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PhD student passes Miss Arizona Latina crown to W. P. Carey junior

April 19, 2019

"Our culture is our biggest pride, and that pride will be our success."

That is the phrase Yulissa Felix kept repeating throughout her journey as a contestant in the Miss Arizona Latina competition, a journey that will soon take her across the country to compete in the Miss U.S. Latina pageant. Yulissa Felix, right, was named the winner of the Miss Arizona Latina competition last month. Felix wears a floor-lenght hot pink gown with a slit up the leg. She is holding flowers and wearing a crown. Next to her is the teen pageant winner, in white. W. P. Carey School of Business junior Yulissa Felix (right) was crowned the winner of the Miss Arizona Latina competition last month. Next to her is the winner of the teen pageant. Photo by Gorka Gava Photography Download Full Image

Felix, a junior in the W. P. Carey School of Business pursuing bachelor’s degrees in management and human resources, was named the winner of the Miss Arizona Latina competition last month. She was crowned by the previous year’s titleholder, Nancy Gomez, who is a doctoral student in Spanish with a specialization in Mexican American literature.

Felix originally wanted to wait until after she graduated from ASU to enter the competition, but she said Gomez inspired her to enter this year. Felix said she was shocked when she heard her name called as the winner of the pageant, but that her initial surprise quickly melted into pride and gratitude.

“I worked hard and prepared myself for this competition, and it felt good knowing that it was reflected on stage,” Felix said. “I feel super honored to have been given the privilege to represent our Arizona Latina women this year.”

She also represents ASU through a number of extracurricular activities. Felix works in the front office of the School of International Letters and Cultures. She is the president of Sigma Lambda Gamma, a multicultural sorority, and is involved with the Fraternity and Sorority Life sexual violence prevention program. She is also a member of the Hispanic Business Students Association.

Gomez, who went on to win the Miss U.S. Latina pageant as well last year, said Felix is the perfect candidate to take over her title.

“I truly believe that she is very deserving of the title,” Gomez said. “She is a very intelligent and confident woman, active in her community and, most importantly, she embraces her Latino heritage to the maximum.”

Felix also received the Miss Excellence Award at the pageant, which is given to the contestant with the best interview. In August, she will travel to Atlanta to participate in the Miss U.S. Latina competition.

“With the help of the Miss Arizona Latina team, I will prepare myself for this national competition in the hope of bringing the crown back to Arizona, just like Nancy Gomez did a year ago,” Felix said. “For me, the crown represents how proud I am of being a minority woman, a Latina. It represents the growth we have had from generation to generation.”

Kimberly Koerth

Content Writer, School of International Letters and Cultures

ASU School of Music joins community partners for Harmony Bridge ASU intergenerational program

April 19, 2019

Arizona State University School of Music education, performance and therapy areas recently joined forces with community partners Kyrene Aprende Middle School and Sunrise Senior Living Community to launch Harmony Bridge ASU, a collaborative intergenerational community music partnership.

Musician Michael Levine founded Harmony Bridge, a multifaceted program that connects young students and the elderly through music. He modeled it after Dallas Brass, an international brass and percussion ensemble — also founded by Levine — to bring music to people in their own communities. senior center residents Sunrise Senior Living Community residents. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now Download Full Image

“My original idea was bringing music to seniors, but I realized there were so many more layers,” said Levine. “Middle school students develop a new sense of purpose — a new sense of why they play — and discover that they can continue playing the rest of their lives.”

Thanks to grant funding from the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts Dean’s Creativity Council, several School of Music faculty joined Harmony Bridge in a new partnership with Levine. Faculty participating in the project include Jill Sullivan, associate professor of instrumental music education; Deanna Swoboda, associate professor in tuba performance and longtime acquaintance of Levine, having performed for six years with Dallas Brass; and Melita Belgrave, associate professor in music therapy.

The band program at Kyrene Aprende Middle School, led by alumna Tracy Werner (BMUS ’93 and MM ’00), was selected as the middle school applicant to join the partnership.

As part of the Harmony Bridge program, Aprende band students, Levine and ASU music students and faculty participated in a three-day immersion that included music collaborations and intergenerational skill-building activities and culminated in a performance for senior residents at Sunrise Senior Living in early February.

