidualized instructional strategies, learner differences, developmental psychology and cultural context.

Carole Basile calls this model “the widget teacher.” And as dean of Arizona State University’s Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, one of the most prolific producers of teachers in the U.S., Basile said, “The job of a teacher who is asked to be all things to all people at all times is unten­able.” The results, she says, are not in the best interest of kids, of teachers and of the education profession — already under stress from a nationwide teacher shortage.

Basile and her workforce development team have some ideas for managing the widgets: research-based, innovative ideas. And they’ve teamed up with some equally innovative partners in an initiative to reinvent the education workforce.

Christy Burton

… is one of those innovative partners. She chairs the Burton Family Foundation. And she found a kindred spirit in Basile.

“Our foundation, first and foremost, invests in leaders,” Burton said. “I met Carole at an ASU Foundation event and was impressed with her vision for rethinking the way the teachers college delivers education. She was willing to work with the community. I emphasize the community part, because I think sometimes that gets lost in the discussion about schools and what really makes a school rich.”

Burton says her deep appreciation for community means, “We’re a bit different from other foundations.” She and her husband, Daryl, created the foundation with profits from their family business. Presson Companies has a mix of industrial and office real estate holdings. “What formed the foundation was our decision to sell off quite a few of our office prop­erties and focus predominantly on industrial properties,” she said. “But we have properties in the Avondale area we plan to hold on to, and that gave me a look into the community and let me be familiar with what’s going on there.”

In Avondale, Burton had a passion, Basile identified an opportunity, and both found another innovative partner.

Avondale Elementary School District

… is one of two such districts serving the city of Avon­dale, a bedroom suburb of Phoenix that’s home to about 80,000. Avondale Elementary School District comprises 10 schools, including a middle school of grade six through eight.

Overseeing them all is Betsy Hargrove (EdD, ’06), Avondale ESD superintendent since 2012. In 2017, Hargrove approached Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College for help with a challenge that confronts nearly every public-school superintendent: how to encourage fam­ilies to enroll their children in their districts. Hargrove had heard that Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College offered a design thinking initiative that would enlist the district’s faculty and staff, as well as community members, to act as thought partners in addressing the challenge.

Wendy Wyatt conducts a lesson for third grade pupils at Copper Trails School in Avondale, Arizona. Copper Trails School pays Wyatt and her co-teachers for student teaching.

Wendy Wyatt conducts a lesson for third graders. Copper Trails School in Avondale, Arizona, pays Wyatt and her co-teachers for student teaching. Photo by Philamer Batangan 

The college describes its design labs as “intentional, col­laborative, open-ended design processes that value local context, diverse perspectives and iterative testing of solu­tions.” Teachers College facilitators guide teams of stakeholders in a process that identifies complex challenges in education and develops prototype solutions.

That’s what Betsy Hargrove wanted. And that’s what Christy Burton could get behind. She had heard about the design labs from Carole Basile and saw the potential.

“It wasn’t happening just at the university level,” Burton said. The design labs engage with people throughout a school district and beyond, “going right into the community.”

The Burton Family Foundation funded the Avondale Community Design Lab with $50,000. From October 2017 to February 2018, Teachers College personnel facilitated a series of workshops in Avondale ESD. Each of the district’s 10 schools and the district office sent teams comprising administrators and principals, teachers and staff, students, parents and community members. Their challenge: “How might each of the district’s schools design a unique identity for themselves?”

Using design thinking, the teams arrived at some ideas for retooling the schools. “As each session went by, you could see how people engaged differently and left with an idea,” Hargrove said.

Christy Burton took part in the pro­cess, and she and her son were present at the district-wide final presentation.

“As Christy said, we didn’t know what the end result would be,” said Hargrove. “But the ability to engage over an entire year with a large group of people from all of our sites was really the gift behind all of this.”

In the end, the workshops also iden­tified a larger challenge: The district’s schools should perhaps be focusing on delivering a different, better experience to their students. Their most pressing problem might not be marketing, but product.

Betsy Hargrove

… already knew one way to improve her schools: better teachers and more of them.

“In Arizona over the past several years we’ve had great difficulty being able to find a certified teacher to be in each of our classrooms,” Hargrove said, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t people who want the spots. An August 2018 investigative re­port by The Arizona Republic stated, “Since the 2015–16 school year, nearly 7,200 teaching certificates have been issued to teachers who aren’t fully trained to lead a class­room” — an increase of 400% in only three years.

