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A Grand moment

February 25, 2019

In honor of the canyon's centennial as a national park, ASU Now looks at the landmark's past and future

The Grand Canyon National Park turns 100 on Feb. 26, but the canyon's history goes back far beyond that.

Its history is layered with discovery, reverence and adventure. It is where we journey to find ourselves, to lose ourselves, to pick up a new trail and continue onward.

The history of the Grand Canyon is tied into the history of our state and its peoples, both ancient and newly arrived. To honor the park's centennial, ASU Now has gathered some of those stories — stories of play, stories of loss, stories of exploration and protecting what is there.

Come to the edge and see. Let us take a fresh look at an ancient wonder.


Stories of the Grand Canyon

Literally and figuratively, the Grand Canyon is Arizona’s biggest attraction. Naturally, it draws the attention of artists, faculty and scientists from Arizona State University, the state’s biggest university. From a university president who took an unexpected plunge to a photographer who travels through time, here are their stories.

The future of visiting the canyon

Grand Canyon National Park draws visitors from all over the world to bask in its beauty, making it not only a precious ecological resource to cherish but also a major economic driver for the state of Arizona. Balancing the twin missions of access and preservation is key to its future, according to experts at ASU.

Verses inspired by the vistas

Perhaps the most stunning of natural wonders is the Grand Canyon. ASU Now asked some of the university’s most dynamic wordsmiths to wax poetic about the famous landmark — hear them read their new works.

Mapping the canyon

Without maps, we would not be able to see the Grand Canyon. Only a bird could see the immense gash in the Earth’s crust, almost 300 miles long. At the end of February, ASU will host the first conference exploring the art, science and practice of Grand Canyon cartography.

Native American views of the centennial celebration

Native Americans view the Grand Canyon through myriad lenses: As a land tied to their place of origin. As a place to be both feared and revered. As a place of opportunity. As an inspiration for cultural expression. And they view it territorially among themselves. All these elements run as deep and as wide as the canyon. 

Love and loss in the canyon

This is a story about three people, passion, a place, and triumphing over tragedy. Three passionate backpackers and the Grand Canyon, the place which united them, and separated them. And then elevated them.

Ooh and awe: The science behind our fascination with nature

If you gasped the first time you saw the canyon in person, you aren't alone; many visitors are awestruck. Associate Professor of social psychology Lani Shiota is an expert on the emotion of awe. She's working to uncover the secrets of the emotion, and she has made some interesting discoveries.

A light dusting of Grand history

In river lingo, what's a yard sale? What famous people have rafted through the canyon? What role did the Colorado River play in Barry Goldwater's political career? Find out in our sampler of history and trivia.

FEATURED IN 'THE CONVERSATION': How a place once called 'valueless' became grand  

WATCH: 'Beyond the Rim: The Next 100 Years of Grand Canyon National Park,' a documentary from AZPBS

MORE TO EXPLORE: The 100 Years of Grand Canyon Centennial Project is a collaboration between ASU Library, Northern Arizona University Cline Library, and Grand Canyon National Park.

Top map courtesy of the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub

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Mapping the Grand Canyon

February 25, 2019

ASU hosts first conference on cartography of the natural wonder

Editor's note: This story is part of an ASU Now series celebrating the centennial of the Grand Canyon National Park.

Without maps, we would not be able to see the Grand Canyon.

Only a bird could see the immense gash in the Earth’s crust, almost 300 miles long. Maps allow us to see the whole thing at once or particular aspects like the geology, points of interest and river rapids.

At the end of February, Arizona State University will host the first conference exploring the art, science and practice of Grand Canyon cartography.

ASU’s collection of 240 Grand Canyon maps includes an 1852 military map, where the Colorado Plateau is mostly blank, and a Spanish colonial map with the same blank spaces. A territorial map from 1880 shows the now-drowned Glen Canyon. There are aeronautical charts showing no-fly zones below 14,000 feet, cartoon maps with female tourists swooning over lanky cowboys, and the gas station maps people of a certain age will remember. Some maps capture lost landscapes, like rapids long overtaken by Lake Mead. Some are digitized copies, and some are originals.

Matthew Toro is the director of maps, imagery and geospatial services at the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub. He leads projects and programming at the center for GIS, remote sensing and related technologies. The idea for a conference came to him when he was in the canyon on a rim-to-rim hike.

“You think, there’s this giant hole in the ground — how did they map it?” Toro said. “Here I have the privileged position of running this little mapping shop. The history of mapping Grand Canyon is a history of exploration. It’s a history of science. It’s a history of technology. It’s a history of art. There’s a lot of history here.”

Toro did some research and found out no one had ever hosted a conference on mapping the canyon.

“Believe it or not, no one’s ever looked into that angle of Grand Canyon history: How the Grand Canyon was mapped,” he said. “And it was a surprise to me. This is one of the most iconic landscapes on the face of the Earth, not only for North America, for the United States, or Arizona. ... I realize the notion of thinking of the Grand Canyon as a whole is very much an abstraction. When you think how we know the Grand Canyon, most of our knowledge of the canyon is through maps. ... I realized there’s a fascinating history here and no one’s really looked at it holistically.”

Video by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Among other projects, Toro is currently constructing a cartographic history of the greater Grand Canyon region. When he started work at the university, he found a set of maps in a back room that belonged to a famous cartographer, mountaineer and photographer named Bradford Washburn.

Washburn created one of the most famous maps of the Grand Canyon, “The Heart of the Grand Canyon,” published by the National Geographic Society in 1978. It remains celebrated among cartographers today.

Comments on cartography websites: “If only all maps were made to this standard.” “It’s the epitome of dedication and commitment to the craft of making a map.”

The achievement is mentioned in the first paragraph of Washburn’s obituary in the New York Times.

Ansel Adams called Washburn one of the best mountain photographers of all time. Washburn shot from unpressurized planes and helicopters, with doors removed, at temperatures far below zero, while tethered to the cabin. He made landmark climbs in Alaska and Europe, employing the unprecedented use of glacier landings and supply drops. In 1939, he took a job as director of the New England Museum of Natural History (later to be called the Museum of Science) in Boston, transforming an old, rundown joint into the greatest children’s museum in the world. In 1992 he was a member of the survey team that made the first laser measurement on top of Mount Everest, discovering the mountain was 7 feet higher than previously thought.

In the early 1970s, Washburn visited the Grand Canyon and decided there wasn’t a good enough map of it. There were U.S. Geological Survey maps, but they weren’t up to the latest standards.

“He felt they were inadequate,” said Michael Fry, the collection manager and senior map librarian at the National Geographic Society's Library and Archives since 2010. “It wasn’t useful enough for casual users like hikers and it wasn’t good enough for scientific use, so whether you were looking at the canyon for geologic or archaeological purposes, it just wasn’t something good enough for anybody. He seemed to be the sort of person when he saw a need, he wanted to fill it, and this was right up his alley.”