Harmony Bridge is a threefold approach to music: a teaching method for band directors, a learning process for students and an experiential activity for seniors.

ASU music education students volunteering to work with the middle school students will model musicianship and practice their applications of teaching by facilitating students learning to rehearse, play and improve together. Harmony Bridge ASU also gives ASU students job-related experience by providing them with real-life opportunities while still in school.

“It provides an opportunity for our students to engage skillfully in community musicmaking, to be more confident in their musicmaking skills and to improve how students interact with different age groups in the community,” said Swoboda. “Music education in the ASU School of Music is leading the way, training 21st-century college musicians to think differently about music education.”

Belgrave said the program will also benefit music therapy students at ASU as well as improve attitudes toward aging and the aging process.  

“ASU music therapy students will experience the benefits of intergenerational programming and how to make sure that both the younger and older generations’ needs are met,” said Belgrave. “Middle school students will learn how to interact musically and nonmusically with older adults in their community.”  

Sullivan said she hopes the partnership instills the love of performing chamber music in middle school students.

“This experience is critical for young musicians to develop their individual skills of sight-reading, musicianship, personal self-confidence and self-accomplishment as an autonomous musicmaker,” said Sullivan. “Students become lifelong musicians confident to enjoy playing alone and with others.”

Harmony Bridge will provide the middle school students to chance to participate in small instrumental ensembles that Swoboda said “cultivates better musicians, develops leadership skills and helps younger musicians discover the power of music.”

“Even in its early stages, I could tell that the program had a great deal of potential to impact school band programs and the larger communities of which they are part,” said Blake Ryall, a doctoral student in music performance who volunteers as a teaching assistant for the program.

Werner, a 25-year veteran band teacher, has been teaching band at Aprende for 21 years and said she is excited to embrace Harmony Bridge as part of her band program.

Aprende Middle School students

Students laugh and smile during the first performance of the Harmony Bridge ASU program at Sunrise Senior Living in Chandler in February. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

“We asked for 25 students to participate in the program and had 42 sixth- to eighth-graders sign up,” said Werner. “The students are really excited to be part of the Harmony Bridge program and have already formed an after-school club.”

ASU students will assist the band director and Aprende students at rehearsals and performances as part of the program.

“I volunteered because it seemed like a really cool opportunity to meet with senior citizens and it’s an excellent music opportunity,” said Hailey, an Aprende eighth-grade band student.

“The event at the senior center with middle school students spoke not only to the potential for music to bridge different generations and demographics together, but also advocated the applications of getting ensembles out of their rehearsal space and into the community,” said Ryall.

The Harmony Bridge program has planned another concert with the students at Sunrise Senior Living before the end of the school year.

Harmony Bridge currently has nine other schools participating in the program throughout the United States.

Lynne MacDonald

communications specialist, School of Music


2019 Economic Outlook Luncheon: Speakers will share what's in store for Phoenix area next year

April 19, 2019

Arizona is among the leading states for job creation in construction, manufacturing and information technology, and population growth is expected to exceed 100,000 new residents this year. Wage increases in the Phoenix area are now outpacing peer Western metros.

Is this stellar growth sustainable in the face of gathering headwinds at the national level? How will the Arizona economy fare in 2020? Can the state build affordable housing to support population growth? What are the odds of a recession? Men at table Mark Stapp (left) and Lee McPheters listen as Dennis Hoffman addresses a question following their projections at the annual Economic Outlook luncheon, put on by the Economic Club of Phoenix, on May 3, 2018. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

Top experts from the W. P. Carey School of Business will answer these questions about the state and nation at the annual Economic Outlook Luncheon, presented by the Economic Club of Phoenix.

Featured speakers

Dennis Hoffman, professor of economics and director of the Seidman Research Institute, will examine recent national trends and discusses the factors that will influence those trends going forward.

Lee McPheters, research professor of economics and director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center, will offer a first look at the year ahead for Arizona and the Phoenix metro area, along with an update on year-to-date performance in 2019.

Mark Stapp, Fred E. Taylor Professor in Real Estate and executive director of the Master of Real Estate Development program, will explain the concerns over affordable housing amid the rapid growth in home prices.

Event details

When: 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Thursday, May 2.

