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Changing problem drinking behaviors in college students

ASU Department of Psychology brings successful evidence-based program to campus

February 8, 2019

"Animal House" and "Van Wilder" are fictional accounts of college, yet the role alcohol plays in these two film comedies is rooted in reality and can have consequences that are far from funny. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, almost 60 percent of college students ages 18 to 22 drank alcohol in the past month. About 66 percent of students nationwide who drink also engaged in binge drinking, which is five or more drinks in a single setting for men and four or more drinks for women. The effects of alcohol in college often continue beyond the party or the bar: About 1 in 4 students also reported academic consequences from drinking, such as lower grades or missing class entirely. Photo by Moss on Unsplash A gift to ASU's Department of Psychology will bring the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students to the ASU campus. Photo by Moss on Unsplash Download Full Image

Because of sobering statistics like these, clinical psychologists in the Arizona State University Department of Psychology are actively working on implementing a new and innovative way to address problem alcohol use in students.

With support from the Robert B. Cialdini Leap Forward Fund, the researchers are bringing the Brief Alcohol Screening and Intervention for College Students (BASICS) to the ASU campus. The BASICS program was created at the University of Washington and is an evidence-based, educational program that addresses problematic alcohol use in college students. Research has repeatedly demonstrated students drink less and experience fewer alcohol-related negative consequences after completing the BASICS program.

Though the program is brief — it consists of two in-person interviews that are about an hour long — it has a high long-term success rate. Four years after participating in the BASICS program, over 67 percent of high-risk college students had improved or resolved their problem drinking behaviors.

“Consequences of risky college drinking include the potential for physical injury, motor vehicle crashes, academic and legal consequences, mental illness, physical and sexual assault, increased suicide attempts and even death," said Matthew Meier, assistant clinical professor and associate director of clinical training in the ASU Department of Psychology. "By offering the BASICS program to ASU students who are at risk for developing alcohol problems, we can prevent many of these negative consequences and create a safer environment on campus and in our surrounding community.” 

The two sessions that form the backbone of the BASICS program teach students how to make better decisions about alcohol use by making sure they clearly understand the risks associated with problem drinking. The program also focuses on how to individually motivate each student to change problem drinking habits, develop skills to moderate their drinking and promote healthier choices in general. Students also receive personalized feedback on ways to reduce future risks that could lead to alcohol misuse.

ASU students can voluntarily participate in the BASICS program, or students may be referred by the dean of students, ASU Police or ASU Housing.

Making BASICS happen at ASU

During the winter break, the psychology department hosted a BASICS training program led by George Parks, founder and CEO of a private training and consultation firm called Compassionate Pragmatism.

For three days, ASU clinical and counseling psychology, social work and behavioral health graduate students received training on skills and techniques to implement the effective and nonjudgmental BASICS program. Everyone who completed the program with Parks earned a BASICS training certification.

“The BASICS training program allowed our graduate students to be trained how to provide an evidence-based intervention and qualifies them to train others,” Meier said. “This training, and the implementation of the BASICS program, will help make the community as a whole safer by reducing alcohol abuse.”

Robert Ewing

Marketing and Communications Manager, Department of Psychology


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Turning trauma into hope for Arizona’s DACA recipients

February 7, 2019

How College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumna Reyna Montoya is helping undocumented students find their voice

When Reyna Montoya first moved to Mesa, Arizona, in 2003, it was hard to feel at home.

Violence had forced her family from Tijuana, Mexico, when she was 10 years old, and they’d been making 4 a.m. car trips from the Arizona border to her Phoenix-area school ever since. Now living in Mesa full time, talking about that part of her life felt like a taboo.

“It was very much a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ kind of thing — growing up undocumented,” she said. “I didn’t really understand how policies impacted my life until I went to apply to college or get a driver’s license and seeing that I wasn’t able.”

Montoya is one of tens of thousands of undocumented young people across the country to receive protection under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program since its inception in 2012. But the program wasn’t available when Montoya was growing up.  

Instead, she navigated the labyrinth of barriers on her own and enrolled at Arizona State University out of high school. In her sophomore year, an immigration and economic policy class through the School of Transborder Studies made her realize she wasn’t alone.

“A lot of my own stories were connected to those policies,” she said. “It was like, ‘OK, there are others like me; I’m not the only one who is being affected.”

Montoya completed a Bachelor of Arts in political science and another in transborder studies, both from the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, along with a minor in dance in 2012. Today she also holds a master’s degree in secondary education from Grand Canyon University.

Learning about the policies affecting her own life empowered Montoya to help spur change. Now, less than a decade since she graduated, her advocacy network AlientoThe Spanish word "aliento" translates as both "breath" and "encouragement." is giving new DACA generations the support to do the same.

The birth of Aliento

After leaving ASU, she was eager to join the fight to help undocumented people like her. But working in national advocacy groups, she felt disillusioned by how much was going into what felt like few discernible results. The feeling worsened when, a year after graduation, her father’s deportation proceedings sent the family tumbling into crisis.

“I didn’t really know how to process the idea of not having my dad,” she said. “During that time my refuge was dance — it was my escape.”

After a nine-month legal battle, Montoya’s father was granted the right to stay in the United States. By then, she was working as a high school teacher in south Phoenix and hearing from students whose experiences with immigration policy mirrored her own. Getting DACA protection didn’t always mean the end of their problems, and the national aid groups she’d started out working for still seemed to be having little impact on the ground. Montoya started to think that if she’d found solace in expression and education, maybe others could too.

“I wanted a place where young people could go to process these feelings, while also trying to change the policies and structures causing the trauma in the first place,” she said.

Joining forces with Ileana Salinas, an alumna of the ASU Department of Psychology, Montoya invited families across Maricopa County to talk about their concerns. In 2016, a packed forum addressing DACA, deportation and immigration marked the birth of Aliento.

Over two years later, the group hosts regular art and music workshops, community organizing initiatives and informational sessions. A fellowship program also pulls younger students into the leadership fold, including some from ASU and community colleges across the Valley. The venture has also earned Montoya a spot on the Forbes 30 Under 30 list and a Spirituality Award from the Muhammad Ali Humanitarian Awards.

A new era of activism

Montoya says her diverse studies within the college provided an interdisciplinary framework for the holistic approach she employs today.

“I was learning about my own identity within current policies while at the same time thinking about the role of government in society in my political science classes, and then really making sense of it all through dance,” she said. “It really allowed me to find my own voice and create something entirely my own.”

Going forward, she sees Aliento giving the next generation of leaders the space to do the same.

That vision was showcased this January at Aliento’s Education Day. In 2018, an Arizona Supreme Court ruling disallowed in-state tuition rates for DACA recipients, shooting costs up as much as 200 percent.

Almost a year later, the Aliento event gathered some 250 undocumented students and allies from around Arizona to tell state and local lawmakers how they’d been affected. Dressed in business attire, they headed to the Capitol to make their case to representatives.

For Montoya, the event demonstrated her group’s impact.

