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ASU, Phoenix Children’s Hospital team up for pediatric-focused acute care program

November 1, 2019

Editor’s note: This is the second Q&A in a two-part series about how ASU's Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children's Hospital are working together to prepare students for a career in pediatric nursing and to address a looming shortfall of nurses in Arizona and across the U.S.

It’s been an exciting year for Arizona State University’s Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and Phoenix Children’s Hospital as the two innovative organizations have expanded their partnership. Through this collaboration, they’ve been able to create opportunities to enhance the student experience in the field of pediatrics and develop some solid programs to address a looming nurse shortage, notably in specialty areas. Acute Care Pediatric DNP Student Holly Michael reviews a chart with her DNP Preceptor at Phoenix Children's Hospital, Iris Marku, PNP-AC Edson College Acute Care Pediatric DNP student Holly Michael reviews a chart with Iris Marku, PNP-AC, her DNP preceptor, at Phoenix Children's Hospital. Download Full Image

Holly Michael was among the first students to enroll in the Acute Care Pediatric Nurse Practitioner Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) and certificate program for graduate-level nursing students after it launched last fall.

“I was already working in the pediatric intensive care unit at Phoenix Children’s when I heard about this program. I have a huge passion for working with acutely ill children, so it sparked my interest,” she said.

To get a better idea of what the Acute Care Pediatric DNP is all about and how students identify this pathway, ASU Now spoke with Michael as well as Judy Karshmer, dean of Edson College, and Julie Bowman, chief nursing officer at Phoenix Children’s Hospital.

Question: First, can you explain the various levels of training and areas of scope for nurse practitioners?

Julie Bowman: This is an important question, from a legal perspective, because many students don’t realize there are several different nurse practitioner tracks, and there’s not much crossover between them. To ensure they end up in the right Advance Practice Nursing program, students should determine the area in which they want to work. Their options are many, but for purposes of this article and pediatrics, their options are Family Nurse Practitioner, Pediatric Nurse Practitioner, or Pediatric Nurse Practitioner-Acute Care, and by scope of practice, legally different. For example, a Family Nurse Practitioner provides for a wide array of common illnesses and injuries, with ongoing, family-centered primary care to adults and children who are medically stable. A nurse who earns the Acute Care Pediatric DNP will be trained specifically for children with acute — or, more severe or sudden — medical needs, but that training won’t translate to adults.

Judy Karshmer: Pediatric Nurse Practitioners first evolved in a primary care setting, but over time, they began to seek out specialized training to handle more complex problems and treatment intervention. Acute Care DNP programs began popping up, but they were geared toward adult care. Our partnership with Phoenix Children’s is designed expressly for students who want to work with children who have acute care needs.

We expect the role of the NP to continue to evolve as patients’ needs shift and the health care provider landscape changes. Because enrollment in medical schools is not keeping pace with demands, the shortfall of general practice physicians is looming. We expect the NP to take on a larger role in the provider model and anticipate more Doctor of Nursing Practice degree programs in specialty areas. It’s an especially attractive option in Arizona, because the Arizona State Board of Nursing allows nurse practitioners to practice independently.

, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation

Dean Judy Karshmer

Q: What does the Acute Care Pediatric DNP program entail?

Karshmer: The curriculum focuses on creating a framework for developmentally supportive, family-centered, culturally-appropriate advanced-practice nursing. It is intended to prepare students upon graduation to care for infants and children with unstable chronic, complex, acute and life-threatening illnesses. 

In addition to DNP-level coursework and clinical hours, students in this program complete a major intervention project in their third year of study. They identify an issue in patient care, conduct ongoing research and implement a solution within a department. Their insights and research are integrated into Phoenix Children’s care model.

This program also provides students an opportunity to learn nurse management and improve pediatric care on a broader scale in one of America’s fastest-growing cities.

Q: How did this idea of creating an Acute Care Pediatric DNP degree first come about?  

Karshmer: The program is a direct response to a community need. A partnership between our college and a world-class health system is exactly how you advance education for our students, improve care for patients and boost the cachet of both institutions. We are able to make this work by having an equal, focused investment in our state’s future nurses.

In addition to the Acute Care Pediatric DNP curriculum, ASU and Phoenix Children’s worked together to launch a Dedicated Education Unit program that gives undergraduate nursing students additional time at the patient bedside and ensures they’re workforce-ready.

Bowman: For Phoenix Children’s, there were two primary reasons to launch this program. Three years ago, we began working with a consultant to help us refine our care delivery approach and ensure we were maximizing the skills of our nurse practitioners to top of license. Like many other health systems, we were faced with a highly diverse pediatric patient population and long wait times in some of our specialized service areas. Today, our NPs practice more at the top of their license. They are able to see their own patients and formulate individualized care plans within the area covered by their education, ongoing training and legal scope of practice.

As part of earning their degree, Acute Care Pediatric DNP students conduct a research project for a certain area of the health system and implement clinical or operational improvements as a direct result of their research. Their knowledge and capability enhance our patients’ access to high-quality, cost-effective care with overwhelmingly positive outcomes.

Our second reason for launching this new degree was the opportunity to partner with ASU. With their entrepreneurial culture and the strong reputation of Edson College, we knew ASU was the best choice for expanding nursing education here in Arizona.

Q: Can you describe the need for this type of nursing specialty education here in Arizona?

Karshmer: It’s impossible to overstate our need for specialty nursing education. Phoenix is one of the fastest-growing cities in the country. Our pediatric population is flourishing, as are the medical needs of Arizona’s kids. And at the same time, we’re facing a nationwide shortage of nurses and nurse practitioners.

, chief nursing officer Phoenix Children's Hospital

Julie Bowman

Bowman: In planning for the future, Phoenix Children’s knew we would need more advanced practice providers in trauma, the emergency department and critical care. This program helps fill that pipeline with expertly trained clinicians who can provide this care.

This program is also a response to our growth in the East Valley, an area of the Valley that has seen extreme growth, especially in young families. Students currently in the program are in their second of three years of study, and will earn their Acute Care Pediatric DNP degrees next year when Phoenix Children’s opens its hospital at Mercy Gilbert.

Karshmer: The program also helps address health care costs. The ideal provider model for acutely ill patients includes a mix of physician specialists and NPs. Surgeons can focus on surgery while NPs handle postoperative care. It’s a perfect and more cost-effective balance of their skills.

Over time, the goal is for more pediatric nurses to pursue their NP degree to ensure the right balance of expertise.

Q: What can students look forward to with this program?

Karshmer: It’s the only program of its kind in the Southwest — perhaps in the nation. Students are trained by expert instructors in a top nursing school, Edson College and gain clinical experience at a top hospital, Phoenix Children’s. And through their intervention project, they will make a real difference for kids in their care.

Bowman: Students are immersed in evidence-based practice and get hands-on training while identifying and solving problems, conducting their own research projects and taking that research from bench to bedside. They’re in the driver’s seat in advancing patient care. There is a sense of excellence with the program at ASU.

Q: As a DNP nursing student who was early to join this program, why did you decide to pursue this specialty?

Holly Michael: I was working as a clinical nurse in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Phoenix Children's Hospital when I heard about this opportunity. My heart is in pediatrics, and more specifically acutely ill children, so it appealed to me.

The program had the unique potential to help me meet my career goals and stay in Arizona. I would have the option to meet with professors in person, attend immersions and have procedure days in the lab. Beyond all this, I have a special connection with ASU — I received my undergraduate degree there. With two very reputable institutions partnering together, I felt confident in my decision. Once the application process opened, I applied and began just a few weeks later. I am currently in my second year of the program. 