Where: The Scottsdale Resort at McCormick Ranch, 7700 E. McCormick Parkway, Scottsdale, Arizona

Register: wpcarey.asu.edu/economic-club

Media note: Prior to the luncheon, Hoffman, McPheters and Stapp are available for on-site interviews from 10 to 11 a.m. Reporters and photojournalists are asked to RSVP in advance of the event by emailing shay.moser@asu.edu, managing editor for ASU’s W. P. Carey School of Business.

Shay Moser

Managing Editor, W. P. Carey School of Business


Sí, se puede! Maryvale mural unveiling brings community together

April 16, 2019

It’s a typically gorgeous spring morning in Phoenix. Families paint color on a drab brick wall as others visit nearby booths and food trucks. Cumbia music and announcements pump out of speakers overhead.

Shaded by tents are representatives from local organizations who talk to visitors about health, financial services and more. Serving as both a backdrop and a centerpiece of the scene is a giant, vibrant, colorful mural depicting an intergenerational Latinx family and the Maryvale community where the artwork resides. Crowd sits and stands in front of stage set up in front of mural Attendees gathered for the formal mural unveiling, with special guest speakers and representatives from the community partners who worked to make the mural a reality. Photo by Alexis Bojorquez Download Full Image

The March 31 event fittingly held on Cesar Chavez Day is the official unveiling of a mural by artist Isaac Caruso in collaboration with Arizona State University's School of Social Work, its Survivor Link AmeriCorps program, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and community partner Chicanos Por La Causa (CPLC).

The 25-foot-tall and 130-foot-wide mural faces the CPLC’s Centro De La Familia, a community center in Maryvale located at 67th Avenue and Indian School Road. It was painted on the east-facing wall of the AAMCO building that shares the center’s parking lot.

The project was initially conceived by Seth Wilson, a Survivor Link student working to complete his Master of Social Work degree at ASU. Wilson currently interns at CPLC as a social work clinician and had the inspiration for the project while parking in front of the giant green wall next to the center.

“I was just, like, we need something that's more welcoming to our clients and staff and the community as a whole,” Wilson said.

Wilson collaborated with CPLC to develop the concept and connect with the artist, writing up a proposal that would serve as the thematic foundation of the artwork.

In it, he wanted to include Cesar Chavez, as well as a tie-in to CPLC's mission statement to help individuals become economically and politically empowered and self-sufficient a key component of which, Wilson felt, is family and community support.

“I wanted to include that, because you're all from a family, no matter what it looks like,” Wilson said.

About an hour into the festival, crowds gathered near a platform and podium set before the mural. Speakers included representatives from the School of Social Work and CPLC, local community activists and even Cesar Chavez’s former bodyguard, who served as emcee of the event.

Pedro Cons, executive vice president of integrated health and human services at CPLC, spoke to the many transformations Maryvale has experienced over the last 40 years. For him, the project and the partnerships with ASU all come down to community.

“We're very proud that we were able to come in and help with some of the revitalization of the community. And, a mural like this, I think, just brings a community together in a bigger way,” Cons said.

The theme of the day was what people can accomplish when they are empowered to positively shape their community, working both at the grassroots and community policy levels to achieve social justice.

Caruso was chosen due to his previous experience with murals, as well as managing and including volunteers as a part of the painting project.

Painting began on Martin Luther King Jr. Day an annual Day of Service for AmeriCorps members which made Cesar Chavez day a fitting bookend for a scene connected with themes of social justice. The 75 AmeriCorps members from the School of Social Work Survivor Link program came in shifts to assist with painting and helped to plan the unveiling community event.

“The image is a reminder of the strength and resilience of Latinx families and their positive role in the greater Phoenix community,” said Jill Messing, an associate professor in the ASU School of Social Work and director of the Office of Gender-Based Violence, which houses the Survivor Link program.

The project is indicative of how Watts College is engaging with the Maryvale community overall supporting and recognizing local efforts to bring to life collaborative initiatives like this mural. Watts, through the Maryvale One Square Mile Initiative, is seeking more opportunities to connect ASU’s programs and resources to create a positive and lasting impact on the community.   

