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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."

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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


Alumna uses justice studies degree to tackle local politics

Ellie Perez recently attended the State of the Union as congressman's guest

February 13, 2019

Ellie Perez, an alumna of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at Arizona State University, was born in Veracruz, Mexico. But since moving to Phoenix with her parents as a toddler, you could say she has had a lifetime of firsts in Arizona.

After getting a work permit through the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program in 2013, she became the first undocumented person to be employed by the city of Phoenix, working as an aide to Councilwoman Kate Gallego. ASU alumna Ellie Perez with Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton before the State of the Union address in Washington D.C. February 2019. ASU alumna Ellie Perez attended the State of the Union address in February as the guest of Arizona Congressman Greg Stanton. Photo courtesy of Ellie Perez Download Full Image

In 2017, she completed an undergraduate degree in justice studies from the college’s School of Social Transformation and a minor in political science to become the first in her family to graduate from a four-year university. Last year, she cast her ballot as the first-ever DACA superdelegate for the Democratic National Convention. 

Perez attended the State of the Union address earlier this month in Washington, D.C., as the guest of Arizona Congressman and former Phoenix mayor Greg Stanton. Being at the event wasn't a culmination for Perez; it was just the beginning.

“I’ve worked so hard to get to where I am today, and there are people who believe in me,” she said. “Being there, I kind of looked back on everything I’ve done, but I also really looked forward, because there are still so many things to do.”

Her immigration status prohibits Perez from voting herself, but that hasn’t stopped her from taking part in the process. She has been a political organizer for city council races in Phoenix and congressional campaigns for state representatives like Stanton.

Perez answered a few questions about her journey to the Capitol, how her studies at ASU helped shape her and where she's headed next.

Question: You have worked on a number of city council campaigns and tenures in Phoenix. What to you is important about participating in local government?

Answer: You’ve got to start with your own backyard. I grew up in Phoenix’s Sunnyslope neighborhood, and there are still areas within our district that are underserved. There are places with debris on the streets, overgrown bushes and streetlights that are out. Growing up there makes you feel like you have no hope. When my mom moved us to 32nd Street and Cactus Street (another area in Phoenix), I realized people call their council people all the time to fix things like that. City council may not be sexy, but they are some of the most important jobs. They fund the public library where I used to do my homework and the parks I used to go to. They fund the Head Start and after-school programs I used to benefit from. Getting involved was about representation, but it was also about having a voice. It was about giving back to the community that has given so much to me.

Q: What initially attracted you to majoring in justice studies and minoring in political science at the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences? How did it shape what you do today?

A: I was originally a criminal justice major. I always knew political science was what I wanted to do, but … I went to my adviser and was told justice studies might be a better fit for what I was really interested in. At first, I was skeptical, but then I realized these classes talked about protesting, creating a change locally and defining people by who they are. … It was as if the major was tailor-made for me. I was also able to take all these humanities classes that made you ask questions and opened up a space for hard conversations. I learned from professors like Madelaine Adelman, Gray Cavander and Kathryn Nakagawa, and others. 

Q: How would you describe your Sun Devil story?

A: I remember being a little girl and looking at that black shirt with the fork on it. I didn’t know what it meant, I just knew that that’s where everyone went and I wanted to go there, too. Finding out I was undocumented and seeing that may not be an option was a crushing moment. But I also remember my teachers always telling me that education is something no one can take from you, and I used that to keep pushing forward.

Finding out I was admitted to ASU is a moment I won’t forget. It sounds silly, but I made a point of not going to football games, not hiking "A" Mountain, even avoiding Tempe altogether before that happened. It meant something to wait to do all those things until officially becoming a student because it was the epitome of everything that I’d worked for. None of it would have been possible without an entire community behind me, but it was also made possible because of an institution that believes in the potential of people who may not have been born in this country, but love it as if they were.

Q: How did your program and the university help prepare you for success in your field?

A: I walked away from my classes (within the college) with a better understanding that there is intersectionality everywhere — that really helped me talk to constituents. That was something I hadn’t had before. Doing more work in Phoenix is my way of giving back to the institution that allowed me to thrive.