Robert Morse, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College co-director of professional ex­periences, explains: “In Arizona, if you have a high school diploma or GED, you can go to the Department of Edu­cation and get your emergency substitute certificate. And some districts are in such high need to fill positions that they will have that person as the teacher of record in the classroom, so someone with a high school diploma is doing the job of a certified professional teacher.”

In Avondale ESD last year, 12% of the classroom teachers had only emergency certification. Another 25% were certified, but not for the subject areas they were teaching.

Based on the design lab experience, Hargrove decided to enlist the teachers college in addressing another chal­lenge she and her principals deal with every year: how to fully staff their classrooms with qualified teachers when there aren’t enough in the state to go around.

Claire McHale is one of three student teachers who, together, fill the role of a certified teacher.

Claire McHale is one of three student teachers who, together, fill the role of a certified teacher. Photo by Philamer Batangan 

Robert Morse

… is confronted with that challenge every day. He works the supply side to try to meet schools’ demand. As ex­ecutive director of professional experiences, Morse man­ages everything related to internship and student teach­ing programs to ensure that Teachers College graduates are fully prepared to enter the education workforce. By the time a newly minted teacher graduates, they’ve been through a junior year, part-time internship, and a senior year res­idency of full-time teaching under the wing of a highly qualified mentor teacher. With more than 3,000 educators graduating from MLFTC every year, that’s a lot of experi­ence. And experienced educators are what Avondale ESD desperately wants.

Morse is part of Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College division of teacher prepa­ration, which is putting into action Carole Basile’s vision for developing and deploying a 21st-century education workforce. The college’s mission statement, adopted when Basile took the reins in 2016, says the Teachers College will “work with schools and community partners to design and deploy teams of professional educators that will provide the full range of expertise and personalized learning support that students need and deserve.” So if the workforce should be made of teams, not widgets, why not start deploying the teams before they’ve graduated?

Hargrove was ready.

“We reached out to several districts with the idea of placing students in our student-teaching experience in a collaborative team mod­el, and Betsy was the first to respond,” Morse said.

The new model moves away from assigning student teachers — what the college calls teacher candidates — to a one-mentor, one-teacher candidate placement.

“In Avondale,” Morse said, “we have three teacher candidates placed with a lead men­tor teacher who is one of the district’s certified teachers.

“Let’s say that lead teacher teaches second grade, and that grade level consists of four class­rooms, but one of those classrooms needs a certified teacher," Morse said. "In this model, there are three teacher candidates assigned to that lead mentor teacher, and they are respon­sible for two classrooms, so you have four adults working with 50 to 60 students.”

Morse says the idea is that the lead mentor teacher is constantly planning with and co-teaching with the teacher candidates, looking at ways to regroup the 60 students to optimally use the expertise in the room. “Those three teacher can­didates and the lead teacher are free to move between the two rooms, to maximize the time each student gets with the four adults,” Morse said.

Stacy Ellis

… sees the results of this new approach, and the chal­lenges, firsthand. She’s in her sixth year as principal of Copper Trails School, the Avondale K–8 piloting the team-teaching model. And she admits, the challenges have been many.

“It was definitely a pilot program being built and re­designed as we were going forward,” Ellis said. “We had to balance the needs of the candidates who are here to finish their education with student learning. For example, we needed to provide the teacher candidates with more planning time for them to observe their lead teach­er actually teaching, because the first day of school was their first day, too.”

A huge advantage of the new mod­el was that Ellis wasn’t just accepting student-teacher placements. “We in­terviewed all of these candidates,” she said, “so we were able to place them in a way that would have a positive im­pact on student learning.”

The candidates had to be inter­viewed because they had to apply to be employees of Avon­dale ESD, working with certificates as long-term substitutes. That’s the second trailblazing aspect of the model: These student teachers are being paid to teach.

It’s not much, everyone admits — more of a stipend than a salary. But the team of three teacher candidates is fill­ing the role of a certified teacher, so the district divides the salary set aside for that spot among the three teacher candidates on the team.