“It was really beautiful getting to witness all the leadership development we’ve been doing with youth get put into action,” she said. “There were kids as young as 14 leading meetings with legislators and telling their stories.”

These days, Montoya wears a necklace in the shape of Arizona around her neck. She says it’s hard to imagine being anywhere else. Even as the future of DACA remains uncertain, Aliento is a chance to give back.

“Going to ASU and meeting other ‘Dreamers,’ it really made me feel less alone,” she said. “There is so much hope and resilience in young people, I want this to be the place they’re reminded they have the power to change the things they don’t like.”

Top photo: College of Liberal Arts and Sciences alumna Reyna Montoya is the founder of Aliento, a support network for undocumented students and families that aims to foster the next generation of community leaders. Photo by Alisa Reznick

Writer , The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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ASU at Mesa City Center aims to be world-class hub for digital innovation

New ASU location in downtown Mesa will be a digital innovation hub.
February 5, 2019

New building will house media arts, gaming, film production programs; Innovation Studio will connect to the startup community

Arizona State University’s new location in downtown Mesa will train students in the transdisciplinary digital expertise that technology companies are now demanding, according to ASU President Michael Crow.

“This will be the place with everything digital you can possibly imagine, every level of creativity, every level of new company idea and spinout in science and technology and the arts,” Crow said Tuesday at the Mesa “State of the City” breakfast, sponsored by the Mesa Chamber of Commerce.

“If you travel around the world, there are a few significant digital innovation centers that exist — in Sydney, Hong Kong, Singapore, London, New York City. We’re building one for the Western United States here in Mesa.”

The new ASU Mesa location — scheduled to open in fall 2021 — will house the ASU Creative Futures Laboratory, including academic programs offered by the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts related to digital and sensory technology, experiential design, gaming, media arts, film production, and entrepreneurial development and support.

In his State of the City address, Mesa Mayor John Giles said the new economy needs technology jobs.

“I consistently hear the words ‘augmented reality, artificial intelligence, 3D design,’ ” he said. “Mesa is very excited about what is now the reality of ASU coming to our downtown Innovation District.”

Mesa Mayor John Giles and ASU President Michael Crow speak onstage

Mesa Mayor John Giles (left) and ASU President Michael Crow talk about the new ASU at Mesa City Center location at the mayor's "State of the City" breakfast Tuesday at the Mesa Convention Center. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Crow said the new location will prepare students to work in Mesa’s growing technology sector.

“The hottest thing right now that people are looking for is, ‘Show me a kid who is trained in the arts but also is digitally capable,’ ” he said.

“What we’re looking to do is have a creative center. High school kids, college students attending ASU, businesses in the community — everyone will be a part of this.”

The centerpiece of ASU's presence in downtown Mesa will be a five-story building to be constructed at Pepper Street and Centennial Way, which will draw more than 750 ASU students, faculty and staff to downtown Mesa. Last month, the Mesa City Council selected the architects to design the 118,000-square-foot academic building.

The ASU building is part of the city's efforts to build an Innovation District in downtown Mesa. The district will include The Plaza at Mesa City Center, a two- to three-acre gathering space just south of the building, with an open community space, water features and seasonal ice rink.

The ground floor of the new building will contain an exhibition gallery, screening theaters and a cafe. The upper floors will include production studios, fabrication labs, flexible classrooms and spaces for collaborations with community and industry. The building also will feature an enhanced-immersion studio where users can create augmented realities and map virtual spaces onto physical environments.

Faculty in the School of Film, Dance and Theatre already have been brainstorming with the architects on specifications for the new space, such as the best size for the production studios and whether to include a full-size kitchen, which would not only service students who will be using the space around the clock but also could be used as a set for filming.

Video by Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts

ASU also will offer an Innovation Studio in downtown Mesa, run by Entrepreneurship and Innovation at ASU. The studio would offer a physical space for collaboration and also connect the startup community to the academic programs offered, according to Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of Knowledge Enterprise Development at ASU.

“It could be everything from an events space to community-facing workshops, seminars and boot camps on startup methodologies, to demo days or a food showcase,” Choi said.

ASU also is in talks to create a coworking space at the Innovation Studio, she said.

“It could be for one person who’s kind of dabbling with an idea, or it could be an existing company with one or two employees or part-time employees,” Choi said.

Entrepreneurship and Innovation wants to leverage the existing commitment to the arts in Mesa, she said.

“We can see having production-based companies that are in gaming and virtual reality and augmented reality, as well as film and storytelling because of the academic programs that will be there,” she said.

“We think there will be a center of gravity around arts entrepreneurship but not exclusive to that.”

ASU at Mesa City Center will be about seven miles from the Tempe campus (about a 20-minute ride on the light rail) and about 16 miles from the ASU Polytechnic campus in east Mesa, which offers programs in engineering and specialty degrees like air traffic management and professional flight.

The architects are Holly Street Studio, which designed the renovation of the old downtown Phoenix post office into the Student Center at the Post Office in 2013, and Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, which has designed buildings at Disney's Creative Campus, the Colorado School of Mines and the University of California, San Diego. The design and construction team also features DPR Construction, whose projects include Pixar Animation Studio, as well as ASU Polytechnic and SkySong locations.

Top photo: An artist rendering of the proposed ASU at Mesa City Center building.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Adding a new perspective to the editor's desk

February 4, 2019

2 Native American students at the helm of ASU-sponsored publications

Journalism, a profession with few minorities — and even fewer Native Americans — is now starting to see change.

Taylor Notah, a graduate of the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, and Joseph Perez, a journalism sophomore at Cronkite, are editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester.

Both come from indigenous backgrounds.

Notah hails from the Navajo Nation and is the current editor of Turning Points, a first-of-its-kind magazine geared specifically for Native American students written by an all indigenous staff.

Perez is a member of the Quinalt tribe from northwestern Washington and is a community editor for The State Press, which was founded in 1906.

Both love telling stories. And both have their own stories to tell.

ASU Now spoke with Notah and Perez about their struggles in the newsroom, overcoming the cultural challenges of the job and how they picked up leadership skills along the way.

Question: Historically it’s been tough getting minorities into the newsroom, despite initiatives and efforts from schools, universities and newspapers from across the country. What was it like for you at the Cronkite School being the only Native American in the classroom?

Taylor Notah: It was challenging but I loved gaining the experience. Knowing to go out and report, learning how to shoot video, things like that. Gaining those skill sets was fun for me. I think being in the newsroom was a challenge because I was the only Native American in Cronkite News, and I didn’t see myself amid all of these young budding professionals who had these really great stories and great backgrounds. In the beginning I felt disconnected with my peers and I didn’t see myself among them.

Joseph Perez: Sitting in a room full of talented journalists every day is intimidating for me, no matter my lineage or theirs. However, when I do take the time to notice, as I often do, that I am typically the only Native American in that room full of talent, the intimidation I feel is magnified greatly. It’s never comforting to be the only person of your kind — whatever that "kind" may be — and even less comforting during these vastly important years in college, where we’re all doing our best to find ourselves, to define who we’ll be in the world. That’s why I did my best to cover Native American affairs as a reporter, to talk to more indigenous students, to incorporate the culture into my work and ultimately to serve as a voice for a people that I think isn’t loud enough in the media today.