I think ASU created an environment where students feel like it’s OK to ask questions and it’s OK to make mistakes. Those are things that I don’t think any other university could offer me, so it’s not that it’s the only school I applied to, it’s the only one I want to go to. I think it also opened up a door for undocumented students when others did not; sometimes people forget that.

Q: What has been your biggest motivation to succeed professionally?

A: My family. I’m the first person to speak up and tell those of my family members who can vote to do so, because I can’t. I believe it’s up to me to make sure my nephews and nieces have it better than I did, but also that my city is a better place 10 years from now.

Phoenix is where my mother chose to bring me to. Out of all 50 states, she chose Arizona. I want my own children to grow up saying that their mother had a role in making things better for other people. When I go back to a voter’s door and get remembered, that’s huge because people know you are here supporting them. I think that’s the ultimate motivation — being able to help others.

Q: On that note, what is next on your agenda? Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

A: Right now I’m working as a campaign adviser for a city council candidate in south Phoenix and am planning to take the LSAT in June. Without comprehensive immigration reform, there really is no pathway to citizenship for me, but if possible I would like to one day run for public office in the same district I grew up in.

At the same time, I have teachers who played an integral role in my success by believing in me. So I’ve also considered teaching. I remember not having a computer and going to the library to do my homework. If I didn’t have options like that growing up, I might not be where I am now. So no matter what, I want to make sure I give back by doing what I can to improve this city for young people today.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


College-bound students attend AVID conference at ASU

February 12, 2019

“Who will you be in your future?”

This was the question that nearly 300 high school sophomores explored at the recent AVID conference held at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Students participate in activity at AVID conference High school sophomores participate in a vision board activity during the AVID conference at ASU's Tempe campus. Photo by Aaron Gould Download Full Image

Presented by Access ASU, the daylong conference featured activities that prompted students to ask “Who am I?”, “What do I want?” and “How will I get there?” as it relates to their paths to college and their future careers.

AVID (Advancement Via Individual Determination) is a national college-readiness program that aims to close the achievement gap and prepare students for higher education by providing academic and social support. 

Students participate in AVID at their high schools through an elective course focused on writing, inquiry, collaboration and reading. They also learn academic and personal success strategies and participate in college motivational activities.

“Many of these students may be first-generation college students,” said Sylvia Symonds, assistant vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services at ASU. “Through the AVID conference, they are prepared with the knowledge and skills they’ll need to be successful in their pursuit of a college degree and in their chosen career path.”

The conference included a variety of workshops on such topics as discovering personal strengths, developing goals and creating a vision for the future.

During a session led by ASU service organization SPARKS (Students Providing Awareness Resources & Knowledge to Start College), current Sun Devils shared their personal experiences and answered questions from attendees about college life. The questions included things like why they chose ASU, how to stand out on a college application and how to overcome social anxiety and meet new people.

The high school students further experienced life at ASU through a guided campus tour and lunch in a campus dining hall.

Jon Clark, a student at Pueblo High School in Tucson, attended the AVID conference with a group from his school. He said his college and career goals are focused on the medical field, noting that he has always wanted to be a doctor so he can help change people’s lives.

Clark said the AVID conference helped him by building up his self-esteem, creating a progress-focused mindset and reminding him not to be afraid of pursuing his goals.

“I’ve learned that I need to just try hard and not give up, because if you don’t set goals for yourself in life, you won’t go anywhere,” Clark said.

AVID conferences will also be held on Feb. 13 and 14 at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Along with the conferences, ASU offers an AVID Summer Camp in June, which provides an opportunity for high school students to explore the university during a five-day residential experience. Participants engage with learning communities in subject areas like math-based sciences, engineering, social and behavioral sciences, education, business or sustainability while developing leadership skills and a college-going mindset.

For questions about the AVID Summer Camp, email Danyel.Chleborad@asu.edu. Applications close on April 1.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Book provides a new framework for making sense of mental illness

February 11, 2019

Fear. Anxiety. Hope. Desire. Love. Anger. Guilt. Grief. These are just a few of the emotions universal to our human experience.