Washburn approached the National Geographic Society and asked the Committee for Research and Exploration for a grant to do the cartography. They were familiar with him and his work.

“The internal response here was, ‘That’s a good idea. It’s one of the most remarkable natural features on Earth. It would be right up our alley. We need to support that,’” Fry said.  “And we gave him money.”

Washburn and his hand-picked team spent four and a half years on the project, with 144 days in the field. They made 712 helicopter landings to survey lines. Washburn called it mapping “a mountain upside down.”

Bradford Washburn Nu

Bradford Washburn and his wife perched on Dana Butte, one of the reference points used in measuring and mapping the Grand Canyon, in June 1972. Photo by Gary Settle/The New York Times

GPS didn’t exist back then. Washburn used a theodolite, a laser instrument for measuring angles, elevations and distances; aerial photos; a helicopter; and his feet.

“It was a huge, huge effort,” Fry said. “He was just a dedicated, driven guy, just tenacious and skilled and had lots of experience. ... What’s remarkable about it is how much dedication and expertise went into the surveying of the canyon, the production of the cartography, the artwork that is the basis for the map.”

The map is extremely detailed. Much of the Grand Canyon is vertical. It’s cliffs. On a contour topographical map, contour lines dictate the terrain. If they’re close together, the terrain is steep. If they’re far apart, the terrain is mostly flat. A cliff is shown by a lot of lines clustered together in thick line. In a place like the Grand Canyon, that would have obscured the terrain.

“They came up with an interesting solution, which was to replace the contour lines that are typical of topographic maps, with hand-drawn cliffs,” Fry said. “That would give an effect of the verticality of the terrain without obscuring the terrain, which is what would have happened if you had taken contour lines and pushed them closer and closer and closer.”

The map’s scale is at 1:24,000, just over 2.5 inches to the mile. At that scale, Washburn represented the canyon in a way never before seen. He and his wife received the Alexander Graham Bell Medal for “unique and notable contributions to geography and cartography.” Fry will give a presentation on the map at the conference.

“I cannot overstate the caliber of the speakers we have put together,” Toro said.

One of the most famous maps of Grand Canyon is Harvey Butchart’s personal map, which hangs in the park’s backcountry office. Butchart was a Flagstaff math professor who hiked more of the canyon than anyone else in history, logging more than 12,000 miles and becoming the first to hike the length of the park. Peter Runge, head of special collections at Northern Arizona University, will be doing a presentation on Butchart’s map. “We have a dedicated presentation just on that,” Toro said.

Famed geologist Karl Karlstrom will give an overview of geologic mapping in the canyon.

“We have gathered rock stars from the worlds of geology, history and cartography,” Toro said. “We have Tom Patterson, who is the recently retired senior cartographer for the National Park Service. When you go to the Grand Canyon and you get your National Park maps, all those maps were made by one of our keynote speakers. … We’re going to be celebrating the centennial, the sesquicentennial, and the very ancient act of mapping.”

Matt Toro ASU examines Grand Canyon maps

Matthew Toro (right), director of maps, imagery and geospatial services at the ASU Library Map and Geospatial Hub, and Eric Friesenhahn, who completed his bachelor's degree in geographic information science in December, look at Grand Canyon maps at Arizona State University. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

The event is free and open to the public.

“A lot of this is fascinating history,” Toro said. “I think (the public) would get a real kick learning some of these stories, learning about how maps are made. Everyone takes maps for granted these days. ... No one thinks about where all that data comes from. That data helps inform our consciousness of the world and space and this giant hole in the ground carved over millions of years. ... One need not be a geographer or historian or geologist to love the Grand Canyon, and to love maps and to love history. It’s really the convergence of those various themes that we want to host this conference for.”

Free and open to all, the Feb. 28-March 1 conference promises a full two-day program of map-based storytelling, transdisciplinary analysis, state-of-the-art geospatial and cartographic demonstrations, engaging hands-on activities and open community dialogue. For more information and to register, visit the ASU Library website.

Those who can’t make it to the conference can watch it live. A recording will also be available at the ASU Library YouTube channel.

Top photo: Matthew Toro (right), director of maps, imagery and geospatial services, and recent grad Eric Friesenhahn look at maps at ASU's at the Map and Geospatial Hub. Photo by Ken Fagan/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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A light dusting of Grand Canyon history

February 25, 2019

From Goldwater to whitewater, we share a sampler of trivia, jargon and timeline

Editor's note: This story is part of an ASU Now series celebrating the centennial of the Grand Canyon National Park.

“He sat on the bank, while the river still chattered on to him, a babbling procession of the best stories in the world, sent from the heart of the earth ... ”
— Kenneth Grahame, "The Wind in the Willows"

Oceans of words have been conjured about the Grand Canyon. The majesty! The spectacle! The grandeur of nature’s glory!

What did the very first visitors think of it?


In September 1540, García López de Cárdenas y Figueroa, a conquistador with Coronado’s army, was the first European to see the Grand Canyon. Guided to the South Rim by Hopi, the Spanish spent three days trying to reach the river. They failed. Since the Hopi have been going into the canyon for millennia, it seems obvious they were playing the conquistadors. (It worked. No other non-Indians came back to the canyon for 300 years.) The only comment the Spanish made about the canyon was that a rock they had seen from the rim was “bigger than the great tower of Seville.” That was it. No other description. If they were around today, they’d likely be the type of tourist who complains the McDonald’s in Barcelona isn’t as good as the one at home.

Flash-forward to 1857. The federal government had acquired a lot of land out West and had no idea what was out there, so a series of expeditions trudged off to have a look. Lt. Joseph Ives led such an expedition through the area, traveling along the South Rim.

"The region is, of course, altogether valueless,” Ives reported. “It can be approached only from the south, and after entering it there is nothing to do but leave. Ours has been the first, and will doubtless be the last, party of whites to visit this profitless locality. It seems intended by nature that the Colorado River, along the greater portion of its lonely and majestic way, shall be forever unvisited and undisturbed."

More than 6.25 million canyon visitors proved Ives wrong in 2017, according to park records. They came from all corners of the globe to gawk at it, fly over it, float through it, hike down into it and marvel at it. 

In honor of the Feb. 26 centennial of Grand Canyon National Park, we present a sampler of history and trivia.

Below the rim

Only 5 percent of the roughly 6.25 million people who visit the Grand Canyon every year go below the rim, and only about 10 percent of those make it to the river.

In 2017, slightly more than 25,000 people rafted the river — 18,547 people on commercial trips; 6,607 people on private trips. What’s the difference?

Commercial trips cost around $3,000. They haul it through the canyon, usually in about six or seven days, like jogging through the Louvre. You travel with a bunch of people you don’t know. You don’t do any work. Commercial rafts are motorized, so there’s the joy of listening to an engine all day. There’s almost no danger of flipping.