Q: Were there any cultural hurdles you had to get over because of the nature of the profession?

TN: I grew up very shy, and so approaching people was the biggest hurdle. On the Navajo Nation, we often tease each other for being shy, and being off of the Navajo Nation being shy is something different. It’s something I still encounter and struggle with when I initially reach out to people even though I love connecting with people to hear their stories. I think a cultural disconnect can be the person I’m interviewing may not understand where I come from. Being in the newsroom you’re being put under the spotlight because they want to hear your stories and they want to hear your ideas. It was very jarring and in the beginning, it was a completely different experience for me.

JP: It was a bit difficult for me to come out of my shell at first, but the newsroom I work in has been beyond accepting of my indigenous roots, and they’ve even encouraged me to use that piece of me and share it with our readership. I have had the best mentors at the State Press that have taught me that who I am and where I come from gives me something worth writing about, not something to overcome. They’ve shown me that my Native American identity is a leg up rather than a hurdle to climb over.

Q: So what made you ultimately stick with journalism?

TN: Because I had story ideas: No one in the newsroom knew what was going on in the community that I came from. My first story for Cronkite was about language revitalization among the Navajo Nation … I would hear from back home the language was declining at a very fast rate. I wanted to report on that because stories about Native Americans aren’t always negative. Yes, our language is declining but there are so many amazing things that are happening by our people who are trying to make the language come back. So I wanted to show that … and that stems from the mission in my work to show the beauty and the resilience and the strengths that Native Americans have. What people in mainstream media always see are stereotypes and misconceptions, and I wanted to turn that around.

JP: Journalism is what I love. I’ve been a writer for a good chunk of my life, and finding this niche where I can write, but write something worth reading is all I could ever ask for. I’ve never once doubted whether this is what I want to do, and the fact that I can do this incredibly important job while offering a voice to my people is a dream come true.

Q: Any major turning point for you?

TN: We did this intermediate reporting class, taught by Maureen West. I actually took that class two times. The first time I tried reporting how I thought they wanted me to report — I’d go to these council meetings in Mesa or cover an event, and I didn’t really connect with it. I just bombed because I was trying to step into a world where I didn’t feel connected. So I retook the class with Maureen West and she really pushed and encouraged me. She told me that I had good story ideas and that I should pursue them. So I began seeking stories in Native communities where I felt comfortable reporting. I first got published through the Gila River Indian Community, and the editor said they had a story I could write. I had to have six stories to pass the class. So with GRIC, they realized that both of us are helping each other if we tell our stories together.

JP: A major turning point in my journalistic endeavors was when I began writing for the State Press. I had a job doing what I loved, and I felt like a shark that had smelled blood. I got a taste for reporting as a job, and walking into that newsroom every Thursday night only assured me that this is what I was meant to do. I believe that everybody has a purpose, and as soon as I started writing for this student-run publication, I knew that I had found mine. Writing and now editing for the State Press has made me sure that there’s nothing else in the world I’d rather do than this.

Q: How did the opportunity come up for your current position?

TN: I was on the Navajo reservation one summer and I got an email from Rebecca Blatt, my director at Cronkite News, who mentioned a possible podcast opportunity. She connected me with Dr. Amanda Tachine at the Center for Indian Education who was looking for someone to do a podcast, and I had experience in that from Cronkite. So we connected and I found out about “Turning Points,” and heard they needed someone to finish a few stories. That was my reconnection to Native communities and stories on campus. That’s where it all came back for me and where I find myself now. I’m honored with all of these connections that brought me to my current path now.

JP: This past fall was my second semester writing for the State Press and I had decided to take on a full-time reporting position. It was arduous. I had a really hard time, but I was always proud of the work I did, and it seemed that my editors were as well. It came up in conversation with my editors and leadership that editor applications were opening and I decided I would apply. Friends of mine told me that I’d undoubtedly get the job, but I was extremely nervous to apply nonetheless. Of course, I filled out an application the very day they were open and interviewed for the spot on the very first day I was available to do so. Needless to say, I got the position and I couldn’t be happier with where I am.

Q: Why do you think that historically many young Native Americans have not pursued a career in journalism? And how can this trend be reversed? 

TN: Maybe it’s because they don’t see themselves in this role. I certainly didn’t. All of my other friends pursued other careers and I was the only one in my group who gravitated toward the Cronkite program.

To reverse this, I would say we come from a long line of strong indigenous people and that we can do it. We may be in places that weren’t originally designed for us, but if we think of the need of our community and family, we can achieve anything. That’s where our strength comes from. We face so many obstacles, but in the end we have the teachings from our culture to persist and keep going.

JP: I think it’s hard for Native Americans to pursue a career in journalism because we already feel so underrepresented. Journalism has been a white man’s business for so long and I think it’s hard for any minority to go out on a limb and try to make something of themselves in a field where almost nobody shares their ethnic roots. It’s intimidating. That’s not to say that Native Americans aren’t bold or brave, because that’s so far from the truth. It’s to say how intensely horrifying it is to be the only indigenous person in any field, especially one as important and daunting as the journalistic field. A lack of representation can be a huge hurdle to overcome, and I think it’s a vicious cycle: Natives don’t pursue careers in journalism because there are no Natives in journalism.

The key to changing this is to see our aloneness the way my peers at the State Press taught me to: as an advantage. Newsrooms everywhere are trying to diversify their staff and with so few indigenous people in the field now, the few will stand out to publications. We need to see ourselves not as unwelcome, but as unique. We need to see ourselves as special, because that’s what we are.

I also think that we need to see how important it is that our voice is heard. Without Native American journalists, our voice will never be heard and I think that we, as a people, need to recognize our duty to ourselves to make sure that we are heard — and heard loud and clear.

Top photo: Taylor Notah (left) and Joseph Perez are Native Americans and editors of two Arizona State University-sponsored publications this semester. Notah graduated from Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and is the senior editor at "Turning Points, A Guide to Native Student Success." Perez is a sophomore at Cronkite and is the community editor at "The State Press." Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

‘Hearts and Scholars’ celebrates ASU student scholarship, philanthropy

The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences event gathers donors and students

February 4, 2019

Each year at Arizona State University’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, alumni, community members and other supporters contribute to the future by investing in student success. And whether it’s extra money for class supplies, or providing the means to complete a career-shaping internship, the scholarships they fund have the power to transform lives.