Betsy Hargrove says that was always part of her plan. She tells a story of stopping at the Home Depot after work a few years ago and being recognized by the young man at the register. “He said, ‘Aren’t you Dr. Hargrove?’ ‘Yes, I am. Aren’t you one of our student teachers?’ ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘I’m over at Wildflower School. Can I tell you what I’m going to be teaching tomorrow? I’m working here till 10 tonight, but then I’m going home and studying my lesson plan because I really want to be prepared.’”

“I thought, hold on a second,” Hargrove said. “We have this young man who’s student teaching all day long, who’s working incredibly hard with our children, who has to work after school from four until 10 o’clock at night, and then go home and do his lesson plans so he’s ready to be his absolute best for our kids.

“That’s when I wondered, how can we provide an oppor­tunity for our student teachers to be compensated for the work they’re doing so they can focus all of their efforts on what happens in our classrooms, rather than having to go out and support their families in a different way.”

Carole Basile

… has been outspoken about the need — particularly in Arizona — for a 21st-century education workforce.

“Too often, schools have to focus only on addressing immedi­ate, palliative needs,” Basile said. “With the support of the Burton Family Foundation, we’ve been able to partner with the Avondale district in a way that addresses long-term systemic issues. This work represents a significant step toward designing learning environments in which we sur­round learners with teams of professional educators who can deliver personalized learning.”

And Basile emphasizes that the concept being explored in Avondale is team teaching, not team teacher training.

“No teacher — whether a student teacher or a 10-year vet­eran — should be on an island,” Basile said. “Our pilot work in Avondale has drawn attention from a number of other districts because it has the potential to be better for both students and teachers. Ultimately, this is about developing a more sustainable educator workforce that can deliver better outcomes to learners and more rewarding careers to educators.”

Christy Burton

… says she’s excited to follow the success of the Avon­dale pilot, but she expects other, long-lasting benefits from the design labs her foundation made possible.

“There is a much deeper and richer experience that grew out of the vision of having these workshops of collected educators,” Burton said. “And when I say educators, I mean everyone who is involved in the education of students. That can be a coach, that can be somebody from a community organization that provides after-school tutoring groups; all those folks that are impacting the growth and development of students. I see the potential to take this model into other areas, and that’s something philanthropy can help with.

“These proof-of-concept projects, if they work, become the model for other schools or districts that are willing to think differently.”

Copy writer, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College


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Innovative Novus project enters its next stage of development

April 23, 2019

Hyatt hotel that broke ground Tuesday and is set to open in 2020 represents newest phase in Novus Innovation Corridor

The new hotel going up northwest of University Drive and Rural Road is part of a reimagining of the north part of the Arizona State University campus in Tempe that will draw corporate partners to the university’s knowledge enterprise, according to the chief financial officer of ASU.

“Clearly we believe this is a fantastic real estate location, but it’s so much more than that in terms of the partnerships and relationships that we foster,” Morgan R. Olsen said at the hotel’s groundbreaking ceremony on Tuesday. The hotel, a combination Hyatt House and Hyatt Place, will be directly across the street from Wells Fargo Arena.

“We’re the largest research university in the country, and we’re increasingly global,” said Olsen, who is also university executive vice president. “It’s a knowledge-based economy. That’s our fundamental core business.”

The groundbreaking marks the first project in the third phase of the Novus Innovation Corridor. The third phase will include the 259-room Hyatt hotel with a rooftop pool, as well as a six-story apartment complex focused on working professionals and an L-shaped, Class A office building that will sit just off the northwest corner of University Drive and Rural Road. The apartment and office buildings will have restaurants and retail shops on the ground floor.

The Novus Innovation Corridor is a 350-acre public-private partnership that will eventually include nearly 10 million square feet of office space, apartments, hospitality, retail and an athletics village with fields and a tennis facility.

Morgan Olsen

Morgan Olson, ASU's executive vice president, treasurer and CFO, speaks at the groundbreaking of the Novus Innovation Corridor's dual-branded Hyatt Place and Hyatt House facility on April 23 in Tempe. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Olsen said the project has evolved over time from a focus on funding athletics to creating collaborations to tie into the university’s mission.

“Part of this is intercollegiate athletics, but more important is what we do in terms of teaching and learning and research and collaboration with other organizations,” he said.