Private trips cost about $1,500. You travel in oar rafts or dories, rowed by designated amateur boatmen. You do all the work, such as cooking, camp setup and toilet management. You’re with friends or family. The big rapids soak you in adrenaline as well as water. The main difference is they’re long — at 16 to 18 days, they're one of the world’s longest popular floats.

To get a permit for a private trip, you enter a lottery. In the main lottery for private trips held in 2017, 6,650 people applied for 463 launch dates. People from around the world apply for permits, mostly from the developed West. More Coloradoans and Californians apply than any other state (Arizonans come fifth).

Before the river became crowded and the park service slapped restrictions on trip lengths, private boatmen in the '70s vied at slow-boating, or making a trip last as long as possible. The crowning glory of slow-boating has gone down in river history as the Hundred Days Trip. Legendary boatman Regan Dale and his extended family floated away from Lees Ferry and spent a whopping 103 days in the canyon. They hiked every side canyon, spent as long as a week in favorite camps like Nankoweap and Granite Park, baked their own bread and wallowed in the vast silence of stone cathedrals broken only by the rustle of the river. The moon waxed and waned three times while they were there. There will never be another trip like that.

The senator

The Goldwater Center for Science and Engineering at ASU is named after Arizona’s native son, Barry Goldwater.

The senator was fond of saying, “If I ever had a mistress, it would be the Grand Canyon." He thought Thunder River Falls in the canyon was the most beautiful spot in the state.

In 1940, Goldwater joined Norman Nevills, the pioneer of commercial boating, on a 42-day trip down the Green and Colorado rivers. This landed him on the roll call of the first 100 river-runners to travel from the headwaters of the Colorado to Lake Mead.

Barry Goldwater 1940 Grand Canyon

Barry Goldwater was among the first people to float the length of the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon.

The bill of fare was canned food. Because everything got wet and the labels wore off, Nevills had Goldwater and another guy paint the cans: red for meat, green for vegetables, etc. “Well, we painted all the cans the wrong color on purpose,” Goldwater chuckled in a documentary about running the Colorado. “Norm was pretty mad about that.”

The river was the catalyst that sent Goldwater into politics. He shot a film on the Nevills trip that he showed around Arizona. He became so used to chatting with a wide variety of people, politics was the next natural step.

“Well, once you’ve been in the canyon and once you’ve sort of fallen in love with it, it never ends,” he said in an interview for an oral history project done by the nonprofit Grand River Guides organization.

The senator’s ashes were scattered along the Colorado River.  

Barry Goldwater Grand Canyon laundry 1940

Barry Goldwater at the bottom of the Grand Canyon in 1941.

Canyon time

Here’s what you don’t hear in the canyon:

Back-up alarms. Smartphone alerts. Car stereos. “COME ON DOWN TO THE CARPET BARN!” The neighbor’s Chihuahuas. Jackhammers. Motorcycles. “Have you had your home’s heating system checked yet?

Here’s what you don’t think about:

What you’re going to eat for dinner. If you should put more in your 401(k). What you’re going to do two weekends from now. Getting ready for that thing that’s due at work next month. How bad the traffic will be on the drive home. Getting your home heating system checked out.

A handy guide to river carnage

Terms you may want to know before you head down the Colorado river in a boat:

Flip: The bottom of your boat is facing the sky.

Dump truck: Your boat goes up and comes back down right-side-up, but nobody is in it.

Clean sweep: Your boat goes up and comes back down, but only the boatman is in it.

Yard sale: Your gear is scattered along the shore.

Maytagged: Being spun underwater in a rapid. Combines all the fun of being beaten up by five people in a parking lot with drowning.

Top five rapids for flips: Lava, Crystal, Upset, 209 Mile, House Rock.

Top five rapids for injuries: Crystal, Lava, Hance, Horn Creek, Granite.

Rafting Grand Canyon

A raft maneuvers Lava Falls on the Colorado River. This is one of several images captured during a 200-mile,16-day trip through the Grand Canyon. Photo by Dave Morgan/Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fame and whitewater

Celebrities who have rafted the Colorado through Grand Canyon make up a really disparate list of people. The tone was struck in 1967 when Robert Kennedy took down a group that included journalist George Plimpton, crooner Andy Williams, humorist Art Buchwald and Jim Whittaker, the first American to summit Everest.

The others? You could put Danny DeVito, Ray Romano, Pierce Brosnan and Julia Louis-Dreyfus in a “Last People You’d Expect to See in the Grand Canyon” group, but there’s no pigeon-holing the rest:

Edward Abbey, Al Gore, James Taylor (he played guitar in Redwall Cavern), Tom Cruise, Tony Danza, John McCain, Jimmy Carter, basketball player Bill Walton, John Denver, Liam Neeson, Bradley Cooper, Edward Norton, George Winston, Bruce Babbitt, Ted Turner, Sean Penn, Penny Marshall, Carrie Fisher, Paul Simon, Liz Phair and Rita Wilson.

James Watt, Ronald Reagan’s secretary of the Interior, couldn’t stand it and had himself choppered out on Day 4.

Modern timeline of Grand Canyon

1857: Lt. Joseph Ives embarks on a government expedition through the area, traveling along the South Rim. Unimpressed, Ives declared it "altogether valueless", predicting they would be "the last party of whites to visit this profitless locality.”

1869: John Wesley Powell boats the Colorado from Green River, Wyoming, on May 24, floating almost 930 miles to the mouth of the Virgin River on Aug. 30. Powell’s personality proves worse than the rapids and four men desert, setting a pattern for future Powell expeditions. 

1883: Organized tourism begins when stagecoaches carry tourists from Flagstaff to the South Rim. The 79-mile trip takes 11 hours.

1908: U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt declares the Grand Canyon a national monument (later declared a national park by Woodrow Wilson in 1919).

1909: The Julius Stone Expedition becomes the first pure pleasure trip to float the canyon. Despite running out of food, shooting bighorn sheep to eat, and becoming injured, everyone has a great time.

1938: Amos Burg rows the first inflatable raft down the river.

1945: Flagstaff math Professor Harvey Butchart first hikes the Grand Canyon. Butchart hiked more of the park than anyone else in history, including rangers. His backcountry map still hangs in an office at park headquarters. He hiked more than 12,000 miles, climbed 83 features within the canyon and pioneered more than 100 new routes from the rim to the river. In 1963 he became the first to hike the length of the park. Butchart was banned from leading hiking groups by the Coconino County Sheriff after losing students on trips around northern Arizona.

1956: A midair collision between two commercial airliners over the canyon helps lead to the creation of the Federal Aviation Administration.