Lisa Rolland-Keith

Communications Specialist, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


Students, professionals in parks and recreation team up for co-learning experience

April 15, 2019

College students, professionals and high school students came together to learn, network and tackle community problems at the third annual SPARK conference in March. The yearly event is coordinated by students within the Arizona State University School of Community Resources and Development with assistance from the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association and the Arizona State Therapeutic Recreation Association.

This year’s event theme, “It Takes a Village,” offered attendees a chance to learn how different professions have successfully worked together to build stronger communities and to apply their knowledge through case studies. Parks and recreation professionals and students stand in a circle on the grass for an activity-based workshop Parks and recreation professionals and students participate in an activity-based workshop. Download Full Image

Eric Legg, assistant professor in the school, a unit of Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, said the event provides an opportunity for students to interact with professionals and see how what they learn in school can be applied outside the classroom walls. “One of our major goals is to give students a chance to network and be mentored by professionals,” he said.

The one-day event began with a networking breakfast, followed by a choice of team-building activities or a professional panel. Attendees then came together for the opening session, where the keynote speaker, John Sefton, community services director for the city of Peoria, talked about the importance of passion in pursuing one’s career.

Ryanne Mueller, the Parks and Recreation Student Association president, noted that, “John’s engagement with the audience set the tone for the whole day. He lit up the room and visibly sparked passion within the students and professionals.” Following his address, event organizers honored Sefton with the SPARK award for his ongoing inspiration and support of students.

Following the keynote, attendees participated in their choice of various 20-minute educational sessions. Each session highlighted how individuals from different professional backgrounds such as tourism, nonprofit management and communications work together to build stronger communities.

After a networking lunch, attendees broke out for the culminating activity: case studies based on actual situations faced by cities and towns across Arizona. Students were provided with two options for the case studies and in each they applied their learning alongside professionals in the field. In one session, students competed against each other to see who could come up with the best solution. Staff from the city of Phoenix helped facilitate and judge this competition based on a rubric that included how well the solution incorporated different professional approaches. Students who wanted a more collaborative environment could choose a second session where multiple groups worked together on the same problem to develop the ideal solution.

“The case studies were definitely the best part of the day," said Wilber Valencia, a community sport management major. "It was fun to work together to come up with solutions to these problems.”

Over 100 students and professionals attended this year’s event, including students from a local high school.

“The inclusion of high school students this year was great for all of us," said Krista VanderMolen, deputy director of the Arizona Parks and Recreation Association. "They were excited to be paired with a college counterpart and were fully engaged throughout the day.”

As any conference planner can attest, it is no easy task, but Legg summed up the payoffs of events like the SPARK conference: “The planning process can be exhausting, but at the end of the day, seeing high school students, college students and professionals networking and learning from each other makes it all worth it.”

Summary provided by Eric Legg

Community partnership supports local teens in learning the ins and outs of courtroom procedure

April 15, 2019

During February and March, the Valley of the Sun YMCA in partnership with Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions hosted its inaugural Youth and Government Judicial Conferences. During these conferences, over 70 teens from across Arizona learned courtroom procedure, how to take a case to trial and how to present both the prosecution and defense. Using the 2019 Youth and Government assigned case, students simulated a criminal trial proceeding, participating as attorneys, judges, bailiffs and witnesses.

During the first phase of the semester, attorneys from the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office joined the YMCA to offer hands-on and real-life training to students. The attorney volunteers taught students when and how to object during a trial, how to present evidence during a trial and the key components needed when trying to prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Large group of high school student participants in judicial conference poses in front of ASU logo in Concho Room Over 70 teens participated in the YMCA's Youth and Government Judicial Conferences.

At the competition conference in March, the students put their learning into practice as teams participated in several rounds of trial. Through the scores of evaluators, two teams were announced as the winners of their respective age brackets.

Watts College provided the YMCA’s Youth and Government program classroom and conference space downtown as courtrooms for the trainings, trials and deliberations.

“The YMCA is excited to continue our judicial program, and we look forward to working with Watts College in the future,” said Brooke Baumer Saldivar, Valley of the Sun YMCA’s youth and civic outreach director. 

Summary courtesy of Brooke Baumer Saldivar

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Carbon Free Day: Do your part

Shorten your shower, drive less, buy local foods for April 17 Carbon Free Day.
April 11, 2019

Bike to work, take the stairs, eat a plant-based meal: New signature event for Earth Month encourages ASU community to make pledge

Glaciers melting. Record storms. Rising sea levels. Problems quite off the human scale.