The first phase of Novus was Marina Heights, the lakeside development that includes the State Farm regional hub, and the second was the redevelopment of Sun Devil Stadium into ASU 365 Community Union, a year-round space that will host hundreds of events.

The next phase of the development is planned to be a creative office park at Rio Salado Parkway and Dorsey Lane, anchored by three large office buildings with affiliated parking. Novus hopes to attract large corporations interested in joining forces with ASU to advance collaboration and economic development. Marina Heights occupant State Farm already has partnered with the university in multiple ways.

Overall, Novus is projected to create 24,000 jobs and generate $4.6 billion in economic output at full build-out.

“Ideally, we’d like to leverage what our faculty are doing in laboratories, and it’s an opportunity for our students to learn and become entrepreneurs. This is a place for that to happen, and we think it’s part of the university’s mission to facilitate that,” Olsen said.

“Our charter is about assuming responsibility for the economic and overall health of our communities, and this is a physical manifestation of that.”

Hyatt hotel rendering

The eight-story, 259-room hotel, located on northeast corner of Veterans Way and Sixth Street in Tempe, is scheduled to be open in the summer of 2020. Artist rendering  

The hotel-apartment-office complex on the northwest corner of University and Rural will be connected via a pedestrian bridge to the Interdisciplinary Science and Technology Building 7, which is being constructed on the southwest corner of that intersection. ISTB7 will house the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the School for the Future of Innovation in Society and research labs.

“We’re trying to make sure there’s a lot of connectivity between what happens on campus and in the Novus Innovation Corridor, literally and figuratively,” Olsen said.

“The south side (of University Drive) is where our faculty and others are working on discovering new ideas, and we hope we’ll see the application of those ideas on the north side.”

The Novus development, which could take a period of years to complete and will change the face of the Rural Road area south of Tempe Town Lake, had its origins almost a decade ago. In 2010, the state Legislature passed a bill allowing the three state universities to create athletic facilities districts. Jan Brewer, governor at the time, signed it into law. The concept allows private developers to build on university land, which is exempt from property taxes under the state constitution. In return, the companies make additional rent payments to the university in lieu of property taxes, and that money is spent on athletics facilities.

The master developer for the Novus Innovation Corridor is Catellus Development Corp. Charley Freericks, senior vice president of Catellus and an ASU alumnus, said that the multiyear completion timeline takes into account the natural ups and downs in a local economy. It is a project that has drawn national interest.

“There’s nothing like it in the country,” Freericks said. “There are smaller versions at remote and urban campuses, but it’s a rare opportunity to have 350 acres of land adjacent to a successful urban university. By land area alone, it’s bigger than anything in the country, and its urban setting, adjacent to freeway, rail and less than 2 miles from an international airport — you just don’t find this anywhere else.” 

“Companies all over the region are drawn to being near ASU. They want to be near the employee generation that’s happening as you produce graduates. That’s the No. 1 topic for every company that’s relocated lately.”

novus groundbreaking

Officials from ASU, Mortenson Construction, Catellus Development, the city of Tempe and Hyatt Hotels toss the ceremonial first dirt at the groundbreaking on April 23. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Ray Anderson, ASU’s vice president for university athletics, said he was impressed by the plan when he came to ASU five years ago.

“I thought it was a very creative way of utilizing very valuable property around the university to create an urban work-live-play environment, with the thought that the in-lieu payments generated would go toward supporting expansion of athletics,” he said.

Changes to Sun Devil Athletics facilities include:

• A new 4,500-seat multipurpose arena for the hockey, gymnastics and volleyball teams, to be built near Wells Fargo Arena, which will be renovated.

• A new Athletic Village, which will include a track and field facility, multipurpose fields for intramural student sports and intercollegiate use, and a tennis facility. Karsten Golf Course will close next month to make way for the village and other future developments. The site of the current tennis courts, on the northwest corner of Rural Road and Sixth Street, ultimately is slated to become apartments.

• Renovations and a new clubhouse and practice facility at Papago Golf Course, now home to the Sun Devils men’s and women’s golf teams.

Anderson said that the football stadium renovation and new facilities have boosted recruiting.

“But it’s also a strong indicator to the other student-athletes that the new facilities are on the rise and not just an empty promise,” he said.

Olsen said that other universities with high-level athletics programs get state money for facilities.

“That would not happen in our state, so this is the tool that the governor and Legislature provided to us,” he said.