2016: Speed record down the Colorado is set by Ben Orkin in a kayak in January. Orkin paddled from Lees Ferry to Pearce Ferry in 34 hours and two minutes — a 277-mile distance.

2018: In October, Christof Teuscher, a computer science professor at Portland State University, completes the first quadruple rim-to-rim-to-rim hike. The eight crossings add up to 168 miles with about 44,000 feet of elevation gain. His time was 58 hours and 11 minutes. Teuscher was supported (met with supplies after each double crossing) because he explained, “I’m getting old, feeble and lazy."

Top photo: Winter still offers dramatic views of Grand Canyon National Park from the South Rim Historic District. Photo by Michael Quinn/National Park Service. 

Special thanks to Ceiba Adventures, River Outfitting Services, Flagstaff, Arizona. 

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Colleen Jennings-Roggensack receives Pioneer Award

February 24, 2019

Executive director of ASU Gammage has made an impact on African-American culture in Phoenix for decades

The syncopated rat-a-tats and rhythmic dance moves of a traditional African drummer heralded the final weekend of Black History Month at the La Sala Ballroom on Arizona State University’s West campus Saturday night during the 18th annual Pioneer Award Dinner.

The ceremony recognizes individuals who have made significant contributions to the life and culture of African-Americans in the Phoenix metropolitan area. This year, Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, the university’s vice president for cultural affairs and executive director of ASU Gammage, was honored with an award, along with Student Pioneer Ayanna Shambe.

Jennings-Roggensack accepted the award on behalf of her parents, who she credits for her success and that of her siblings. 

“They knew the world was a bigger place and that it belonged to us,” she said.

Following the processional, New College Dean and West campus Vice Provost Todd Sandrin welcomed the more than 200 dinner guests, who included such prominent African-American community leaders as Vice President of Sun Devil Athletics Ray Anderson, director of ASU’s Center for the Study of Race and Democracy Lois Brown and Miss Black Arizona USA 2019 Marian Omidiji.

Sandrin remarked that it was an exciting time for ASU, having been named the most innovative university in the country for the fourth year in a row in 2018, and that the evening served as a reflection on the university’s mission to “assume fundamental responsibility for the … communities it serves.”

Charles St. Clair, an academic professional and fine arts specialist at New College, and Duku Anokye, an associate professor of Africana language, literature and culture in the School of Humanity Arts and Cultural Studies, served as emcees. Anokye kicked things off with an African libation ritual in which ancestors and deities are invoked as a tribute to their guidance of the living.

“We cannot work apart and think we can be successful,” Anokye said, calling on the crowd to unite through the call and response portion of the ritual.

Dinner was followed by a handful of select songs, including “What About Love” from "The Color Purple" and “Wheels of a Dream” from "Ragtime," a nod to Jennings-Roggensack’s instrumental role in bringing a great many Broadway musicals to ASU Gammage over her 26 years with the university.

“I’m not sure people even recognize how important you are to this Valley and this state,” said Jeffery Kennedy, assistant professor in the School of Humanities, Art and Cultural Studies who was on hand to serve as musical accompaniment to the evening’s singers. 

“It’s not just the arts,” Jennings-Roggensack brings to the community, Kennedy continued, “it’s culture, too. And we are having experiences that change us because of that.”

Ayanna Shambe

Ayanna Shambe, a double major in women and gender studies, and biology, accepted the Student Pioneer Award. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now

Shambe, a double major in women and gender studies, and biology, accepted the Student Pioneer Award by thanking friends and family for their support and encouragement. A student in Barrett, The Honors College, Shambe has served as president of the ASU Programming and Activities Board and spearheaded the revival of the Black Student Union. 

Before Jennings-Roggensack took to the stage to accept her award, the audience was treated to a short documentary about her life and service.

Born an Air Force brat in a small town in Texas, she lived in 13 states and two foreign countries before she went off to college. At the age of 5, she saw her first opera, "Madame Butterfly," and in later years, remembers “second-acting“Second-acting” refers to sneaking into a theater at intermission before the second act.” Broadway shows with her aunts in New York City.

As a child, Jennings-Roggensack said, her parents gave her and her siblings “three sacred texts” to live by: 1) Broaden your horizons. 2) Give back. 3) Get a job.

Though her first and lasting passion will always be dance, she eventually found her way into academia, taking on cultural programming for Colorado State University in 1977. After stints with Western States Arts Federation and Dartmouth College, she came to ASU in 1992 at the request of then-president Lattie Coor, who tasked her with reinvigorating the university’s lagging public-events program.

ASU Gammage has since flourished under Jennings-Roggensack, who has brought the likes of Maya Angelou, Boots Riley and the Dance Theatre of Harlem to perform there. She has also helmed several successful ventures, including K-12 art programs, community engagement initiatives and cultural revitalization projects. 

At ASU, she serves as the chair of the MLK Committee and oversees Sun Devil Stadium 365, a universitywide initiative to reimagine and redesign the use of Sun Devil Stadium as a community union used 365 days a year by faculty, staff, students and the entire Arizona community for events and activities beyond athletics.

Jennings-Roggensack chairs the Broadway League's Diversity and Inclusion Committee and has also served on the National Council on the Arts and been involved with such groups as Arizonans for Cultural Development and the Tempe Convention and Visitors Bureau.

In November 2018 she was honored by Valley Leadership, a regional program designed to challenge local business and nonprofit leaders to make a difference in the community, with their Woman of the Year award for her impact on the lives of others. 

At Saturday night’s ceremony, Jennings-Roggensack shared a story from her childhood about how her mother often read from “The Journal of Negro History” to her and her siblings at bedtime. Before turning out the light, she recalled, her mother would turn to her children, but she wouldn’t say “good night” or “I love you.” 

“She would say, ‘Know your negro history,’” Jennings-Roggensack said, because she wanted them to know that they were “somebody” and that they came “from a long line of somebodies.”

“We didn’t forget our negro history,” she told the crowd. “And I am because you exist.”

Top photo: Colleen Jennings-Roggensack accepts the Pioneer Award at the West campus on Saturday, Feb. 23, as emcees Charles St. Clair and Duku Anokye look on. Photo by Emma Greguska/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter , ASU Now

(480) 965-9657

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Buckhorn Baths, baseball and a bevy of critters

Goal is to use Buckhorn Baths collection as educational tool for children.
February 21, 2019

The classic motel that helped jump-start spring training in Arizona has gifted its huge taxidermy collection to ASU

Boasting a bevy of Gila monsters, horny toads, chuckwallas and ring-tailed cats, the iconic Buckhorn Baths Motel in Mesa, Arizona, was once home to the state's largest taxidermy collection. It was also, at one point, the largest private natural history collection in the state.