What can little old you do about all of that?

Quite a bit, it turns out. And that is the point of Arizona State University’s Carbon Free Day on April 17: to demonstrate small things everyone can do on a daily or weekly basis that add up.

"ASU is a major force in the area of sustainability education," said Stefanie Lindquist, deputy provost and vice president for academic affairs. "So I like the idea of our active participation in this Carbon Free Day. As such a large institution, we could save putting a lot of carbon into the atmosphere if we committed ourselves to a day of active efforts to reduce our collective carbon footprint."

ASU is committed to becoming climate positive by 2035. The university has made great strides to reduce its carbon emissions since making that pledge. Total emissions are down 28% compared with a 2007 baseline.

“That’s despite the fact we’ve added over 40% gross square footage and almost 31% in our student population in that same period,” said Corey Hawkey, assistant director of University Sustainability Practices. “We’re on the path to meet our goal, but there is still work to be done. It’s part of the reason we’re doing this day. … We’ve made great progress, and it’s something we should all be appreciative of.”

The university — staff, students, faculty and physical buildings together — is estimated to emit about 768 tons of carbon per day. One day of emissions is the equivalent of more than 131,000 average one-way commutes. It’s also close to 24 days of air conditioning in an average-size home. Or, looking through the lens of food, about 232,000 servings of beef.

“That hopefully gives some perspective on how large our emissions are, but also what an impact just a day makes,” Hawkey said.

ASU will be purchasing carbon offsets and planting 218 trees to mitigate the university’s emissions for the day. Join the commitment by making a pledge for Carbon Free Day to reduce carbon emissions. Choose from transportation, food and energy pledge categories or create your own.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”  — Gandalf, "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Mind you, none of these involve moving into a yurt, biking to Tempe from Buckeye or quitting bacon forever.

“It was important for us to come up with some unique pledges people might not be thinking about, like keeping adequate air pressure in your tires, so your car drives more efficiently and you use less gas,” said Susan Norton, program manager of Sustainability Practices.

Transportation pledges include riding a bike, creating a meal plan to cut down on trips to the store during the week or being an energy-efficient driver. The latter means starting and stopping more slowly and keeping a steady speed. You can keep a ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere just on these alone (the same amount a tree in Arizona absorbs during 10 years), plus you’ll save a lot of money on gas.

Student Casey Rapacki rides a bike 15 minutes each way to campus every day.

“It helps me get some daily activity in, allows me to come and go as I please — no catching the bus! — had a one-time fee and does not contribute to daily car traffic or greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. 

She has also run into fellow School of Sustainability friends on their bikes.

“We all rode our bikes together,” she said. “We were kind of like a biker gang, except fuel-efficient and harmless.”

JC Porter is a bicycling beast. Assistant director of University Parking and Transit Services, Porter commutes 20 miles each way to the Tempe campus, five days a week. “If I am feeling lazy, I commute 7 miles each way to the Polytech campus,” Porter said.

Deservedly, Porter won Tempe’s 2018 Bike Hero award.

Jonathan Kelman, an instructor in the School of Sustainability, rides to work at least four days a week. He gets to think; he saves money on gas, car maintenance and parking; and it’s faster than battling rush hour traffic. Another bonus: “I can commute in to campus on my mountain bike, teach class and then hit the trails in Papago Park north of campus, and ride back home. There may be a burrito involved on the return trip. That's hard to beat!”

Let’s address the obvious excuse against biking right off the bat: The Tempe campus has two free places to shower — the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and Wrigley Hall.

When it comes to food pledges, you don’t have to go vegan, even though one plant-based meal during the week won’t kill anyone. Buy some local groceries from a farmers market. Don’t waste food. Cut down on beef by eating a rack of baby back ribs or a fried chicken. Most emissions from meat production come in the form of methane gas, which cows breathe and excrete via their manure. Eating chicken or pork helps reduce emissions. Who’s not down for ribs?

The point is to commit to make whatever small changes you can.

“Everybody plays a role in it,” Hawkey said.

View the Carbon Free Day pledge choices on the Earth Month website.