The goal is to create a project that will thrive for decades.

“Ideally, we want this to reflect the best principles of sustainability and new urbanism,” Olsen said.

“We want people to live close to where they work, so they have to be attracted to the amenities that are provided.”

Mayor Mark Mitchell

"This Novus Innovation Corridor builds on the work that we have been doing in the city of Tempe for many decades," Mayor Mark Mitchell said Tuesday at the groundbreaking. "Our investments in Tempe Town Lake, light rail and the street car that’s now under construction have made this type of project a reality for everyone here. This will provide the lifestyle experience that fits into our urban core in the city of Tempe." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now 

Tempe Mayor Mark Mitchell said that Novus is the latest in decades of collaboration between the city and ASU.

“Think about Tempe Town Lake — when I was a kid, it was a dry riverbed. It was landfill,” he said.

“It took an idea from an ASU class and the vision from the city, and then working with state and federal entities, to make that dream a reality,” he said.

“We funded it up front and people were like, ‘Oh my gosh.’ Well, since the lake’s inception, there has been $1.7 billion of capital investment around the lake and 40,000 people live and work there.”

Top image: An artist's rendering of the Novus Innovation Corridor.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Keep on writing on, downtown Phoenix

"No matter where you go in Phoenix, you still see the desert."
Urban underground art influenced redesign of lit journal Write On, Downtown.
April 23, 2019

Relaunch of formerly student-centric literary journal Write On, Downtown to be more inclusive of the community it represents

Among the uninitiated, Phoenix might conjure less-than-savory thoughts of suburban sprawl, ecological challenges or a dearth of history.

But the truth is every place has its own unique stories to tell, rooted in the lives of those who call it home.

This Friday, the relaunch of Write On, Downtown, the long-running literary journal that originated on Arizona State University's Downtown Phoenix campus, endeavors to prove that point. The relaunch event will take place at noon at Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix and is free and open to the public.

“You're going to know that it represents Phoenix before you even open it,” said Rosemarie Dombrowski, senior lecturer of English at ASU and one of the founders of the journal.

Since it got its start in 2006, Dombrowski has guided Write On, Downtown’s evolution from “a journal of student writing on the downtown campus” to “a journal of student and community writing on the downtown campus” to its current iteration as “a journal of Phoenix writing” — full stop.

The decision to begin including writing from community members in addition to students — and to forgo the distinction in the journal’s subtitle — felt natural and necessary, she said, “because student or civilian, we're all part of the Phoenix community.”

In order to create something that felt like a more authentic reflection of the city and its people, Dombrowski partnered with Assistant Professor Danielle Foushee, whose design students collaborated with Dombrowski’s to give the journal a new look.

While Dombrowski’s students read, sorted and edited dozens of submissions, Foushee’s read the ones that made the final cut and toured the city, riding the light rail from end to end, for inspiration.

Digital culture senior Damon Amato was struck by the landscape and plant life, basing his black and white cover and layout design around that.

“No matter where you go in Phoenix, you still see the desert,” he said.

Before they started designing, Foushee gave her students a crash course in urban underground art. They studied psychedelia, hip-hop and punk with an eye toward giving the journal more of a DIY-zine aesthetic.

“We wanted to make it more exciting and responsive to the content,” Foushee said. “We wanted it to really convey what it means to be urban in Phoenix.”

Valley resident David Chorlton knows a bit about that. He lived near the intersection of Central Avenue and McDowell Road for 38 years. Three of his poems are featured in the latest issue of Write On, Downtown, and one pays homage to the grackles he used to observe on Grand Avenue.

Originally from Austria, Chorlton lived in various cities throughout Europe before moving to Phoenix in the 1970s, where he became fascinated with the wildlife of the desert.

Coming from a continent where ancient history is a part of everyday life, it was an adjustment learning to appreciate the sometimes subtle beauty and nuances of a city that has been criticized for lacking culture. Today, it’s one of his favorite subjects to write about and having an outlet to express that is something he believes has the power to strengthen communal bonds.

“We sometimes underestimate the places we live in,” he said. “But we still have people who are trying to make it together in a community, and I think literature of any kind serves to give a new kind of insight into the place where we live.”

Central Phoenix resident Bonnie Murphy agrees.