But why some people can become vulnerable to extreme bad feelings and other mental disorders remains a mystery that has affected and divided families, and cost lost years or, worse, lives for millions of sufferers of disorders like depression, addiction, bipolar disorder, autism and schizophrenia. In Randy Nesse’s new book, he brings the well-established principles of evolutionary biology to bear on the urgent problem of better understanding mental illness. Download Full Image

What has happened in our brains to shape these disorders? Is it nature or nurture? Or both? Or would asking a different question help to get psychiatry around current roadblocks?

Despite evidence of mental illness tending to run in families, and billions of dollars fueling the DNA research efforts of many smart scientists, not a single specific brain cause has been found for any of the major mental disorders. And there is not a single lab test or scan that can help psychiatrists in their diagnoses.

“This is as astounding as it is disappointing,” writes Arizona State University School of Life Sciences Professor Randy Nesse in the introduction to his new book, “Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights from the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry.”

A leading psychiatrist compares the current state of diagnosis in psychiatry to “astronomy before Copernicus and biology before Darwin.” For example, the gold-standard DSM-V diagnostic manual in psychiatry was painstakingly revised in 2016 after more than a decade of often rancorous debate. It now includes more than 300 different classifications of mental disorders. And yet, despite this, the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health ended up abandoning the official DSM-V diagnoses for mental health.

“So much for a common diagnostic system creating consensus!” writes Nesse, who directs the Center for Evolution and Medicine at ASU. “The field of psychiatry is deeply confused.”

MORE: Study finds a lack of mental health interventions for ethnic minority youth in the U.S.

With confusing diagnoses and the hope for diagnosis based on genetics for now collapsed, what’s a psychiatrist or mental illness sufferer to do?

“Many books attack the field of psychiatry,” Nesse writes. “This is not one of them. Most of us (psychiatrists) lie awake some nights worrying about a patient in a crisis and wondering how to help. However, most patients get better, and the challenge of helping them makes the practice of psychiatry deeply satisfying.”

“The challenge of understanding mental disorders is, by contrast, deeply unsatisfying.”

Taking case studies from his own practice, Nesse offers a view of mental illness as seen through the lens of evolution. As famous geneticist Theodosius Dobzhansky once said, “Nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.”

randy nesse

Randy Nesse

That and dealing with decades of uncertainty in the field of psychiatry motivated Nesse to take a different point of view.   

“I was frustrated as well as confused,” writes Nesse. “To see the whole landscape of mental illness requires a view from a mile high using special glasses that show changes across evolutionary as well as historical time.”

An important point is that Charles Darwin’s natural selection shapes organisms to behave in ways that maximize their reproductive success — not their health. This ensures that their genes are passed down to the next generation.

It’s a perspective that first drove him to understand disease in general, and to now extend it to find the future of psychiatry in the evolutionary past of humans. The key insights to provide an evolutionary framework came from his first attempt to connect in his seminal book “Why People Get Sick.”

“Diseases are not adaptations,” writes Nesse. “They do not have evolutionary explanations. They were not shaped by natural selection. However, aspects of the body that make us vulnerable to disease do have evolutionary explanations.”

For Nesse, shifting the focus from diseases to traits that make bodies vulnerable to diseases was the crucial insight that became a cornerstone for evolutionary medicine.

The same goes for our brains.

“Our brains were shaped to benefit our genes, not us,” said Nesse. “And evolutionary psychiatry is the part of evolutionary medicine that asks why natural selection left us vulnerable to mental disorders.”

One of the reasons Nesse believes we are vulnerable is because so many of the environments we face today are vastly different from those that shaped our evolution. Another is what Nesse calls “the smoke-detector principle”, or how our minds evolved to respond with useful alarms to threats, like the sound of breaking branches that prevented us from being eaten by lions 200,000 years ago on the African savannas.

Now, in our modern attempts to stay constantly connected, every time our cellphones bleep or buzz with a new notification, we are triggering these same smoke detectors, leading to constant anxiety or insomnia. We are hijacking our threat response.

Genes for schizophrenia and autism may persist because natural selection pushes our brains to the point that maximizes genetic fitness. If that point is near a cliff edge, a few people may be left “off the edge” and very vulnerable to disease.             