Top image: School of Sustainability students and staff bike on the Tempe campus on April 4. Image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Engineering a better world with girl power

April 11, 2019

Students from ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools open their doors to youth from across the Valley

Nearly 200 girls from Girl Scout troops and schools around the Phoenix metropolitan area stormed Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for GEAR Day on Saturday, March 30.

GEAR Day is an outreach initiative hosted by ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter. The event offers girls and boys a glimpse into science and engineering through interactive activities and design challenges, such as building solar cars and experimenting with buoyancy. Participants from second to 12th grade have the chance to explore new interests and see the impact of science and engineering on everyday life.

“Engineering is all about using different tools to solve issues facing society,” said Elizabeth Jones, the outreach coordinator for ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter and an electrical engineering major in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “If girls like building things, creating new tools and using their imagination to solve problems, we should encourage them to do so through engineering.”

This year’s event had a sustainability theme to help girls and boys understand how the work of engineers can be applied to practical applications and prominent issues in the world. The participants learned about the importance of clean drinking water from the crisis in Flint, Michigan; the need to protect marine life from oil spills and the demand for renewable energy as a clean alternative to power the world.

Equipped with newfound knowledge, the participants put their skills to the test and started building solutions. They created water filtration systems, devised methods to clean up oil pollution and constructed solar-powered cars.

girl scouts standing with Sparky the Sun Devil

Girl Scout Emma Rice (right) and other troop members pose with Sparky after a morning filled with interactive activities and design challenges at GEAR Day, an outreach event hosted by Arizona State University’s Society of Women Engineers. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

“Too many girls believe they can’t do engineering simply because they are a girl,” said Kamawela Leka, a volunteer at the event and a biomedical engineering major in the Fulton Schools. “It’s important to inspire these young girls to pursue engineering because the more minds we have tackling some of today’s biggest problems, the better we have a chance to solve them.”

Girl Scout troop leader Roberta Rice and her daughter, Emma, have been attending GEAR Day for about eight years. She believes the event dispels common misconceptions about science and engineering: It’s for boys, it’s boring or it’s too difficult for girls. She says it’s important for girls to know these fields are fun.

“I love GEAR Day,” said Emma Rice, a sophomore at Highland High School and a Girl Scout member. “You get a taste of everything. When I was very young, I built a catapult and solar-powered car. Now, I’m creating a device to help the ocean get rid of oil and trash — a serious problem for the Earth today.”

In addition to solving pressing societal needs, Emma Rice enjoys meeting new people and learning how to collaborate and work as a team. These are critical components of the engineering design process.

“An engineering tool to solve a problem is only as strong as the diversity of the team that creates it,” Jones said.

Jones grew up in a small town where the idea of a female in engineering wasn’t accepted. She decided to pursue engineering because people told her she couldn’t — even though she knew she could. Now, she is dedicated to being a role model for young girls and an advocate for getting more women into engineering professions.

Cynthia Arebalo, a bilingual elementary education major in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, brought her daughter, Madison, to the event with the hope of showing her all the possible career paths available.

“Madison really likes science and math, and does really well in them,” Arebalo said. “I just want her to know she has options and she gains more confidence in her ability to do whatever she wants.”

Arebalo was also incredibly grateful the Society of Women Engineers didn’t charge admission for the event but instead hosted a school supply drive to donate to middle and high school teachers across the Valley.

Nearly 60 volunteers from the Society of Women Engineers and other student organizations in the Fulton Schools helped ensure GEAR Day was a successful event. The volunteers were committed to showing parents and participants the breadth of engineering and the importance of diversity of thought in the field.

“Young girls still see so many paths cut off for them simply because of the prejudices and stereotypes that still surround them,” Leka said. “Girls can do so much more than people believe.”  

Top photo: Madison Arebalo, 9, channels her inner engineer as she builds a filtration system to clean contaminants from water during the afternoon session of GEAR Day on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU workshop showcases the challenges for those newly released from prison

ASU workshop simulates challenges of people who leave prison to rejoin society.
April 10, 2019

Simulation participants navigate probation, rent, transportation as they reenter society

Shawn served three years in prison for burglary, then walked out to face a dizzying array of requirements he had to fulfill with almost no help and no money. He had to pay for drug testing and probation but wouldn’t get his disability check for another week, and his landlord was demanding a $50 deposit right away.