“It is absolutely essential that we have writing and reading communities in every single city,” she said. “We all need to be heard and we all need to read the voices of others. We all need to be understood and to understand.”

On a recent Monday in March, Dombrowski and Foushee’s students came together in a classroom on the Tempe campus to finalize their cover and layout design choice. Spanning an entire wall of the room were illustrations depicting technicolor saguaros, bustling light rail trains and cityscapes silhouetted by clear, star-studded night skies.

Dombrowski was admittedly torn. “You guys have made this decision really hard,” she said.

Head to Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix this Friday to see the final design and pick up a copy for yourself.

Top photo: Assistant Professor Danielle Foushee pins one of her student's designs to a wall. Photo by Charlie Leight, ASU Now

ASU students gamify sustainability education with Kahoot! quizzes

April 22, 2019

As part of Arizona State University’s efforts to advance sustainability education for K–12 students, a faculty-led student group created a suite of Kahoot! games to teach sustainability concepts. Kahoot! is a widely used platform to play fun, educational games called “kahoots” that are popular in classrooms and other group settings.

Through a new capstone workshop called “Innovation in Science Communication,” three undergraduate School of Sustainability students created nine quizzes for a new Kahoot! campaign, ASU Sustainable Futures. Topics include designing for our future, environment, sustainable food, social justice and energy. The students were responsible for developing the content and then demoing the kahoots in several middle school classes. Elementary school students play online Kahoot! games to learn about sustainability. Download Full Image

“This was a wonderful experience for me, and I would definitely do it again,” said Silje Beattie, who is set to graduate in May with a Bachelor of Science in sustainability and a minor in applied biological sciences. “My favorite part was finally getting to see all of our hard work go out into the real world when we visited the middle school to present our quizzes. It was a very rewarding project!”

This unique workshop is led by Stephanie Pfirman, a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability and a professor in the School of Sustainability. Pfirman said she wanted to create a partnership between ASU and Kahoot! because of her work with the company last year as a faculty member at Columbia University. Teachers love Kahoot!, she said, because it is free to use, the format can be adapted to different content, and students enjoy learning through the games.

“I was so excited about the reach of the platform — with more than 50% of U.S. schoolchildren using a kahoot monthly — that I contacted Kahoot! EDU's general manager, Craig Narveson, and we decided to partner on a new campaign to coincide with Earth Day 2019,” Pfirman said, adding that Christopher Boone, dean of the School of Sustainability, was happy to support the capstone workshop because its benefits extend far beyond the walls of ASU.

Narveson said that Kahoot! is pleased to partner with ASU students creating kahoots, given the alignment of this student-led approach with one of the company’s core concepts, “learners to leaders.” Leveraging this concept in the classroom, student learners can become leaders through kahoot game creation and subsequent presentation to their peers.

“Numerous career opportunities in the future will emerge from areas related to sustainability, and I’m excited that the kahoots from ASU may spark young students’ curiosity to explore them,” Narveson added.

The ASU Sustainable Futures campaign launched on April 5. As of April 23, the quizzes had reached a total of nearly 300,000 players. Pfirman said the futures theme for the campaign was inspired by and aligned with ASU’s new Global Futures initiative, which aims to strategically plan a sustainable future that ensures human well-being.

Peter Schlosser, one of the world’s leading earth and environmental scientists who is vice president and vice provost of Global FuturesPeter Schlosser is also a distinguished sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. He holds joint appointments as the University Professor of Global Futures in the School of Sustainability, the School of Earth and Space Exploration in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment in the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering., said: “It is clear that people are curious about the opportunities and challenges that are lying ahead in their daily lives as well as larger issues such as the habitability of our planet as whole.”

To expand the reach of the Kahoot! campaign, Pfirman partnered with another project at ASU called 24 Hours of Sustainability — an all-day social media event that broadcast on Earth Day through the School of Sustainability's Facebook. This event was a video series designed to reach teachers, students and practitioners with inspiring stories of simple actions to impact a sustainable tomorrow and to achieve the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals. 24 Hours of Sustainability was a collaboration between ASU and Wells Fargo and was led by Lara Ferry, a distinguished sustainability scientist in the ASU Wrigley Institute and director of ASU’s School of Mathematical and Natural Sciences, where she is also a president’s professor.