One of the many donors giving back to ASU is Judy Smith, an alumna who earned both her Bachelor of Science and a doctorate from the college’s Department of Psychology. Nikki Hinshaw pictured at her internship with The McCain Institute's Policy Design Studio program in Washington D.C. ASU junior Nikki Hinshaw during her internship with the McCain Institute's Policy Design Studio program in Washington, D.C., an opportunity she says the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship helped fund. Photo courtesy of Nikki Hinshaw Download Full Image

Growing up in the tiny Navajo County town of Holbrook in northeastern Arizona, she says campus offered what felt like endless potential to grow. That journey was possible thanks to the scholarships she received herself, particularly during graduate school. Now, through the Smith-Marshall Scholarship established with her husband, Jeff Marshall, in 2014, she’s helping other psychology students do the same.  

"Going to ASU was the thrill of my life as a student,” Smith said. “I would like to help other students from small and isolated Arizona towns to broaden their experiences, meet new people and visit new places to expand their personal horizons.”

She is not alone. Home to 23 academic units, the college garners thousands of dollars in scholarships each year dedicated to supporting specific fields of study, bolstering first-generation students and financing study abroad and research opportunities.

Launched in 2004, the Hearts and Scholars event gives philanthropists the chance to hear from recipients themselves about how they’ve been affected.

Annmarie Barton, a dual major in biochemistry and anthropology who received the Deborah Oldfield Reich and John Reich Maroon and Gold Leaders Scholarship, says it’s an opportunity to catch her donors up on a year of changes.

“I want to update them on how I’m doing, that I’ve added a major, and just let them know how appreciative I am that they decided to change their world which, in turn, changed mine,” she said.

For as long as she can remember, Barton has wanted to be a teacher. Coming to ASU, and having the means to focus on studying, has helped that goal materialize.

“A lot of it is about taking the stress off of paying for school,” she said. “Being able to come to university and learn so much gets me one step closer to ultimately helping others learn as well.”

A meaningful experience in college isn’t just about attending classes, it’s also about leaving campus to pursue career-advancing opportunities elsewhere. That was the case for Nikki Hinshaw, a junior dual-majoring in political science and communication in the School of Politics and Global Studies and Hugh Downs School of Human Communication. Receiving the Craig and Barbara Barrett Political Science Scholarship helped her study abroad and complete internships in Washington, D.C.

“Without scholarships, I would not have been able to engage in these unpaid and often costly opportunities,” she said. “I hope that (with the experiences), I’m able to make a bigger impact on my community and give back to others someday as well.”

For many students, finances aren’t the only thing boosted by the funds. Benjamin Mesnik remembers being shy as an incoming freshman in the School of Life Sciences last fall. The support he received from the Dean’s Circle Scholarship made him feel more prepared.

“It allows you to be confident that someone believes in you, someone or some organization is investing in you and letting you know we want you to succeed here, we want you to become academically excellent,’” he said. “I would want to say thank you, thank you countless times.”

The annual Hearts and Scholars Scholarship Dinner will take place Feb. 5 on the Tempe campus for invited guests.

Writer, The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences


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New Regents’ Professor is one of the nation’s pre-eminent history scholars

February 1, 2019

Donald L. Fixico's scholarly achievements include pioneering contributions to Native American ethnohistory and oral history

Arizona State University Professor Donald L. Fixico doesn’t like surprises, especially when they involve a boss.

Last October, he was contacted by ASU President Michael M. Crow’s assistant asking for his availability. The caller did not give a reason for the meeting, and Fixico was left hanging in suspense.

“I thought I had done something wrong or was going to be fired,” said Fixico, the Distinguished Foundation ProfessorFixico is also a Distinguished Sustainability Scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies. 

It was definitely not that.

When Fixico finally met with Crow in his office a week later, he was told that he had been named one of four Regents’ Professors for the 2018-19 academic year.

“It was a major relief,” Fixico said with a laugh. “I thought I might have to look for another job.”

That doesn’t appear to be likely now.

Regents’ Professor is the highest faculty honor and is conferred on full professors who have made remarkable achievements that have brought them national attention and international distinction.

Less than 3 percent of all faculty at Arizona State University carry the distinction.

Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, a President’s Professor, director of the Center for Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs, was quick to sing Fixico's praises.

“Don Fixico is among the very best historians of American Indians in the world," he said. "He is prolific, and, importantly, his work is meaningful to many of us outside of history. Having Don as a colleague at ASU means that we have someone who is very, very competent, who is fair-minded and tough and who cares deeply about American Indian students and faculty. I admire him as a scholar and as a human being; he really is a gentleman and a scholar.”

The designation capped off a banner year for Fixico. He published his latest book, "Indian Treaties in the United States," and finished serving as president of the Western History Association, considered one of the most prestigious appointments in historical studies. In recognition of Fixico’s prolific scholarly legacy, that organization presented the first Donald Fixico Book Award in 2018. The $1,000 award annually recognizes innovative work in the field of American Indian and Canadian First Nations history that centers on indigenous epistemologies and perspectives.

The Oklahoma native, who is Shawnee, Sac and Fox, Muscogee Creek and Seminole, has far exceeded his own expectations. He has come a long way from working in construction during the summers in order to put himself through college.

“I began to realize there’s got to be an easier way of making a living,” Fixico said. “My big ambition was just to get a job that was indoors.”

It almost didn’t happen.

He tried his hand at chemical engineering but couldn’t keep up with the accelerating coursework and finally accepted that he was in over his head. He switched majors to history, and everything clicked. Though it took several years for him to understand, he says his mind worked like a wheel and took a circular, rather than linear, approach when writing. He said that approach didn’t endear him to his professors or future editors, but he learned to adjust.

Fixico said he had to rewrite his first book, "Termination and Relocation," four times before it was published in 1986.

He has published more than a dozen more in the ensuing years and today is considered among the foremost scholars in North American Indian history. Among his pursuits is writing a major Indian history textbook for Oxford University Press and writing the chapter, “Writing American Indian History in the 21st Century,” for Vol. 1 of the "Handbook of North American Indians" by the Smithsonian Institute.

Books on a shelf

Collection of books written by ASU Professor Donald L. Fixico. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Fixico has created a knowledge base of the narratives that did not exist before his research in what he calls the “Medicine Way of American Indian History.” He has shown the importance of Indian oral traditions and Native perspectives in general as a necessary ingredient for the writing of not only Indian histories but American histories. He said that developed as a necessity when he gave his first lecture at Rose State College, where he taught a course as a doctoral student.

“I delivered that first lecture with a lot of energy and gave it everything I had, and walked out of that classroom so proud,” Fixico said. “Then I realized that I told them everything I knew and didn’t have anything else to offer my students. I was so tightly focused on American Indians. Then I got very scared because I realized that I didn’t know enough about other types of history.”

Fixico made a concerted effort to have lunch with older professors who could teach him world history from different eras. He said this exercise helped him to understand that history has universal themes such as liberty, democracy, sovereignty, love and hate.  

“An important key to teaching history is making big-idea concepts and themes relevant to everyday life,” Fixico said. 

Today Fixico is now that "older professor" who is teaching others how to become historians. Three years ago, ASU recognized him with the Doctoral Student Mentor Award. To date he has mentored and graduated 16 PhD students and has two more in the pipeline. One of his former students is William S. Kiser, an assistant professor and director of the Global Borders and Borderlands History Program at Texas A&M University-San Antonio.