“Shawn” was one of the characters in a role-playing scenario held Tuesday by the Center for Child Well Being at Arizona State University. About 100 people participated in the “reentry simulation,” each assuming the identity of someone who was recently released from prison. The participants included students, staff, faculty and community members, each of whom received a packet describing their character’s prison record, living and employment situations and everything he or she needed to accomplish every week to avoid being sent back to jail: look for a job, undergo drug testing, pay restitution, pay rent, pay child support, buy food, attend Alcoholics Anonymous.

The simulation was put on by the U.S. attorney’s office and was based on input from real people who have been released from prison. The goal is to demonstrate what it’s like for men and women to make their way through the system.

“We release people back into their communities every day, and with very little instruction,” said Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist for the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, who runs the simulation for any group that requests it.

The simulation was divided into 15-minute segments, each representing one week. The room had 15 stations, representing the obligations of a returning citizen — probation, social services, bank, landlord, etc. Every participant had several tasks to complete each week.

The responsibilities were confusing and overwhelming. Every obligation required a bus pass. Even bus passes could not be purchased without handing over a bus pass.

The first week, Shawn, one of the lucky ones who left prison with $20, was able to purchase the all-important state ID card for $15, then sell his plasma for $25 to pay his $30 probation fee. He went to the “court,” handed over a bus pass and was told he needed to cash his plasma check before paying the fee. So he used another bus pass to go to the bank and cash the check and then another bus pass to finally pay the fee.

The second week was more stressful. Shawn had to wait in the church line to borrow a bus pass, which he used to buy more bus passes, then go back to the church to repay the bus pass before going to collect his disability check.

The simulation included real-life scenarios. Everyone who took a drug test had to pull a card from a deck to tell them whether it was “clean” or not. Every week, the participants received a card with an unplanned situation — like Shawn’s landlord discovering that he had a dog and needed to pay a $50 deposit.

In the third week, Shawn was waiting in line to pay his rent when the sheriff came by, saw that Shawn had not completed his second-week drug testing and sent him back to jail.

In the guided discussion after the simulation, many of the participants described how out of control they felt.

“A lot of it is pretty demeaning,” said Anthony Evans, a senior researcher for the L. William Seidman Research Institute in the W. P. Carey School of Business. The institute is working with Televerde, a call center operator that has been a leader in employing prisoners and people who have left prison. Evans said he decided to experience the simulation to gain insight into what Televerde’s workforce is facing.

“People in positions of authority should be encouraged to attend one of these,” he said.

The process was eye-opening even for practitioners. Molly Hahn-Floyd, a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University who works in adolescent behavioral health, said that during the simulation, she didn’t go to the church or social services or any other place that offered help.

“And I don’t know how many times I’ve preached to people, ‘Ask for help,’” she said.

Jan Wethers, reentry coordinator for the Arizona Department of Corrections, portrayed the mean pawn shop owner, who gave Shawn $10 for a $50 CD player.

“Take the bus sometime,” she told the practitioners. “See what it’s like when it’s hot and you have kids in tow and grocery bags.”

Empathy is critical, but so is responsibility, she said.

“You must hold them accountable. That is very, very important,” she said.

Many participants described how returning to jail felt inevitable — and almost a relief.

“If you’re released to a community and your family wants nothing to do with you and you have no job and no home and you have all these obligations, it makes sense to go back,” Aikens said. “They know your name in jail. You have food in jail. I get it.”

For a person who’s newly released, thinking about returning to prison can be a “comfort zone,” according to Theron Denman Jr., who left prison a year ago. He volunteered at the simulation “treatment” table and addressed the participants during the discussion.

“I was scared to drive, I was scared of the police, I was scared of technology,” he said. “If I hadn’t had the support of my family over this past year, I would’ve wanted to go back.

“But that’s not my comfort zone anymore. Volunteering here today is a beautiful thing.”

In the fourth week, Shawn got out of jail, bought bus passes, got food, completed weekly treatment, paid for a drug test and checked in with his vocational rehabilitation case worker. All the boxes were checked.

But it didn’t matter. While he was in jail during Week 3, he missed paying rent. Shawn was homeless.

The reentry simulation was a kickoff to the National Children of Incarcerated Parents Conference to be held next week by the Center for Child Well Being, part of the School of Social Work. The conference will include some events that are open to the public. On Sunday, the opening reception will feature photographer Isadora Kosofsky, who documents prison visitations between parents and children. Additionally, Denali Tiller, director of “Tre |Maison |Dasan” will screen her film and discuss the three young boys featured. On Tuesday, Rudy Valdez, director of HBO's “The Sentence,” will screen his documentary and discuss the effects of incarceration on his nieces. A panel discussion will follow, featuring people who have been affected by incarceration.

Top image: Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist with the U.S. attorney's office, led a "reentry simulation" Tuesday at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix. About 100 students, staff, faculty and community members participated in the workshop, in which they took on the persona of someone who recently left prison and had to navigate all the tasks necessary to avoid being sent back to jail, such as getting a job, being drug tested and paying rent. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Maricopa County inmates express themselves with art, storytelling in ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program

April 10, 2019

A woman who was told she could never have children as she stood there four months pregnant. A woman whose dog sold her out to the police as she hid in a tree. A mother whose son asked her if she’ll remember him when she gets out in a year. 

United through their storytelling and brought together behind bars, these women call themselves sisters. The various stories captivated the audience, triggering laughter, sadness, frustration and even happiness. Sam, an inmate at Estrella Jail in Phoenix, presents a personal story at the Journey Home final performance on March 30. Photo by Alexandra Wolfe Download Full Image

At the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Estrella Jail, a women’s jail in Phoenix, 11 out of 1,100 eligible inmates were selected to participate in this year’s ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program, titled “New Beginnings.”

Journey Home is an arts residency program designed to enable incarcerated women to discover a personal sense of constructive identity through performance, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling. In its 19th year, it exists as the only sustainable arts-integration program across Arizona’s correctional institutions. 

“Our mission, which remains today at ASU Gammage, is connecting communities — and that's communities of all kinds,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for cultural affairs. “This was a community, the Estrella correctional facility, that was not being served, and we also deeply believed that art and culture could make a difference in the lives of the individuals here.”

Ultimately, Journey Home culminates in an emotional final performance of self-expression. The six-week program was directed by Fatimah Halim with movement and music by Teniqua Broughton.

At this year’s final performance on March 30, the walls were dressed in colorful canvas paintings of butterflies painted by the women — a symbol of how people can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful.

There is also a mental health specialist, Imani Muhammad, who helps the women communicate their thoughts and feelings.

“Imani helped me identify where some of this anger was coming from,” said Cynthia Rose Martin, an inmate in the program. “Once I got over that initial apprehension, I can't say enough about Journey Home. It brings you out of yourself; it brings you into yourself.”

An underlying purpose of Journey Home is to encourage rehabilitation. According to a study published by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, inmates who participate in arts-integration programs tend to have more self-confidence, motivation to pursue other programs and self-discipline with managing time efficiently. The study also determined that these inmates are more likely to face problems with creativity and intellectual flexibility.

Specific to Journey Home, many of the program’s graduates do not return to the jail system. In fact, one such graduate who was released from Estrella in the past year attended the performance and testified to the impact it has had on her new life.

“Why are we giving them a second chance?” said Capt. Jennifer Perks, commander of Estrella Jail. “Because these are women. They're valuable people that are at some point going to be entering our community again, so we have to look at our own relationship with our community and see what we want for ourselves.”

Perks said that it’s amazing to see the growth the women go through in such a short period of time, and that art has helped them take time to acknowledge their experiences and learn from them. 

Erica Breeding, another inmate in the program, said that Journey Home has helped her think past the fact that she is incarcerated.

“That's all I could think about, is I'm confined, I'm in jail,” Breeding said. “And it's allowed me to open my mind to so much more to how I'm going to get through this and the present and then even in the future." 

She also said that after her time is served, she will be a better mom for her children because she can teach them to learn from her mistakes.  

“I went through everything that I went through, and it served a purpose,” Breeding said. “… I know to take nothing for granted anymore. Their smiles or their giggles. At any moment things can be taken away, so I will hold on to them a little bit tougher.”

Written by Alexandra Wolfe