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ASU’s Committee for Campus Inclusion honored with city of Tempe’s diversity award

January 15, 2020

On Jan. 17, Arizona State University’s Committee for Campus Inclusion will be honored for its commitment to diversity in the city of Tempe.

The Tempe Human Relations Commission will award the committee the 2020 MLK Diversity Award in the category of educational organization. The annual recognition is given to individuals, businesses or community groups that help achieve the goal of making the city a better place. It’s the first time the committee will be receiving this award, after being nominated by a university employee.

“It’s wonderful to be in an institution that knows that inclusion is important,” said Cassandra Aska, associate vice president and dean of students and university chair of the Committee for Campus Inclusion. “To see that there’s a role that we can play to support the university and the people in the university,  and then to have that work that we do be recognized for an award in it of itself — is very humbling.”

The committee is made up of faculty, staff and students who are actively involved in outreach work across all ASU locations. In order to ensure that the university’s spaces are welcoming to all people, regardless of status, the committee is committed to engaging in dialogue and offering programs that encourage inclusion.

A point of pride for the committee is its Catalyst Awards, which are given out to individuals, groups, teams, programs, organizations or units that have made a significant difference in fostering and promoting diversity and inclusion at ASU and beyond. Aska believes this is one of the committee’s greatest accomplishments, especially in 2019, when 54 individuals were nominated for the award.

“We wholeheartedly believe that this is not any one individual’s, any one department's, any one unit’s responsibility. This is throughout. And to recognize multiple people in a lot of different spaces: in the classroom, in the library, in student success, student services spaces — that are doing this — is absolutely phenomenal.”

Aska considers the committee's work transformative and in alignment with the university’s bold charter. She’s confident people apply what they’ve learned through Committee for Campus Inclusion in their communities, even if they leave the university or Arizona.

“I think the support that we have within the university is awesome. It’s again a reflection of the commitment that exists to all of us continuing to evolve and grow in this area,” Aska said. “We believe we’re making a positive impact.”

It’s because of these accomplishments, and many more, that the city of Tempe is honoring Committee for Campus Inclusion. On Friday, Jan. 17, ASU students, faculty and staff will have the opportunity to be recognized at the 2020 MLK Diversity Awards breakfast, which will be held at the Tempe Marriott Buttes Hotel.

Top photo: The Committee for Campus Inclusion's executive board and past co-chairs, include (from left) Karen Engler, Rod Roscoe, Venita Hawthorne-James, Zachary Reeves-Blurton, Benjamin Mills, Amy Pate, Cassandra Aska and Margot Monroe. CCI co-chairs not present in photo: Drew Ross, Jennifer Stults, Linda Torres and Courtney Smith. 

Jimena Garrison

Copywriter , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

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CBS’s Scott Pelley pays tribute to Cronkite with journalism school visit

January 14, 2020

Must See Mondays speaker series scores big ratings with '60 Minutes’ correspondent

Longtime “60 Minutes” correspondent Scott Pelley delivered a dramatic, emotional address to ASU students Monday night that underscored the important role journalism plays in a democracy.

He told the stories of everyday heroes from his reporting, stories from inside a stairwell of the World Trade Center or a battlefield operating room to an oil rig disaster in the Gulf. All served as reminders that journalists can give a “voice to the voiceless,” and that accurate, fair journalism is the backbone of a healthy democracy. 

“The fastest way to destroy a democracy is to poison the information, and that is precisely what is happening today as we assemble here at the Cronkite School,” Pelley told students gathered for the Must See Mondays speakers series at the Cronkite School. “Our country is under attack. We are under attack from hostile nation states. We’re under attack from charlatans. We’re under attack from politicians from across the political spectrum who would twist the truth to their own ends.”

Pelley said the solution to this very real threat is simple.

“Journalism is the antidote to the poisoning of our information,” Pelley said. “People need down-the-middle, generally reliable information in order to make decisions about their own lives and the life of the country.”

Pelley’s talk, “Truth Worth Telling,” kicked off the spring 2020 Must See Mondays speaker series at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, packing the First Amendment Forum.

“Scott Pelley inspired hundreds of Cronkite students when he visited our school in 2016 as the recipient of the 33rd annual Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism,” Cronkite Dean Christopher Callahan said. “We are honored that he is returning to speak to a new class of Cronkite students, who will hear about the state of journalism in 2020 from one of the field’s best.”

Students not only heard Pelley’s compelling stories about his storied career, they were also treated to excerpts from his new book, “Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Time,” and shown highlight clips. He also took student questions well into the evening.

Pelley, who has won 35 Emmy awards and the former anchor of CBS Evening News from 2011 to 2017, spoke about “the crazy characters” he has met from all walks of life. They include presidents, popes, Nobel Peace Prize winners, soldiers on the battlefield, refugees on the run, innovators, whistleblowers and ordinary people who did extraordinary things under extreme circumstances — like New York City Battalion Chief Oreo Palmer and Melissa Doi, who was trapped in her office on the 83rd floorBefore Pelley’s research, reporters had estimated fire fighters reached no hire than the 50th floor of the World Trade Center. of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Palmer and Doi's intertwined stories are the opening chapter (“Gallantry”) of Pelley’s book: He found Doi’s 911 recordings as well as Palmer’s radio transmissions from Stairway A of the 79th floor. Pelley’s research showed this was the closest the New York City Fire Department came to rescuing those trapped in the buildings after the jarring impact of the two planes.

Palmer was only a few floors below Doi, who was on the phone with a 911 operator, and the two were moments from being united. Then the building collapsed.

Staying at a nearby hotel on that day, Pelley rushed toward the site after the twin towers were damaged. He watched in horror as the south tower crashed to the ground almost an hour after impact.