“Professor Fixico just didn’t teach us history — he taught us the craft of being a historian,” said Kiser, who received his PhD from ASU in 2016. “He’d teach us things about tenure, the importance of publishing, peer guidelines. He instilled a high bar of excellence in the most compassionate way possible.”

Farina King, an assistant professor of history at Northeastern State University in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, also gave Fixico high marks for his tutelage.

“The most valuable thing he did was enable us to discover what made us special as students and scholars, and how to understand ourselves as individuals,” King said. “I never felt like a checkbox to him because he made himself available to us at all times and was always in the moment. I’ve found other scholars to be self-serving, but Professor Fixico is a humble person and a person you naturally respect and honor.”

Fixico said that though he studies and teaches history, millennials are teaching him that he must stay relevant to their issues and concerns in order to engage them in the classroom.

“I want them to think analytically and to articulate their views as well as they can and improve,” Fixico said. “They are teaching me that I must stay in tune with what’s going on in the world, and if you can keep an open mind, you can learn something new every day. … It’s refreshing to stay young in that way.”

Top photo: Regents' Professor of history Donald L. Fixico, of the School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies, is the author of more than a dozen books on American Indian issues. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


Smarter together: ASU Law student helping unite metro Phoenix as region of innovation

February 1, 2019

Imagine a perfect day in metro Phoenix: no traffic congestion and autonomous vehicles glide commuters through the streets, hitting nothing but green lights. The air is clean, there’s a sustainable supply of water, and everybody has access to great health care, nutritious food and the latest technologies. Sun Devil Stadium is packed with a roaring crowd, and the fans move efficiently through short lines at the concession stands and restrooms.

That picture may seem far-fetched in a region where rapid population growth seems to be stressing resources and infrastructure. But it’s all part of the vision of Dominic Papa, a third-year student at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University. Smart Cities Smart Cities Download Full Image

Papa is the co-founder and executive director of the Institute for Digital Progress, a nonprofit aiming to improve the Phoenix area by transforming the region into a major hub of smart-city technology. It’s an ambitious project that relies heavily on innovation — and collaboration.

But first and foremost, what exactly is a “smart city”?

“The running joke is, you ask 10 mayors what a smart city is, you’re going to get 12 answers, because no one knows, and they’re going to change their answer after hearing everybody else’s,” Papa said. “But I would say, from a community’s perspective, it is leveraging emerging technology and data to provide more efficient, more effective services and a higher quality of life.”

A key component is what Papa calls “innovation sandboxes,” where research and pilot programs are encouraged. For an example, he points to the testing of autonomous vehicles.

“We saw what Governor Doug Ducey did by opening up Arizona, and our streets, to autonomous vehicles, and the massive economic impact that that brought to our state,” Papa said. “It’s really taking that concept and drilling down to a micro-level. So how can we open our region or ASU, our campuses, to allow for industry, entrepreneurs and even researchers to leverage our infrastructure as a proving ground to build, test and validate emerging technologies?”

Collaboration is one of the key elements, and the institute has been working in partnership with ASU, the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, the Maricopa Association of Governments, and cities and towns making up the Greater Phoenix region in order to create a Greater Phoenix Smart Region.

“It’s 22 cities and towns, the county, ASU and industry partners coming together to intentionally accelerate our development into a smart region,” said Papa, explaining that workforce development will be a key element. “A smart region is going to demand a public-sector workforce that is educated to develop, deploy and maintain these technologies within the cities themselves. Together, ASU and IDPInstitute for Digital Progress will train city employees on emerging technologies and digitization strategies. The goal is to create the nation’s leading public-sector workforce of the future, right here in Greater Phoenix.”

ASU at the center of it all

ASU will serve as the heartbeat of the smart-region project, playing a critical role not only in educating the future workforce, but as a research hub as well. And helping to lead those efforts is Di Bowman, a professor at ASU Law and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, who also serves as the co-director for ASU’s Center for Smart Cities and Regions.

“ASU already has the concept of a smart campus and has been working across the different facets of the campuses to create the smart-campus environment,” Bowman said.

For example, Sun Devil Stadium is not only hosting football games, but also doubling as a research laboratory.

“One thing they’re doing there, which may seem to be more about entertainment than technology testing, is using facial-recognition software within the suites area,” Bowman said. “Guests have their faces scanned and are then matched with their celebrity doppelganger, which isn’t always the same one. So while it may seem kind of whimsical and fun — which it is — the fact that Arizona is a border state and we have an international airport suggests that this technology, once proven to be effective, could be deployed in the state by agencies to enhance public safety, which is really exciting. If, by initially deploying and testing the technology in our stadium, we can prove it is efficient and effective, we can begin to then imagine how ASU could potentially partner with entities such as Phoenix Sky Harbor to test the technology from a security perspective.”

And that’s not all that’s being tested at Sun Devil Stadium.

“You know when you go to a stadium and they hand out prizes for the section that cheers the loudest? That’s all fake right now,” said Papa, explaining that ASU partnered with Intel to develop a groundbreaking noise-detection system. “Sun Devil Stadium is the first stadium to actually use real-time noise captured through sensors to choose the correct section that was actually the loudest.”

Papa said through a phone app, ASU can then alert the fans in that section that they’ve won a prize and can pick up a free T-shirt or soft drink at a certain location within the stadium. The app could even direct spectators to the shortest concession stand lines.

Bowman said campus testing could also help the region manage its most precious resources, including water.

“We know from our discussion with political leaders across the state that water is, and will remain, a challenging issue to manage — especially given the rate at which the region is growing,” she said. “Knowing where water is being used, where it is being lost, and the volumes associated with each, allows decision makers to make better investments in and around water usage. ASU buildings and, in particular, the dorm buildings, could be utilized for pilot programs around water metering. Nobody knows how much water is really being lost in the system, so finding out more about water loss and usage could help us be smarter consumers of water and better utilize that as a resource. There is also a great fiscal reason for doing so, too.”

Papa said the university’s evidence-based research role in the smart-region project aligns with ASU President Michael Crow’s focus on community impact and scalability.

“ASU has the unique advantage of having campuses, with students, scattered throughout the region that act as cities in and of themselves,” he said. “If we can rapidly test innovative new technologies on these campuses, continuously measure their impact, and ultimately validate them, we can then implement these solutions into the 22 cities and towns through the smart-region initiative. Furthermore, because all cities face similar challenges, we can then export these solutions to cities and regions around the world. The smart-region framework allows us to solve urban challenges at scale and accelerate technology commercialization, ultimately creating jobs and economic growth.”

And that, Bowman says, is what a university is all about.

“It’s about doing research, it’s about deploying technologies, it’s about bringing in students across all areas of study and giving them opportunities to develop solutions and experiment with them, whether that’s in a laboratory scenario or on campus,” she said. “And we also have the capacity — which cities and towns don’t necessarily have — to examine different technologies, analyze data and work out whether what is being proposed really is the best technology for meeting the challenges within our communities, including whether or not it is acceptable to the public, or whether we need to redesign and develop more. That’s exciting.”

Political factors

The push to develop and implement smart-city technology has something that so many other issues are lacking: bipartisan political support.

“That’s why we’ve been able to gain so much momentum in this area, and especially in this region,” Papa said. “Because for the left, the Democrats, this has a huge social aspect, specifically around quality-of-life and digital equity aspects. And for the right, the more conservative and Republican side, it’s about leveraging technologies to create efficiencies in government, thereby using less taxpayer dollars to deliver higher-quality services. Smart cities really hit on everyone’s ideals.”

But rapid advancements in technology can be frightening, stoking fears about privacy and safety. Eliminating red tape to encourage innovation and entrepreneurship must be balanced with just the right amount of regulatory precautions.

“I’m a person who continually stares at, and evaluates, the effectiveness of regulations in light of new and emerging technologies,” Bowman said. “My focus has, and continues to be, working out how the public sector can allow useful technologies into the market in the quickest and most efficient ways without endangering public health and safety. It’s about finding effective regulatory tools and strategies that have the necessary checks and balances that can then be streamlined in such a way that they’re not unduly burdensome.”

Papa said that’s why it’s exciting to have ASU Law play a role in the project. Especially with the law school now located in downtown Phoenix, in close proximity to the Arizona Capitol and Phoenix City Hall.

“This initiative is something that no one has tried at this scale probably ever before,” he said. “We’re talking about the fourth-largest county in the country, the fastest-growing in population, 22 separate jurisdictions, all fairly large, actually saying, ‘We’re going to work together to do this.’ It’s true that seemingly insurmountable challenges require unprecedented collaboration and no one has tried it at this scale before. There’s a new metropolitan revolution occurring in the Greater Phoenix region, and it’s being built around innovation and driven by collaboration. And while there will obviously be challenges, the potential benefits of it are incredible.”

Lauren Dickerson

Marketing and communications coordinator, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


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January 31, 2019

New structure of translational teams and affinity networks replaces departments and schools in College of Health Solutions

In 2017, the United States spent $3.5 trillion on health. That’s 18 percent of the country’s GDP, and almost six times more than the budget of the U.S. Department of Defense. And yet the country has some of the worst health outcomes among the world's industrialized countries.

The largest portion of health spending in the United States is for the treatment of chronic conditions, many of which are preventable with lifestyle changes. And while preventable health conditions account for 60 percent of all premature deaths, insufficient public funding goes toward disease prevention or addressing the societal and environmental factorsHousing, education, access to healthy food, transportation, genetics, ZIP code. that impact a person’s ability to be healthy.

“We want to make a difference,” said Deborah Helitzer, dean of Arizona State University's College of Health Solutions. “That’s why we’re doing what we’re doing.”

What they’re doing in the College of Health Solutions is nothing short of a total transformation. It's a daring step by a college that recognizes that innovative new approaches are critical to tackle the nation’s most pressing health challenges.

Designing from the ground up

The College of Health Solutions was originally formed in 2012 to offer students an education in health studies. It began as a collection of disparate academic units on three campuses whose faculty often worked in isolation from one another.

“The college was an assemblage of degrees, schools and programs that were broadly health-related,” said Julie Liss, associate dean for academic success and professor in the College of Health Solutions. “It felt like 'The Island of Misfit Toys.'”

Helitzer joined the College of Health Solutions in the summer of 2017 and embarked on an effort to better align the college’s mission and structure with the tenets of the university’s charter.

“ASU’s charter says that we take, amongst other things, fundamental responsibility for the health outcomes of our community,” said Minu Ipe, knowledge enterprise architect and senior fellow for leadership and institutional design. “This college had incredible strengths, but was not organized in a way to really deliver against that aspect of our charter.”

Beginning in fall 2017, Ipe and Helitzer led 300 internal and external stakeholders — including ASU faculty, staff and administration, community members and health system representatives — through an extensive process of reimagining what the college could be. An executive visioning team was created to compile and analyze data collected through the process and assemble a vision for the college.

“Traditionally, colleges don’t design themselves from the ground up,” Ipe said. “Most of the time the designs are top-down. So this was an incredible experience of faculty and staff designing the future of their college.”

Throughout the visioning process participants were encouraged to express their hopes and ideas for what the college could be and not feel bound by what it was.

“I think they (Helitzer and Ipe) gave us a lot of courage as a visioning team to be creative, to go down paths, even if they seemed kind of out-there,” Liss said.

After numerous conversations with faculty, staff, administrators and external stakeholders, a new vision and structure for the college emerged. The result is a college reinvented from every angle, by the people who know it best.

“It was an incredible way of tapping into the best ideas of the people we have here to come up with the ideas that are going to drive us in the future,” Ipe said.

Helitzer is confident that the new College of Health Solutions will be more nimble, collaborative and impactful.

“The way we have restructured the college, we are empowering the faculty, students and staff to take ownership,” Helitzer said. “It’s engaging people in different ways than is traditional.”

Connecting silos to facilitate collaboration

The visioning sessions revealed that improved internal collaboration and better streamlining of courses and services could allow the college to have a greater impact on population health. To that end, the primary functions of the college have been centralized, and all schools and departmentsSchool for the Science of Health Care Delivery; School of Nutrition and Health Promotion; International School of Biomedical Diagnostics; Department of Biomedical Informatics; and the Department of Speech and Hearing Science. have been disestablished.

In their place, translational teams and affinity networks offer students opportunities for specialized study on real-world health topics. Academic degree programs remain, and new degrees and certificates are being developed with the input of faculty from a variety of disciplines throughout the college.

“There’s so much redundancy when you have programs that are founded on the same set of knowledge,” Helitzer said.

The new structure capitalizes on the diversity of faculty expertise and the college’s underlying strengths. It encourages greater collaboration between faculty, students and community partners around important health issues.

“There’s always going to be silos of activity — that’s just the way humans are,” said Scott Leischow, professor and director of translational science in the College of Health Solutions, and member of the executive visioning team. “But what we need to do, at minimum, is connect the silos — and better yet, create interconnected teams that evolve as needs change. And that’s what we’re trying to do here; facilitate collaborations in functional ways so we can do a better job of science, of working with communities, and just as importantly, educating students.”

Translational teams connect research to real-world solutions

One of the more significant and highly anticipated concepts that emerged from the visioning process is translational teams.

Translational teams are self-organized groups of faculty, students and community partners who are dedicated to advancing research and knowledge on a significant health topic.

Working collaboratively across academic disciplines, inside and outside the college, and with community partners, translational teams will develop innovative solutions to costly and complex system-level health problems.

“We will be a college that can work at the speed of real problems in the real world, versus working at the speed of traditional academia, which is slow,” said Chris Wharton, assistant dean of innovation and strategic initiatives in the College of Health Solutions, and a member of the executive visioning team.

Translational teams will engage in research, using biomedical research, clinical trials, behavioral and policy interventions, and analysis of big-data resources and technology innovations, with the goal of having a major impact in the space and shortening the cycle from discovery to implementation.

“Most innovations take 17 years between the time they are discovered and the time they are used,” Helitzer said. “We can do it at a much faster pace because we already understand the science.”

Students in the College of Health Solutions will have the opportunity to spend their entire college career participating on a translational team, providing them with unprecedented opportunities in research, teamwork and problem-solving.

In the past, students began their experiential learning in their sophomore or junior year. The new model has them beginning immediately.

“We thought, let’s have students out there right away,” Wharton said. “Get them learning about a potential area they want to have a degree and career in. They’ll get as much experience and learning out in the field as they could in the classroom.”

As a participant on a translational team, students will build relationships with faculty and community partners and gain hands-on experience in their chosen field.

“The community partners we talked to said, ‘We care less about what the students are learning in terms of the discipline-specific content, at the undergraduate level, and more about critical thinking, ability to interface with data, communication, problem-solving, leadership skills,’” Liss said. “It was clear that the community wanted our students embedded in their organizations and businesses so that they can train some of those skills in experiential learning.”

Already, translational teams have been formed around the following topics:

  • Autism spectrum disorderInvestigators: Blair Braden and Maria Dixon, College of Health Solutions.
  • Hearing loss in adults: Communication, connection and communityInvestigators: Stephanie Adamovich, Aparna Rao and Kate Helms-Tillery, College of Health Solutions.
  • Value-based payment for oral health in ArizonaInvestigators: William Riley, George Runger, Mac McCullough and Kathleen Pine, College of Health Solutions.
  • Improving language outcomes in children with developmental disabilitiesInvestigators: Shelley Gray, College of Health Solutions; Jeanne Wilcox, Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College and College of Health Solutions; and Mark Reiser, School of Mathematical and Statistical Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
  • Metabolic diseaseInvestigators: Matthew Buman, Jared Dickinson, Mac McCullough, Tannah Broman, Stavros Kavouras, Matthew Martin, Corrie Whisner, Haiwei Gu, Peter Reaven, Christina Shepard and Nicole Blaize Nolan, College of Health Solutions; and Christos Katsanos, School of Life Sciences, College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Affinity networks focus on methodology and practice

In addition to the formation of translational teams as a means to advance health discovery and provide students with practical experiences, the college is introducing affinity networks to support the teams.

“The notion of affinity networks is built on the premise that collaboration and team efforts are fundamental to what we do,” Leischow said. “The affinity networks are collaborations that are focused on interests pertaining to methodology or practice. They are not tied to addressing a particular health problem.”

Affinity networks consist of faculty, staff and students who are of similar mindsets, use similar research or educational approaches and methodologies, and who have a common interest. Topics addressed by affinity networks will be varied; one could work on student success and retention, while another looks at health disparities and inequity.

“We recognize that no health problem can be solved by one group of people or one discipline,” Helitzer said. “So the whole idea is that this new model is really going to improve the way we address health and health care.”

An affinity network that is already established is the Health Policy and Equity Network, which seeks to reduce health disparities and effectively translate evidence into policy by engaging with community members and policymakers and bridging silos among these stakeholders.

A culture of risk and innovation

Ipe credits ASU’s culture of innovation and high tolerance for risk as linchpins in the success of the redesign process, in addition to Helitzer’s leadership style.

“It is ASU’s culture of innovation, and the recognition that we need to constantly adapt and evolve, that I think allowed a process like this to even happen,” Ipe said. “ASU’s culture allows people to go off and think about big changes, and then the institution’s leadership supports that fully.”

It’s a unique culture in the world of higher education, one that isn’t lost on Helitzer. “I’m an out-of-the-box thinker, and I feel like I’ve been given a gift to lead these very important changes,” she said.

“The way Deborah led this process allowed it to be what it is,” Ipe said. “She came in with a vision, but she was willing to put that aside to let this process become what it is. And in doing so, she gave space to her colleagues to come up with something that was so completely different.”

Poised for impact

The disestablishment of academic units, the streamlining of academic programs, and the creation of translational teams and affinity networks are outcomes of a vision formulated entirely from the ground up.

Given the space to think freely and dream big, the executive visioning team developed one of the most innovative models for a college in the nation.

“I’m excited for the possibility this gives ASU to make a significant and lasting impact on the health outcomes of our communities,” Helitzer said. “I look forward to all that we will accomplish together.”

Top photo: Dean of the College of Health Solutions Deborah Helitzer (middle row, second from the left) shows off her ASU pitchfork with students from the college. Photo courtesy of Shelley Marie Images

ASU Law professor leading campaign to help reduce child drownings in Arizona

January 31, 2019

When Di Bowman was making the move from Michigan to Arizona, she had found just the right home. But there was one flaw, and it was a deal-breaker.

“We landed here in Arizona, we had a house without a fence around the pool, and I refused to move in,” she said. “I had a 1-year-old at the time, and I refused to move in until we had a barrier up there.” Di Bowman and Coach Bowman Di Bowman and Coach Bowman. Download Full Image

It was the start of a mission for Bowman, a professor at the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law and the School for the Future of Innovation at Arizona State University. She began researching and discovered that child drownings are a preventable public health crisis in the United States and globally — and that the problem is particularly acute in Arizona.

According to the World Health Organization, drowning is the third-leading cause of unintentional injury death globally, and the highest drowning rates are among children 1 to 4 years old.

In the United States, drowning is the leading cause of unintentional death among 1- to 4-year-olds, according to the USA Swimming Foundation. And Arizona has the second-highest drowning rate in that age category, behind only Florida.

There are clear divisions among socioeconomic and racial demographics. A USA Swimming Foundation study found that 79 percent of children in households with incomes less than $50,000 have little or no swimming ability. Further, 64 percent of African-American children, 45 percent of Latino children and 40 percent of Caucasian children have little or no ability to swim.

Bowman is now leading a multifaceted, multipartner campaign to help safeguard all children in Arizona, especially those in the highest risk categories. The campaign is gaining momentum, focusing on better ordinances and wider access to swim lessons. But the first step was raising awareness.

‘It’s not in people’s consciousness’

Bowman applied for a grant with a private foundation but was turned away, being told that it wasn’t a significant enough public health issue.

She cited the statistics, underscoring Arizona’s dubious distinction of having the second-highest drowning fatality rate for children 1 to 4 years old, with 4.45 deaths per 100,000 children. And she pointed to research suggesting the numbers are even higher, and that the deaths are, for the most part, preventable and due to lack of supervision, the absence of proper barriers and adults severely overestimating the swimming ability of children. But it was to no avail.

“I was horrified, given these stats,” she said. “It’s a huge issue, but it’s not talked about, it’s not in people’s consciousness. Unless you’ve had a drowning in your family or you know somebody socially who has been impacted by a fatal or nonfatal submersion event, people just don’t think about drowning as being an issue.”