Far from radical, Nesse’s approach simply brings the well-established principles of evolutionary biology to bear on the urgent problem of better understanding mental illness. He shows how this approach provides psychiatry with the same kind of foundation in biology that physiology provides for the rest of medicine and why it requires understanding individuals as individuals.

The book is available from Penguin Books or Amazon on Feb. 12, which is coincidentally Charles Darwin’s 210th birthday. In celebration of the new publication, Nesse will give a talk about the book at ASU on April 2 at 5:30 p.m.  

Joe Caspermeyer

Manager (natural sciences), Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Take 2: ‘Catalyst’ returns to Arizona PBS

February 11, 2019

2nd season of the high-quality science series showcases interdisciplinary university research institutes and initiatives at ASU

Arizona State University researchers work all over the world from Antarctica to Mexico and Tucson to Pasadena, and a group of journalists and storytellers from the Cronkite School is following them and chronicling their research for a high-quality science series for PBS.

Catalyst” returns to Arizona PBS Wednesday for a highly anticipated second season, featuring host Vanessa Ruiz, a Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication professor of practice and former co-lead anchor for 12 News, the NBC affiliate in Phoenix.

The 13-episode series explores current cutting-edge research at ASU and is the creation of students at the Cronkite School. The show aims to serve the public, executive producer Steve Filmer said. He said last year was a learning experience; this year will be a step in a new direction.

“We like to go to big, bold places if we can,” said Filmer, an award-winning television producer whose credits include ABC World News Tonight and Good Morning America. “We’re really trying to put more of the stories in the field and on location rather than in a safe and controlled environment. Doing stories on location is fun and full of challenges. It forces us to be spontaneous and it freshens up the show.”

This year's segments include an ASU School of Life Sciences researcher who visited the Phoenix Zoo to study cancer rates among larger animals, as well as an ASU molecular science biologist who went to the Barrett-Jackson auto auction in Scottsdale to draw a connection between "biological engines" and cars.

“Catalyst” is supported by ASU Knowledge Enterprise Development, which promotes interdisciplinary university research institutes and initiatives.

“Catalyst is a wonderful opportunity to share the latest discoveries and cutting edge research coming out of ASU,” said Sethuraman “Panch” Panchanathan, executive vice president of Knowledge Enterprise and chief research and innovation officer at ASU. “In Season 2, the Catalyst team focuses a lens on how ASU scientists are looking at crucial topics from new perspectives such as — how have animals managed to overcome health problems that humans still face? How does space technology help us understand Earth environments? I invite you to watch another successful season and join us on this inspirational journey of discovery and impact.”

Each episode of the 30-minute show features four to five segments which attempt to demystify research by telling the stories of people in the labs and out in the field, spotlighting the pursuit of groundbreaking discoveries.

It will air every Wednesday at 9 p.m. on Arizona PBS, beginning on Feb. 13. Encore broadcasts will air Sundays at 2 p.m.

Students say they are receiving invaluable experience working on all dimensions of the show, from story conceptualization to research, shooting, editing, writing and production. One Cronkite student said his tenure on the show is already paying off.

“Being immersed in all of this equipment and being able to touch and feel it and memorize it will make me more valuable way down the line no matter what field I go into in journalism,” said 19-year-old sophomore Will Everett, who serves as a production assistant on the show.

Students at the Cronkite School, the home of PBS, started working on the second season in late August. The production supports the state’s mission of promoting lifelong learning by filling the need for more discovery-related content on television.

Each student is assigned to come up with four stories for the semester, depending on their tastes, research and discoveries.

Serena O’Sullivan, a 22-year-old senior, said she enjoyed working on a segment called “It Turns Out Dead Men Do Tell Tales,” featuring the work of Gwyneth Gordon, a research scientist in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration. Gordon is currently conducting isotopic analysis for unidentified human remains from along the U.S.-Mexico border. According to U.S. Customs and Border Protection, 7,216 people have died crossing the border between 1998 and 2017.

“She’s trying to figure out which isotopes come from certain regions,” O’Sullivan said. “It’s exciting that an ASU researcher can possibly help make that breakthrough in identifying these unidentified bodies.”