Once a spring training destination, the motel also hosted New York Giants owner Horace Stoneman and the likes of baseball players Johnny Mize, Mel Ott and Bobby Thomson, who first came to the motel in 1947. The athletes were attracted by its hot mineral springs that soothed aching muscles. Perhaps they also enjoyed trading glances with the infamous jackalope or the 62 mule deer and 26 javelina in the motel’s collection. The Giants’ first spring training foray helped lead to the growth of Cactus League baseball in the Valley.

Recently, the Buckhorn Baths — under a new owner — donated its entire collection to a biodiversity center at Arizona State University. 

Video by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Last year, Charlotte Johnston, manager of vertebrate collection in ASU's Natural History Collections, received a phone call asking the department to come load as many specimens as could be carried and to help find a way to keep the collection preserved.

The university answered the call, and the School of Life Sciences moved the collection to its Alameda facility, the home for ASU’s Natural History Collections. There, Johnston has catalogued more than 300 specimens from the Buckhorn Baths.

“I think the first reaction when people walk in … is ‘wow,' ” Johnston said.

But she admits, "We can't really keep 62 mule head deer. We plan to donate to other institutions who are willing to take on some of these specimens."

Johnston has been identifying partners at ASU, Maricopa Community Colleges and even an auction of some specimens through Arizona Game and Fish with proceeds going to law enforcement.

“Our goal is to take the collection and use it as a tool for education for children,” she said.

Top photo of Buckhorn Baths Motel by Marine 69-71 at English Wikipedia [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)]

ASU program inspires students to positively impact couples and families in the community

February 20, 2019

A specialized program at ASU has trained nearly 200 students who have entered the workforce in careers that have a positive and profound impact on society.

Now in its 12th year, the master’s degree in advanced studies in marriage and family therapy (MAS-MFT) program has produced student interns responsible for more than 56,220 hours of individual, couple and family therapy to the local community. Picture of students around a table discussing a class topic Marriage and family therapy students exchange ideas during a rich classroom discussion.

Following the T. Denny Sanford School of Social and Family Dynamics' mission to focus on “the well-being of children, youth, families and their communities across the lifespan”, Rick Fabes, founding director of the school, conceived of an idea for an accelerated, applied program to provide expert training to those passionate about serving others.

This led to the development of the MAS-MFT program by co-directors Mary Doyle and Karissa Greving Mehall (both Arizona-licensed marriage and family therapists). In 2007, the MAS-MFT program was piloted with 14 students before being granted approval by the Arizona Board of Regents in 2008. Since then, 196 students have graduated from the program, with another 23 on track to graduate next fall.

For those wishing to work as clinicians within the marriage and family therapy discipline, one unique program feature is its accelerated, applied design. A traditionally-paced program would take two to three years for a student to complete. ASU’s MAS-MFT course can be completed in just 15 months, allowing students to begin supervised employment immediately upon completion.

Preparing graduates for immediate career opportunities has paid great dividends for not only the students, but for local practitioners as well.

“I have had the pleasure of working with and supervising countless ASU-MFT graduates over the years,” said Melissa A. Baker, president of the Arizona Association of Marriage and Family Therapy. 

“Today, there are strong graduates from the ASU-MFT program in positions of direct client care, supervision, management and administrative leadership at many behavioral health agencies and private practices around the state, from the Valley to Tucson to the White Mountains,” said Baker.

The applied emphasis also means that students are able to focus their education and training on the skills they will need as professional clinicians working in the behavioral health field instead of having to take classes devoted to research training or to complete a master’s thesis. 

This applied emphasis is one reason why Holli Gonzalez, parenting skills program director at Human Resource Training Inc., has partnered with the ASU-MFT internship program for the past 12 years.

“The interns come to our program well-informed about not only tried-and-true ways to engage clients, but also aware of the newest ideas in therapy," said Gonzalez. "At one point, interns helped inform the writing of our 2010 RFP because they knew about many evidenced-based therapies that could be used with our client population. 

“We have worked with interns from other programs, but one area that stands out about the ASU-MFT program is the individual attention each intern has received from Mary and Karissa."

Developers took great care and preparation to ensure the program met the highest standards. The program’s curriculum has been granted official approval (granted in five-year increments) by the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, Arizona’s licensing board. Students can be confident that their graduate curriculum will be accepted by the board when they apply for licensure.

Another unique feature about the program is its cohort-based format. Each group of students attends all classes together in the same sequence. They share a distinctive experience together as students, and many forge professional relationships after graduation. Collaboration and mutual support, rather than competition, is encouraged for all students. 

What program graduates say

“We received rigorous training and therapeutic models, real-world experience through a clinical internship and support from accomplished and knowledgeable professors. While many graduate programs within this field focus on outdated text, this program included a balance of historical therapeutic approach as well as modern research studies and realistic application to practice.”
— Haley Edris, clinician, Behavioral Health at Arizona’s Children Association and its family of agencies

“I cannot say enough good things about how my experience in the program has shaped my perspective, practice and leadership. It gave me access to a deeper level of understanding about people and what drives them, especially working in groups, and how to motivate them towards a common goal. The program training played a large part in my advancement to the CEO role, and I am forever thankful for all that I learned.” 
— April Rhodes, chief executive officer, Spectrum Healthcare Group 

“The program helped to solidify my career in behavioral health. I had previously worked in the field but in a different capacity. However, this degree enabled me to move into different positions and has given me the possibility to work in private practice. At the time of graduation, I knew exactly the steps to be taken to pursue licensure in the state, while many colleagues I spoke to struggled to navigate the process and keep track of their requirements.” 
— Jessica Reynoso, 2012-13 cohort

“I had the pleasure of entering the program in 2007 as a member of the first cohort. Since graduation I have served on the board of the Arizona Association of Marriage and Family Therapy and the Arizona Marriage and Family Therapy Credentialing Committee. I’ve also had the privilege to be appointed to the Arizona Board of Behavioral Health Examiners, most recently serving as chairperson, and I have been able to teach undergraduate- and graduate-level courses. This program helped open all of those doors for me.” 
— Patricia Dobratz, director of operations and clinical services, Arizona Marriage & Family Therapy Clinic

The average rate of employment for program graduates within the first year is over 80 percent, and the rate of passing the national licensing exam is approximately 90 percent on the first attempt. The cohort is small and select — only 22-24 students are accepted each fall. 

For more information, please visit the MAS-MFT program webpage, which includes a comprehensive FAQ section and the student handbook.

Prospective students are invited to attend one of two informational sessions on the Tempe campus this fall. Meet the program’s co-directors, Mehall and Doyle, and learn more about the program. No RSVP necessary. The informational session dates, times and locations will be posted on the program’s webpage this summer

John Keeney

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


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W. P. Carey marketing lab renamed for professor, best-selling author

ASU consumer research lab named for marketing professor who wrote best-seller.
February 19, 2019

Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab looks to expand into the field

Robert Cialdini’s work in fusing social psychology and marketing led to a new way of thinking about consumer behavior and launched a best-selling book. Now, one of the most important resources in the W. P. Carey School of Business at Arizona State University is being named for this world-class scholar.

The Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab will continue its mission and expand its reach, thanks to a gift from Cialdini and his wife, businesswoman Bobette Gorden, and several other donorsThe other donors are Core Construction; Burton Family Foundation; Dircks Moving & Logistics; A. B. Farrington Foundation; The Hobbs Family; Randy and Ken Kendrick; J. W. Kieckhefer Foundation; E. P. “Gene” Polk; Charles “Nap” and Barbara Lawrence; Frank and Mary Labriola; Lonnie L. Ostrom, PhD; John D. Richardson, CFA; and Theresa and J. W. “Bill” Wilhoit..

Cialdini’s work has made him the “maestro of persuasion and influence,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business, at an event marking the naming on Tuesday night.

“I think faculty in this room would tell you that we idolize Bob so much because he’s not only a scholar among scholars but is truly is a thought leader in taking his own research and the research of others to practice, and that’s what we all try to do.”

Cialdini, an emeritus professor who retired in 2009, wrote the best-selling book “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion” in 1984. He told the crowd at McCord Hall on Tuesday night that his joint appointment in the departments of psychology and marketing was key.

“It was so fruitful to me in the way we were able to collaborate,” he said. “There was good research that came out of those collaborations but also in terms of stimulating my thinking for doing research that has implications, not just theoretical, but in the way exchanges occur in the real world.”

The lab, in the Business Administration C-Wing, was previously just called the behavioral research lab, but having Cialdini’s name on it will increase the credibility, Hillman said.

cialdini lab

Robert Cialdini and his wife, Bobette Gorden, are among those who received appreciation plaques at the naming ceremony on Tuesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“The Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab represents the legacy of one of our most prominent faculty members over the past several decades as well as the promise and impact of our research for decades to come,” she said.

“The lab conducts more than 200 separate behavioral experiments each year and is a vital resource for our faculty, students and community."

Amy Ostrom, chairman of the marketing department, said the investment will take the lab to the next level, expanding its work into the community and widening the study participant base well beyond undergraduates.

“One of the issues we have with all types of research done with a student population is that you just can’t ask all the questions you might be interested in asking,” she said, such as decisions about health care or financial services.

“We’re interested in creating a mobile lab — pulling together resources that our researchers can take out into the field, wherever that might be.”

The mobile research lab might be a pop-up site that allows for data collection in a controlled environment.

“We’re looking at everything it would take to conduct rigorous research in the field,” said Ostrom, who holds the PetSmart Chair in Service Leadership.

Ostrom said the renaming is especially poignant for her. When she was an undergraduate at ASU majoring in psychology, she took a class that Cialdini taught.

“I thought it was the best thing I had ever experienced, and I asked if I could be his research assistant. He really helped establish my love of research,” she said, adding that Cialdini also supervised her honors thesis.

“To come full circle and be part of having him invest in the lab and having the lab named after him is personally very meaningful.”

Studying real behavior

Cialdini’s transdisciplinary work in psychology and marketing is key to the mission of the lab, which extends beyond asking people, “Would you buy this?” Studies in the lab go much deeper, asking participants about topics ranging from group identity to recycling habits.

Most of the studies are taken online with subjects sometimes watching a video, but some are “experiential,” with the research assistants doing role play, in which they follow a scripted scenario to determine a subject’s response.

Recent studies done in the lab include one by Adriana Samper, an associate professor of marketing, that used an experiential study to look at how face-to-face conversations affect opinions about products, and another by Samper and a doctoral student that found that people use a lot less paper products when the items are pretty.

Andrea Morales, a professor of marketing, said the lab "is like oxygen to a consumer-behavior scholar."

cialdini lab

Paul Tracy, a friend of Robert Cialdini, checks out the virtual reality experience in the Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab in the W. P. Carey School of Business on Tuesday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

"I’m a consumer psychologist, which means I spend most of my time trying to figure out why people do the things they do. I develop and test theories of consumer behavior by running experiments in order to establish clear cause-and-effect relationships," said Morales, who is faculty director of the lab. "Without the lab, I wouldn’t have a research program."

The Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab is unique because of its scope, flexibility and engagement with students, she said.

"A lot of business schools have labs that often sit empty because they don’t have enough students to participate in their studies. In contrast, our lab is open every day, with studies running every day. We are one of the most productive and cost-efficient labs in the country," said Morales, who holds the Lonnie L. Ostrom Chair in Business.

The research provides insight into real consumer behavior, which means enhancing the realism and behavioral aspects of the research as much as possible.

"For example, instead of asking people their hypothetical purchase intentions for various products, we set up a room in the lab to look like an actual store and send participants in with real money to make a purchase of their choice," she said.

"In another study, instead of measuring aggression on a self-reported scale, the lab had participants play a boxing video game and recorded the number of punches they threw in order to see if scarcity ads, like those you see on Black Friday that advertise 'Only three available,' promote aggressive behavior in consumers."

Morales studies the concept of disgust, which involves keeping vomit-flavored jelly beans in the lab.

"Finding creative and compelling ways to test our theories is what we're all about," she said.

During the 2017-18 academic year, the lab had an average of 335 online participants and 250 in-person participants per week. All of that is managed with the help of six undergraduates who are employed as research assistants.

“The undergraduate research assistants are core to the functioning of the lab,” Ostrom said.

“It’s a great conduit for undergraduates to explore research, especially for those who are interesting in eventually pursuing an academic career.”

Learning to sell cars

Cialdini, who first came to ASU in 1971, said that studying behavior is the most important kind of consumer research.

“Research into how people are feeling, what they believe, what their attitudes are — that’s in the service of their behavior,” he said.

Cialdini’s interest in studying influence was piqued early on, when he realized he was a pushover: “I noticed I would buy things that I didn’t need or contribute to causes I didn’t know much about,” he said.

“It must have been something other than the merits of the offer — the psychology of the delivery of the offer. And that just intrigued me. What would that psychology look like if I tried to research it?”

He started studying influence in a lab, typically using college students who knew their responses were being evaluated. But he realized he needed to look at the real marketplace. So he started answering ads to train in as many influence professions as he could.

“I learned how to sell automobiles on a lot. I learned how to sell portrait photography over the phone. I learned how to sell encyclopedias door to door. I learned how to sell insurance from an office,” he said.

He studied training programs of charities and military recruiters.

“I interviewed cult recruiters. What do they do to move people and hold them in their sway?”

He worked “undercover” and learned hundreds of tactics and techniques, but eventually recognized that most of it could be boiled down to six principles. “And I realized, ‘Oh, there’s a book here.’”