“What I saw in my mind’s eye was one floor collapsing, and then the next, and then the next. Then I saw the building race to the floor with heartbreaking speed,” Pelley said. “I don’t know how I got there, but the next thing I remember is that I’m on my knees and I’m calling out to God. I said, ‘God, take them all with no pain.’”

Pelley said he also did not remember getting up or racing as fast as he could with the sound of steel crashing into the street behind him. After a while, he turned around and went back to what everyone eventually called “Ground Zero,” where CBS reported for the next 96 hours with no commercials or breaks.

“We were just broadcasting the news with reliable information in a crisis, the lifeblood of a democracy,” Pelley said.  

man reading from book

Scott Pelley speaks to crowd at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communications in Phoenix about his new book, "Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter's Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Times" on Jan. 13. Photo by Megan Potter

Pelley said he deliberately wrote the last chapter of the book for budding journalists, offering advice for those wanting to take up a noble career.

“Young people come up to me all the time with this ‘enemy of the people’ rhetoric and ask me what to do, and I tell them, ‘Do your job,’” Pelley said. “Do your job every day. Make sure your writing is fair and accurate. Make sure the work you’re doing is such that the audience can understand what you’re doing. Just do your job and do it really well every day.”

Pelley also paid respect to the inspiring journalist whose name is on the building in which he gave his talk.

“Walter (Cronkite) was a friend of mine. He was a mentor of mine and he was my hero,” Pelley said. “In the closing days of Walter’s life he made it a point to talk about this place and how proud he was to have this remarkable school named for him.” 

Top photo: "60 Minutes" correspondent and the 2016 recipient of the Walter Cronkite Award for Excellence in Journalism Scott Pelley speaks about his career and new book, “Truth Worth Telling: A Reporter’s Search for Meaning in the Stories of Our Time,” on Monday, Jan. 13, 2019, at the Cronkite School's "Must See Mondays" speaker series. Photo by Megan Potter

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU students go to town on sustainability

January 13, 2020

Project Cities connects policymakers, students to co-create strategies for better environmental, economic and social outcomes

Apache Junction, Arizona — a city of approximately 42,000 residents on the eastern outskirts of the metro Phoenix area — has a complicated relationship with its 125 mobile home and RV parks. These parks represent more than 60% of the city’s housing stock and are a highly affordable option for people living on low or fixed incomes. Many of these parks are attractive and well managed, but a large number of them are run-down and unsightly and don’t conform to contemporary city codes. 

Many of the city’s mobile home parks were built well before Apache Junction was incorporated in 1978, so their property owners hold “rights of lawful nonconformance.” These rights allow owners to operate the parks as-is, but bars them from redeveloping in any way that doesn’t comply with current city codes. Revamping the parks to comply is cost-prohibitive to most owners, so many parks have fallen into a state of disrepair, with deferred maintenance, lack of amenities and an accumulation of junk and waste posing health and safety risks to their residents.

This isn’t good for residents or for the city, which sits in the shadow of the stunning Superstition Mountains and is working to attract visitors and develop economically. City officials need strategies to achieve their goals while preserving affordable housing and improving living conditions — easier said than done on a tight city budget with a small staff.

Rudy Esquivias, Apache Junction’s planning manager and zoning administrator, said the city’s main revenue sources are state shared revenues and sales taxes.

“We don’t have the revenue funds that other cities have to hire more staff and engage in more projects,” he explained.

To tackle these mobile home park issues and other pressing municipal challenges, Apache Junction officials decided to partner with a new-at-the-time program at Arizona State University: Project Cities. Launched in 2017, Project Cities is a university-community partnership that pairs ASU faculty and students with a city each academic year to co-create strategies for better environmental, economic and social outcomes. Apache Junction was the inaugural community partner during the 2017–18 academic year and renewed its partnership through the spring 2019 semester.

“The students helped us explore things and study things that we probably otherwise would not be able to do,” Esquivias said. “Project Cities is an invaluable resource.”

From report to reality

Maggie Dellow, a Master of Urban and Environmental Planning student, wasn’t sure what to do for her capstone project. She decided to attend a Project Cities information session, where she heard about opportunities to work with Apache Junction on various issues. In particular, the mobile home and RV parks project piqued her curiosity because of her interest in affordable housing.

“I see planning as a tool to address the major defining societal issues of our time,” Dellow said. “Working on affordable housing and homelessness issues presents opportunities to address the consequences of past decisions and shape policy and development for a brighter, more equitable future for everyone.”

To start the project, Dellow researched existing literature on mobile home communities and affordable housing. Guided by city officials and her faculty advisers, she then documented existing conditions and characteristics of 28 nonconforming, high-priority mobile home and RV parks in Apache Junction. To include local perspectives, she interviewed Apache Junction park owners and professionals in affordable housing development.

Ultimately, Dellow created a 235-page final report (condensed to 100 pages by Project Cities) for Apache Junction laying out the complexity of the issue, describing research findings and recommending strategies the city could adopt to improve mobile home parks and affordable housing.

One of Dellow’s main recommendations was to create an overlay zoning district for affordable housing development. This overlay could be applied to nonconforming parks with the goal of making it easier for property owners to improve their properties and increase the availability of affordable housing. In her report, Dellow advised that the city enforce standards that property owners must maintain, such as sewer connections, paved lots and community amenities.

Larry Kirch, Apache Junction’s development services director, said the city has initiated the process of updating the zoning code to include some of Dellow’s strategic recommendations. In addition, based on Dellow’s report, the city is working on incentives for mobile home park owners to upgrade their properties. These incentives are not yet solidified but may include allowing redevelopment that would enable a new owner to increase housing density, or at least not lose any.

“Maggie’s work was truly an exemplar of the kinds of successful local impacts the program aims to achieve,” said Steve Russell, Project Cities’ program manager.

Success beyond the classroom

Dellow presented her results in April 2019 at a Project Cities student showcase. In the audience were officials from the city of Glendale, another community partner, and they were so impressed with her work that they offered her a position with the city. Dellow accepted the temporary contracted position, assisting the planning division and working on a special project related to mobile housing.

“It was a fantastic experience, especially being approached in that way and being offered a job on the spot,” Dellow said, adding that she’s happy to be working in the urban planning field so soon after graduation. In December, Dellow earned a full-time planner position in the city of Phoenix.

Dellow’s exemplary work also earned her two awards from the American Planning Association. She was selected as APA’s 2019 Outstanding Student from ASU, and she also won Best Student Planning Project from the APA’s Arizona Chapter. When discussing these accomplishments, Dellow was quick to give thanks to Project Cities staff and her faculty advisers — particularly Assistant Professor Meagan Ehlenz in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

“Without her, I think I would’ve been a little more conservative in my work and far less confident in what I was doing,” Dellow said. “Meagan was also fantastic because she pushed me a lot.”

Because of Ehlenz’s support and guidance, Dellow said she was able to create and present a project she was proud of despite challenges — such as a fear of public speaking — along the way.

Partnership leading to action

As Project Cities’ first community partner, Apache Junction worked with ASU students and faculty on a variety of projects — not just Dellow’s. Other projects included sustainability and solid waste, an off-leash dog park, understanding homelessness, and sustainable tourism and marketing. Many of these projects are moving forward.

A major win came Dec. 3 when Apache Junction passed an ordinance and contract for mandatory trash collection from a single hauler. The city for years struggled with illegal dumping and inefficient solid waste collection routes, as multiple companies had routes in the same neighborhoods. Project Cities students, led by senior lecturer Albert Brown and Clinical Associate Professor Nalini Chhetri, researched and analyzed the issue and presented Apache Junction with a draft of the guiding ordinance and a request for proposal document the city used to solicit bids for a contract.

“Hats off to ASU and Project Cities for helping the city of Apache Junction leadership take a complex and thorny issue and pass an ordinance and contract,” Kirch said. “Their work set the stage for educating the public, staff and city council on the interrelatedness of the issue. This was a monumental effort and what I believe is a 50-year event (like a 100-year flood) for policymaking. This certainly will change the face of the city for years to come!”

Russell said this accomplishment is a testament to how research and recommendations derived from student work can influence local policy and produce long-lasting impacts.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the students who conducted this work,” he said.

Project Cities curates a revolving menu of projects with its community partners, and every semester is different. Currently, Project Cities is partnered with the city of Peoria and the town of Clarkdale. Students can get involved through a variety of class offerings from many disciplines. Additionally, Project Cities distributes a list of capstone project opportunities every semester, based on the community’s priorities. Students who wish to apply for one of these projects should reach out to ProjectCities@asu.edu and ask to be added to the student interest list.

For students, it’s invaluable to work on complex projects that go beyond the classroom.

“This experience was one of the coolest that I’ve ever had in all of my education,” Dellow said. “I’m really appreciative of the university and the way it empowers its students to do more than what I’m sure students at other universities across the nation are encouraged to do. I think that Project Cities is very illustrative of the ASU model and the ASU way.”

Project Cities is partially supported by Arizona’s Technology and Research Initiative Fund. TRIF investment has enabled thousands of scientific discoveries, over 800 patents, 280 new startup companies and hands-on training for approximately 33,000 students across Arizona’s universities. Publicly supported through voter approval, TRIF is an essential resource for growing Arizona’s economy and providing opportunities for Arizona residents to work, learn and thrive.

Top photo: Maggie Dellow presents her project to city officials during the spring 2019 Project Cities Student Showcase. Photo courtesy of ASU Project Cities

Kayla Frost

Associate Editor , Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability


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ASU at Mesa City Center breaks ground

January 10, 2020

State-of-the-art project to offer programs from Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts, feature spaces for entrepreneurship and community collaboration

Arizona State University broke ground Friday on ASU at Mesa City Center, a state-of-the-art project that will jump-start the revitalization of downtown Mesa and train students in one of the biggest industries in the United States: media production.

The three-story academic building, which is scheduled to open in spring 2022, will offer programs in the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts in digital and sensory technology, experiential design, gaming, media arts, film production, and entrepreneurial development and support.

“We’ve been waiting for our future for a very long time,” said Jen Duff, a Mesa City Council member who grew up in Mesa and now represents the downtown area. She spoke at a groundbreaking ceremony held Friday at the site, at the northwest corner of Pepper Place and Centennial Way.

“Our glory days of downtown Mesa are returning but in a new way that will redefine our city in the next hundred years,” she said.

The project is a unique partnership between ASU and the city of Mesa. Of the $73.5 million budget, $63.5 million will come from the city and $10 million from ASU, which also will contribute a minimum of $10 million toward the interior construction. ASU also will pay all operations and maintenance costs, estimated at $1.3 million annually.

ASU at Mesa City Center, which will host about 800 students, will include a large exhibition gallery, screening theaters, production studios, a fabrication lab and a cafe that will be open to the public. The upper floors will include classrooms and spaces for collaborations with community and industry.

ASU President Michael Crow said the project is a symbol of ASU’s commitment to improving the communities it serves.

“Long ago we decided to not build a university that was a place that people went to that had brick walls covered in ivy and that you had to be a super genius or super rich to somehow get into,” he said.

“And so we pledged to build what we call one university in many places. A university that is connected, engaged and working with leaders around Arizona and in the Valley in a way in which we could build a responsive and adaptive university.

“Mesa wants to build a new future on a tremendously successful past, and it wants to move forward into the new economy and participate in richer and deeper ways.”

Crow said the project might not seem logical at first.

“Why would a city be investing with a university partner to create a facility equal to the fabulous digital-creativity facilities in Singapore or London or Brooklyn or Hong Kong?” he asked.

“They do it because it’s like an airport or a canal. It’s a public investment in infrastructure that allows us to then start the process of building a new and expanded economy.”

Crow called ASU at Mesa City Center an “act of wisdom” as well as faith in ASU’s commitment.

“This project, and our project on the Polytechnic campus, is us in our permanent relationship with Mesa,” he said.

The building will be one of the finest media-production facilities in the world, said Steven Tepper, dean of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts.

“There will be students making films, making video games, producing television and all kinds of immersive-media experiences,” he said.

But the goal is to include the Mesa community in the programming.

“We want this facility to be more than a black box where people come to make cool things in windowless rooms,” he said. “Instead, this will be an inviting place for the public to come to be inspired, entertained and informed.”

The 3,000-square-foot enhanced immersion studio will allow users to create augmented realities and map virtual spaces onto physical environments. That could benefit hospitals, schools, defense contractors and other industry partners, Tepper said.

“We can create environments,” he said. “In this facility, you can explore worlds deep beneath the sea. You can explore caves in South Africa. You can walk through a refugee camp with the perspective of a 10-year-old Syrian girl. You can stand on a stage with the conductor in a Vienna concert hall.”

In addition, Tepper said the facility taps into one the most lucrative sectors in the economy: the $50 billion film industry, whose workforce grew by 25 percent in the past five years.

“The U.S. exports more media and entertainment than automobiles and pharmaceuticals,” he said, adding that the Mesa center will have direct access to the entertainment industry through ASU’s new facility in Los Angeles.

“This center will help train a next-generation creative workforce for our state, helping to keep jobs and our kids at home, where they can create and innovate a new future for all of us.”

The project also will accelerate ASU’s entrepreneurship activities in Mesa, according to Ji Mi Choi, associate vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation at ASU.

“One of the things we’re hoping to see come out of this project are the startup companies and the spinouts that emanate from the work that will be done here,” she said.

Mesa Mayor John Giles said the partnership with ASU is the driving force behind the city’s goal of increasing college degree attainment and of upgrading the area.

“We have invested in our downtown for many years, from streetscapes to arts centers to light rails to new building facades, and those have created the borders of a very beautiful puzzle,” he said.

Along with the ASU building, Mesa City Center will include a gathering space called The Plaza at Mesa City Center and an adaptive reuse of Mesa’s first library into The Studios at Mesa City Center.

Giles expects the media-production technologies at ASU at Mesa City Center to attract entrepreneurs and developers to the downtown.

“ASU will be training the workforce of the future right here in Mesa, and the business world has its eyes on us,” he said.

Top photo: Shovels are lined up for the groundbreaking of the new ASU at Mesa City Center in downtown Mesa on Friday. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU student team engages nearly 900 voters with software that reminds people to cast ballots

Efforts place team in top 15 out of 131 U.S. colleges, universities

January 6, 2020

A team of Arizona State University students engaged nearly 900 fellow students in the voting process with an online tool, placing ASU in the top 15 among 131 U.S. colleges and universities, the nonpartisan organization Democracy Works announced.

Managed by the Brooklyn, New York-based Democracy Works, the tool, called TurboVote, employs easier ways to register and to get an early ballot, and sends students online reminders that elections are near to help them remember to cast ballots. Andrew Goodman Ambassador Cyrus Commissariat, right, assists a student voter. Andrew Goodman Foundation Ambassador Cyrus Commissariat assists a student voter. Download Full Image

TurboVote streamlines the voting process, but it is only as effective as the people involved in sharing it, said Mike Ward, Democracy Works’ vice president for voter engagement, in a letter congratulating the students.

“ASU connected close to 900 students with the TurboVote technology in advance of this year’s elections, thanks to your enthusiastic team, thoughtful planning, and strategic implementation,” Ward wrote.

Volunteers in ASU’s 2019 engagement effort included representatives of ASU’s Undergraduate Student Government (USG), several Andrew Goodman Foundation “Vote Everywhere” Ambassadors and members of the Student Civic Coalition. All worked with the Congressman Ed Pastor Center for Politics and Public Service.

“We’re extremely proud of this recognition from Democracy Works. But this level of student voter engagement would never be possible without the immense efforts of our student champions, namely our Andrew Goodman Foundation ‘Vote Everywhere’ Ambassadors,” said Alberto Olivas, executive director of the Pastor Center, which is based at ASU’s Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

“The AGF ambassadors coordinate student voter registration, voter education and get-out-the-vote efforts with leaders in student government and other active organizations participating in the multipartisan Student Civic Coalition,” Olivas said. “I give them all so much credit for making our campus one of the most engaged and active universities in the country.”

Democracy Works’ website describes its organization as “a team of software developers, public policy wonks and civic organizers building the tools needed to upgrade the infrastructure of our democracy.”

Since 2012, more than 6 million voters have signed up for TurboVote, through participation with more than 300 colleges and universities as well as 50 nonprofits and other organizations, including Google, Facebook, Starbucks and Univision, according to the website.

Mark J. Scarp

Media Relations Officer, Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions


ASU student-led Woodside grants to tackle elder wellness, ‘period poverty’ and more

December 31, 2019

Sun Devils were inspired this fall to launch projects addressing community issues as diverse as gender-inclusive sports and postpartum health for refugees. 

After pitching their projects in November, seven teams were awarded a total of $8,600 in funding through the Woodside Community Action Grants to complete projects by summer 2020. The teams granted funding were: Two ASU students paint during a day of service Changemaker Central at ASU students at a day of service event. Download Full Image

• Menstrual equity project Devils Go With The Flow ($1,500).

• St. Vincent de Paul Teen Program for homeless youth ($1,500).

• K–6 Gardening Project for Roosevelt Elementary in Mesa ($1,500).

• Refugee Women’s Health Clinic for pregnancy and postpartum health ($1,500).

• Furry Friends social connectedness for elder Phoenix residents ($1,000).

• Equality and Ultimate Frisbee for gender-inclusive athletics ($850).

• Student Action for Community Health Advancement for health education in Title I schools ($750).

The Woodside Community Action Grant is a seed-funding competition for Arizona State University students who are passionate about community service and social change. Students are eligible to receive funding to carry out service-focused projects in Maricopa County. Six years after the grant was launched through the generosity of Migs Woodside, 88 projects have earned a total of $106,420 in funding for community impact. 

Sarah E. Ford, who is a graduate student in the School of Social Work at ASU, is a leader of the Furry Friends project, which will address social connectedness for the residents of Westward Ho in Phoenix, where Ford interns through ASU’s Community Collaborative. The historic building was a hotel for decades; now it serves as housing for residents over the age of 62 or with a disability. 

Ford says that older adults and people with disabilities are at elevated risk of social isolation, which is linked to several poor health outcomes, including early death, coronary heart disease and stroke. But being a pet owner is associated with better health because it’s an opportunity to interact with others.

“I myself can attest to this, as I did not know any of my neighbors before adopting a dog over the summer, and now I know at least two dozen,” Ford said. 

The Furry Friends project will host a social support group and pet resources for Westward Ho residents and their leashed pets and even non-pet owners. The project will help offset the cost for pet care for residents on fixed incomes and provide a space to encourage interaction among residents. 

“Furry Friends will hopefully serve as an opportunity for the residents I work with to meet and connect with their neighbors and build a stronger community,” she said.

Grant writing has been a personal and professional goal, said Ford, and she plans on volunteering to write grants for local agencies in the future. 

“It has been so exciting to go through this process, and I have learned so much. … I am excited to begin what many in the grant writing world refer to as ‘the real work,’ which is making the proposal for the grant a reality,” she said.

Biological sciences junior Lauryn Jackson is the treasurer of another Woodside grantee, Go With the Flow. The project is part of a statewide effort to provide menstrual hygiene products to secondary students who need them.

Jackson said that many schools in the state can’t afford to keep these products in supply, so Go With the Flow provides “period packs” with an array of products to keep students from rationing products in a way that could be detrimental to their health, among other issues. 

“These period packs are distributed across participating schools and help diminish period poverty, as well as reduce the chances of students staining their clothes or facing public ridicule from their peers,” Jackson said.

Thanks to their Woodside funding, Sun Devils involved with Go With the Flow will package period packs for local Title 1 schools that students can take home over summer break. 

“This project will relieve students and parents from any stressors that may come from a lack of access to period products typically obtained from school nurses; now they will have enough products at home to last them throughout their whole break,” Jackson said.

The project is fulfilling in multiple ways, Jackson said, since it works toward an important mission but also has allowed her to build her professional skills.

“This organization has allowed me, as an individual, to be a part of an incredible movement and has taught me more about the aspects of business such as marketing, finance, etc. I am very excited to contribute to the growth of Go With the Flow and observe its impact on our community,” she said.

That kind of leadership experience is what ASU student Natalie Zarasian finds inspiring about helping manage the Woodside grants through her role at Changemaker Central at ASU. The sophomore, who is pursuing concurrent degrees in supply chain management and sports business along with a minor in art history, helps guide student groups through the application process as service chair. 

The grants are offered once per semester; the process starts with an online application and moves through to a pitch day in November, which Zarasian and two other students this year helped judge, before awards are announced. Zarasian said she enjoys seeing how people’s projects evolve based on feedback.

“It’s a great way to get started on something you’re really passionate about. I’ve talked with students who they’re not sure if they’re ready. And it’s a great way to get that initial push to make that change,” she said.

Students are supported throughout the process with office hours at Changemaker, mixers among those who applied and more. Zarasian said she’s impressed with the diversity of ideas but loves watching the ideas and the students’ skills grow. 

“That’s why I think Woodside is great. It gives them the opportunity to explore what they want to do and it gives them such a great platform to make these great projects and to see the impact they can truly make,” she said.

The deadline to apply for a spring 2020 grant is coming up. Applications open Jan. 13, and the deadline is March 1. Follow Changemaker Central on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter for updates on Woodside-related events.

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


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ASU prof appointed to assist Phoenix mayor on health policy issues

December 18, 2019

Clinical Assistant Professor Heather Ross will advise Mayor Kate Gallego on such issues as behavioral health, dementia resources

According to Arizona State University Clinical Assistant Professor Heather Ross, it is no longer enough for physicians to just be good at taking care of patients; they also have to be prepared to be policy advocates.

A practicing nurse herself, Ross holds joint appointments in the Edson College of Nursing and Health Innovation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, where she shares that philosophy with her students. Now, with a new appointment as a policy fellow to Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego, she’s really walking the walk.

Over the course of her two-year appointment, which began in September of this year, Ross will advise Gallego on a number of health care issues, including behavioral health and public safety, making Phoenix a dementia-friendly city, creating a 24/7 rape crisis center, and curbing the current and future nursing shortage.

“There are so many opportunities to do great work and live out our ASU charter of serving the community,” Ross said. “That is what really inspires me every day. It may seem Pollyanna-ish, but I could not be happier being able to be directly impact the community.”

Read on to learn more about Ross’ plans to tackle health issues in the city of Phoenix, her thoughts on the state of health care policy and how technology may be able to contribute to improved health outcomes.

headshot of ASU Professor

Heather Ross

Question: What steps are you taking to address some of the issues you’re focusing on?

Answer: In terms of behavioral health and public safety, the city is working on a bunch of things, including piloting a program using a behavioral health correspondent model where a behavioral health professional deploys with a police officer to complement their crisis intervention team. Part of my role is evaluating how that works out.

It works well in a lot of other cities in the country and outside of America, but one of the really interesting challenges we have in Phoenix is that the geography of Phoenix is so huge — and we’re also the fifth largest city in the nation in terms of population — so reaching someone in crisis can take time, and when someone is in crisis, every minute counts. So we’re looking at possible solutions to make sure there’s enough staff located throughout the city and that we’re doing it in a way so as not to divert resources away from other critical programs.

And then in January, Phoenix is launching its dementia-friendly initiative. Stakeholders from a variety of sectors will be building a centralized resource repository for people and families experiencing dementia.

Q: In a 2016 interview, you said policy around health care regulation and delivery was in a state of incredible flux. Is that still true?

A: Absolutely. At the federal level, in terms of what is a federal health care system going to look like, is there going to be a public option for health care insurance, how are we addressing pharmacy costs — that’s all still very much in flux.

At the state level, health policy, in some different ways, is always a moving target. Vaping policy is going to be very much on the docket at the state Legislature. And then of course, ensuring that we have ample resources for behavioral health across the state. Right now, among the 50 U.S. states and Washington, D.C., Arizona ranks No. 50 in terms of accessibility to behavioral health services. So that’s an area coming up for some real attention.

And then at the city level, we’re also looking at vaping ordinances and behavioral health services, as well as resources for those experiencing dementia and homelessness.

Q: You’re a proponent of technology and machine learning in health care. Will you be looking at using machine learning or other tech to help address any of the health issues you’re working on with Mayor Gallego?

A: Yes, absolutely. Particularly in terms of how 911 dispatch systems and police and firefighters can use smart technology most effectively to protect the public. I’ve been spending a lot of time out in the field with them, and they’ve been incredibly forthcoming in talking about some of the technologies that they use in their day-to-day operations on the streets of Phoenix, sharing about the things they see working well and some of the things they wish worked a little bit better.

One thing we’re doing now is trying to figure out what to do with this vast trove of video data we have from the body cams; thousands of hours of data every day. We’re looking at opportunities to use that data so that we can be more efficient and do a better job of proactive and safer policing.

Q: You’ve stated before that in order to be an effective health care provider today, it’s no longer enough to just be good at taking care of patients; you also have to be prepared to be a policy advocate. Why?

A: Everything that we do as health care providers depends on health policy to give us that social structure to do our job, to do our work with our patients and our communities. And frankly, people who are on that ground level, seeing patients every day and hearing their problems firsthand and experiencing some of those challenges of providing health care are the people in the best positions to advocate for the policies and services we need to make sure we have the resources we need to treat our patients.

I teach a health policy course for doctoral students at the Edson College of Nursing and I teach a science and technology course in the School for the Future of Innovation in Society, and I think it’s critically important that people — whether they want to be policy professionals or service professionals — that they understand how policy works and that sharing their expertise and experience with policymakers can help them to write and pass the absolute best policies to serve our community.

Q: Your project SolarSPELL uses technology to spread health education in rural communities around the globe. Do you have any plans to use that tech here in Phoenix?

A: Yes! In fact, I’m going to be collaborating with some of our community partners, in particular here at ASU, with the SHOW clinic, to use SolarSPELL to develop and disseminate health education videos to people experiencing homelessness. One of the things we know is that smartphones are everywhere in the world. People have smartphones in proportions that you would not believe. When I was in South Sudan, people were living in shacks and refugee camps, but they still had smartphones, which was amazing. So because the SolarSPELL platform allows us to basically make a library available to people without having to spend money on data — they can download any of that content onto their smartphone — it became important for us to get educational videos out to people.

The reason video is so important is because you don’t need to be able to read very well to watch and understand a video. That’s one of the concerns with (paper) handouts; a lot of people in vulnerable communities may not have very high literacy skills. But with videos, it doesn’t matter if can’t you can’t read. You can listen, watch and get some really valuable health information. So I’m very excited that we’re going to be able to leverage SolarSPELL locally in that way.

Top photo courtesy Pixabay

Cronkite School partners with Arizona Community Foundation for yearlong effort examining teen suicides

December 17, 2019

Arizona State University's Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, in partnership with the Arizona Community Foundation, is launching a special yearlong project to cover the rise of youth suicides in Arizona, exploring the underlying causes and looking for possible solutions.

The effort will involve students and faculty from across the school, including Cronkite News, the news division of Arizona PBS, and programs such as “Horizon” and “Horizonte.” The project will include a half-hour documentary that will be broadcast across the state as well as an in-depth website and continuing coverage of the topic. Download Full Image

The special project and in-depth coverage is made possible through a grant from the Arizona Community Foundation, which has worked for more than 40 years to improve the quality of life in Arizona through philanthropy. The project follows a similar, three-year cooperative effort between the Arizona Community Foundation and The Arizona Republic that focused on the foster care system. That lengthy investigation revealed deficiencies in the system and explored potential solutions. The success of that partnership motivated the foundation to fund reporting on another challenging topic of concern to all Arizonans.

“In a time where media is challenged to provide quality reporting, ACF has successfully partnered with local media to provide support for investigative journalism,” said Steve Seleznow, Arizona Community Foundation’s president and CEO. “This model of investigative reporting has enabled our community to better understand the significant challenges and opportunities on very difficult and complex topics.”

The Cronkite School has completed two other major projects in recent years that called attention to some of the state’s biggest challenges. In 2015, more than 1 million people watched a statewide simulcast created by the Cronkite School in conjunction with the Arizona Broadcasters Association. “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona” focused on the growing perils of heroin and opioid use in Arizona. It aired on all 33 broadcast television stations and 93 radio stations in the state. “Hooked” received numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, the first time a student project won the award.

And in 2017, “Hooked Rx: From Prescription to Addiction” built on the 2015 effort by investigating the alarming rise in prescription opioid abuse in Arizona. Students crisscrossed the state to produce a multimedia look into Arizona’s dependence on prescription pain medication and the toll addiction takes on families and patients. The project included a 30-minute investigative documentary aired by every Arizona television station and most of the state’s radio outlets, and more than two dozen stories, graphics and videos. 

Youth suicide is a hugely complex issue that has gotten less attention than it deserves, said Cronkite Dean and Arizona PBS CEO Christopher Callahan.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently reported that the rate of suicide among America’s youth between the ages of 10 and 24 increased by more than 50% for 2007–17, compared with 2000–07. Youth suicide is now the second-leading cause of death among people ages 15 to 24 in America.  

“The increase in suicides among our young people is a frightening story that is largely untold and misunderstood,’’ Callahan said. “Through deep, fact-based and sensitive journalism, we hope to be able to tell these important stories — and help put a spotlight on potential solutions.”

The project would not be possible without the support of the Arizona Community Foundation, Callahan said. “We are indebted to Steve Seleznow for his vision and leadership.” 

Cronkite students will analyze the underlying societal, cultural, technological and medical causes behind the increase in youth suicides and explore efforts being employed across the country to combat it. The goal is to build awareness while also driving change and uncovering possible solutions.

“By partnering with Cronkite, we are confident the investigation and reporting of a difficult topic will provide opportunities to impact change and improve these statistics over time,” Seleznow said.

Callahan and Seleznow discussed the partnership on Horizon on Wednesday.

Visiting Professor David Ariosto, an author and journalist who has managed, produced and written for National Geographic, Time Magazine, NPR, Reuters, CNN and Al Jazeera America, will lead a group of students who will report and produce the documentary as well as multimedia stories. Also helping to lead the initiative is Christina Leonard, executive editor of Cronkite News, which already is publishing student work on the topic. 

Senior Associate Dean Kristin Gilger, who will serve as project manager, has assembled a team of experts to serve as advisers. “To tackle a topic as complex as suicide, we know that we need a lot of expert advice and guidance,” Gilger said. “This group also will help us provide training and support for students and faculty who participate in the work.” 

The advisory council consists of representatives from a number of public and nonprofit organizations that offer programs and services related to suicide prevention.

Advisory council members:

• Louanna Benslow, MSPI coordinator assistant in charge of suicide prevention in Navajo County.

• Natalia Chimbo-Andrade, director of community education and outreach, Community Bridges.

• Cori Frolander, area director, Arizona chapter, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.

• Nikki Kontz, clinical director, Teen Lifeline and director of the Arizona Suicide Prevention Coalition.

• Aaron Krasnow, associate vice president, ASU Health and Counseling Services.

• Julie Mack, instructor, Arizona Complete Health, regional behavioral health agency for southern Arizona working on suicide prevention in schools and Native communities.

• Joronda Montaño, chief program officer, Not My Kid, Scottsdale-based nonprofit providing resources for parents and kids on healthy choices for youth.

• Kado Stewart, deputy director and camp director, OneNTen, nonprofit serving LGBTQ youth and young adults.

• Kelli Donley Williams, suicide prevention specialist, Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System (AHCCCS).

Director of communications, Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Arizona PBS

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Holiday hackathon makes toys accessible for children with disabilities

December 17, 2019

Local roboticist teams adapt interactive toys for easier manipulation

Two local robotics teams just made the holidays more accessible for 20 local children who face challenges manipulating interactive toys.

Arizona State University's Desert WAVE and a high school team from Chandler, Arizona, called Degrees of Freedom, joined forces last weekend at CREATE at the Arizona Science Center, to “hack” toys for children with disabilities. Both teams were founded by the local Si Se Puede Foundation.

“When I look at the kids that we are able to help, I see just that: kids,” said Desert WAVE member Jessica Dirks, an ASU sophomore with a double major in human systems engineering and robotics. “They have hopes and dreams and love toys just as much as I do. The only thing separating us is the size of a switch — and that is something I am confident and capable of changing for these fellow dreamers.”

While commercially adapted toys exist for children with physical limitations, they can cost up to four times the retail cost of similar, off-the-shelf toys. The adaptations made during the event cost less than $5 in parts and required basic electrical skills, like soldering, provided by the two teams.

The modified toys help children develop functional skills like problem-solving, offer a foundation for socialization, and perhaps most importantly, have fun with toys.

“My favorite moment of this event was right after I finished adapting my first toy,” said Khushi Parikh, a sophomore at Gilbert Classical Academy and part of the Degrees of Freedom team. “When I tested the toy with the adapted switch, and it lit up, I felt really proud and humbled, too, because that simple mechanism could have a profound impact on someone's life. Seeing the toy in action helped me fully realize that.”  

According to Daniel Frank, an Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering faculty member and Desert WAVE’s adviser, the teams developed and built external push-button activators for the toys.

The hackers opened the toys, which sometimes required cutting stitches in fabric, and found the two wires that lead to the button that activates the toy. They stripped the wires and attached them to an audio jack, similar to what you use to plug in your headphones. The jack can be plugged into a large button switch that can be manipulated more easily — with an elbow, a fist or a head bop, for example — than activating a tiny sensor that requires manual dexterity some children do not have.

“This holiday hack gave me the chance to bring joy to a child that I may have never connected with otherwise,” said Andrea Schoonover, an ASU engineering junior. “I mean, what could be a better use of my time?"

Once the toys were tested, they were sewn back up and wrapped, ready to be delivered by ACCEL, the event’s co-sponsor with Makers Making Change and CREATE at Arizona Science Center. 

“I enjoyed being able to put my engineering skills to use while knowing it was helping others,” said Desert WAVE’s Noella Mikanda, a human systems engineering major. “Being able to work with younger girls with a passion for engineering was just the icing on top of the cake,” she said about the opportunity to work with the high school members of Degrees of Freedom.

Degrees of Freedom members enjoyed the collaboration, as well.

“I thoroughly enjoyed working with Desert WAVE during the hackathon,” Parikh said. “The ladies are all very bright, and apart from being great mentors and engineers, they gave me an insightful perspective on life as an ASU student. From ensuring that I understood each step of the adapting process and the function of the different tools we used, to joking around with us at lunch, our big sister team made me feel included, involved and valued.”

The mentoring wasn’t in just one direction —the Desert WAVE team learned a few things from the younger roboticists, too.

“My favorite part of working with Degrees of Freedom was trading soldering advice,” said Isabella Bushroe, an ASU engineering sophomore. “The girl I worked with, Natali Rodriguez, was much better at modifying the headphone jacks than I was, so I learned some tricks from her, and it was fun to get to know her along the way.”

ACCEL, which will be distributing the toys in time for the holidays, is a nonprofit organization that serves local community members with disabilities. Co-sponsor Makers Making Change is a nonprofit that connects people with disabilities to volunteer makers who build assistive technologies.

“I just want to give a quick shout out to everyone involved in Degrees of Freedom, Desert WAVE and Si Se Puede for everything they do," said Laura Roty, a Desert WAVE member and human systems engineering major. "The mentors especially have made so many wonderful opportunities, like Holiday Hack, open to me and to so many other passionate young people.

“Growing up, I never felt that I could involve myself in engineering but these wonderful programs have made me feel like I truly belong on the path that I have chosen!”

Top photo: ASU’s Desert WAVE and Degrees of Freedom, a robotics team from Chandler, Arizona, teamed up to transform interactive toys for use by handicapped children. Photo courtesy Daniel Frank.

Terry Grant

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications


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Arizona's economic growth slowing but will remain strong, ASU expert predicts

Economic forecast: Slower growth but a strong economy for Arizona in 2020.
December 11, 2019

Tariffs, trade wars remain a threat to U.S. economy, panel says at forecast event

The growth in Arizona’s economy is slowing but the outlook remains strong for 2020, according to Arizona State University’s economic outlook expert.

“We have enjoyed a robust recovery — somewhat slow to get started but since then proceeding at a good clip,” said Lee McPheters, research professor of economics and director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at ASU. He spoke at the 56th annual Economic Forecast Luncheon held Wednesday by the W. P. Carey School of Business.

Arizona is expected to add about 70,000 jobs in 2020, compared with 74,000 in 2019 and nearly 79,000 in 2018, he said. The state was third in the country for job growth this year.

About 14,000 jobs in health care were added in 2019, second only to construction, which added nearly 17,000, his analysis shows.

“Construction is important in a growth state like Arizona, but Arizona is also a top 10 state for transportation and warehousing, science and technology, manufacturing and health care,” he said. “We have a diverse structure of growth now. It’s not all real estate and construction.”

In addition, the average annual wage is predicted to tick up to $55,600 next year, up from $53,700 this year.

Population growth also is starting to wind down, with 110,000 new residents expected next year, down from nearly 123,000 in 2018.

McPheters noted three interesting factors in the long-term view of the state economy.

  • Millennials are driving housing growth, with people born between 1981 and 1996 accounting for more than a quarter of new mortgage originations. “They’re a core part of the economy, and there are more millennials than baby boomers now,” he said.
  • Economic growth in the state is concentrated in the Phoenix area. “What we’re seeing is about 85% of everyone who moves to Arizona moves to metro Phoenix,” he said. “Phoenix accounts for 70% of all new single-family housing permits and 85% of new jobs. Tucson just recovered from the low point of the recession in April of this year.”
  • He worries about the effects of climate change. “In Phoenix you have the potential for a week to 10 days of 122-degree temperatures. What would happen then?” he said. “Will a 122-degree heat wave be Phoenix’s Katrina?”

With the U.S. economy, consumers are more optimistic about next year than businesses, according to Bart Hobijn, professor of economics in the W. P. Carey School.

“Consumers like what’s going on in the economy,” he said. “They’re feeling good, and that’s because income is growing.”

The experts answer questions at the 56th annual Economic Forecast Luncheon held Wednesday by the W. P. Carey School of Business at ASU. From left are Lee McPheters, research professor of economics and director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at ASU; Bart Hobijn, professor of economics at ASU, and Robert Barro, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

He noted that the 3.5% growth in wages nationwide is not “gangbusters” but is positive after years of stagnation.

“There seems to be a lot of talk about income inequality, but wages for low-skilled workers have risen over the last few years and that’s because of scarcity,” he said. “By now, most of people willing and able to work have been hired.”

Hobijn said that businesses are expressing less confidence in the economy because of uncertainties over the Trump administration’s trade policies.

“And if you survey CEOs, they’re even more negative because they also consider the global economy, which looks worse,” he said.

The trade wars are a risk to economic growth in the U.S., according to Robert Barro, the Paul M. Warburg Professor of Economics at Harvard University, who spoke at the event.

He cited President Donald Trump’s quote in 2018: “Trade wars are good and easy to win.”

“It’s a very upsetting thing to say from the perspective of an economist,” he said. “Trump’s statement reminds me of what Nixon was most guilty of — not Watergate but price controls. I think that was the biggest crime that Nixon committed, and if you ask me about Trump, I would say the same thing about the trade wars.”

The administration is driven by the idea that exporting is good and importing is bad, rather than the two being halves of an economic engine that’s measured by overall volume.

“The irony of this is that the Chinese also think it’s good to sell us lots of stuff and not buy anything, so there’s consensus in a perverse vision,” he said.

Barro said that the U.S. and China were reportedly close to a trade deal several months ago, but it didn’t happen.

“The Chinese can’t trust the Trump administration to stick to the terms of a deal that the Chinese might agree to,” he said.

Top image: Lee McPheters, research professor of economics and director of the JPMorgan Chase Economic Outlook Center at ASU, makes a point about Arizona's strong economy at the 56th annual Economic Forecast Luncheon held Wednesday by the W. P. Carey School of Business. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now