During the 24 Hours of Sustainability broadcast, a video about the ASU Sustainable Futures kahoots ran in the “Students Making a Difference” segment, and a different kahoot was featured at the end of every hour so viewers from around the world could play together and see how they ranked. All of the videos and resources shown during the broadcast are available on a new webpage.

Boone said that all of these collaborative, openly shared projects contribute to the larger goal of making sustainability a core part of K–12 education.

“Building a global mindset, but at the same time recognizing that you can do something as an individual, is one of the key things that we need to get across in education for sustainability,” Boone said.

Video: Introduction to Kahoot! as an educational tool, featuring Stephanie Pfirman

Kayla Frost

Associate Editor, Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


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Majority of Flinn Scholars heading to ASU

April 19, 2019

Merit-based award offers full ride to university, two study-abroad experiences and a seminar in China to state's top students

What schools do Arizona’s highest-achieving high school seniors have their eyes on? Harvard? Yale? Princeton?

None of the above, and a little closer to home.

Arizona State University.

Twenty of Arizona’s best secondary school students have been named 2019 Flinn Scholars, and each will receive scholarships valued at more than $122,000 to one of the state’s three public research universities, the Flinn Foundation announced Friday.

And a majority of those scholars — 11 in all — are choosing ASUOf the 20 new Flinn Scholars, the breakdown is: 11 for ASU, 8 for UofA and one for NAU. over the University of Arizona and Northern Arizona University.

“I could have gone to Fordham, Harvard or Stanford, but I would have never been able to have the amazing opportunities that will be offered to me at ASU,” said Amanda Schuerman, a senior at Gilbert Classical Academy. “I also chose ASU because of the variety of extracurricular activities, and it’s the university that will best prepare me for the career I want to pursue.”

“Taking the Flinn Scholarship was the best decision for me.”

Young lady in a blazer

Amanda Schuerman

Schuerman is a member of the 34th class of Flinn Scholars to receive a merit-based award. Recipients will receive a full scholarship that covers the cost of eight semesters of tuition, fees, housing and meals and provides funding for at least two study abroad experiences, as well as a three-week seminar in China and a weeklong retreat in Sedona before the start of the 2019 fall semester, plus additional benefits.

The 2019 class named a variety of areas of study in their applications, including Mandarin, biochemistry, psychology, economics, mechanical and environmental engineering, mathematics, nursing, agribusiness, philosophy, biomedical science and computer science.

The Flinn Scholars Program, supported by the Phoenix-based Flinn Foundation in partnership with the universities, selected the scholars from a record-high 894 applications, or an award rate of 2.2%. The typical Flinn Scholar achieves at least a 3.5 grade-point average, ranks in the top 5% of his or her class and demonstrates exceptional leadership in extracurricular activities.

The years of hard work were worth it, said Schuerman, who usually awoke each morning at 3:30 a.m. to maintain her 4.0 grade-point average.

“It was a challenge in the beginning to find a balance between school, work and everything outside of school,” said Schuerman, who is planning on joining Activism for Our Lives @ ASU, a civics group her friend recently founded.

Five high schools are celebrating their first Flinn Scholar in 2019, including Maricopa High School — thanks to the efforts of senior Chandler Chang. He contemplated studying mathematics and chemical engineering at Stanford University, but the scholarship and its additional perks instantly changed his mind.

Young man in glasses

Chandler Chang

“Financial stability is great, but now I have resources, the people, the connections and everything I need to connect with the professional world,” said Chang, who wants to join an ASU Academic Bowl team and possibly the Sun Devil Marching Band when he gets to the university. “This is a one-of-a-kind scholarship that gives you access to world-class professors. … I’m so happy.”

ASU’s 2019 Flinn Scholars

Amanda Abdelsamad, Corona Del Sol High School

Jason Bautista Pejay, Tempe High School

Chandler Chang, Maricopa High School

Cameron Decker, Arizona Agribusiness & Equine Center

Jordan Harb, Mountain View High School

Katie Pascavis, Basha High School

Kyle Polen, Chaparral High School

Andrea Ramirez Cordero, Glendale High School

Nathaniel Ross, Mesa High School

Amanda Schuerman, Gilbert Classical Academy

Joe Thomas, Ironwood High School

Top photo: Courtesy of Arizona State University

Reporter , ASU Now