So he wrote “Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion,” with a chapter devoted to each influence principle: reciprocation, commitment and consistency, social proof, liking, authority and scarcity. The book, published in 1984, has sold more than 3 million copies and has been translated into more than 30 languages.

Later, Cialdini updated the book to include a seventh principle, unity.

“If we can convince people that we share an identity with them, the influence process becomes dramatically easier,” he said. “That’s relevant today with this notion of tribalism as determining a lot of our political decisions and choices, for example.”

Cialdini has written several other books, most recently, “Pre-Suasion: A Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade,” in 2016.

“The book tries to answer: What can you do to make people agree with your message before they encounter it?” he said. “That sounds like some kind of magic, but it’s established science.”

He described a research project involving online influences published in 2002 and co-authored by Naomi Mandel, a professor of marketing in the W. P. Carey School of Business. The subjects in her study visited a furniture website and encountered one of two wallpaper backgrounds. Subjects who saw fluffy clouds were more like to cite comfort as an important furniture feature, and subjects who saw a wallpaper of pennies were more likely to cite price.

“This is what ‘pre-suasion’ does — it puts you in a state of mind,” Cialdini said.

Cialdini maintains an office on campus and continues to research and write about influence. He co-authored an article last year in Scientific American titled, “How to Overcome Antiscientific Thinking.”

His blockbuster "Influence," which he's updating to include social media and e-commerce, was written at a time when behavioral scientists were not writing for nonacademic audiences.

"They were worried they would be characterized as writing ‘pop psychology,'” he said. But he avoided that reaction because he supported his conclusions with hundreds of research citations.

"I tried to elevate an approach to research — the approach of experimental behavioral science.”

Top photo: Robert Cialdini expresses his gratitude to donors, colleagues and his wife at the naming ceremony of the Robert B. Cialdini Behavioral Research Lab in the W. P. Carey School of Business on Tuesday. The lab, named after the emeritus professor, will enable students to develop and test theories in consumer behavior in realistic experimental situations. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Sun Devils share their stories at ASU Day at the Capitol

February 19, 2019

Students and legislators get a chance to interact at annual showcase in Phoenix

Arizona State University’s annual Day at the Capitol “is an opportunity for the legislators to spend some quality time learning about many of the things ASU is engaged in,” according to Matt Salmon, ASU vice president of government affairs.

Salmon spoke at the event, held Tuesday at the Arizona State Capitol. ASU Day at the Capitol has become a staple in the interaction between the Arizona State Legislature and the university since its inaugural event 33 years ago. Every year ASU brings representatives from some of its many departments, programs and initiatives to show legislators what the university is working on.

From an original copy of the Gettysburg Address in Abraham Lincoln’s own writing to a virtual reality program that is currently enabling online students all across the globe to learn lab safety from their own homes, there was a lot to experience. 

ASU Day at the Capitol also serves as an opportunity for many ASU students to get an introduction to the way that the Legislature operates and to interact with senators and representatives from all across the state — even their own districts. 

“It’s a convenient opportunity for the student government to not only talk with their legislators but get familiar with them and tell a really personal account of how students on their respective campuses are feeling about issues,” said Aly Perkins, a senior studying public policy and the president of the ASU Undergraduate Student Government for the Downtown Phoenix campus. 

Video by Halla Nelson and Ethan Gaines/ASU

Legislators joined students and faculty at the Wesley Bolin Memorial Plaza across from the Capitol building to view the many booths displaying information about programs at ASU and to have lunch with students, who told what members of the Associated Students of ASU referred to as “their Sun Devil Story.” 

“It’s always great to see all of the great work that the university is doing,” said Sen. Sean Bowie. “It’s important for legislators to see.”

After lunch, Bowie and Rep. Athena Salman held small-group meetings with members of the ASU Undergraduate Student Government Tempe policy team to discuss accessibility of tuition to students. 

“I’m passionate about that. If I didn’t have my merit scholarship, I wouldn’t be able to be here,” said Cameron Vega, a sophomore studying politics and the economy, and civic and economic thought and leadership. Vega is the director of state and national affairs with the Undergraduate Student Government Tempe. 

ASU President Michael M. Crow was in attendance throughout the day. He moved across the plaza shaking hands and talking with both students and legislators alike. Later that afternoon, Crow attended an Arizona State Senate Appropriations Committee meeting, where he spoke about the funding structure of ASU and the success of research initiatives.

“Just because costs are low, that doesn’t mean value can’t be high,” Crow said. 

“We want to be valuable partners for this community,” Salmon said. “Not only are we producing top-level graduates who go on and get great jobs, but with a lot of the research we do, we make life better here in Arizona.”

Top photo: ASU President Michael Crow on Tuesday speaks to ASU students and faculty during ASU Day at the Capitol, a showcase of the initiatives and programs at ASU for the Arizona Legislature. Photo by Marcus Chormicle/ASU Now

Photographer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

ASU Gammage cultivates young talent at Kaleidoscope event with touring cast of 'Aladdin'

February 19, 2019

Compelling. Inspiring. Extravagant. Just a few words to describe the talent that was showcased at Kaleidoscope at ASU Gammage on Saturday.

Kaleidoscope is an opportunity for students from Title I schools to take part in an immersive live arts experience and interactively connect with a show. This year, students viewed the matinée performance of Disney’s touring Broadway show "Aladdin" at ASU Gammage and stayed afterward for dinner with the cast. Cast members of 'Aladdin' answer questions from students. Download Full Image

Kaleidoscope is funded by the Molly Blank Fund, an organization dedicated to promoting arts and culture events for youth.

“It’s definitely a special program that reflects ASU Gammage’s commitment to connecting communities with the younger generation,” said Desiree Ong, ASU Gammage educational enrichment program manager.

Ten cast members answered questions and watched the students perform, including Clinton Greenspan (Aladdin), Ellis Dawson (Genie), Zach Bencal (Babkak) and Jed Feder (Kassim).

“It inspires me and gives me hope,” Ong said about the meaningful experience that theater can provide.

A hundred students and teachers from Cesar Chavez High School, Sierra Linda High School and South Mountain High School prepared various pieces to present to the cast members.

The Cesar Chavez group performed a set of skits outlining one of the central themes from "Aladdin" — courage. The skits had the entire room erupting in laughter.  

The Sierra Linda students presented four different dioramas of their own ideas on how the "Aladdin" set would look if they could create it themselves. With glitter and paper, the students transformed cardboard boxes into set designs close to those of Disney’s. Another student from Sierra Linda performed “Proud of Your Boy." Her powerful voice left the entire room awestruck and brought some teachers and students to tears.  

South Mountain's group entertained the audience with a Spanish/English rendition of “Friend Like Me,” which the school is performing for its musical at the end of February. The outstanding performance by South Mountain’s Genie brought every cast member to his or her feet.  

Cast members offered words of wisdom and shared their personal paths to stardom for the students and aspiring actors in attendance.