She knew there needed to be greater awareness. So she enlisted the help of experts at Phoenix Children’s Hospital and a high-profile resource within the ASU community: Sun Devils swimming and diving coach Bob Bowman, the Team USA coach who helped guide Michael Phelps to a record-breaking Olympic career.

Bob Bowman is no relation to Di Bowman. In fact, the two had never before met. But when she asked for his help in producing a public service announcement, he did not hesitate.

“As someone who works around pools every day, I appreciate the need for safety and appropriate supervision of all participants,” Bob said. “Toddlers and children must be under constant supervision around water and we should strive to equip all children and parents with water safety skills.”

The public service announcement won a media award from the Drowning Prevention Coalition of Arizona. And it also caught the attention of the Phoenix-based Hubbard Family Swim School, who reached out to Di to partner with ASU on a multifaceted drowning prevention program designed to reduce drowning-related mortality and morbidity in Arizona generally, and in the 1- to 4-year-old range in particular. A pillar of their partnership is to better provide access to swimming lessons. Now, they are leading efforts within ASU and Hubbard Family Swim School to partner with the city of Phoenix to build a state-of-the-art indoor swimming pool in the Maryvale section of Phoenix, an area of the city where drowning rates are especially high.

“The idea is to bring a pool to the people who are more likely to drown and give them that as a resource,” said Di, who added that the facility would use the curriculum taught at the Hubbard Family Swim School locations throughout the Valley.

She said Maryvale’s demographics, including greater poverty rates and a higher percentage of minority and refugee residents, correlate with higher drowning risks.

“Families are less likely to be able to pay $80 a month to put a child in weekly swim lessons,” she said. “Moreover, the absence of an indoor public swimming pool in the city of Phoenix creates a huge access barrier to families with limited transportation options. In short, many of these families simply cannot access a facility in which their children can have year-round lessons.”

Seeking stronger ordinances

Di Bowman hails from Australia, a country with a more stringent culture of pool safety.

“I think it is fair to say that Australia is a nanny state when it comes to public health,” she said. “Local governments have implemented stringent laws requiring, for example, private pools to be equipped with a free-standing barrier and self-locking pool gates. And that’s complemented with a comprehensive public education campaign spearheaded by former Australian Olympic swim coach Laurie Lawrence. This collective effort to address childhood drownings appears to be a huge factor in reducing mortality and morbidity rates in Australia."

And she said Australian officials are much more proactive in enforcing those regulations.

“To the point that they use various forms of aerial surveillance devices to photograph houses with backyard pools and spas, and if the photos suggest that the pool or spa is not fenced, action will be taken by the council to have the owners install a fence that meets the regulatory requirements.”

She does not advocate that level of intrusiveness. But she says the evidence is undeniable that barriers around pools reduce child drownings, and she would like to persuade local governments to review — and, where necessary, revise — existing pool barrier ordinances to ensure they meet best practices. Working with ASU Law library staff and research assistants, Bowman is mapping every ordinance in Arizona, showing the correlation between laxer local ordinances and higher drowning rates.

“We know what best practice looks like in terms of barrier ordinances, and we’ve got the data to prove it,” she said. “So we’re hoping to use this data, which is being visually mapped using Geographical Information System mapping techniques, to show mayors the importance of local ordinances in protecting some of the most vulnerable in our community — our children. This work builds on the phenomenal work that so many people in Arizona have undertaken in order to reduce drowning fatalities in our backyard. And collectively I hope that this research will result, over time, in the strengthening of local ordinances and a reduction in the number of childhood deaths we have each year here in Arizona.”

Lauren Dickerson

Marketing and communications coordinator, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


First Star ASU Academy gives foster youth confidence in their future

January 28, 2019

For the thousands of Arizona youth currently in foster care, obtaining a college education is an achievement that may seem out of reach. But Arizona State University and national nonprofit First Star are working together to help these students envision a future that includes higher education through the First Star Arizona State University Academy

The free, comprehensive four-year college access program provides high school-age foster youth with the academic support, enrichment and resources needed to enroll and succeed in college. The collaboration blends First Star’s mission of preparing foster youth for higher education and adulthood and ASU’s commitment to providing access to higher education for all Arizona high school students. First Star ASU Academy student cohort The 2017-18 cohort of First Star ASU Academy. Photo courtesy of Gabriela Jimenez/First Star ASU Academy Download Full Image

First Star partners with universities, child welfare agencies and school districts across the country to develop college-preparatory programs, provide technical assistance and advocate for policy change. To date, they have partnered with 12 U.S. universities, including ASU.

The First Star ASU Academy comprises educational and college prep opportunities delivered during a three-week residential summer program and monthly workshops throughout the following academic year.

Through the program, students participate in academic courses for college credit, independent studies, social and cultural activities, field trips, service learning and more. They are also offered resources via ASU Prep Digital’s online learning platform, including test preparation, STEM curriculum and other academic enrichment.

The program launched at ASU in 2017, with the inaugural cohort of students beginning in summer 2018. They started with their three-week residential program at ASU’s Polytechnic campus, where they lived in residence halls, attended workshops and activities and got a feel for what college life is like.

Throughout the 2018-19 school year, the students have attended monthly First Star ASU sessions on ASU’s campuses. The sessions are focused on academics, life skills and caregiver engagement and cover topics including English, STEM, SAT/ACT test prep, career preparation, financial literacy, self-advocacy and mentoring. 

Programming offered to caregivers focuses on helping them support the students in their college preparation journey and beyond.

According to First Star ASU Program Director Gaby Jimenez, these workshops enable students to stay engaged with the program throughout high school, with the hope that they’ll be ready for higher education once they graduate.

“Along with academic support, the monthly meetings provide both social and emotional life skills to help them become independent and prepare for college,” Jimenez said.

Mario Garcia is a member of the 2017/2018 First Star ASU cohort and a freshman at Casteel High School in Queen Creek. He said his favorite part of the program is getting to know other teenagers like him “who have similar backgrounds, who have been through things and are pursuing what they thought was impossible.”

Funding for First Star ASU Academy is provided through a $500,000 grant from WellCare Health Plans, Inc. The generous donation will help expand the program for students statewide by utilizing a hybrid of ASU digital learning platforms and residential summer programming.

“At ASU, we believe our institution is best measured by the range and diversity of those we serve and how well they succeed,” said ASU's Vice President of Education Outreach Partnerships Edmundo Hidalgo. “We are immensely proud to work with First Star, and now with WellCare, in inviting foster youth to become a part of the ASU community by providing them the encouragement and preparation they need to make their higher education dreams a reality." 

The program is currently recruiting students for its second cohort, which will begin in summer 2019. Participants must currently be in eighth, ninth 10th or 11th grade and be in foster care, residing with a family or caregiver in a group or foster home. They must also hold at least a 2.0 GPA on a 4.0 scale, have a good attendance record for the current and previous school year and commit to participation in monthly workshops and a three-week summer program. The priority application deadline is Feb. 1.

Copy writer and editor, Educational Outreach and Student Services