, Acute Care Pediatric DNP Student

Holly Michael

Q: Can you share what you like about the program and courses you have taken so far?

Michael: I enjoy many different portions of the program. I took a great physiology course last fall which set a strong foundation and helped me gain a greater knowledge of the physiologic processes of the body. The acute care didactic courses and the acute care clinical course are also ones I particularly appreciated, along with a leadership course I took last fall. They gave me an improved sense of direction in this field, and the ability to present myself as a leader among clinical teams. As a result, I have leadership techniques to put into action as an advanced practice registered nurse — someone who must give strategic direction, deliver solutions and devise plans.

Q: Are you looking forward to the DNP project?

Michael: Every DNP program requires students to complete fieldwork in an area of interest and identify a problem, issue or gap in that area. Following identification, the DNP student works closely with stakeholders, providers and other staff to develop a project design and an evidence-based plan. The last steps are to implement, evaluate and disseminate the results.

The project is a major portion of our last half of the program. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed undertaking an effort like this. Luckily, ASU offers abundant support, and with that, I am excited about this portion of the curriculum.  From my understanding, there are few schools offering this level of resources for DNP students.

I began the initial stages of the DNP project this fall. As of now, I am interested in working closely with the neurocritical care team, observing pediatric traumatic brain injury management. This project is very important, not only to DNP students but to the clinical department and its patient community.

Q: What are your plans once you complete your program?

Michael: Once I graduate and pass my board exam, I would love to work in and be a part of the pediatric intensive care unit, neurocritical care or trauma. I am in the beginning stages of my clinical experience in acute care, so I will continue to keep an open mind on all of the possible opportunities ahead.

Amanda Goodman

Media relations officer, Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation


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Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk

Immigration authors examine nuances of assimilation at ASU talk.
October 31, 2019

School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership holds civic discourse discussion

When people move to the United States, their journey to assimilation is a complex process that involves change for everyone in the community, according to two authors who have studied this contemporary issue.

Reihan Salam, author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders,” and Tomás Jiménez, author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life,” spoke at Arizona State University on Wednesday night. Their talk, titled “Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration,” was sponsored by the School of Civic and Economic Thought and Leadership at ASU.

The two men discussed how assimilation is not an either/or event.

“Assimilation is a moving target,” said Salam, who is executive editor of the National Review.

“If you’re trying to define it very narrowly, it’s becoming more like the ‘average person,’ but immigration changes the nature of the country over time. You’re not hitting a fixed target.”

Reihan Salam,who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of the upcoming “Melting Pot or Civil War: A Son of Immigrants Makes the Case Against Open Borders." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

There’s also a difference between immigrants who circle back and forth from America to their home country and those who never return.

“Vietnamese immigrants, in the wake of the Vietnamese war, were among the most assimilated mostly because there was an expectation that Vietnam was not a homeland that one could return to regularly,” he said.

Jiménez said that assimilation involves “mutual change.”

“There’s a back and forth volley of adjustment and readjustment happening in a cultural context, with respect to notions of success and failure in school, and with respect to the notion of who belongs and on what basis,” said Jiménez, who is professor of sociology and comparative studies in race and ethnicity at Stanford University.

“If I had to distill it down, it’s the decline of an ethnic boundary, when people see each other as more similar than different.”

Population demographics in America have changed over time, and that’s shaped attitudes toward immigration, Salam said.

He noted that the share of the foreign-born population has increased sharply, to about 13%, in the context of a steep decrease in the number of native-born children. Decades ago, people believed that investing in their community would mostly benefit their own descendants, but that’s no longer the case.

“It has to do with replenishment. It’s a game of numbers,” he said.

“I believe it’s one reason why you see such intense polarization around these issues.”

Public perception also doesn’t always match what’s really happening, Jiménez said.

“One of the most underappreciated events in the demography of immigration is the end of a mass wave of Mexican immigration that had gone uninterrupted for 100 years, and it came at the end of the Great Recession,” he said.

“Since then, Mexican immigration has been a net negative. That’s had a profound impact on the population but not an impact on the way the population is perceived.

“Ten years ago, 1 in 4 people of Mexican descent were undocumented. Now it’s 15%.”

Both men agreed that the current immigration system, with waits of a decade or longer, is inefficient and inhumane, but they differ on how open the process should be.

“Today’s immigrants come overwhelmingly from Asia and Latin America and those immigrants, across the generations, are integrating as fast if not faster than the immigrants of the great European immigration from the late 19th and early 20th centuries,” Jiménez said.

Tomás Jiménez, who spoke at ASU Wednesday night, is author of “The Other Side of Assimilation: How Immigrants are Changing American Life." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mass legalization of the 11 million undocumented immigrants in the United States would speed that integration, he said.

“The condition of illegality is not only a drag on their integration, it’s a drag on the integration of subsequent generations,” he said. “We know from social science research that the penalty reverberates three generations into the future.”

He said that the DACA program, which is not legalization, still benefitted the young people it affected.

“The best data we have showed that their mental health improved, the mental health of their children improved, they were more likely to get married and spend money,” he said.

“The most recent polling shows that 80% of the American public favors a legalization program.”

Salam said that immigration used to be thought of in the context of the need for a lot of low-skilled labor, but with that need decreasing and the need for highly skilled labor increasing, the conversation has changed.

“I believe our system is incoherent and does not align with the values and sensibilities of a majority of America,” he said. “In our system, now you have a wait list of over 4 million people in the queue for family preference visas. If you have a job offer in the U.S. and speak English fluently, guess what? You cannot move up the queue.”

He said that the U.S. should establish a pathway of skills for immigrants, including avenues for refugees and asylum-seekers.

“When it comes to skills I believe in a blended approach rather than the binary approach we have now, where you’re either an affluent, sophisticated, highly skilled person or an underdog,” Salam said.

“Another way to think of it is a system that serves as a roadmap: ‘Here are the things that it takes for you to thrive and survive in this country.’ We want a policy that protects a certain kind of continuity and in light of a changing safety net.”

Top image: Reihan Salam (left) and Tomás Jiménez immigration at the SCETL Civic Discourse Project talk, "Becoming American: Immigration and Civic Integration," on Wednesday at the Memorial Union. The talk was part of the school’s Civic Discourse Project, now in its third year, with the theme “Citizenship and Civic Leadership in America.” Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU alum paving pathways for people with disabilities

Todd Lemay's gift of a TerrainHopper will enable disabled students to enjoy all adventures

October 31, 2019

Todd Lemay remembers longing for snowless days. The weather constricted the Maine native in ways others couldn’t comprehend. That wasn’t all; steps robbed him of his freedom. Beaches did the same.

“Every house, every apartment, even restaurants — they all have steps in Maine,” he said. Todd Lemay and Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell Watts College Dean Jonathan Koppell experiences the TerrainHopper with ASU alumnus Todd Lemay. Download Full Image

Lemay was born with osteogenesis imperfecta, a brittle bone disease that has led him to using a wheelchair for most of his life. He sometimes walked as a child, but that would only lead to more broken bones and more surgeries. He tired of it in his teens. “I decided it’s not worth going through all the surgeries just so that I can maybe walk 20 feet on my own,” he said.

Lemay, 48, figures he’s suffered more than 80 broken bones — a figure that quickly climbs into the 100s if he includes ribs. Those crack easily.

He doesn’t seek sympathy, though. Rather, he considers himself lucky.

“A lot of people out there are in much more difficult situations than I am in,” Lemay said. “So the fact that I can take care of myself and do so much, those are all blessings.”

Arizona opened his eyes to many of them.

A whole new world

After one of his friends talked up Arizona and urged Lemay to tag along on a trip, it didn’t take long for him to fall in love with the Valley of the Sun.

“I was just amazed at how flat everything was out here,” he recalled. “I fell in love with the weather, and I fell in love with how everything was just so accessible. I felt a larger sense of freedom.”

Lemay landed at Arizona State University in 1992, graduating three years later with a degree in accounting. He immersed himself in this work for some time before launching an IT management company.

A simple Google search led him to change careers.

Lemay was on the hunt for an all-terrain wheelchair and stumbled upon a company in the United Kingdom named TerrainHopper that was manufacturing exactly that — electrically powered off-road mobility vehicles that can conquer the type of challenging terrain a normal wheelchair can’t. Yet they weren’t shipping to the U.S. — that is, until Lemay persuaded them to send him one a year later.

For the first time in his life, when he returned to his summer home in Maine, he enjoyed beach trips in a way he only previously had in dreams.

“I didn't have to have someone push me and set me in one spot and that's where I would stay until they moved me,” he said. “I can go out on the beach with my wife and hold her hand. I was never able to do that before. I love the ocean, and for my entire life I’ve only been able to enjoy it from the end of the parking lot.

“It opened up a whole new world for me.”

Open for business

Everywhere he went with his TerrainHopper, he was routinely stopped. The same question always came: Why is there not something like this in the U.S.?

So Lemay again pleaded with TerrainHopper, this time for an even bigger ask. He requested licensing, manufacturing and U.S. distribution rights, insisting “that if they’re going to do something here in the U.S., I’m the right person to help them do that.”

Lemay opened his own shop in Tempe in 2017, replicating the work of his friends in Europe to create customizations that can accommodate almost every physical disability. TerrainHopper USA was born.

“We license the technology from them, so we don’t import anything from them, but we actually manufacture everything from the ground up here in Tempe,” he said.

Lemay, who has donated several of these vehicles to nonprofits around the area, was featured in an article in the Phoenix Business Journal around the time he started full production last fall, prompting ASU President Michael M. Crow to offer congratulations in a handwritten letter.

Shortly after the new year, a student convinced Lemay that ASU should have one.

Spreading the joy

Christina Chambers was already well-versed in the TerrainHopper. The ASU student was managing two of them while interning with Ability360, which offers programs to empower people with disabilities. Chambers was ultimately connected with Lemay, who requested her help with some photography. She, too, uses a wheelchair and sees life much like Lemay.

During a meeting one day, Lemay was pleasantly surprised to hear Chambers is majoring in parks and recreation — but also heartbroken to find that her disability prevented her from joining many off-site classes in different parks.

Hiking has become one of Lemay’s favorite hobbies since obtaining a TerrainHopper. San Tan Regional Park is a short drive from his house, and he frequents it often with his wife, Letitia.

“You look at that park with hundreds of acres and dozens of trails, and with the normal wheelchair you could probably access maybe 2% of that,” he said. “When I got my TerrainHopper, we started going out and doing a different trail every weekend and it turns that we can do about 95% of that park now.”

Lemay wanted Chambers to have that same experience. Chambers wanted it for every ASU student.

“One of the first classes we take in parks and rec talks about the important things everybody in life needs to succeed and be happy,” Chambers said. “The outdoors and nature are essential to happiness, and I was missing that component of my life for so long.”

Expanding possibilities

Chambers recently celebrated the 10-year anniversary of what she calls her “Life Day.”

“It’s the day I celebrate being alive and accepting this as my new life,” she said. “I woke up one morning paralyzed from the chest down.”

Her immune system attacked her spinal cord, causing permanent injury when she was 12. Looking back, she believes that’s when she was given her purpose, even though she didn’t know it at the time.

“I was meant to be in this community and help out those in my community and kind of introduce them to all that they are capable of,” Chambers said.

For Chambers, who will graduate in December, Lemay offered the same for her. She admires the immense joy he brings, “in his own life, in his own acceptance, and in his own journey.”

She wants to help him spread that.

“It’s contagious,” Chambers said. “I post on social and I'm like, come visit me, stay at my house, we will go hiking, I will take you out on the TerrainHoppers.”

Kelly Ramella, an associate instructional professional serving as the coordinator of the therapeutic recreation program and faculty with the School of Community Resources and Development, has witnessed the impact this vehicle has had on students like Chambers.

Adventure is now accessible for all.

“She wanted to be a part of everything that all other students have an opportunity to do, even climbing “A” Mountain,” Ramella said. “Her being able to use the TerrainHopper to experience ASU like everyone else was really quite emotional for me because it's something that's really important for all of our students. We want to ensure that we’re being as inclusive as we possibly can.”

In September, Chambers and Ramella were on hand when Lemay gifted a TerrainHopper — they start at $18,000  — to the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions and invited Dean Jonathan Koppell to get in the driver’s seat.

“You realize what it gives individuals is independence,” Ramella said. “It gave them the ability to navigate the outdoors in their own way and at their own speed.”

Bridging the gap

Chambers was recently hiking the Buffalo Park Loop in Flagstaff when she met a man who had sustained a broken neck and a brain injury in a dirt bike accident, changing the way he experienced the outdoors. He missed the old way. 

Chambers got him on the TerrainHopper, which introduces a sensation similar to riding a dirt bike, and took in the biggest smile.

“He was crying,” she said. “His girlfriend was crying, because here he is hiking and off-roading just like he used to. That is why I advocate for this, because it not only changed my life, but I see the opportunity for it to change so many lives.

“You don’t look at it and think, that’s a wheelchair, or that’s a medical device. You look at it and you’re like, ‘Whoa, that’s really cool. I want to try it.’ I think it bridges that gap of how people view disability and what it actually is.”

 Jane Lee

Copywriter, ASU Enterprise Partners


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The business of Halloween

Princesses and superheroes top costumes for kids; pumpkins top costume for pets.
October 28, 2019

Halloween is big business in the United States. Between the costumes, confections and cards, the holiday is expected to generate nearly $9 billion in economic activity this year, according to the National Retail Federation.

Halloween’s popularity impacts the economy in Arizona, too, where approximately 5,000 temporary jobs will be created to support pop-up stores, haunted houses and other Halloween-themed offerings.

To better understand Halloween’s economic impact, ASU Now spoke with Lee McPheters, research professor and director at Arizona State University's JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center in the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Lee McPhetersLee McPheters 

Question: How big a holiday is Halloween from an economic perspective? How does it compare to other big holidays in terms of job creation, spending and overall economic impact?

Answer: According to the National Retail Federation, Halloween is expected to have an economic impact of about $8.8 billion this year, down from $9 billion in 2018, with spending per person estimated at $86. 

Compared to Christmas spending of more than $700 billion, Halloween has a smaller impact, but it has a significant impact on specific industries, including clothing for costumes and confections or candies. Note that the Christmas spending impact includes travel, as people return “home for the holidays,” while it is likely that fewer people return home for Halloween.

Here in Arizona, our estimate of the Halloween impact is $150 million over a three-month period, generating the equivalent of 4,000 to 5,000 jobs, not only in retail, but also in wholesale and transportation of products for sale.

The impact of the trade war with China is uncertain, but it is likely that many of the imported products — costumes and decorations — were already in the country before the tariffs escalated.

Q: Which retail categories experience the greatest surge during the Halloween season, and how do they compare to each other?

A: Costume spending is the single largest component of Halloween spending — over $3 billion at the national level. According to national surveys, 47% of people will wear a costume or part of a costume, and a surprising 17% of people intend to buy a costume for their pets. Among children, the most popular costumes this year seem to be princesses and superheroes, while for adults the trend is to witches and vampires. For pets, the top costume is a pumpkin.

In Arizona, our estimate of costume spending is $54 million; decorations is $46 million, candy is $44 million, and greeting cards is $6 million.

Q: In terms of dollars spent around the holiday, is Halloween getting bigger or smaller?

A: Holiday spending tends to be affected by the business cycle. Halloween spending rose from less than $5 billion in the recession of 2009 to the current level of nearly $9 billion as the expansion has continued. Spending per person has tended to increase faster than the rate of inflation, suggesting growing popularity.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay


Katherine Reedy

Senior Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


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Getting into the 'Spirit' of Halloween

October 28, 2019

Between the costumes, decorations and props, temporary Halloween stores — like Spirit Halloween — provide a one-stop shopping experience for all things spooky. The stores open in malls and open-air shopping centers with scant warning, and are seemingly gone before the ink is even dry on the lease.

To learn more about how Halloween pop-up stores operate, ASU Now spoke with Mathew Avrhami, faculty associate in Arizona State University's W. P. Carey School of Business.

QUESTION: Every year a couple months before Halloween, Spirit Halloween (and other temporary Halloween retailers), suddenly appear around town. How do these businesses work?

Mathew Avrhami

ANSWER: Halloween pop-up stores are most widely associated with Spirit, who is the largest seasonal retailer —selling trick or treats during the fall season and closing up during the first week of November. These businesses sell seasonal items in otherwise empty spaces, and there’s no shortage of empty retail space.

If you keep noticing more going-out-of-business sales, there's a startling reason: Forever 21, Walgreens, Dressbarn, GameStop, Gap and other chains have already announced over 8,500 store closings in 2019 — way more than we saw during all of 2018. That's according to Coresight Research, which predicts the number could hit 12,000 by the end of the year. As online shopping continues to grow, another 75,000 stores could be lost by 2026, according to investment bank UBS.

Halloween pop-up stores like Spirit Halloween bring revenue to empty big box spaces for landlords, who appreciate the extra income. Typically, even if a landlord signs a four-month lease with Spirit Halloween and a new potential tenant shows up the next day, it’s at least four to six months before the lease actually gets signed, so there really is no loss in income.

Landlords are figuring out that retail competes with online by offering some combination of one or all of the following: a special experience, instant gratification and assurance of purchase. Trying out seasonal or temporary pop-up retail concepts can bring in shopping center traffic and test out new concepts, so the idea isn’t strictly for Halloween.

Q: How profitable are these stores?

A: There are reportedly “over 1,300” Spirit Halloween stores in the United States. Not to be outdone, in 2018 Party City opened approximately 250 Halloween City pop-ups.

Not wanting to invite competition, the stores try to keep their numbers under wraps. However, the Halloween retail industry is worth approximately $9 billion, and an estimated combined 67% will be spent at a retail location, according to the National Retail Federation.

So, while we don’t know specifics, we can conclude that well-merchandised Halloween pop-up stores in good locations can perform very well during the season.

Q: How do they find the retail space for such a short lease?

A: Spirit Halloween’s senior director of real estate, Frank Pacera, has stated in the past that, “pretty much Nov. 1, the minute our door is closed, we are — or actually, before our doors close — we are prepping for the next season. We literally are, 12 months out of the year, getting ready for this holiday. … Right after we close our doors, we have a field operation of people who are based throughout the country, and they basically scout their entire markets that they’re responsible for on a regular basis.”

Those agents spend months negotiating the deals. The typical store is somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 square feet, though some are smaller. In suburban areas, Spirit Halloween’s agents look for vacant real estate in shopping centers that have “other national tenants,” like Best Buy, Target, or Walmart.

Q: How do online retailers compare to brick and mortar stores in terms of sales? Has online shopping made these in-person stores less profitable or popular?

A: Chainstore Age reports that online search remains the top source of Halloween inspiration, cited by 35% of consumers surveyed, followed by browsing in stores at 28%, and ideas from friends and family at 20%.

Inspiration from social media has increased across several platforms since 2015. Pinterest was cited by 18%, up from 13% in 2015; 14% cited both YouTube (up from 8%) and Instagram (up from 7%).

However, shoppers know Halloween costumes have varying degrees of quality, because some costumes, more than others, are essentially disposable clothes. Shoppers want to touch, see and feel the costume not only for quality, but for fit, style and inspiration too.

Spirit and other Halloween retailers have reported the busiest Halloween shopping occurs in the last two weeks before Halloween, which isn’t a lot of time to order, return for sizing, style or fit, and re-order costumes online; but, there is plenty of time to cover that in person at a retail store.

So, in conclusion, yes online shopping has taken some retail sales away from brick and mortar stores, however the stores continue to do very well because of consumer demands that online shopping just can’t provide.

Top photo courtesy of Mike Mozart, Flickr.


Katherine Reedy

Senior Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


Assessing the quality of water to improve the quality of life

ASU engineer Otakuye Conroy-Ben recognized for research with Native communities

October 25, 2019

Research that is helping regional communities solve their wastewater pollution problems has earned Otakuye Conroy-Ben a Technical Excellence Award from the American Indian Science and Engineering Society.

The award is presented to an indigenous professional who has made contributions to the STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — by developing a product or a solution and is actively involved in the Native American community. Otakuye Conroy-Ben researches wastewater pollution and their effects on local Native American communities. Photographer: Deanna Dent/ASU Now Otakuye Conroy-Ben researches wastewater pollution and its effects on local Native American communities. Download Full Image

Conroy-Ben, an assistant professor of environmental engineering in Arizona State University’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, was one of five 2019 recipients of the AISES Professional of the Year Award presented at the organization’s national conference in Milwaukee on Oct. 10-12.

Conroy-Ben, who is of Oglala Lakota descent, got involved with AISES as an undergraduate student and has increased her involvement over the years. She was a recipient of an AISES graduate student research award and later joined the organization’s board of directors. She is currently involved in the mentorship program.

“This is an organization that's near and dear to my heart, and so I was thrilled to be recognized for my hard work and my years of dedication to the organization,” Conroy-Ben said.

Since she joined the Fulton Schools in 2016, she has continued to be active in the organization as an adviser to the ASU chapter of AISES.

Now a tenure-track faculty member, Conroy-Ben studies environmental endocrine disruption and antibiotic-resistant genes that arise from wastewater, as well as the transport of microbes in water. Her work on the biological effects of polluted water has direct applications to the challenges facing the tribal communities she works with.

As an engineer, Conroy-Ben has been focusing on improving the lives of people in local tribal communities. Her research lab, the Emerging Contaminants Laboratory, focuses on wastewater contaminants and epidemiology. Beyond laboratory research, she also works directly with members of the tribal communities to better understand their needs and to provide her expertise in water quality.

“I'm working with tribal communities in the Great Plains, so I'm working with my tribal community on different aspects of water pollution,” Conroy-Ben said. “For Arizona, I'm working in collaboration with the Intertribal Council of Arizona, who works directly with 21 Arizona tribes.”

Conroy-Ben was nominated for the award by Fulton Schools Professor Rolf Halden, director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Health Engineering at ASU. Halden and Conroy-Ben are collaborating on tests to evaluate the overall health and potential environmental threats facing Native American communities.

“I think that Conroy-Ben is an exceptional faculty member for multiple reasons, for the work she is doing as well as for her cultural background,” Halden said.

“The fact that she is one of the few, if not the only, female environmental engineering professor of Native American descent puts her in a position to understand the environmental health concerns that exist in Native American communities and reservations across the nation and to implement interventions that can improve both the water quality and the health status of those communities.”

Conroy-Ben credits much of her success working with tribal communities in the Southwest and the Great Plains region to the vast resources ASU offers to help connect with these communities.

“ASU's a great place; we have a lot of support not only for students but for faculty and staff when it comes to tribal initiatives,” Conroy-Ben said.

“There is an administration, there's two associate VPs for Indian affairs, and to bridge that work, they have introduced me to some local tribes interested in agriculture, air pollution and water. I wouldn't have had that opportunity at any institution that doesn’t have these types of positions or doesn’t have those strong relationships with the local tribes.

“Part of the process is going out in the community, meeting with the tribal institution review board, and working with them, not only doing research but different services that I can provide as an engineer or as someone who specializes in water quality.”

Her efforts to provide cleaner water to tribal communities in Arizona and the Great Plains have taken four years to come to fruition.

“I would say that working with these tribal communities does take time,” Conroy-Ben said. “I started these projects when I first arrived at ASU, but to go through the tribal approval process and then to look for funding and get preliminary results, we're just now seeing the effects of all of this hard work four years later. It's not like working with just any community — it takes time.”

Karishma Albal

Student Science/Technology Writer, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


Annual Hacks for Humanity showcases how diversity fosters creation

ASU's Project Humanities initiative gathers participants from across communities, ages and specialties to create products for the common good

October 22, 2019

A nuclear physicist, a high school student and three undergraduates find themselves sharing a table at Arizona State University. Fueled by energy drinks, late-night snacks and a break for silent disco, their mission over the next 36 hours is to identify an issue impacting society and hack their way to a solution.

It could be the opening scene of an indie science fiction movie. But the group was actually one team taking part in the sixth annual Hacks for Humanity.   A T-shirt from the sixth annual Hacks for Humanity at ASU A Hacks for Humanity participant wears a T-shirt showcasing the various types of creators around whom the event is organized. Download Full Image

The event, which took place Oct. 19-20 on ASU’s Tempe campus, is an initiative of The College of Liberal Arts and SciencesProject HumanitiesThe award-winning initiative brings together individuals and communities from around Arizona to instill knowledge in humanities study, research and humanist thought. Project Humanities facilitates conversations across diverse communities to build understanding through talking, listening and connecting.. It gathers businesspeople, humanists, artists, software developers and engineers for an entrepreneurial weekend of brainstorming, building and pitching technical tools for the benefit of society. 

Each year, participants are asked to create projects around particular themes rooted in the seven core values outlined by the project’s founding initiative, Humanity 101: kindness, compassion, integrity, respect, empathy, forgiveness and self-reflection. 

After a weekend of strategy, coding and troubleshooting, six teams presented their creations focused on finance, food and family to a panel of judges from business, technology and entrepreneurial backgrounds. An app called Promise, in which children complete chores in exchange for rewards and parents monitor their tasks, won first prize. 

Runner-ups included Alleyway, an online platform connecting family members separated by adoption, war, natural disaster or refugee relocation, and A New Hope, a service that aims to provide funding for people wanting to visit a dying family member in another state.

Other projects included a platform connecting food banks with restaurants and grocery stores with a surplus of food and a wearable device that monitors blood pressure and stress levels to provide instantaneous mindfulness tools. 

Ram Polur, a local software engineer and epidemiologist, was part of the winning team of the inaugural Hacks for Humanity six years ago. Back then, his team created a product that used keyword scanning technology to monitor Twitter for users writing tweets that indicated suicidal thoughts. He’s since returned to Hacks for Humanity events to serve as a mentor and volunteer.

“People have increasingly started hearing about the projects coming out of this event and I think that has in turn ramped up project creativity and diversity,” he said. “Developing applications really does require a multipronged approach; you need business sense, you need empathy, you need art and humanity, you need all of these different folks to solve the problems we face today.” 

Diversity as a tool for creation

Participants arrived early Saturday morning to form teams of four to five people with varying areas of expertise and backgrounds. Unlike in previous years, this year’s teams were chosen using an algorithm, a change Project Humanities Director Neal A. Lester said aimed to increase diversity and instigate new conversations among people that might not normally cross paths. 

“This is about on-the-spot creation that happens organically, and it’s about seeing what communities can emerge from talking to people who don't look like you, think like you or even necessarily work like you,” Lester said. “We are deliberately trying to get the coders and the non-coders to the table, because the reality is just because you can code doesn't mean you can pitch or do the research or design the project — at the core, it’s about challenging the notion that technology has to be separate from our humanity.”

Project Humanities communication and outreach coordinator Rachel Sondgeroth is in her final year of concurrent bachelor’s degrees in global studies and religious studies in The College. She’s worked with the project for the last four years and sees the hackathon as a live example of how humanities figure into the real world.

“This year has the most interdisciplinary teams we’ve ever seen, and I think that really shines through in the products people are coming up with,” she said. 

Arcelious Stephens is a retired water policy expert with the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality and a three-time participant of the hackathon. His team created A New Hope, which took third place at the event. He said this year’s intimate setting and randomized teams gave way to projects that felt focused and highly unique. 

“The size of the event created a much more intense environment and an exciting space to create,” he said. “We had a freshman and a junior, two professionals and myself, a retiree. We had two white guys, two women and me, a black guy — the mixing of all that really made for some interesting avenues I don’t think we would have come to on our own.”

A new way to hack

Hackathons have been taking place around the world for at least the last decade, with teams of computer science aficionados competing to build a product that wows the judges and, with luck, ends up in the hands of investors to bring it to the next step. Lester said Hacks for Humanity stands out because it attracts participants spanning ages and areas of expertise for a weekend focused not just on technological innovation itself, but on how it interacts with our daily lives. 

“Project Humanities is asking questions like: ‘How did we get here in society? Why do we do the things that we do, and are there multiple ways of looking at things?'” Lester said. “That's precisely what this hackathon embodies, because it's not just 36 hours of coding, it’s about figuring out how these products enhance the human experience.”

Fostering a different kind of hackathon is one reason participants also attend workshops, this year on bias in technology and navigating the process of ideation, pitching and implementation. The weekend was also supported by a growing list of volunteers, mentors and sponsors from enterprises including Amazon, Honeywell, State Farm, ADP and ASU Entrepreneurship + Innovation.

For Jullian Flemister-King, a software developer at Amazon, being a mentor was a chance to lend a hand to transdisciplinary hacking in action. 

“I mentor and participate in a lot of hackathons, and not a lot of them have this overall theme of trying to give back to the community,” he said. “I think this one is great because it’s transdisciplinary, so you have a lot of different crowds coming in wanting to contribute.”

Judges also came from diverse professional backgrounds. 

Denise Meridith is a local entrepreneur and business consultant whose most recent venture is the corporate networking firm World’s Best Connectors. Judging the competition was an extension of a career spent innovating. 

“I’m very excited by rebels in today’s businesses and that’s also what excites me about this event — these projects are trying something different, willing to take risks and wanting to help humanity,” she said. “We are in difficult times right now, and I think it’s important to work on your small part of the universe. I think that’s what’s happening here — people are coming up with solutions that affect them and others.”

The technology of being human

Humanities and technology are fields many might consider to be on opposite sides of the academic spectrum. But bridging the two is becoming vitally important as technology embeds further into everyday life. 

Phillip Pipkins, an alumnus of The College who graduated in 2012 with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in film and media studies, served as a Hacks for Humanity mentor and presenter this weekend. He saw the role as a chance to showcase how liberal arts and technology intersect. 

“There’s this perception that if you’re pursuing a liberal arts degree, you won’t be able to do something in science, technology, engineering and math fields,” said Pipkins, who now works as the design lead for strategic initiatives at Silicon Valley Bank. “But it’s actually a discipline that gives you a leg up when it comes to thinking creatively and being able to break down concepts in a simple, accessible way — sometimes I find I’ll bring up an idea that feels very outside the box to people coming from a traditional STEM background, and that’s a positive thing.”

Hacks for Humanity 2019 was smaller than events in previous years. But participants said they appreciated the one-on-one attention they received from mentors and the space they had to create. 

First-time hackathon participant Heather Jackson is an energy innovation consultant for electric company Arizona Public Service whose professional background spans nuclear physics, business management and marketing. While the wearable device product she helped create didn’t win, she says her group intends to take the idea beyond the competition. 

“We’re already planning another meeting at my house to discuss the next step,” she said. “I feel like I’m walking away from this weekend with a team and a product — we got great feedback from the judges and now we want to see if this thing has legs.”

Kirsten Kraklio contributed to this report.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


PBS NewsHour West begins broadcasts from Cronkite School

October 15, 2019

PBS NewsHour West, the new bureau and West Coast feed of “PBS NewsHour,” hit the air for the first time on Monday from inside the Cronkite School.

PBS NewsHour West is housed at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication under a new partnership with Arizona State University. In addition to producing news stories based in the Western U.S., the Phoenix-based team will update PBS NewsHour’s Eastern time zone broadcast for West Coast audiences.  PBS NewsHour West and anchor Stephanie Sy Anchor Stephanie Sy, from the set of PBS NewsHour West at the Cronkite School. Download Full Image

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

“As news cycles continue shrinking and America’s appetite for fair, contextual and trustworthy reporting intensifies, PBS NewsHour West at ASU’s Cronkite School will allow us to better serve our audiences across platforms and time zones,” said Sara Just, the program’s executive producer who serves as senior vice president of WETA, the flagship public broadcaster in the nation’s capital and producer of “PBS NewsHour.”  

“With a team located at the Cronkite School and Arizona PBS, we will have an ideal perch from which to better cover the important issues in the West with alacrity and insight and serve our West Coast audiences even better,” Just said. 

The PBS NewsHour West team includes award-winning journalist Stephanie Sy, a correspondent who serves as the West Coast anchor. The editorial operation in Phoenix is led by Richard Coolidge as senior producer of PBS NewsHour West.

“It is interesting to view the news through the lens of a Western viewer,” Coolidge said. “There is criticism sometimes that a lot of the news is East Coast-centric because most of the national news outlets are based there. We want to try to balance that out.” 

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

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

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

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

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

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

“We are so pleased that our viewers in the Western states will have these important updates emanating from our studios,” said Arizona PBS General Manager Mary Mazur.

At 1.14 million viewers, the “PBS NewsHour” nightly broadcast audience for the 2017-2018 television season was up 34% compared with the 2013-2014 television season. NewsHour’s website in 2018 reached 52 million users, up nearly 40% compared with 2015. With an eye for continued growth and reach across platforms, Just announced last year the move to expand and transform “PBS NewsHour” online with the addition of nine new full-time digital positions.

Assistant vice president, Media Relations and Strategic Communications

'Still here:' Native American scholars discuss Indigenous Peoples’ Day

Phoenix is part of a growing list of cities celebrating Indigenous Peoples' Day instead of Columbus Day.

October 14, 2019

Growing up in Phoenix, Arizona State University alumnaLaura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program in 2018. Today, she works as a student success and retention coordinator at the American Indian Student Support Services. Laura Medina enjoyed getting the day off school for Columbus Day every October. But she also remembers feeling conflicted. The holiday celebrates Italian explorer Christopher Columbus’ “discovery” of North America in 1492. And as a member of Michigan’s Ojibwe tribe, Medina knew that the land he sailed to was neither empty, nor undiscovered. Tribal civilizations like that of her ancestors were already there, and Columbus’ arrival was the start of a brutal colonization campaign that permanently altered their lives.  

“Columbus Day did not feel right, even as a kid,” Medina said. “Back then, you’d sometimes hear people asking why we celebrate Columbus, then around 2012 I started hearing about the idea of celebrating something else, instead.” Laura Medina graduated with a master's degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. ASU alumna Laura Medina has attended the Indigenous Peoples' Day march in Phoenix for the past two years. This year, she helped organize it. Download Full Image

Now she’s doing exactly that. This year, she’s spending the holiday with ASU students, local community members and fellow alumni for an Indigenous Peoples’ Day march through downtown Phoenix.

Organized this year by ASU’s student-led Alliance of Indigenous People, the event is the third of its kind in Phoenix.

The Indigenous Peoples' Day designation was first proposed in 1977, at the International Conference on Discrimination Against Indigenous Populations in the Americas in Geneva. Its proponents sought to shed light on the genocide, displacement and continued discrimination indigenous communities in North America faced as a result of colonization.

More than four decades later, Phoenix is one of over 100 cities and 15 states across the U.S. to recognize Indigenous Peoples’ Day in lieu of or alongside Columbus Day.

Medina said it’s an opportunity for Arizona’s 22 Native American tribes to be heard, and for the public to recognize a piece of history that has been left out.

“Colonization has made us invisible in the past, reclaiming this day gives us the power to challenge that and come together as a community,” she said. “I also think it’s exciting for people to see students of color from such an important institution leading this; it shows ASU is accessible to everyone.”

We caught up with other academics from The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ American Indian Studies program to hear more about the history of Indigenous Peoples’ Day and what it means to them. 

David Martinez

David Martinez is an associate professor in The College's American Indian Studies program.

The 1977 resolution helped propel the conversation about Indigenous Peoples’ Day forward. But David Martinez, an associate professor in the American Indian Studies program and a member of Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community, traces the idea back to the country’s first rights group created for and by Native Americans over a century ago. 

“The Society of American Indians held their first meeting in 1911 and on their agenda was the establishment of an American Indian Day,” Martinez said. “The concept of Indigenous Peoples’ Day is in many ways the latest chapter in that effort, in that it served to give a sense of meaning to the American Indian identity and draw attention to the fact we exist.”

Though the society mostly disbanded after fighting for and winning federal citizenship rights through the Indian Citizenship Act of 1924, Martinez said the push for recognition they started lived on in the work of indigenous activists that followed. Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps their fight continue.

"For a long time, history has been told from the side of the European discoverers, which is that Columbus embarked on this hero journey and found this land Western civilization hadn’t seen before,” he said. “There is no problem recognizing somebody's ancestor, in this case a European ancestor, having done something dangerous, but the presumption of discovery erases us from the narrative.”

He said it’s also about honoring contributions American Indians have made to society.

“Whether it’s episodes of tribes assisting settlers to get through winter, like at Plymouth Rock, or the indigenous sense of environmental stewardship and appreciation for the land, our culture has influenced a lot of facets of America,” he said. “I think one important thing to remember is that this holiday is also about acknowledging that impact.”

Jayme Deschene

Jayme Deschene graduated with a master's degree from The College's American Indian Studies program in 2015.

Born and raised in the Navajo Nation city of Kayenta, Arizona, Jayme Deschene was surrounded by her Native American culture from a young age. She said Indigenous Peoples’ Day helps bring to light why tradition and land matter so deeply to indigenous communities. 

“Land is very connected to being indigenous because our land holds our stories, our stories are our heritage, and our heritage is connected to the way we live today,” she said. “As a Navajo person, I am lucky to still have some of my homeland, but many others do not — I think this day is important to help people understand that when that land was taken, a part of our identity was taken too.”

Deschene graduated with a master’s degree in indigenous rights and social justice from the American Indian Studies program in 2015. She returned to campus a year later as a student success and retention coordinator with the American Indian Student Support Services, a position she still holds today.  

Now living in Tempe, she said it can be challenging to ensure her three children get the full picture when it comes to understanding the past.

“My daughter is 7, and some of the school work she brings home about settlers at Plymouth Rock makes almost no mention of Native Americans,” she said. “I try to talk to her about what is missing or incorrect, and give her additional materials about our history.” 

Celebrating Indigenous Peoples’ Day is one way to drive that understanding further forward.

“Sitting on campus, we are on ancestral tribal land right now, but a lot of people don’t realize that,” Deschene said. “Indigenous Peoples’ Day is not so much about older communities as it is about educating younger generations like my daughter’s and making sure our history, language and culture continues.”

Eric DeLorme

Eric DeLorme is a graduate student in The College's American Indian Studies program.

For Eric DeLorme, a graduate student pursuing a master’s degree from the American Indian Studies program, returning to school was a chance to gain more insight into cultures across North America.

“My mother is Mexican American and I am an enrolled Pueblo of Acoma tribal member in New Mexico, and a descendant of the Little Shell Tribe of Chippewa Indians in Montana,” DeLorme said. “I studied Chicana/o studies in my undergraduate years, now I want to expand my knowledge of indigenous peoples all the way from Canada down through Mexico.”

DeLorme sees Indigenous Peoples’ Day as a chance to recognize a historic trauma and honor the sacrifices made by communities that came before.

“I see this as a day to remember that we survived genocide, my ancestors fought hard so that I can put my feet on this earth today. The movement now is regaining the identities that were lost during colonization,” he said. 

Some controversy between Columbus Day and Indigenous Peoples’ Day continues, but DeLorme said it’s important to keep conversations going, even when difficult.

“I think what’s happening now, with people discussing these differences, that’s a good thing, because it’s the first step in challenging the narrative,” he said. “By acknowledging another part of this country’s history, we can get closer to understanding one another.” 

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


image title

Indigenous Act helped complete the work of the 19th Amendment

October 11, 2019

ASU professor says voting inequalities for Native Americans still exist nearly a century after Congress granted them citizenship

The 19th Amendment of the American Constitution officially gave women the right to vote in 1920, putting to rest decades of contention, civil disobedience and suffrage efforts.

However, many people don’t realize that not all women (and men) were on equal footing after its passage.

The Indian Citizen Act of 1924 gave Native American men and women full citizenship (and the right to vote). And nearly a century later, it’s still a struggle.

To commemorate the lead-up to the 100th anniversary of the 19th Amendment and to celebrate Indigenous Peoples’ Day on Oct. 14, ASU Now turned to Katherine Osburn for elucidation.

Osburn, an associate professor in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, is an ethnohistorian whose research focuses on gender, race and political activism. Her current book project, "Sovereignty, Services, and Citizenship," focuses on the relationship between indigenous peoples and the state of Arizona. She said despite the good intentions behind the 1924 act, the legislation remains a work in progress.

Woman in blue dress

Katherine Osburn

Question: What was the Snyder Act, and how did it come to pass?

Answer: The Indian Citizenship Act granted full citizenship to all indigenous peoples living in the United States, but it is important to understand that a fair number of Native Americans had already become citizens before it passed. Throughout the 19th century, state officials occasionally granted their indigenous neighbors citizenship if the applicant appeared to be “civilized.”

Policymakers could debate what activities constituted civilized behavior, but the one constant in the decision to extend or withhold citizenship was tribal standing. Government administrators regarded Indians who lived on tribal lands as owing allegiance to an alien political system. This was one reason why Indians who accepted individual allotments of land under the 1887 policy of forced assimilation known as the Dawes Act received citizenship if they lived on their allotments for 25 years. Policymakers believed that living on these allotments severed tribal ties and assimilated Indians.

Moreover, by the 20th century Congress had extended citizenship to numerous indigenous persons through random provisions of individual acts of Congress and as a reward for military service. Yet many Indians still lacked citizenship until Congress granted (or imposed upon, depending on your point of view) citizenship to remaining American Indians. Support for Indian citizenship in Congress was no doubt bolstered by their military service in World War I, but the larger context of this act was rooted in a desire to assimilate indigenous peoples into the mainstream of American culture. After all, the Dawes Act was still in force. 

The text of the act reads:

"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled, That all noncitizen Indians born within the territorial limits of the United States be, and they are hereby, declared to be citizens of the United States: Provided, That the granting of such citizenship shall not in any manner impair or otherwise affect the right of any Indian to tribal or other property."

In a legal sense, the second part of the act allowing citizen Indians to continue residing on tribal property undercut the long-standing idea that living in tribal communities was incompatible with citizenship. In a practical sense, however, state officials carrying out the machinations of citizenship still resisted extending full citizenship rights to their indigenous neighbors on reservations. The Northwest Ordinance of 1787 had established the process for creating new states, and it allowed state officials to construct the stipulations for exercising the franchise. Thus, the Snyder Act extended the franchise in word, but not necessarily in deed. This meant that as late as 1938, seven states still disfranchised indigenous citizens. Arizona was one of those states.

Q: The irony of allowing indigenous peoples, who were here first and allowed to vote last, is not lost here. How galling it must have been for all Native peoples.

A: Leaving suffrage for the First Americans for last is indeed ironic, but it was that very matter of being First Nations that created that situation. Indigenous peoples are citizens of tribal polities that existed before the creation of the United States, and these polities hold a government-to-government relationship with the United States. Thus, their political status is unique, and that means that they are not just another minority group hoping for inclusion in the U.S. political order. For indigenous communities, protecting their sovereignty as tribal nations is the paramount political concern. Indeed, in the early 20th century, most indigenous communities were focused on immediate matters of survival under very difficult economic conditions. At the time the act was passed, a minority of Native Americans called for the franchise, and they did so more to improve the lives of their people through political engagement than from a desire to participate in American political institutions.

The most prominent advocates of citizenship and voting rights in the early 20th century were certain members of the Society of American Indians (SAI), a pan-Indian organization founded to lobby Congress and the Indian Service on behalf of Indian self-determination and to educate the public on Indian issues. The SAI was created on Columbus Day in 1911 by a group of highly educated Indian professionals (graduates of Indian boarding schools and American colleges) who had been working with sociologist Fayette Avery McKenzie of Ohio State University to improve Indian policy. One of the most prominent leaders was Dr. Carlos Montezuma (Wassaja), a Yavapai whose family resided in the Mazatzal Mountains.

In 1871, a Pima raiding party had kidnapped Wassaja and sold him to an Italian immigrant named Carlos Gentile. Gentile renamed him Carlos Montezuma and sent him to boarding schools and then to college. Montezuma took a medical degree from Chicago Medical College in 1889 and helped to found the SAI in 1911. In 1916, Montezuma started a journal titled Wassaja in which he expressed his criticisms of the way indigenous peoples were treated. When WWI broke out, he editorialized that, without citizenship and full civil rights, Indians should not be compelled to fight, especially since they were allegedly fighting for democracy, the benefits of which they were denied at home. This was a position held by a lot of indigenous peoples. Others felt that fighting would earn them citizenship. Still, citizenship in the United States for indigenous peoples is a dual citizenship and must be understood as such.

Although Montezuma sought civil rights for indigenous peoples, he also fought for Yavapai self-determination, helping to create their reservation at Fort McDowell in 1903 and supporting the resistance to relocating them to the Salt River Reservation in 1918 and 1919. He led efforts to win water rights for the reservation in the early 1920s. ... He represented a new way of thinking in the early 20th century that sought to use citizenship as a tool of indigenous self-determination. Voting must always be seen in that context.

Q: Why did it take longer for indigenous peoples to be fully franchised than for women?

A: The issues surrounding the 19th Amendment were very different than those of disfranchised indigenous peoples. Women’s voting rights were entangled with assumptions about gender, while Indian voting was linked to their unique political status. Moreover, simply passing the Indian Citizen Act did not fully franchise Indians. Since states set the parameters of voting rights, they were able to raise barriers to Indian voting.

While literacy tests and poll taxes were used against indigenous voters in many places, the primary impediments to voting were generally rooted in the unique political status of indigenous peoples as belonging to separate polities. Some states borrowed the language of the U.S. Constitution in Article 1, Section 2, which bars “Indians not taxed” from citizenship and used it to deny voting rights. Legislators in Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, New Mexico and Washington withheld the franchise from their indigenous citizens because those who were living on reservation lands did not pay property taxes. In New Mexico, Utah and Arizona, state officials argued that living on a reservation meant that Indians were not actually residents of the state, which prevented their political participation. These issues were at the forefront in Arizona when indigenous activists challenged their disfranchisement.

Article 7, Section 2, of the Arizona constitution stated, “No person under guardianship, non-compos mentis, or insane shall be qualified to vote in any election.” Arizona lawmakers understood this as prohibiting Indians from voting because they were allegedly under federal guardianship on their reservations. When two Pima men from the Gila River Reservation attempted to vote, the Pinal County recorder refused them. Tribal leaders mounted legal challenges that finally reached the Arizona Supreme Court. In Porter v. Hall (1928), the state argued that indigenous Arizonans were outside of the political boundaries of the state and that, following Cherokee Nation v. Georgia (1831), they were wards of the federal government. The court dismissed the first notion but fastened on the second. Arizona Indians lived within state political boundaries but, as long as they resided on reservations, they were under the guardianship of the federal government — as federal officials had maintained. Regardless of the provisions of the ICA, they would remain disfranchised until they assimilated and abandoned their tribal status. The Arizona Supreme Court eventually overturned Porter in Harrison v. Laveen (1948), on the grounds that the guardianship clause in the Arizona constitution violated the 14th and 15th amendments. Despite this victory, literacy requirements still disfranchised Arizona Indians until the 1965 Voting Rights Act banned them.

Q: Did the Indian Citizen Act end up making a difference? Did Native Americans end up becoming a big voting bloc?

A: Yes and no. No, because efforts to disfranchise indigenous Americans continued regardless of the law. Yes, because the Indian Citizen Act, paired with the 14th and 15th amendments, provided the foundation for legal challenges. Court victories against voting restrictions throughout the 1940s and 1950s helped more indigenous citizens to exercise their rights. In the 1950s, the Indian vote was significant in several Western states. In the 1956 election, both parties in Arizona issued a statement on their Indian policy, and in 1964 President Johnson's campaign made a point of reaching out to Indian voters.

More significant, however, was the Voting Rights Act, and the 1970 and 1975 amendments that strengthened the act. The Voting Rights Act outlawed any practices that “deny or abridge the right of any citizen of the United States to vote on account of race or color” and established federal oversight of elections in areas where discrimination had historically been practiced. Apache, Coconino and Navajo counties came under scrutiny for disfranchising Native voters, and the literacy requirements were finally struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court under the provisions of the 1970 amendments. In 1975, Apache County attempted to gerrymander its voting districts to dilute the Navajo vote. Navajos challenged the action, and the case made its way to the District Court for Arizona. In Goodluck v. Apache County (1975), the court struck down the gerrymandering as unconstitutional. That same year, amendments to the Voting Rights Act ordered that language assistance be given to voters whose first language was not English. This provision increased voting on Navajo lands in San Juan County, Utah, by 95%. Indigenous voter rolls in Arizona have grown steadily ever since, and candidates for public office ignore their concerns at their peril.

Q: What is the situation today with Native American turnouts at the booths, and do they still face issues?

A: In recent years, indigenous voters played a significant role in Western states where their numbers are greatest. Janet Napolitano traced her victory in the 2002 Arizona governor’s race to the Native vote, and indigenous voters helped Al Gore carry New Mexico in 2000. The National Congress of American Indians created a national campaign of voter registration and education titled Native Vote in 2004. They encouraged tribes to hold their tribal elections on the same day as national elections, and places that followed this advice increased turnout significantly. On the Navajo Nation, Code Talkers (veterans who had used the Navajo language for security in wartime communications in WWII) traveled the reservation in 2004 urging their people to vote. In Phoenix, the Native American Community Organizing Project registered voters for the 2004 elections, and both Democrats and Republicans reached out to indigenous voters.

Ultimately, however, election officials across the nation have continued to suppress the Native American vote. Current challenges include refusal to accept tribal identification cards and residences — reservations often do not have traditional street addresses — for voter registration, scant language assistance, and inaccessible polling and registration sites. These problems led to a bipartisan investigation on indigenous voting rights in 2018 that resulted in the Native Voting Rights Act. The bill creates a Native American Voting Rights Task Force to provide funds and assistance to tribes for increasing voter participation and addresses problems with voter registration and polling sites. The bill provides funds for federal election observers and requires the Department of Justice to consult annually with tribes to make certain elections are flowing smoothly. It is stalled in the Senate, and its passage is not certain given the current political climate.

As always, however, indigenous peoples are not waiting on the federal government to deliver justice. Indigenous leaders all across the nation have organized to resist disfranchisement. Here at ASU, Patty Ferguson-Bohnee, director of the Indian Legal Clinic at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law, founded Native Vote project in 2004. Third-year law students run the clinic, which provides both legal and practical assistance to Arizona’s indigenous voters. Most galling to some of the workers is the presence of nonindigenous poll workers disqualifying indigenous voters on indigenous lands. Native volunteers monitor 12 polling stations around the state to prevent such actions and provide legal assistance on the phone. Nearly a century after the Indian Citizen Act established American citizenship for indigenous peoples, its promises are still not fully realized, but indigenous activists and tribal leaders continue to demand the United States keep its word to America’s first peoples.

Top photo: President Calvin Coolidge posed with Native American men, possibly from the northwestern United States, near the south lawn of the White House on Feb. 18, 1925. It was taken after Coolidge signed the bill granting Native Americans full citizenship. Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress

Reporter , ASU Now