Steph Amaya, a 22-year-old senior producer, said she connected with a story about a California-based company that wants to send a Mars2020 rover to the moon and is testing it on Arizona soil.

“I didn’t realize the whole aspect of what it takes to send a rover to the moon,” Amaya said. “How you have to pitch your rover to NASA and ask them to fund it. This particular group of scientists want to send a rover to the moon to figure out more about the moon’s history.”

Everett, who is a production assistant, said he’s been spellbound by the story of a marathon runner who is transitioning from male to female and the research of Siddhartha Angadi, an assistant professor in the College of Health Solutions.

“We go along with her on this journey and take note of all her physical changes as she transitions through sex reassignment medication,” Everett said. “It’s a very scientific story but we’re giving it a personal touch and telling it in an engaging way.”

Jim Tuttle, "Catalyst’s" postproduction supervisor, said for every finished minute of film, it takes about 15 hours of production work to get it ready for broadcast.

“Every story is a different animal but this is typical with a high-quality show,” he said.

Other stories in production include NASA’s Orion parachute test, ASU’s first study abroad journey to Antarctica and urban heat islands.

This year “Catalyst” also enlisted two students from ASU’s School of Music, part of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, to create and score a new opening theme and end credits for the show.

Top photo: Bailey Netsch, a former student in the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, receives professional tips from Cronkite Professor of Practice Steve Filmer in April 2018 as they shoot video for the inaugural season of the PBS series "Catalyst." The show returns for a second season on Wednesday, Feb. 13. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now.

American Indian students invest in their future at RECHARGE conference

February 8, 2019

Malachi Boni came to ASU’s RECHARGE conference looking for inspiration. Accordingly, the Globe High School sophomore seemed to find it, saying that the event helped him think about his choices after graduation and how going to college might help him fulfill his dreams of becoming a writer.

That reaction illustrates the aim of the annual RECHARGE conference, which took place in January at Arizona State University's West campus: to provide a platform for American Indian students in grades seven through 12 to invest in their education, future and community. ASU representatives speak with students ASU representatives speak with students at the RECHARGE conference on Jan. 14 at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould Download Full Image

Sponsored by Access ASU and the Office of American Indian Initiatives, the college readiness program has served thousands of students since its inception eight years ago.  

Throughout the daylong event, nearly 200 junior high and high school students took part in engaging activities and inspiring presentations on topics like culture and identity, college readiness, financial aid and scholarships and college majors.

Students participated in professional and student panels centered around five learning communities — STEM, arts/design/performance, business/leadership, Native history/languages and public/social services. They also received information on financial aid and attended a resource fair that included Native and ASU resources. The last session of the day was a hands-on activity centered around their learning community.

RECHARGE participant Ashley Lopez is a junior at Desert View High School in Tucson and a member of the Tohono O’odham tribe. She appreciated the amount of detailed information she received at the conference.

“I’ve learned a lot from other peoples’ experience, hearing them talk about how they dealt with things like meeting new people and being away from home,” Lopez said.

Nolan Dayon, an eighth-grader at Greenfield Junior High in Gilbert and member of the Hopi tribe also attended RECHARGE. He hopes to study mathematics and engineering and found the STEM sessions especially interesting. He also felt the information about preparing for college and financial aid were very helpful.

“Financially it will help us out a lot, so I have that knowledge down the road,” Dayon said.

Students at RECHARGE conference participate in group activity

Students participate in a STEM-themed group activity during the RECHARGE conference at ASU's West campus. Photo by Aaron Gould

A second RECHARGE conference is scheduled for Feb. 20 at the West campus.

ASU also offers a summer program geared for American Indian students called Inspire. The no-cost, weeklong, residential college readiness program for high school students focuses on academics, personal development and connecting with the ASU American Indian community.

“The RECHARGE conference and Inspire summer program demonstrate ASU’s commitment to excellence, accessibility and local impact for Native American students, their families and their communities,” said Sylvia Symonds, associate vice president of Educational Outreach and Student Services. “We are pleased to offer support and guidance as they pursue their higher education and career goals.”

For questions about the Inspire Summer Program, contact Danyel Chleborad at Danyel.Chleborad@asu.edu. The application period for the program closes April 1.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services