“If something scares you, do it,” said Adrienne Howard, a member of the ensemble in "Aladdin."

The actors left the room on a note of appraisal, commending the young student-actors for their own performances and encouraging them to stick to their unique passions.

Marketing assistant, ASU Gammage

Reimagining education leads to President’s Professor honor

February 15, 2019

When Keith Hjelmstad first arrived at Arizona State University in 2008, it was as university vice president and dean of the College of Technology and Innovation. In 2011, he joined the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering as a structural engineering professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment, one of the six Fulton Schools.

Hjelmstad was one of five ASU faculty members named President’s Professor in 2018. The honor recognizes faculty who have made substantial contributions to undergraduate education at ASU. Keith Hjelmstad (middle) was named an ASU President's Professor in recognition of his ability to engage, challenge and excite undergraduate students by creating an innovative, highly engaging learning environment. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU Download Full Image

“I am truly humbled by the honor of being named a President’s Professor,” said Hjelmstad. “I am deeply appreciative that ASU places enough value on the teaching mission to have such a distinction.”

Upon his arrival, Hjelmstad’s colleagues asked him about teaching the foundational sophomore-level engineering mechanics courses. He agreed to teach the dynamics course, setting the roadmap for what would become "The Mechanics Project"his effort to rethink how engineering mechanics is taught to undergraduates.

Hjelmstad’s inspiration to improve teaching for undergraduates is simple.

“We ask students to make a huge leap as they progress from high school to the profession of engineering,” he said. “They deserve the very best we can offer to put them in a position to succeed. These students are the future, and investing in the future seems like a good thing to do.”

Modernizing structural engineering education

Before arriving at ASU, Hjelmstad had been practicing and teaching computational mechanics at the graduate level his entire professional life. So when asked to take a look at the undergraduate courses, he wanted to give them a fresh view. Though he had not taught undergraduate mechanics before, having taught the courses downstream from it gave him insight into what might be most important for students to grasp.

He also realized the textbooks and approaches widely used to teach the subject had not changed much since he was a student taking mechanics courses 40 years earlier.

“The approach to learning the foundational ideas of mechanics were sort of stuck in time,” said Hjelmstad, “but the way engineers function and the tools they use have changed significantly.”

The work of structural engineering is evolving, so one of the biggest challenges to teaching it is imagining the role of engineers in the future and what they will really need to know.

“As it is with most things these days, it is innovate or die,” said Hjelmstad. “We need to find the ideas and approaches that take us to the future. Education can drive the evolution.”

Though as Hjelmstad knows firsthand, change can be difficult.

The “chalk and talk” approach to lecturing was Hjelmstad’s chosen teaching method for 30 years, but he has learned it is not the best learning environment for students. Research suggests active engagement helps students retain information far better than passive lecture.

Hjelmstad believes it is important to have a variety of methods for students to learn rather than relying solely on lectures and tests. Having options helps eliminate invisible barriers to success that may exist in the traditional classroom setting.

“Engineering education is not just about learning a set of recipes that you can cook with forever,” said Hjelmstad. “It is a mindset, a way of thinking. The earlier you can begin to form that mindset the more likely it is that students will benefit from it.”

student talking to other students

Hjelmstad brings in undergraduate teaching assistants during recitations to foster an air of discovery, discussion and mutual learning for his students. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU

The Mechanics Project

Hjelmstad’s approach to classroom teaching didn’t change overnight. Over the years, he tried many times to make small incremental changes to his teaching, only to be lured back into his long-held habits of lecturing.

“There are some pretty deep ruts, and change always faces the headwinds of opposition,” said Hjelmstad. “What we have tried to do through The Mechanics Project is to show that change is possible.”

The Mechanics Project is the name Hjelmstad gave to a broad effort to reform sophomore-level courses in mechanics (Statics, Dynamics and Deformable Solids). These courses represent a bridge between the math and science of students’ freshman year and the upper-division engineering application courses of civil, mechanical and aerospace engineering curricula and others.

One key component to The Mechanics Project, and a new approach to teaching for Hjelmstad, is “recitation.” In recitation, the students work in groups on a problem of the day, while the instructional team — the instructor and group of undergraduate teaching assistants — provide guidance.

“The first time I walked into recitation I honestly did not know what to do,” explains Hjelmstad. “It was scary, but I kept my promise not to lecture. I quickly learned how to function in the recitation environment, and now it is my favorite part of teaching.”

In his courses, Hjelmstad has revised the class schedule so there is one lecture every two weeks, four recitation periods and one exam. One of the recitations is actually a rehearsal exam to help get ready for the module assessment.

“The first time I walked into recitation I honestly did not know what to do. It was scary, but I kept my promise not to lecture. I quickly learned how to function in the recitation environment and now it is my favorite part of teaching.”
— ASU President's Professor Keith Hjelmstad

Another important aspect of Hjelmstad’s teaching philosophy is to diagnose problems through understanding and execution. As a traditional lecturer Hjelmstad taught the mythical student — a composite of every student he has known that held common misconceptions about the subject matter. That changed with his new method.

“When I flipped my classroom, I saw where the students were actually struggling, and it was often not where I thought they would be struggling,” said Hjelmstad. “I think we spend too much time answering the wrong questions in the traditional learning environment. You also need to create an environment where students feel comfortable asking questions.”

Putting students’ needs first and employing an instructional team that includes undergraduate teaching assistants creates a student-centered learning environment that is highly personalized, adaptable and very responsive. Hjelmstad’s teaching model fosters a social learning infrastructure that allows for peer-to-peer learning that continues to operate beyond the classroom.

“These classes are challenging. The undergraduate teaching assistants don’t just help the students; they are proof that these difficult ideas can be learned. The entire instructional team participates on the motivation side of the ledger,” said Hjelmstad, who is a strong believer in peer-to-peer learning.

If you think of the course instructor as “the one who knows,” then you create a bottleneck for learning. The instructor is not always available and cannot always respond in a timely manner, so building a learning network is key.  

“If you enhance the network then you solve part of that bandwidth problem,” said Hjelmstad. “Students do not automatically know how to participate productively in this networked environment. We take that on as part of the learning process.”

Keith Hjelmstad is the fourth Fulton Schools faculty member to be named a President’s Professor at ASU joining James Adams, Braden Allenby and Mark Henderson.

Improving teaching without altering content

Hjelmstad’s book, "A Walk in Euler’s Footsteps: Case Study in Teaching Engineering Dynamics through Pedagogies of Engagement," serves as a guide to others looking to transform engineering education based on The Mechanics Project.

In his book, Hjelmstad breaks down the methods that he has utilized to reform how courses in mechanics are taught at ASU. See the list below.

Graphic showing engineering education goals and steps

Erik Wirtanen

Web content comm administrator, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering