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Arizona school choice options offer up plenty of variety as well as questions

March 18, 2019

ASU experts create primer explaining the differences between public, charter and private schools

Arizona’s K–12 education system appears to be fairly straightforward at first glance. But it’s easy to get into the weeds when you start digging.

School choice options have become increasingly popular in Arizona in the last few decades, but sometimes it’s hard to distinguish which is the best path to take: public, charter or private school? What’s the difference?

ASU Now consulted a variety of experts, scholars and educators at Arizona State University to create a primer to help guide parents and students through the specifics of the different educational opportunities in Arizona, from kindergarten to college prep.

Question: What is the main difference between district, private and charter schools?

Answer: One of the main differences between district, private and charter schools is related to choice.

Public district schools are governed by publicly elected or appointed school boards and state and local districts and are typically assigned students based on location. Households are able to choose public schools by choosing where and in which school districts they live. Public school choice options have become increasingly popular through magnet schools, charter schools, open enrollment, voucher programs and the fact that some households are able to choose from various public institutions within a district.

Charter schools are a “hybrid between public and private schools,” and while they require students to apply for admission, they are unable to restrict admission. According to the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools, charter schools are independently operated, public, tuition-free schools that are open to all students, though it is not unusual for some charter schools (and district public schools, for that matter) to sort students by academic ability. Because they are independently run, they are not held to the same laws and state budgeting regulations as public district schools.

Private schools are generally autonomous institutions that do not receive public funding and are not required to follow state laws that govern public schools. Private schools are also often owned and managed by religious groups or independent boards of trustees and therefore have the ability to choose which students they accept. Similarly, households that want a private education choose private schools.

Q: Which of those three charges tuition and how is that money used?

A: Public district schools and charter schools do not charge, and are prohibited from charging, tuition.

Aside from sources like donations and endowments, private schools rely on tuition and fees to function, and private school tuition charges are paid by the parents and families of private school children. Tuition is used to cover the costs of operation including teacher salaries, facilities, school capital, registration and application, textbooks, technology, uniforms, transportation and other student services.

Q: How do public, private and charter schools get their funding?

A: Public district schools and charter schools receive state funding based on enrollment, and both are eligible for results-based funding, a program presented in Arizona in 2017 by Gov. Doug Ducey as a means to increase access to high-quality education based on AZMerit exam performance.

Funding for public schools in the U.S. comes from federal, state and local sources, with nearly half of this funding coming from local property taxes alone. Some public schools also receive financial supplements from corporate or foundation grants and donations, as well as parent- or student-fundraising initiatives. Charter schools lack taxing authority and, unlike public district schools, they are unable to pass local bonds and overrides for the purpose of funding operations.

Private schools receive their funding primarily through nonpublic resources such as tuition, foundations, religious bodies, endowments and private donors. In Arizona, direct and indirect funding is also used to fund private schools. The former is the Arizona Empowerment Scholarship Account program, open to students who meet specific eligibility requirements and providing tax dollars to families and households that allow them to pay for educational expenses including private-school tuition. The latter refers to the dollar-to-dollar tax credits that the state provides to individuals and businesses that can be donated to nonprofit organizations, which can then put that money toward private school scholarships.

Q: Who can start a private or charter school?

A: To start a charter school, an application must be submitted to the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools along with a $6,500 fee. The application must describe in detail what the vision of the applicant is for their school, including demographic information for the surrounding communities, budget outlines and curriculum plans. The application then goes before the state board, which grades the application in three areas: education, operation and business. If the applicant scores at least a 95 in each category, they face a 90-minute interview with the board’s Technical Review Panel. The panel’s recommendations are then provided to the charter board, which approves or denies the application.

Starting a private school is a much simpler process. In Arizona, there are no requirements for accreditation, registration, licensing or approval. Private schools face few requirements for operations and have very little oversight. They are required to have a minimum number of school days equal to the local school district, and must provide education in the subjects reading, grammar, mathematics, social studies and science. Aside from a small number of requirements for health and safety and special education, private schools are able to operate as they please.

Q: What is a budget override, how is it funded, and how are those funds used?

A: A budget override is a voter-approved initiative used by public districts to raise additional funds from their local community. District boards call for an override election through a board vote, and a subsequent stakeholder group comprising parents, educators and community members forms to support the override. There are three types of budget overrides: a maintenance and operations override, which supports salaries and general operations; a special override, which supports specific programs; and a capital override, which funds equipment. The override amount is capped based on the type of override, with M&O overrides capped at 15 percent of the school budget, special overrides at 5 percent and capital overrides at 10 percent.

If the override passes, funds are raised through a separate property tax applied to homeowners and businesses within the district boundaries. The funds are then used by the district on whatever operations or programs were designated to receive the money based on the type of override passed.

Similar to overrides are bond elections, which differ in that they involve the district selling bonds that earn interest for investors. Bond elections generally involve much larger amounts of money than overrides.

Q: How does each entity test and score students?

A: There are state requirements for testing in public and charter schools. There is currently no state policy on testing students in private schools. Following President Barack Obama’s authorization of the Every Student Succeeds Act in 2015, states are required to asses all student proficiency levels in reading/language arts and mathematics annually in third through eighth grade and once in high school. Arizona has a menu of assessments that schools may use, the most common being AzMerit. ESSA also clarified the regulations that require states to perform an annual assessment of English Proficiency for English language learners in grades K–12. The assessment used in Arizona in known as AZELLA. Additionally, Arizona requires that students in fourth and eighth grade and high school be assessed annually on AIMS Science.

Q: What happens to a child’s individualized education program if they switch schools?

A: In Arizona, when a child with an IEP transfers to another public school or a charter school, the requirements are the same. Either type of school, under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA 2004), must “provide the child with a free appropriate public education, including services comparable to those described in the previously held IEP, in consultation with the parents, until such time as the school district adopts the previous IEP or develops, adopts and implements a new IEP that is consistent with federal and state law.” Since charter schools are considered public schools in Arizona, federal regulations ensure that all students with disabilities that attend charter schools retain the same rights under Part B of IDEA, Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973, and Title II of the American Disabilities Act.

If a child is placed in a private school by a school district, this is considered an educational placement, not a switching of schools, so the child’s IEP would remain the same. However, if a child is placed in a private school by a parent, the private school is not required to uphold the previous IEP as they are not covered under IDEA.

Q: Which has the least government oversight and which has the most?

A: Traditional public schools have the most government oversight. The government funds, provides and regulates public education.

Charter schools have the next highest level of government oversight. Charter schools are funded and regulated by the state through a charter contract with a charter school sponsor or authorizer like the Arizona State Board for Charter Schools.

Private schools have the least amount of government oversight. Private schools in Arizona are not controlled or supervised by the state board of education or any other school district boards.

Q: Can any of the three reject students on the basis of learning and attention issues?

A: Public schools and public charter schools cannot reject students based on a learning disability, including “attention issues.” Title II of the American Disabilities Act and Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act of 1973 prohibit all public agencies receiving federal funding, including charter schools, from discriminating against students with disabilities.

Private schools that accept vouchers are also required to follow Title II and Section 504 and must not discriminate against or reject students based on race, religion, creed, color, national origin or disability. Private schools that do not accept federal funding are not held to these or any requirements.

Q: Must all general education teachers be state certified?

A: All public-school teachers in Arizona are required to hold an Arizona teacher certificate, a valid out-of-state teaching certificate or emergency certification. Private and charter school teacher certifications are not regulated by the state and are determined by each individual school or school board.

Q: How does each of the three choose curriculum?

A: Although there is not a national curriculum, states, school districts and/or national associations require that certain educational standards be met. Charter schools were developed to free teachers from “bureaucratic constraints” by allowing them to develop a new type of public schooling system where they could design and implement innovative means of instruction based on the specific school’s charter. That said, charter schools are unique in that they often have different purposes and specializations, with some that follow a Montessori curriculum, some that focus on college prep, some that focus on the arts, some that are taught in two languages and others that focus on STEM. Because each state possesses unique laws to help it meet its specific needs and objectives, charter schools tend to differ across states. States determine the laws surrounding charter schools, though charters are free from many of the laws and regulations that are enforced for traditional public schools because they are independently run.

Both traditional public schools and charter schools are required to adhere to state academic requirements, meaning they must teach to state-approved academic standards, that their students are required to participate in standardized testing and that policies pertaining to state school accountability must be followed.

Private schools are different from their public counterparts in that they are not required to follow all state schooling laws because they are autonomous.

Q: Do owners of charter schools make a profit?

A: Technically, there are no “owners” of a charter school; rather, there is an organization (generally a nonprofit) that holds the charter. The charter is the right given to the organization by the state to operate a school that receives public funds in exchange for providing an education to students. These organizations must have governing boards, which set policy and guide the organization based on their shared vision.

Charters differ from public district schools in that there are much fewer state regulations on how they must operate. Because of this, executives of the charter holder are free to pay companies owned by themselves or other board members. These are called “related-party transactions,” and generally take the form of management organizations (that provide teachers), property ownership companies (that provide facilities), and curriculum development companies; 77 percent of charter schools engage in related-party transactions. Owners of such companies have been able to make substantial profits that occasionally reach into millions of dollars.

Q: Are charter schools really an attempt to privatize all education through the use of for-profit charter holders?

A: There is no evidence this is the case. The Arizona legislature began to allow charter schools in 1994 with the hope that charters would create competition among Arizona’s public district and private schools and create innovation and improvement in the sector. Since the inception of charter schools, Arizona has created and expanded several options for school choice. Choice options for parents now include district schools, charter schools, private schools, home-schooling, scholarships from school tuition organizations and empowerment scholarship accounts. While the charter sector has experienced significant growth since its founding and now includes 544 schools, it accounts for only 17 percent of public-school students. The rest are taught in district schools.

Q: Why are charter schools not accountable to the taxpayers for their spending?

A: Charter schools have less financial oversight than district schools in an attempt to free them from regulations and allow them to innovate. Proponents for charters argue that, while there are limits on what financial activities charters are allowed to engage in, they are few. Charters are allowed to engage in large, no-bid contracts and do not have to justify hiring a business owned by a related party such as a governing board member.

The only financial document charters are required to provide that details their spending is the Annual Financial Report, submitted to the State Board of Charter Schools. This body requires that all charters hire an external auditing firm once per year and that the results be submitted to the state board. These audits are then made available on the state board’s website.

Q: Discuss the racial and socioeconomic demographics of each kind of school in Arizona.

A: Enrollment data in Arizona show that white and Asian students attend charter schools at the highest rates. Hispanic students make up 44 percent of all school-age students in Arizona, but account for 36 percent of the state’s total charter school student population.

White students make up 40 percent of the state’s school-age population, but account for 48 percent of its charter population and 41 percent of its public district school population. While minority populations are more represented in public schools, even going as far as being overrepresented in charter schools, the majority of Arizona’s private school students are white. 

Additionally, the families of students enrolled in private schools tend to be wealthier on average than the families of students enrolled in public district schools. Tuition costs associated with the former limit the accessibility of such institutions to the general public, as the latter are free and public, therefore being more accessible to a broader population. Although school choice options like Arizona’s open enrollment law — which allows households to send their children to any public school they choose, even outside their local district — are meant to increase access to high-quality public schools, higher-quality schools are more likely to reach capacity faster.

Contributors were graduate students Max Goshert and Maya Watts (educational policy, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College), and Jenna Parker (public administration, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions).

Reporter , ASU Now


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African-American law enforcement officers balance dual identities

African-American law-enforcement professionals talk about racism, reform.
March 14, 2019

Criminal justice system professionals talk about racism, reform during panel at ASU

African-American law enforcement officers must balance two identities simultaneously during these complicated times, and each identity serves the other, according to a panel discussion at Arizona State University on Thursday night.

Five African-American men discussed the complexity of race in their experiences as professionals in the criminal justice system in a talk titled “Being Blue from a Black Perspective” at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

Kevin Robinson, a lecturer in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice and a retired police officer, said that a student recently asked him: “Are you a black law enforcement officer or a law enforcement officer who happens to be black?”

“I didn’t answer right away, but I came to this conclusion: Being one makes me more acutely aware of being the other,” said Robinson (pictured above), who was assistant police chief in the Phoenix Police Department when he retired.

“As a police officer, I understand what happens to black males at stops sometimes. I get it. As a police officer I understand the concerns that police officers have in dealing with adverse situations. It goes both ways.”

Timothy Woods, a Phoenix Police Department patrol shift commander, said: “One thing I cannot escape from forever is the melanin in my skin.”

“Whether I have the uniform on or have the uniform off, I’m a black man. I’m proud to be a black man. I’m proud of my culture, and I’m proud to serve as a Phoenix police officer as well. It is a career path I’ve chosen,” he said.

The men described the discrimination they have faced on the job. Michael Powell, a former state trooper, deputy sheriff and retired senior manager in the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, recalled how he was handcuffed by two troopers for speeding while working as an undercover agent in Miami.

“They didn’t believe I was a DEA agent, and I was locked in the back of the car,” he said. “About 15 minutes later, it didn’t turn out well for them.”

Robinson said that he more often faced racism from fellow officers on an individual basis than institutional racism.

“You have to go right to them,” he said of the racists. “And they were a real motivation for me to take promotional exams.”

Jocquese Blackwell, a criminal defense attorney in Phoenix, said he didn’t always have a good view of law enforcement. He worked in military intelligence for several years and then as an engineer before going to law school at ASU.

“I had dreads in law school, and I got pulled over all the time. I had dreads when I worked as an engineer, and I got pulled over all the time,” he said. “We need to address that.”

Cecil Patterson said that, besides being mistaken for a clerk, he also dealt with the “fishbowl syndrome.” He was the first black judge appointed to the Maricopa County Superior Court, the first black lawyer in the Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the state’s first black appeals court judge. He also was a graduate of the second class of ASU’s law school, in 1971.

“I had five major jobs in 32 years of practice, and every job I was the first and only African-American in the job. And that lasted a long time,” he said.

“I had the chance to influence, but it was on an individual level and what hurts is not having more African-Americans. If you have more people, you can have a community effort and more lasting positive change.”

Patterson said he has seen an evolution.

“One of the things that I was proud of and that has continued to happen is the presence of blacks in the system — defense attorneys, prosecutors, police officers, probation officers — and the numbers have increased,” he said.

The experts were asked what they would tell the current candidates who are running for president about the American criminal justice system and black people.

Robinson said that the next president needs to work with states to make sure that law enforcement has more training.

“If we look back at all the negative things we see occur in law enforcement with folks of color, it is lack of communication,” he said. “They don’t understand someone else or take the time to listen. You have to understand folks.”

Powell, who now owns a company that consults with law enforcement, said that accountability is critical.

“You have to hold police departments accountable, and it has to be transparent. All the action has to be transparent,” he said.

Woods said that law enforcement has often been on the wrong side of history and is now figuring out how to be on the right side.

“This goes back to slavery. When the slave ran away, who was entrusted to capture the slave? The sheriff was,” he said.

“We’ve had such a long ‘us versus them’ mentality. We’ve gone into a community and called it ‘the jungle’ or ‘the hood.’ We go in and wreak havoc and destroy and leave. But we’re entrusted to serve and protect, and a candidate needs to understand that dynamic.”

He also said that incarcerating people for nonviolent crimes is expensive and unhelpful.

“We need to be restoring the rights of people and if you don’t, you keep them in prison. And if you keep them in prison they won’t have any options to get resources, and if they don’t get them legally, they’ll get them illegally. We have to change that.”

Blackwell said that candidates who supported the 1994 federal crime bill must acknowledge that the result has been increased rates of incarceration for black people for nonviolent crimes.

“If they believed that crime was rampant and that black people and poor people were ‘superpredators,’ they need to own it and they need to apologize for it,” he said.

The talk was sponsored by the Sigma Pi Phi fraternity, the nation’s oldest African-American professional fraternity, and moderated by Greg Vincent, president of the international organization and a retired law professor.

Vincent said that the often-repeated statement that there are more black men in the criminal justice system than college is a myth.

“But what is true is that for black men in their 30s, on any given day, 1 in 10 is connected to the criminal justice system, many for nonviolent drug offenses,” he said. And although black men make up 13 percent of the population, they make up more than 30 percent of the victims of police shootings.

“We know there have been bipartisan efforts to reform the criminal justice system, and we think in the next election cycle, we’ll see this issue front and center,” he said.

Top photo: Kevin Robinson, an ASU lecturer and former assistant chief for the Phoenix Police Department, introduces the discussion "Being Blue from a Black Perspective" on Thursday evening at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU In the News

Students say 'I do' to a career in marriage and family therapy

Mary Doyle and Karissa Greving Mehall, co-directors of the MAS-MFT program in Arizona State University’s T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics, were recently featured in a new article by The State Press about this life-changing program.

The advanced studies in marriage and family therapy master's degree is an accelerated applied program that provides expert training for students interested in a behavioral health career as clinicians that focus on marriage and family therapy.  Drawing of a family holding hands at a sunset Photo by Angel Jimenez | The State Press

Read more about the program and hear from past graduates who have gone on to pursue rewarding and successful careers helping others.

Article Source: The State Press
John Keeney

Media Relations Coordinator, T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics


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Groundbreaking celebrates new PBC Innovation Center

Space will host commercial companies and research focused on health, wellness.
March 14, 2019

ASU will lease half of 225,00-square-foot building on Phoenix Biomedical Campus; rest to be filled by private companies

If everything had gone as originally conceived, the land at Fourth and McKinley streets in downtown Phoenix would be smack-dab in the middle of the Arizona Cardinals NFL football stadium complex.

Instead, last week in a formal groundbreaking ceremony, the city of Phoenix welcomed Wexford Science and Technology and Arizona State University to celebrate the construction of a new building on the Phoenix Biomedical Campus, the PBC Innovation Center. And while the local NFL football team has been playing games in its Glendale stadium since 2006, city leaders will tell you that that the effort with Arizona State University to attract the Wexford team was worth the wait.

For ASU, this is an assignment that began three Phoenix mayors ago.

“More than 10 years ago we became the partner of the city of Phoenix with two mutual objectives,” said ASU President Michael M. Crow. “First, to help increase the educational attainment, educational success and scientific discovery inside the city of Phoenix by embedding university ideas and energy in downtown Phoenix. Second, to partner with everybody else, with the UofA, NAU and city of Phoenix, and to find world-class development partners like Wexford, who have built fantastic projects and who make things happen by attracting scientific and technological enterprises to their facilities.”

“This building represents progress on all fronts.”

The $77 million, 225,00-square-foot Wexford building will be the first piece of a 7-acre parcel ASU is responsible for on the city’s 30-acre biomedical campus. ASU will lease approximately 112,000 square feet — half of the building — for 15 years with three five-year options. The remainder will be occupied by private-sector companies — the part that organizers say makes this step so important to the city, to the campus and, ultimately, to discovery and innovation.

“This is the first time since Phoenix has had its biosciences campus that we’ll have space for companies to commercialize and commercial companies to participate,” said Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix. “Wexford Science and Technology is an internationally recognized biosciences thought leader in creating and developing innovation corridors.”

Wexford Real Estate Company is focused exclusively on partnering with universities, academic medical centers and research institutions to develop vibrant, mixed-use, amenity-rich knowledge communities that are built on a foundation of research, discovery and entrepreneurial activity. Headquartered in Baltimore, Wexford’s portfolio extends across nine states and includes projects in key urban centers in Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Miami and Baltimore. It has 6 million square feet of property developed or under development.

“Wexford is all in on creating this knowledge community in downtown Phoenix,” said Jim Berens, CEO of Wexford. “The reason we are so confident about its success is that when we look around the country at these kinds of projects, it starts with having a world-class university — and here, we have that in spades with Arizona State University, their research enterprise and their commitment to creating jobs and building communities.”

“At 200,000 square feet, you will have everything from a scientist with an idea renting a bench and using equipment, to attorneys and marketers who can help them grow their business, to full labs, to large labs and to eventually having commercialization. ... This is not just your typical building. It’s much more about driving new companies and life-saving technologies and ideas.”
— Christine Mackay, community and economic development director for the city of Phoenix

Mackay described the Phoenix project as “a lab to grow startups.”

“At 200,000 square feet, you will have everything from a scientist with an idea renting a bench and using equipment, to attorneys and marketers who can help them grow their business, to full labs, to large labs and to eventually having commercialization in other buildings on the campus,” Mackay said. “So this is not just your typical building. It’s much more about driving new companies and life-saving technologies and ideas.”

ASU’s involvement is catalytic and is key to attracting private-sector involvement, Crow said.

“Wexford is taking a risk on us, and we’re very excited about it,” he said. “Our job within the university is to be a knowledge enterprise. We produce several types of knowledge products, and our most important product is people who pass through the university. The second product we produce is ideas — ideas that come from facilities like this.”

“This facility empowers our College of Health Solutions, our College of Nursing and Health Innovation, the UofA College of Medicine, NAU programs in allied health, and all of this activity creates a critical mass. And that attracts the private investment of companies that want to be here with us, linked to us. That’s what we’re after.”

Inside the building, ASU researchers and their counterparts will be unlocking discoveries.

“Right here ... ASU health researchers will have the unique opportunity to partner with the clinical ecosystem on the Phoenix Biomedical campus and in the adjoining area — entities like Banner Health, Barrow Neurological Institute, Dignity Health, the VA, MIHS (Maricopa Integrated Health System), Phoenix Children’s Hospital,” said Sethuraman "Panch" Panchanathan, executive vice president of ASU Knowledge Enterprise. “This will create amazing new opportunities for clinical research that focuses on health, wellness, nutrition and more.”

While a big step forward, the Wexford Building represents only a small portion of what will occur on the remaining portion of the site. The master plan for the 7 acres north of Fillmore includes approximately 1.8 million square feet of additional development of this innovation district. 

Rick Naimark, associate vice president for program development planning, who worked for nearly three years to find the right partner for this project, said the next building will come soon after this one — now called the Phoenix Biomedical Innovation Center — opens.

“The next building will be even larger than this one,” Naimark said. “But before we move forward on that, our immediate task is working with the provost, KED and several deans in identifying the more specific research activity that will go into our half of the building, and working with Wexford’s designer and builder to design the tenant improvements to meet their needs.”

It’s another move that will fill-in the bio-medical campus checkerboard the city envisioned when it turned away a public sports facility for something more complicated — but something with potential to pay off over and over again. 

“For an economic developer, this is a dream come true,” Mackay said. “This is where we will be helping to grow new companies for Phoenix, and it will help create a sustainable industry by which to diversify our economy.”

Top photo: An artist's rendering of the future building at Fourth and McKinley streets in Phoenix. Image by Wexford Science and Technology

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Students' efforts bring prestigious national conference to ASU Law

March 13, 2019

Two-day event at downtown campus featured panel discussions and keynotes by dignitaries and the country’s top legal minds

Go West, young attorney.

For only the fourth time in the 38-year history of the Federalist Society National Student Symposium, it was held in the former territories and not the colonies.

Lured by the Valley’s mild spring climate, an enticing theme and a hungry group of law students, the 2019 symposium came to Arizona State University’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law on March 15-16 at the Beus Center for Law and Society on the Downtown Phoenix campus.

The symposium featured two keynote speeches — a Friday night opening keynote by prominent law and economics Professor Richard Epstein, and a Saturday evening "fireside chat" by Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and former Sen. Jon Kyl.

The event was expected to draw more than 600 participants, thanks largely to the efforts of a few dedicated law students who labored behind the scenes for an entire year to make it happen.

“One of the things we are proud of at ASU Law is providing our students with the opportunities that help them not only receive the best legal education, but also extend their legal experiences," said ASU Law Dean Douglas Sylvester. "It is a testament to our students that the Federalist Society chose ASU Law to host the society’s annual event. It has been amazing to see this talented and active student chapter work tirelessly to put together this national event. This is also one of the many reasons we built our new law school building in downtown Phoenix — to host events that help foster debate among students, academics, legal practitioners and public policy experts.”  

The yearlong journey started last March, said Grant Frazier (pictured above), who served as president of ASU’s Federalist Society during 2017-18 and who served as symposium chair. He said ASU Law lost out to Yale Law School for James Madison Chapter of the Year at last year’s symposium at Georgetown University. That loss didn’t sit so well with Frazier.

“I’m a natural competitor and took losing Chapter of the Year as motivation to further improve the ASU Law chapter,” said Frazier, who is a third-year law student. “I figured the best way to do this was by winning the bid to host the 2019 symposium and showing the rest of the country how far our chapter has come.”

Easier said than done. ASU as a host site had many hurdles to overcome: never having hosted the symposium before, a truncated symposium bid timeline, the Southwestern location far from the majority of East Coast law schools and competition from much older and more established law schools and student chapters. However, Frazier and fellow ASU Law students Stacy Skankey, Maddalena Savary and John Thorpe were willing to put in the necessary time and effort.

The process started when ASU Law formulated a comprehensive 75-page proposal from scratch in the span of five weeks. Not only did this proposal have to be completed, it had to be enticing. 

The proposal included two fully built-out programs — each with its own theme, 10 panel descriptions and a host of potential panelists across each panel’s respective viewpoint spectrum. Additionally, the proposal included details relating to the law school’s state-of-the-art facilities; proposed event spaces; information on local hotel room rates, restaurants and houses of worship; a list of law schools within a 400-mile radius; average airline tickets from law school hubs; a comprehensive budget; support staff capabilities; and attractions throughout Arizona, if attendees wanted to turn their symposium travel into a longer vacation.

ASU Law’s student leaders also secured letters of support from many eminent members of the Arizona political and legal communities, including judges from the Arizona Supreme Court, the Arizona Court of Appeals and attorneys from prominent local law firms.

But the real lure was the theme of the conference. Frazier said ASU Law was going to have a difficult time competing with the prestige and legal firepower of fellow symposium contender Yale Law School and thus had to come up with a unique theme that made decision-makers forget all that.

Frazier said that this year’s theme, “The Resurgence of Economic Liberty,” was inspired by Frederic Bastiat’s maxim: “Life, liberty and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place.”

“It seemed fitting to do this topic in Arizona because we have a strong historical and state constitutional tradition of cherishing economic liberty,” Frazier said. “As part of the West, Arizona played a key role in American history where ordinary people have crossed the frontier at huge personal risk for, in large part, the sake of economic freedom and opportunity for themselves and their families. I think the idea of risking everything for individual economic liberty is a uniquely American trait, and one that is still most alive in the West.”

It was the bait needed to draw the event to Phoenix.

“How big of a deal is this? It’s a huge coup to get this honor,” said Ilan Wurman, a visiting assistant professor at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, where he teaches administrative law and constitutional law. “I think it shows how ASU’s reputation as a law school has significantly increased over the past few years and is a testament to the work and efforts of ASU’s chapter of the Federalist Society.”

Beyond the victory, said third-year law student and chapter Vice President Stacy Skankey, was the invaluable experience of putting together a large-scale event like this and creating networking opportunities.

“I’ve already been able to talk to many federal circuit court judges who (were) going to be in attendance,” said Skankey, who will clerk for the South Dakota Supreme Court starting in August. “It will be nice to show on my resume that I have worked on a project of this size and sophistication. It has been a great opportunity.”

In conjunction with the symposium, Frazier has been leading an effort to endow the James Madison Scholarship at ASU Law. The scholarship will be awarded annually to a second- or third-year law student member of the Federalist Society who promotes awareness of the society’s founding principles and actions. So far he has raised $23,190 of the $25,000 needed to endow the scholarship.

Top photo: Grant Frazier poses for a portrait on the third-floor balcony of the Beus Center for Law and Society in downtown Phoenix on March 11. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU joins network of universities focusing on technology for public interest

March 11, 2019

21 colleges and universities unite to develop generation of civic-minded technologists across disciplines

At a time when technology shapes every facet of our lives, there’s a growing consensus that its role should be evaluated in a social context so that questions of impact and consequences are considered from its very beginnings.

Colleges and universities have a fundamental responsibility to educate the next generation of leaders in the social context of technology, so that they can more fully connect considerations of technology to questions of individual rights, justice, social welfare and public good.

The new Public Interest Technology University Network is a partnership of 21 colleges and universities dedicated to building the nascent field of public interest technology and growing a new generation of civic-minded technologists. Arizona State University is one of the charter members of the network.

Convened by the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation and New America, the network combines higher education, philanthropy and public policy as part of a new push to define and build the public interest technology sector.

NEW YORK TIMES: ASU an 'early adopter' of interdisciplinary technology studies 

To facilitate a cross-pollination of ideas and expertise, the network includes individuals who approach public interest questions from a technological background, as well as those coming from other disciplines, such as law and the social sciences, who seek to understand, leverage and respond to the changes brought by new technologies.

Applying the model of public interest law to the technology sector, the network brings together colleges and universities committed to building the field of public interest technology, creating robust pathways for students seeking to pursue careers in public interest technology and fostering collaboration across the network. 

ASU also strongly associates public interest technology with related concepts such as responsible innovation and humanitarian engineering, both of which bring public interest technology cognates into the international context.

Public interest technology at work at ASU

While public interest technology activities are distributed widely across the university, one focal point is the School for the Future of Innovation in Society. Created in 2015, the school is a transdisciplinary unit at the vanguard of ASU’s commitment to linking innovation to public value. Foundation Professor and Founding Director of the school Dave Guston will serve as a representative for ASU to the network. 

“ASU is particularly interested in extending and creating curricular and co-curricular activities that train students and build career pathways,” said Guston. “We are interested in the real-world outcomes of public interest technology, both in terms of influence on policy- and decision-making, but also in terms of the social, ethical and legal aspects of technologies that help constitute their public interest orientation, as well as in the design of technologies and systems with a holistic consideration of such aspects. We hope to develop partnerships across sectors, especially building technical capacity in nonprofit organizations whose work aligns with the ASU charter.”

In addition to degree programs and areas of study, ASU has several programs and initiatives that address the concerns and needs of those interested in technology for public good.  

Science Outside the Lab explores the relationships among science, policy and societal outcomes in a two-week workshop in Washington, D.C. Doctoral students from science and engineering disciplines meet and interact with congressional staffers, funding-agency officers, lobbyists, regulators, journalists, academics, museum curators and others.

Responsible Research and Innovation in Practice is a three-year project under the European Commission’s Horizon 2020 research program. It aims to understand the barriers and drivers to the successful implementation of responsible research and innovation; promote reflection on organizational structures and cultures of research-conducting and research-funding organizations; and identify and support best practices to facilitate the uptake of responsible research and innovation in organizations and programs. 

The Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation was created to accelerate the formation of a community of scholars and practitioners who, despite divides in geography and political culture, will create a common concept of responsible innovation for research, training and outreach — and in doing so contribute to the governance of emerging technologies. Virtual Institute for Responsible Innovation facilitates collaborative research, training and outreach activities among roughly two dozen institutions across the globe.

Global Resolve began in 2006 working to help provide clean water in a Ghanaian village. Today the program encompasses projects ranging from prosthetic limbs to improved crop production with partners in 13 countries in Asia, Africa and North and South America. Global Resolve offers students a unique opportunity to bridge the global divide with sustainable and collaborative solutions to help relieve the effects of poverty in the developing world.

The Engineering Projects in Community Service program, known as EPICS, is an award-winning national social entrepreneurship program where teams design, build and deploy systems to solve engineering-based problems for charities, schools and other not-for-profit organizations. Participating students represent a variety of disciplines within ASU. A common theme through all projects is that of sustainability — finding environmentally friendly solutions to community problems.

Future goals

Through these activities, ASU is cultivating a new field of study to position the next generation of tech and policy leaders to design, build and govern technologies in ways that advance the public interest.

By offering a systematic way of studying technology in the world — including the unforeseen and adverse consequences of technology and methods to harmonize technology and society — educational institutions like ASU can train a new generation of graduates who have both technological literacy and a rigorous foundation to navigate the societal, ethical, legal and policy implications of our new technological age.

"Public interest technology is a critically important area for our attention," said ASU Executive Vice President and University Provost Mark Searle. "As technology becomes more ubiquitous, it is essential we consider the impacts on people, whether unintended consequences or designs that exclude certain groups or disadvantage them in some way. This is not just an issue for the developed world but also one for the developing world, and so bringing ASU’s expertise to bear is part of our commitment from our charter to be inclusive and take responsibility for the social, economic, cultural and overall health of the communities we serve."

Top photo: Students collaborate at one of ASU's innovation spaces. Photo by ASU

Studying global issues led first-generation ASU alumna to pursue a career in community advocacy

March 8, 2019

Recently, at ASU Day at the Capitol, School of Politics and Global Studies alumna Ana Licona reflected on experiences that led her to pursue a career in public service. In her job at the Arizona State Senate, Licona works to ensure that constituents in Arizona’s 30th Legislative District are valued and represented.

Licona was born and raised in Mesa, Arizona, to immigrant parents who pushed her to achieve a higher education. She graduated from Arizona State University in 2016 with degrees in global studies and sociology. Her education has empowered her to cultivate change within the community at local and national levels. Ana Licona Ana Licona pictured in front of the Arizona State Senate building. Download Full Image

Question: What was your motivation for studying global studies?

Answer: In high school, I was very involved in extracurricular activities like Model UN and the Global Citizens Club where I learned about political, environmental and social issues. In addition, my own experiences growing up in a first-generation immigrant family opened my eyes to study and understand how global challenges such as immigration and human rights impact our society. I chose to study global studies because the major would provide me with a well-rounded approach to learning and addressing these multilayered and complicated issues, and I wanted the proper knowledge and tools to fight for social justice and human rights.

Q: How was your experience in the School of Politics and Global Studies?

A: Being a student in the School of Politics and Global Studies opened so many doors for me through the myriad opportunities offered to learn outside of the classroom. I participated in the McCain Institute Policy Design Studio and Internship Program in Washington, D.C., where I learned to address foreign policy issues. I also participated in the Arizona State Legislative Internship Program, and I studied abroad in Spain with Barrett, The Honors College. In addition, I participated in the Public Policy and International Affairs Program at Princeton University, which furthered my interest in public policy. These hands-on opportunities equipped me with the appropriate experiences and knowledge to address real-world issues through action and policy.

Q: What has been your most impactful career experience?

A: Upon graduating from ASU, I moved to Washington, D.C., and joined the Obama White House Office of Presidential Personnel where I led leadership and professional development programs for Obama’s 3,000 political appointees. When the administration ended in 2017, I decided to return to my home of Arizona to lead grassroots movements around civic engagement and youth empowerment. Since then, I have worked on different campaigns and voter-registration efforts in order to empower and educate our communities to seek social and economic justice by building political power.

Q: What piece of advice would you give current students of global studies or political science?

A: Be involved and participate! Take advantage of all your resources including internships, study abroad, elective classes, mentorships, staff support, policy events, career panels, speaker series, etc. There is so much that SPGS and the greater ASU community offers to students, and you just need to be open-minded about new experiences and opportunities. Your dreams are valid, and you must work hard every single day to achieve them.

Baltazar Hernandez

Center Coordinator, School of Politics and Global Studies


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Distinguished service and excellence in civil engineering and construction at ASU earn honors

March 7, 2019

The School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment celebrated the achievements and service of a select group of alumni and community members during its annual Academy of Distinguished Alumni and Hall of Fame awards ceremony and dinner on March 1.

The Academy of Distinguished Alumni honors high-achieving graduates of the school. This year's honorees are leaders in their fields and have given back to programs in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the six Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering at Arizona State University.

The Hall of Fame, established in 1990, recognizes people who are not alumni but whose work has contributed to the advancement of the school, its educational and research missions and its ability to prepare the next-generation workforce.

The 2019 ceremony inducted two of the school’s outstanding contributors into the Hall of Fame and five alumni exemplars into the Academy of Distinguished Alumni.

Prominent Arizona engineers celebrated for their legacy of support

Mark Minter and Thomas G. Schmitt are this year’s Hall of Fame inductees.

“Both Mark and Tom are true exemplars for engagement and have volunteered and partnered with us over a sustained period of time to improve the quality of our programs in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment,” said Ram Pendyala, interim director of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment and professor. “We are proud to have both inducted into the Hall of Fame.

Minter served as the executive director of the Arizona Builder’s Alliance, a trade association of commercial and industrial builders including general contractors, subcontractors, suppliers and service companies. He is now retired after 40 years of service in the commercial and industrial construction business.

Minter has been a consistent supporter of educational efforts by the Del E. Webb School of Construction, which is part of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment.

In the early 2000s, his involvement was instrumental in arranging funding from industry partners and the Arizona Legislature. Minter’s support was a key factor in securing funding for the Block 12 Project, which aimed to expand the ASU Tempe campus northward and includes the College Avenue Commons building, home to the Del E. Webb School of Construction.

“Mark is a class act and has more than 30 years of sustained engagement with the Del E. Webb School of Construction,” Pendyala said. “He has done it all, from advocating for construction education in the state government, fundraising for the Block 12 Project, to calling our first-time freshman applicants and welcoming them to campus when we were in between student recruiters. What he has done for us is nothing short of amazing.”

Schmitt has served Arizona in many engineering roles, particularly in the area of transportation. Since moving to Arizona in 1979, he served as a resident engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation. In this role, he worked on the construction of the Interstate 10 coming into Phoenix as well as ADOT projects in Tucson and Flagstaff. He served as the ADOT state engineer before retiring in 1999.

He now serves as president of T & S Diversified Inc., a construction management company, working on a variety of management consultant services.

Schmitt worked with Professor Sandra Houston, who served as the chair of civil and environmental engineering between 1996 and 2006, to form Friends of Civil Engineering in the early 2000s. He served as the chair of FOCE for more than 10 years and helped increase interaction between the professional world and the civil engineering program at ASU. His leadership helped enable FOCE’s expansion to include environmental engineering and multiple subcommittees that continue to expand opportunities for both civil and environmental engineering students. Schmitt has impacted the lives of thousands of students and enabled a closer relationship with the school’s industry partners.

“Tom is a stalwart whose commitment to taking the Friends of Civil Engineering from concept to fruition has paid great dividends,” Pendyala said. “I can think of very few individuals who would approach an academic unit and help create an organization that would serve as the conduit of interaction between students and industry, and then oversee its growth for more than a decade. FOCE is a rare gem because of Tom’s efforts.”

Minter and Schmitt join 10 Hall of Fame inductees honored in past years.

Distinguished alumni contribute to industry, academia and government

The Academy of Distinguished Alumni inducted five new members into its ranks at the 2019 ceremony. These alumni exemplify the spirit of ASU as a New American University and show excellence in their professional work as well as compassion and support for their communities.

“I am incredibly impressed by the breadth of accomplishments of our distinguished alumni in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment,” Pendyala said. “In our 2019 distinguished alumni class, we have the homegrown company president, Steve DeTommaso; the civic leader, Mayor Douglas Nicholls; the president of a university, John Nicklow; and leaders abroad, Paul Henry and Janaka Ruwanpura.”

Stephen C. DeTommaso, who earned a bachelor’s degree in construction in 1975, is the former owner, CEO and president of Torrent Resources Inc., formerly known as McGuckin Drilling Inc. During his 43-year tenure with the water drainage solutions company, DeTommaso grew the organization from a seven-employee contractor that conducted onsite wastewater disposal and drilled foundations to an eight-state regional business with 120 employees specializing in stormwater management, disposal and recharge (how water enters an aquifer). DeTommaso stepped down from active management in 2011 and currently serves as chairman of the board.

Since graduating in 1982 with a bachelor’s degree in construction, Paul D. Henry has gained more than 36 years of international construction, engineering, operations and enterprise management expertise. Henry, currently based in Ireland, serves as Europe, Middle East and Africa regional director for data center construction and delivery at Google.

Prior to joining Google, Henry worked as the chief operations officer for Defense Equipment and Support (DE&S) in the UK, reporting to a three-star admiral. He was responsible for the delivery of mission-critical equipment to the United Kingdom's Royal Navy. He also previously served as the deputy director and chief operating officer of the Los Alamos National Laboratory. Between 1999 and 2011, he served in management roles of increasing responsibility for Bechtel Corporation, one of the largest infrastructure and construction firms in the world.

Douglas J. Nicholls, a civil engineering alumnus who graduated in 1994, is serving his second term as the 27th mayor of Yuma, Arizona. As mayor, he has spearheaded many efforts to elevate the community, including founding a mayor-led binational economic development initiative called “4FrontED” to work collaboratively with communities near the border region. Nicholls’ vision for local higher education availability is the Yuma Multiversity Campus concept, which aims to construct a centralized hub where state universities and regional higher education institutes can collaborate to offer full bachelor’s degree programs in Yuma. His efforts have contributed to economic development and opportunities for a better life for Yuma residents.

Alumnus John W. Nicklow has pursued a career in academia since graduating in 1998 with a doctorate in civil engineering. Nicklow, a professional engineer, has more than 20 years of experience in higher education and has many accomplishments in research, enrollment management, student success initiatives, fundraising, campus-wide collaborations and academic program innovation.

He was appointed president of the University of New Orleans in March 2016. In this role he focuses on enrollment growth and student success, strengthening the school’s research enterprise, and building alumni, community and business partnerships. Prior to becoming president, he spent nine months as the university’s provost and vice president for academic affairs. Since taking over as president of UNO, Nicklow has undertaken a number of initiatives to increase enrollment, enhance student retention and greatly expand research and learning opportunities for students.

After earning a master’s degree in construction in 1997 from ASU, Janaka Ruwanpura went on to earn a doctorate and has had a career developing and successfully implementing best practices and tools in the construction industry. His contributions to productivity improvement, project management, project planning, construction management, risk management, decision analysis and sustainability have led to more than 180 published technical papers in refereed journals and conference proceedings.

Ruwanpura, a professional engineer, has been recognized with national and international awards for teaching, research, service, graduate education and internationalization. He currently serves as the vice provost international at the University of Calgary. His work as vice provost international has contributed to the growth of a number of international partnerships and programs at the University of Calgary. By building connections across borders, Ruwanpura is greatly expanding global education opportunities for students and enhancing collaborative research activities aimed at solving grand challenges confronting societies around the world.

DeTommaso, Henry, Nicholls, Nicklow and Ruwanpura join 30 other alumni inducted into the academy since it was founded in 1995.

“Induction into the SSEBE Hall of Fame and the Academy of Distinguished Alumni is a special honor reserved for the few who have reached the pinnacle in their chosen profession and have made a difference in the lives of many through their incredible body of work,” Pendyala said in closing the ceremony.  

With their names permanently etched into the walls of the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, Pendyala urged the inductees to be changemakers who improve people’s lives, thus inspiring generations of students who seek to walk in their footsteps.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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'PBS NewsHour' announces launch of 'PBS NewsHour West' at ASU’s Cronkite School

March 6, 2019

"PBS NewsHour," the national nightly newscast known for its in-depth exploration of the day’s most critical issues, is opening a western news bureau at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication under a new partnership with Arizona State University.

"PBS NewsHour West," made possible with the generous support of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, will allow "NewsHour's" nightly broadcast to better serve audiences in the West and online, and to continue its expansion into a 24/7 news operation.

“As news cycles continue shrinking and America’s appetite for fair, contextual and trustworthy reporting intensifies, 'PBS NewsHour West' at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism will allow us to better serve our audiences across platforms and time zones,” said Sara Just, the program’s executive producer who also serves as a WETA senior vice president. “With a team located at the Cronkite School and Arizona PBS, we will have an ideal perch from which to better cover the important issues in the West with alacrity and insight and serve our West Coast audiences even better.”

Cronkite School Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan added, “'PBS NewsHour' has a long history of setting the standard for broadcast journalism. We are honored to be a part of this great partnership, and we look forward to helping 'NewsHour' deliver critical news coverage to communities in the western United States and sharing western stories with audiences across the country.”

Callahan said the new partnership will more deeply connect Cronkite to one of its most important professional partners. Over the past year, students in Cronkite News, the student-staffed, faculty-led news division of Arizona PBS, have produced in-depth packages that have been broadcast on "NewsHour."

Under the new partnership, the connections between Cronkite News and "NewsHour" will deepen, and the new Howard Center for Investigative Journalism will work collaboratively with "NewsHour" on national investigations, Callahan said.

“This is a tremendous opportunity for our students while, at the same time, giving us the opportunity to help provide deeper and more nuanced news coverage of the issues most critical to the West,” he said.

The "PBS NewsHour West team" will consist of up to six people, including a correspondent who will serve as West Coast anchor.

Judy Woodruff, the winner of ASU’s 2017 Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism who has more than four decades of reporting experience at PBS, CNN and NBC, will continue to serve as "NewsHour" managing editor and primary anchor of the nightly broadcast.

When news warrants, the "PBS NewsHour West" team will update "PBS NewsHour’s" 6 p.m. Eastern time zone broadcast for West Coast audiences also carried in some cities as late broadcasts on radio, television and streaming platforms.

“Through strategic investments, CPB is working to strengthen and expand public media’s local, regional and national journalism capacity,” said Pat Harrison, CPB President and CEO. “With CPB’s funding for the establishment of a western bureau, 'PBS NewsHour' will be able to better serve audiences with late-breaking news and cover stories of western importance with greater depth across all platforms.”

Several factors played into the "PBS NewsHour’s" decision to open "PBS NewsHour West" at ASU, Just said. The university, with its pre-eminent journalism program, is committed to public broadcasting and serves as the home to Arizona PBS. The bureau also will allow "NewsHour" to work more closely with PBS stations and other media partners on the West Coast, where more than 20 percent of "NewsHour's" audience resides.

Sharon Percy Rockefeller, president and CEO of WETA, the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital and producer of "PBS NewsHour," added, “The launch of 'PBS NewsHour West' is part of our unwavering commitment to excellence in journalism. This collaboration with ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism broadens our reach and provides extraordinary learning opportunities for new journalists as well.”

Under the leadership of Just, who joined as executive producer in September 2014 after more than 25 years at ABC News, "PBS NewsHour" has seen growth and expansion across platforms.

At 1.14 million viewers per minute, "PBS NewsHour’s" nightly broadcast audience for the 2017-18 television season (October 2017-September 2018) was up 34 percent compared with the 2013-14 television season. "NewsHour’s" website in 2018 reached 52 million users, up nearly 40 percent compared with 2015. With an eye for continued growth and reach across platforms, Just announced in September 2018 the move to expand and transform "PBS NewsHour" online with the addition of nine new full-time digital positions.

In the decade since ASU President Michael M. Crow made the Cronkite School an independent college and moved it from ASU’s Tempe campus to downtown Phoenix, the school has established itself as one of the country’s top professional journalism programs. Housed in a $71 million, six-story state-of-the-art facility, the Cronkite School has four television studios and more than a dozen professional immersion programs in which students receive real-world experiences under the guidance of faculty composed of award-winning journalists and world-class media scholars.

Arizona PBS, which is part of the Cronkite School, serves as the hub for the school’s professional programs, which includes Cronkite News, a multiplatform news operation with bureaus in Phoenix, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., as well as a local nightly newscast.

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Providing hope in the form of health empowerment

March 5, 2019

ASU research specialist teaches communities to take control of their health

By the time Berta Carbajal found herself in a conference room, shoulder-to-shoulder with state legislators, members of a city council and heads of the Valley of the Sun United Way, she had decades of experience as a community health worker, had co-founded and later single-handedly run a network to educate and connect other such “promotorespromoters” — as they are called in Spanish — across the Valley, and was serving as a research specialist at Arizona State University’s College of Nursing and Health Innovation, where she worked under the supervision of Professor David Coon to recruit local residents for research studies.

But she never thought of herself as a power player. So she was still a bit hesitant when she was asked to attend the meeting to lend her opinion about a Valley of the Sun United Way community health initiative.

The initiative was focused on addressing food insecurity in a low-income neighborhood in Phoenix. It had been underway for about a year but wasn’t yielding many results, hence the meeting to reassess their approach.

“I remember listening to everybody, and my turn came to introduce myself, and I said, ‘I have a question: How many residents are here?’” Carbajal recalled. There were none. “So I said, ‘OK, thank you.’ And I sat down. Because the bottom line is that it's not going to work (without input from the community).”

The folks at Valley of the Sun United Way took her point and ran with it. They asked Carbajal and Coon to officially partner with them and implement the promotor model — in which members of the community, both professional health care workers and volunteers, are trained to be resources and advocates for their communities’ health — in their outreach programs.

That was three years ago. Just last week, the Promotores HOPE (Helping Other Promotores Excel) Network held its second annual Dia Del Promotor, a day full of workshops, panel discussions and networking opportunities geared toward supplying promotores with the best resources and most up-to-date information to disseminate among their communities.

More than 100 promotores were in attendance, a mark of the significant growth the HOPE Network has seen over the past few years.

Esther Villa, a resident of south Phoenix, has been a promotor for five years now. In addition to providing information about ESL and GED classes to her community, she spends Saturdays working in the community garden and encouraging others to participate and learn to eat healthier.

“Sometimes organizations don't know exactly what the community needs, so promotores can help because we live in the area, so we see the problems (firsthand),” she said.

Carbajal co-founded the network about a decade ago but was never able to secure reliable funding until partnering with VSUW. For years, she ran the whole operation in her free time because she saw how important it was and how much the communities relied on promotores for health information.

coon and Carbajal

Professor David Coon and Berta Carbajal address the attendees at the second annual Dia del Promotor. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now

“Berta embodies the essence of the promotor,” said Coon, a long-time supporter of the network who also serves as associate dean of research at the College of Nursing and Health Innovation. “She is a lifelong promotor who learned at the feet of her grandmother and her mother. And we need more like her because this work is critically important.

“These are people that are of the community, in the community, connected to the community. They really are a lifeline for the community. They help bridge the gaps that exist between people and a variety of different services.”

Last December, Carbajal celebrated 42 new promotores’ completion of the three-day training program. After their training, Carbajal and other HOPE Network volunteers continue to meet with the promotores to make sure they’re on track.

“The ones that graduated yesterday, I already told them they have homework,” Carbajal said.

At their next meeting, they’ll need to present Carbajal with a list of their communities’ needs — such as health insurance accessibility, domestic violence, immigration issues and mental health — which they will have obtained from going out into the neighborhoods and connecting and talking with residents. Then, they prioritize the needs, and a plan on how to address those needs is set in motion.

Community health work is something that runs in Carbajal’s blood. As a child, she recalls her mother and grandmother being the “go-to” people in the neighborhood.

“This is how I describe the promotor community model: They're community members that are the go-to people,” Carbajal said. “I was little and I remember neighbors coming to Doña Regina, my grandmother, because they knew they could trust her.”

Later, her mother took over that mantle. In one particularly harrowing memory, Carbajal was in the kitchen with her mother, who was teaching her how to make tortillas. A sudden banging on the door stopped them in their tracks, and her mother rushed to let the woman crying at the door inside.

Her husband had hit her, the woman told Carbajal’s mother. And it wasn’t long before he showed up at the door demanding his wife come home.

Carbajal remembers that her mother still held the rolling pin from their tortilla-making when she opened the door and spoke to him. But there was to be no more violence that night; Doña Sylvia, as her mother was known, told the man to leave, and he listened. Once things had settled down, she helped the woman find a safe place to stay and advised her not to go back to her husband.

“They respected her, they knew she could be trusted,” Carbajal said of her mother. “If somebody was unemployed and they needed a food box, she could connect them with how to get one, or she would take it to them herself. So I learned from the best.”

Top photo: More than 100 promotores gathered for the second annual HOPE Conference. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now