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Turning Phoenix green

September 30, 2019

Study shows how urban agriculture can push the sustainability of Phoenix

A community garden occupies a diminutive dirt lot in Phoenix. Rows of raised garden beds offer up basil, watermelons and corn, making this patch of land an agricultural oasis in a desert city of 1.5 million people. In fact, this little garden is contributing in various ways to the city’s environmental sustainability goals set by the Phoenix City Council in 2016. The goals consider matters such as transportation, water stewardship, air quality and food.

With these goals in mind, a group of researchers led by Arizona State University assessed how urban agriculture can help Phoenix meet its sustainability goals. For example, urban agriculture could help eliminate so-called “food deserts” — communities that lack retail grocers. It also can provide green space, as well as energy and CO2 emissions savings from buildings.

“Our analysis found that if Phoenix used only about 5% of its urban spaces (2% of its land, and about 10% of its building surfaces) for urban agriculture, the city could meet its sustainability goal concerning local food systems,” said Matei Georgescu, associate professor in the ASU School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning and co-author of the study. “Urban agriculture would also contribute towards the city’s goals of increasing open spaces, and reducing environmental impact from buildings and land use.”

Through the use of public records and high-resolution satellite imagery, the researchers analyzed the potential benefits of growing crops in three types of urban areas in Phoenix: vacant lots, rooftops and building facades.

The data-driven analysis indicated that 71% of Phoenix’s available areas for urban agriculture would come from existing buildings as opposed to vacant lots.

Overall, the study estimates that nearly 28 square miles (5.4% of city space) are available for urban agriculture in Phoenix. This can supply the city with nearly 183,000 tons of fresh produce per year, allowing for delivery of an assortment of fruits and vegetables to all of Phoenix’s existing food deserts. That means the city’s own urban-agriculture output could meet 90% of the current annual fresh produce consumed by Phoenicians.

Greener Phoenix

The use of vacant lots would increase green space by 17% and reduce by 60% the number of areas lacking public parks. This brings the added benefit of more open green spaces accessible to Phoenicians. The study identifies “walkability zones” around open green spaces that are expanded by 25% to cover 55% of the study area through the use of vacant lots for urban agriculture.

In addition, rooftop agriculture could reduce energy use in buildings by 3% per building per year and potentially displace more than 50,000 metric tons of CO2 annually. This is the equivalent of nearly 6,000 homes’ energy use for one year.

“These findings highlight the importance of place-based analysis,” said Nazli Uludere Aragon, lead author of the study and a doctoral student in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “Context and geography are critical,” Aragon explained. “The integration of local data applied to locally meaningful desired outcomes is the essence of applied research and can transform communities in beneficial ways.”

The paper, “Urban Agriculture’s Bounty: Contributions to Phoenix’s Sustainability Goals,” was published Sept. 30 in the online edition of the Environmental Research Letters Special Issue on Sustainable Cities: Urban Solutions Toward Desired Outcomes.

In addition to Aragon and Georgescu, co-authors of the paper include ASU researchers Michelle Stuhlmacher and Jordan Smith, and Nicholas Clinton of Google. 

“Our work demonstrates the multitude of ways that urban agriculture can serve cities, beyond merely the somewhat limited focus on food production,” said Georgescu, also a senior sustainability scientist in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability at ASU.

“A key highlight of our work,” said Aragon, “is that it can be adopted for other cities that have developed or are in the process of developing their own sustainability goals and want to explore the extent to which urban agriculture can contribute. We want to perform similar analyses for cities across the United States and the world with similar interests in determining co-benefits associated with urban agriculture.”

This work was supported by the National Science Foundation and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Science writer , Media Relations and Strategic Communications

Celebrating strong pathways to college during National GEAR UP Week

September 27, 2019

Arizona State University joined with thousands of students, parents, educators and college access partners around the country to celebrate National GEAR UP Week Sept. 23–27.

Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs is a federally funded grant program that helps local partners — K–12 schools, higher education institutions, state agencies and community organizations — increase college readiness and enrollment, increase graduation rates and educate students and families about postsecondary options, preparation and financing. Students in GEAR UP shirts and teachers at Kino Junior high in Mesa, Arizona Students, educators and parents at a GEAR UP Week 2019 event at Kino Junior High in Mesa. Download Full Image

In its inaugural year, GEAR UP served a cohort of 1,390 underserved students in Arizona through tutoring, mentoring, test preparation, social-emotional learning, cultural field trips, college visits, job shadowing, academic and career advising and more. Nationally, GEAR UP serves nearly 708,000 students in 44 states

Throughout the United States, GEAR UP Week featured local proclamations, social media campaigns and other celebrations. Valley schools such as Kino Junior High School, Gililland Middle School, Desert Horizon Elementary School and Don Mensendick School planned activities such as goal setting, writing aspirations on a large “dream wall,” donning college gear and vlogging about making a difference in the community. GEAR UP also brought in a nationally recognized vendor, Paradigm Shift, to provide students at Maryland Elementary School and Porfiro H. Gonzales Elementary School opportunties to cultivate grit, resilience and a growth mindset during the week's events. 

The week’s celebrations incorporated evidence-based activities that improve student success. Arizona students wrote letters to their future selves giving advice, an activity that has been shown through research to improve young people’s confidence and motivation.

Some of the advice Kino Junior High students gave to their future selves:

  • “Keep trying on hard things until you get it right.”

  • “Be happy, be good and work hard.”

  • “Don’t give up, and keep trying.”

  • “Don’t worry, you can achieve every one of these goals if you try hard enough.”

GEAR UP programming starts in seventh grade and goes through students’ first year of postsecondary education. GEAR UP senior coordinator Ricardo Villa-Sanchez, who worked with the program as a tutor at Sullivan Elementary School when he was a student at ASU and also worked at Carl Hayden High School, says that the impact on students lasts beyond the official programming.

“My favorite part of GEAR UP has been the bond formed between staff and students. These relationships turn into meaningful and long-lasting mentorship. I still actively work with a handful of graduated GEAR UP students from my tenure as an academic tutor,” Villa-Sanchez said.

He and senior coordinator Jasmine Dean lead Arizona's programs by supervising tutors and mentors and working with administration and staff on programming, events and services. Though he earned his degree in psychology, Villa-Sanchez said that his first experience in GEAR UP pushed him in the direction of education.

“The time spent with students is still the most enjoyable part of my job and always serves to reinvigorate my drive for doing the job that we do,” Villa-Sanchez said. “Programs like GEAR UP will often serve as a long-lasting, impactful experience that helps to drive future opportunities.” 

ASU earned a $1 million U.S. Department of Education State and Partnership GEAR UP award to provide seven years of funding for the program. Districts participating in the GEAR UP grant include Tempe Elementary, Tempe Union, Mesa Public Schools, Pendergast Elementary, Tolleson Elementary, Tolleson Union, Glendale Elementary, Washington Elementary and Glendale Union. Community partners include the Be A Leader Foundation, APS, Glendale Community College, the Arizona College Access Network, MidFirst Bank, Mesa Counts on College, Tempe College Connect and many others who are committed to improving postsecondary outcomes for Arizona students and families. Many of these partners are also part of the Achieve60AZ goal that by 2030 60% of Arizona adults will hold a postsecondary credential or degree.

Sylvia Symonds, ASU associate vice president of outreach for ASU’s Educational Outreach and Student Services, said that ASU is proud to celebrate the impact of GEAR UP with the national community.

“This is a program that is transforming the lives of more than 1,000 families in Arizona every year by providing family engagement and rigorous coursework that opens up the college-going pathway for students. GEAR UP students, educators and partners should be proud this week and every week about making higher education possible and more accessible for more Arizonans,” Symonds said. 

Sharon Smith, dean of students at ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, said that GEAR UP is a program that has a real and sustained impact on students’ lives and Arizona’s goals for higher education.

“The GEAR UP program provides rigorous academic, personal development and career preparation tools for students to access higher education, receive professional development and gain mentorship and friendships that have a lasting impact on students’ lives,” she said. 

Hannah Moulton Belec

Marketing content specialist, Educational Outreach and Student Services


Phoenix mayor speaks at ASU workshop for junior high students on leadership, service

September 23, 2019

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego faced a room of middle schoolers from Phoenix’s Creighton School District as she shared a few candid stories about when things didn’t go exactly as she planned in her life, and how she turned those defeats into learning opportunities. 

“I did run for student government, but I didn’t win. Though look where I ended up,” said Gallego, now mayor of the nation’s fifth largest city. “Sometimes things don’t go the way we planned, but that is a test for our strength. It’s important to keep pursuing our goals.”  Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego Speaks with Creighton district middle schoolers about service and leadership. Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego speaks with Creighton School District middle schoolers about service and leadership. Download Full Image

Gallego was a guest speaker at a day of workshops Arizona State University’s Mirna Lattouf had organized in partnership with the Creighton Community Foundation and Rotary International, for which she serves as director of youth services for the Southwest. Lattouf, a principal lecturer in ASU’s College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, wanted to create a relationship with these groups to help introduce students in the community to ideas, skills and opportunities.

“Students worked on exercises that advance their own well-being and were introduced to helpful skills that build community, service, and leadership,” Lattouf said, in summarizing the goals of the “Leadership Through Service: Living Our Humanity” workshop.

Duane Roen, dean of the College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, introduced Gallego to the students. He emphasized that it’s important for students to start thinking about leadership now.

“It’s crucial that we do these types of workshops to help young people understand that they are the leaders of tomorrow and that they can make a positive impact in their communities,” said Roen, who also believes that it’s important for young people to see role models like Gallego.

“Mayor Gallego brings lots of optimism and people skills and resilience to this work — and a joy that serving your community brings. She also exemplifies additional leadership characteristics that I admire: compassion, empathy, respect for others, a sense of humor, humility, integrity and self-awareness,” he noted.

Both Lattouf and Roen agree that it’s important for ASU to be embedded in the community.

“The ASU Charter states that we have a fundamental responsibility for the economic, social, cultural and overall health of the communities we are in. It’s important that we teach that by example,” Roen said.

“At the Downtown Phoenix campus, it is part of our mission to do outreach in our community. ASU, Rotary and the Creighton Foundation all have similar interests in civil awareness and helping children develop their potential,” Lattouff said.

Lattouff plans to make the workshop a yearly event and involve more community partners, services and other schools.

Kelley Karnes

Marketing Content Specialist, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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Intellectual discourse takes center stage at ASU literary salon

The next Get Lit salon takes place at 7 p.m., 10/3 at Valley Bar.
Check out Revolution (Relaunch) from 8 a.m.-noon, 10/5 at Phoenix Public Market.
September 20, 2019

The Piper writers center revives Get Lit salon series to encourage community discussion, activism

Every first Thursday in downtown Phoenix, a revolution is stirring at the Get Lit salon series, a recently revived community literary event facilitated by ASU’s Virginia G. Piper Center for Creative Writing.

To attend is to feel as though you’re part of a clandestine secret society meeting in a speakeasy. From Monroe Street, you turn down the alley between Cornish Pasty and the U.S. Bank building and walk until you come to a door crowned in glowing red letters that read “Valley Bar.” You enter and immediately descend a creaky wooden staircase. Two hard lefts and you find yourself at an almost hidden doorway, tucked away in a corner beside a wine shelf. The room is small and dimly lit with old-fashioned lamps. The vintage furniture, the wall of books and tchotchkes and the exposed joists and pipes overhead evoke the comfort and familiarity of a friend's parent’s basement in some bygone decade.

At the event’s inaugural revival salon Sept. 5, the topic of conversation is radical newspapers, independent publishing and social justice. The evening’s host is Rosemarie Dombrowski, principal lecturer of English in ASU's College of Integrative Sciences and Arts, and it’s fitting; when Get Lit was in its first iteration, Dombrowski served as the permanent host. Now, under the new model, each salon has a different host and anyone can submit ideas for the next salon’s discussion.

Inspired by 17th century salons that provided a space for intellectual discourse, Get Lit also now has a place to call home in this cozy underground corner of Valley Bar, something Piper Center communications specialist Jacob Friedman is grateful for.

“Having this space affords us the opportunity to grow and make this event more inclusive,” he told the crowd of about 30 who had gathered that first Thursday in September.

Things kicked off that evening with Dombrowksi announcing the completion of the first full issue of her latest publication venture, The Revolution (Relaunch). She describes it as “a revisionary, radical and creative resurgence of the weekly women’s rights newspaper founded by Elizabeth Cady Stanton and Susan B. Anthony in 1868.”

The goal of the paper (or “zineA zine is a small-circulation, self-published work of original or appropriated text and images.,” as Dombrowski is wont to call it) is to be a space for creative activism that highlights the local, grassroots social justice work of the community. It features everything from poetry to cultural criticism to creative nonfiction to interviews with activists and covers such topics as women and reproductive rights, indigenous rights, the Latinx community and the border, Black Lives Matter, LGBTQ rights and disability rights.

The Revolution (Relaunch) publishes the first of each month online and quarterly in print. Print copies are available for free at coffee shops and other small stores in and around Phoenix. They accept submissions year-round and encourage community members to contribute.

During the discussion that followed Dombrowski’s announcement, both the issue of accessibility and diversity were addressed, with salon attendees suggesting the publication also consider distributing via public transportation, where it might reach more people who could identify with its message, and also that the publication consider diversifying its editorial board, something Dombrowksi stated it is already aware of and strives for, even though she acknowledged it is mostly female at the moment.

“We don’t consider ourselves a feminist newspaper,” she said. “We’re certainly a place for the most inclusive kind of feminism, but we really consider ourselves a social justice paper.”

But what is social justice, anyway? Or, at least, what do we mean when we say something is a social justice issue?

“It has to grapple with something that is impacting a population negatively,” Dombrowski said, and that’s what she hopes The Revolution (Relaunch) will do.

“Every city needs a revolutionary publication,” she said.

At that point, one salon attendee asked those present if they’d ever heard of the Arizona Informant. A couple people raised their hands. The attendee, Phoenix resident Kirk Ivy, then explained that the Arizona Informant is an African American-owned newspaper published weekly in Phoenix.

“Black newspapers have been very important to social justice movements,” Ivy said. “We have to get out of the small universes that we live in. If we don’t reach out as individuals, we’re going to stay where we are.”

Dombrowski echoed Ivy’s sentiment regarding the role of publications in fueling social change.

“Zines have always been part of the cultural revolution,” she said, adding that she believes Emily Dickinson was a “zinester,” because even though she was only published in a newspaper four times in her life, “she was doing really radical work.”

“From Dickinson to Riot GrrrlRiot Grrrl is an international underground feminist movement that emerged from the West Coast American alternative and punk music scenes of the 1990s using zines as its primary method of communication., zines have been part of so many social revolutions; they’re a way to publish radical literature and a way to publish radical thought,” Dombrowski said. “But they have to be in and of the community.”

The Revolution (Relaunch) will be participating in the Piper Center’s Meet Your Literary Community event Saturday, Oct. 5, from 8 a.m. to noon at the Phoenix Public Market.

The next Get Lit salon will be held Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7 p.m. at Valley Bar. The topic is “Whose Gaze Is It, Anyways?,” and attendees can expect to ask themselves and each other such questions as, “How does colonization affect the creative process?”; “What is the white gaze?”; and “How do political, social and cultural discourses around specific ethnicities, races and groups shape the marketplace for literature?” Phoenix-based writer Rogelio Juarez will host.

Top photo courtesy of Pixabay

Partnership advances semiconductor innovation in Phoenix

ASU, ON Semiconductor professorships developing the next generation of talent

September 20, 2019

Industry and academic partnerships are critical to strengthening innovation, talent and economic development in the Phoenix metro area.

The Greater Phoenix Economic Council reports a widening gap between the number of jobs in the region in microelectronics fields, including in the semiconductor industry, and active candidates with the skills needed to fill them. The report also notes the importance of attracting experienced early career professionals needed for the industry to continue to innovate. Bertan Bakkaloglu and Dale Rogers, ON Semiconductor Endowed Professors of Engineering and Business Bertan Bakkaloglu and Dale Rogers, ON Semiconductor Endowed Professors of Engineering and Business, are two years into five-year endowed professorships from leading semiconductor-based solutions supplier ON Semiconductor. Together, Bakkaloglu and Rogers are addressing pressing engineering and supply chain challenges as well as attracting and retaining top local business and engineering talent. Photo by Marco-Alexis Chaira/ASU Download Full Image

Arizona State University, the nation’s leading university for innovation, and ON Semiconductor, the Phoenix-based global semiconductor supplier, recognize the need for a skilled and talented workforce and have partnered to ensure the pipeline of engineering and business professionals and technological development remains strong.

ASU offers a deep well of expertise in semiconductor technology among the faculty of the Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering, and the nations' second- and third-ranked undergraduate and graduate supply chain and logistics programs, respectively, in the W. P. Carey School of Business. ON Semiconductor offers a portfolio of products to help engineers solve electronic design problems and boasts a reliable world-class supply chain.

“Hubs of innovation and talent generation will feed the local companies and draw others in,” said Hans Stork, senior vice president of research and development at ON Semiconductor. “This in turn drives the economy and spurs further reinvestment.”

ON Semiconductor committed $2 million to ASU for the ON Semiconductor Endowed Professorships in 2017. The five-year award supports two professors’ efforts to help address pressing engineering and supply chain challenges as well as attract and retain top local talent.

The faculty members selected for the endowed professorships are expanding the frontiers of research in these fields and growing the next generation of semiconductor industry professionals.

ON Semiconductor Endowed Professor of Engineering Bertan Bakkaloglu and ON Semiconductor Endowed Professor of Business Dale Rogers are now two years into the professorships.

Engineering the future of the semiconductor industry

Bakkaloglu works in the areas of analog, mixed-signal and power-management integrated circuits, fields that are playing an increasing part in the revenue streams of semiconductor companies in metro Phoenix. These are technologies integrated onto semiconductor “chips” that enable our increasingly sophisticated electronics to function.

“Most semiconductor companies are expanding their business in these areas, and a majority of our research group’s graduates are securing jobs at these companies,” Bakkaloglu said. “We also have active research programs with semiconductor companies that are increasing their competitiveness.”

The professorship funding has supported a doctoral student in Bakkaloglu’s lab and the purchase of a programmable electronic load and current probe, which he and his team use to expand characterization and testing for semiconductor technology research.

Bakkaloglu’s electrical engineering graduate students are also helping to research power management integrated circuits and other efficient power delivery technology used in smartphones and automotive sensors.

“With feedback from industry experts, we provide realistic and innovative solutions that target a wide range of applications,” said Bhushan Talele, an electrical engineering graduate student. “My current graduate research gives me a holistic view and approach to solve the problems at hand. This will be the most vital aspect for an industrial or academic research role in my future.”

Through his graduate course on advanced analog integrated circuits, Bakkaloglu helps about 200 students each academic year to develop skills in high demand by the semiconductor industry. He also offers a 45-hour online version of the course, which has attracted more than 180 students in the first two years of the program.

Bakkaloglu applies his extensive industry experience in his teachings, which is evident to ON Semiconductor as the company interacts with his students through internships and industry meetings.

“We can tell from how well-grounded his students are and the understanding they show pertaining to the needs of industry,” Stork said.

Over the past two years, Bakkaloglu has graduated five doctoral students, four master’s degree students and guided dozens of nonthesis graduate students in research pursuits. Most of them are now working in the Phoenix area.

Bakkaloglu recently earned major grants for semiconductor research from industry and is looking to expand his analog and power management research through additional funding from the Semiconductor Research Corporation.

“I am very interested in an active research collaboration with ON Semiconductor with funded graduate students working on analog design problems specifically important for the company’s strategic growth areas,” Bakkaloglu said.

Shaping strategies for semiconductor supply chain challenges

Today’s tumultuous economy has made studying supply chain management especially important to minimize disruptions to the global supply chain.

“We’ve got lots of folks scrambling to figure out where to source goods that are currently manufactured in China and now they need to change the shape of supply chains,” Rogers said. “That’s all very relevant for the semiconductor industry.”

Rogers’ expertise in reverse logistics, sustainable supply chain management, supply chain finance and secondary markets combined with the partnership with ON Semiconductor have given him an edge in innovating supply chain strategies.

Along with AVNET Professor of Supply Chain Management Elliot Rabinovich, Rogers leads the Internet Edge Supply Chain Lab at ASU. There, the research team examines supply chain management at the intersection of the internet and physical systems.

“We're working directly on innovations in the tech sector that apply to the supply chain,” Rogers said. “We’ve worked on a ‘warehouse of the future’ project to figure out what technologies are being brought inside the warehouse and warehouse networks.”

Rogers has expanded the supply chain curriculum at ASU and developed programs to increase access to supply chain education, including the formation of a stackable master’s degree in supply chain to support Massachusetts Institute of Technology MicroMasters students in finishing their studies at ASU.

He has also worked with ON Semiconductor to host competitions in which undergraduate and graduate students formulate solutions and present their cases for supply chain business challenges pitched by the company.

“We have formed a holistic partnership with Professor Rogers and the W. P. Carey Business School at ASU,” said Brent Wilson, senior vice president of global supply chain and procurement organizations at ON Semiconductor. “We participate in curriculum development, sponsor and judge team competitions on case problem solving and employ a pipeline of interns from the supply chain department, of which several become full-time employees every year. ON Semiconductor is happy to partner with a college that is focused on solving the problems of the future in the supply chain space.”

Around the world, Rogers is enhancing supply chain talent through the Frontier Economies Logistics Lab, which develops innovative supply chain strategies and solutions to improve quality of life and reduce poverty in remote economies.

Through his involvement with ASU’s international development programs, Rogers helped to start the MiniMasters certificate in global supply chain management program to support more than 350 Chemonics International employees, many of whom live and work in Africa, to become next-generation supply chain leaders.

As Bakkaloglu and Rogers continue their work, ON Semiconductor looks forward to generating ideas and discussions with professors and students, and engaging with a “refreshing source of academic enthusiasm.”

“The professorships have generated increased interaction between ASU and ON Semiconductor, and not just with the two professors,” Stork said. “Multiple faculty have come to our Phoenix site to give seminars, and we have toured labs and reviewed work in progress at ASU. This has led to a better grasp of the capabilities of ASU and developed a network of contacts, allowing us to find a match quicker when the need arises. We also have gained valuable insights and recommendations on hiring student interns and graduates.”

Supporting student success

Arizona State University and ON Semiconductor have a long history of collaboration dating back to 1999, with numerous initiatives to foster academic and industrial advancement. In addition to supporting faculty through the ON Semiconductor Endowed Professorships, the company has funded scholarships for W. P. Carey School of Business students and Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering students to pursue opportunities in supply chain and electrical engineering.

Richard Rigby, an electrical engineering undergraduate student, received the ON Semiconductor Engineering Scholarship in the 2018–19 academic year, allowing him to continue his education and avoid debt. The support has inspired him to pay it forward.

“I am grateful that I have been able to just focus on school and on improving my educational experience,” Rigby said. “In the future, I plan to give back to students in similar ways, which will give more of them the ability to increase their power through education.”

Samuel Perez was one of the first recipients of the ON Semiconductor Engineering Scholarship in fall 2016 when he was a junior studying electrical engineering. The two years of support he received was more than a scholarship — it felt more like mentorship to him.

“I remember having conversations with [then ON Semiconductor University Relations Program Manager] Kayla Snyder about different paths, like getting an MBA or going into power electronics, and she mentioned how valuable that would be for semiconductor companies,” Perez said.

The encouragement they provided is what he remembers most, now that he has graduated and embarked on his professional career.

“It was all about them encouraging me to pursue whatever I’m passionate about,” Perez said. “That helped me more than anything.”

ON Semiconductor often hires ASU students as interns, where they learn valuable skills and apply their education to real-world challenges.

Syona Singh is a supply chain management student at ASU who interned at ON Semiconductor over the summer. She says the experience allowed her to apply theoretical knowledge and explore her passion for the field.

“I now know how to relate my classroom knowledge to a corporate setting,” Singh said. “Working alongside senior executives and knowing they had confidence in my work and abilities was truly a morale and confidence booster.”

ASU supply chain management senior Ryan Dong started interning at ON Semiconductor in May and has earned valuable hands-on experience.

“I am able to work with supply chain concepts that I first learned only months ago,” Dong said. “I have been able to build relationships with the internal teams at ON as well as external vendors, gaining great experience and communication skills in the process.”

Beyond hands-on experience, ON Semiconductor conducts several activities to get to know ASU undergraduate and graduate students through tailgates with executives, on-campus information sessions with student organizations, professional development events and lunch mixers with hiring managers.

The company also has an increased presence on campus with ON Semiconductor Day. At the event, company executives have breakfast with engineering and business students and professors. ON Semiconductor representatives also play "Jeopardy!" games with engineering students and host supply chain competitions with business students.

The relationship pays off with an influx in talent come hiring season. In 2018, ON Semiconductor hired 77 interns from ASU out of a total 233 intern hires across the U.S. Out of 27 new college graduate hires out of ASU, 19 were recent interns.

Monique Clement

Communications specialist, Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


ASU students, faculty recognized for outstanding work in planning

Members from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning awarded for their work with cities, indigenous communities

September 19, 2019

From a project focused on mobile home parks to work with indigenous communities, members from the Arizona State University School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning were recognized for their work at the annual meeting for the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter. Held on Sept. 12 in Tucson, the meeting brought together planners and researchers from across Arizona and included a moment to recognize the work being done around the state.

Among the winners this year was Maggie Dellow, a recent graduate of the Master of Urban and Environmental Planning program, who was selected as the winner for the student project category. Her project, “Mobile Home Parks and the Future of Affordable Housing in Apache Junction,” was the capstone that she completed as part of her master’s degree program. Mobile home communities in Apache Junction, much like the one pictured, were the focus of Maggie Dellow's work that was recognized for outstanding work by a student by the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter. Download Full Image

For her project, Dellow teamed up with the city of Apache Junction, located east of Phoenix along the border between Maricopa and Pinal County. The city is known for its picturesque views of the Superstition Mountains, but is also home to a community of winter-only visitors and 125 mobile home and recreational parks and subdivisions, which create approximately 50% of the city’s affordable housing. Many of these communities have found themselves in disrepair over the years, especially considering many were developed prior to the city’s incorporation in 1978. This has led to some communities being in floodplains or with site plans that wouldn’t be approved under today’s standards.

In her project, Dellow researched 28 different parks that were identified as high-priority. For each park, she analyzed its demographic trends, amenity access and site conditions, and she spoke with affordable housing developers and property owners within the parks to gain perspective of the needs of the community. As a result of her work, Dellow was able compile a comprehensive report she was able to provide to the city of Apache Junction to help shape upcoming decisions related to these communities.

“Maggie’s scholarly work provided extremely relevant data and concrete examples for the city to consider for the reuse or revitalization of these parks,” said Bryan Powell, city manager for Apache Junction, in his letter nominating Dellow for the award.

As a result of her outstanding work, the American Planning Association’s Arizona Chapter selected Dellow for the award for student project category. She also was hired by the city of Glendale as a full-time intern to help develop a mobile-home transition project. Staff from the city of Glendale were on hand in April 2019 when Dellow presented her project as part of the ASU Project Cities showcase.

Dellow wasn’t the only winner from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning at this year’s meeting. She was joined by David Pijawka, professor of planning; Elizabeth Larson, senior lecturer of geography; and Jonathan Davis, PhD in geography student, who were selected as winners of the public outreach award for their work with an indigenous community to create a visioning report.

In April 2018, the team from the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning hosted a workshop to work alongside the Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation. The focus was to create a visioning report that will be used in future planning efforts of the community that embraces the community’s values, including the unique physical, emotional and spiritual relationship the community has with the land.

The Sif-Oidak District of the Tohono O’odham Nation is comprised of nine communities located in the northern district of the Papago Reservation that spreads out over 700 square miles of the Sonoran Desert south of Casa Grande and southwest of Eloy. No district within the Papago Reservation has developed a land-use plan nor conducted a visioning workshop to develop a plan, making this effort with the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning the first of its kind for the Tohono O’odham Nation. This effort provided the technical and professional support to assist the communities in developing short- and long-term goals.

“It was an empowering planning experience for our community members that pushed the communities to work together and consider the needs within our community and think critically on how to meet those needs and achieve our district objectives,” said Alex Cruz, Sif-Oidak district chairman, in his nomination letter for the group’s efforts.

“We are optimistic for the future and will work to use this report as a guiding document for the future of Sif-Oidak District and its communities.”

This wasn’t the first time that Davis and Pijawka have been recognized for their work with tribal communities. They have also been recognized for a project where they worked alongside the Navajo Nation’s Dilkon Chapter to complete a community land-use plan.

Manager, Marketing and Communication, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


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Casting out demons, myths and stereotypes

September 19, 2019

ASU’s Project Humanities hosts community engagement program designed to dispel falsehoods surrounding religion

Witches, pagans and polytheists: They’re not seance-holding weirdos, tree-worshipping nudists or Stonehenge-dancing hippies.

They hold regular jobs, pay taxes and are people who care about their communities. As it turns out, they’re ordinary folks. They just worship differently, that’s all. 

Arizona State University’s Project Humanities provided a forum to allow these groups to sit and talk with community members to dispel all the myths and rumors surrounding their practices and beliefs in an effort to better understand one another.

“Facilitating challenging critical conversations is a hallmark of our programming,” said Neal A. Lester, director and founder of Project HumanitiesThe award-winning initiative brings together individuals and communities from around Arizona to instill knowledge in humanities study, research and humanist thought. Project Humanities facilitates conversations across diverse communities to build understanding through talking, listening and connecting.. “This program brings together unique and too often marginalized perspectives on diverse faith systems. The world cafe format means that attendees can sample diversity even within these faith systems.”

The award-winning initiative hosted “Dispelling the Myths: Heretics, Pagans, Atheists and Polytheists,” on Wednesday in Mesa and more than 100 people showed up — double than what was originally anticipated — to a program designed to dispel a slew of myths all while offering up alternative worldviews on empathy, compassion, kindness, forgiveness, integrity, respect and self-reflection.

Lester invited satanists, Hare Krishnas, Hindus, pagans, Wiccans, atheists and secular humanists to the discussion table to learn from each other and underscore poet Maya Angelou’s words: “We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike.”

Lester said to the standing room-only crowd that they were there not to debate but to critically analyze the issues before them.

“This is also an opportunity for us to learn and let you educate us,” Lester said.

And learn they did.

Community members were surprised that the Satanic Temple of Arizona, which has 55 official members and about 600 affiliate members throughout the state, doesn't sacrifice humans or animals, isn't demon possessed and doesn't worship Satan.

“We are nontheistic. We do not believe in the supernatural. We do not believe there is a God or Satan. We are also a religion,” said Karl Kasarda, a temple spokesperson who traveled from Tucson to attend the event. “Part of our belief system does incorporate activism, and that activism is insuring and encouraging the plurality of equity and separation of church and state.”

Kasarda said he believes we live in a Judeo-Christian dominated world, especially in the United States.

"Satan to us is the ultimate adversary to irresponsible power," Kasarda said. "We actually believe in something and we're not just believing in nothing. Atheism is typically about not believing in a god. Satanism brings us together as having the fundamental tenets in a form of compassion of community, and having a belief system that's striving together towards something other than just not believing in God."

Phoenix resident Pratibha Somaiya said for decades the Hare Krishnas have been equally maligned and misunderstood. She attended the Wednesday event to introduce people to what she calls a very “simple religion.”

“People tend to think of Hare Krishnas as people who dress in funny clothes and chant in the streets, that we listen to George Harrison music and are bald-headed devotees at the airport trying to give you a book,” Somaiya said with a small laugh. “It’s open to everyone, and it understands the Western ethos to make it easy to understand our philosophy, culture, practices and discipline … It’s not a cult, it’s a way of life.”

Nancy Davis, a member of the Sacred Spiral Pagan Church of Arizona, came to set the record straight on pagans, though she is quick to mention high priests, full-moon rituals and spells. That said, she said pagans don’t sacrifice animals, cast spells to hurt people or make things fly.

“No, I cannot twitch my nose like Tabitha or Samantha (on “Bewitched”) or I don’t have a magic wand that I can swish and flick. This is my religion,” said Davis, who spent decades exploring other religions before becoming a pagan. “I believe in personal accountability and responsibility. Anything I think, say or do is going to come back to me. If I do something wrong, it’s going to come back to me and I need to be aware of that. If I do good, that’s also going to come back to me. So that’s how I live my life.”

Davis added she believes in a divine entity that takes the form of a god and a goddess. Sometimes they could be one and the same; other times they could be separate, she said. David said many misconceptions about her religion come from Hollywood, a force she finds hard to fight.

“It depends on which TV show you watch,” Davis said. “It could either be ‘The Craft’ or ‘Charmed.’ Unlike those shows, I still haven’t figured out how to change the color of my hair other than when I go and pay 150 bucks to a hairstylist.”

Founder and president of the Ashe Ministry, William Q. Ross, came to Wednesday’s event to represent Santería, an Afro-American religion started in Africa and constructed in Cuba more than 500 years ago. Like paganism, Ross said Hollywood has stereotyped Santería as a religion focused on animal sacrifices, worshipping spirits that are anti-God, and attempting to do harm to others.

“It is a belief that there is one creator that has many emissaries to facilitate the messages and energies of the world to human beings,” Ross said. “Humans are just another creation, but we’re a creation that desires tangibility above anything else and are always asking for more.”

Ross added that most people have the impression that people like him who practice other religions are only interested in recruiting or defending their faith.

“I’m here because I’d like to share about Santería and I’m not out to condemn anyone who’s not a practitioner," he said. "I enjoy the fact that tonight I’m sharing. To sit down and say, ‘We’re all on the same ocean. My boat might be different than yours, but we’re all on the same ocean.’”

Luke Douglas, executive director of the Human Society of Greater Phoenix, also wanted to cast his sails for secular humanists, which boasts a membership of about 300 in the Valley of the Sun.

“Humanism is about building communities and fostering critical thought to ask, ‘How can we build full and educated lives?’ We have a lot of social issues we have to achieve,” said Douglas, who said the society is an offshoot of the Unitarian Church and was established in the 1930s. “We are specifically not religious, but it does not preclude sharing communities with anyone on the interfaith spectrum. We have members who are Buddhist, Jewish, Christian and other faiths … We don’t have religion in the traditional sense, but we can do good without a god.”

Like others, Douglas said secular humanists often deal with stereotypes from others who don’t understand them.

“I’ve heard things like we’re angry, particularly if you use the label ‘atheist’ or ‘nonbeliever.’ Or that our members have been hurt by traditional religion or the church and we’re trying to get back at them,” Douglas said. “You really have to sit down with each individual member to find out, and not necessarily take it as a negative thing.”

ASU first-year student Katie Smith, who is a microbiology major, said she came to the Project Humanities event to learn about other religions and belief systems.

“I know a lot about the major religions, but I didn’t know much about other worldviews,” said Smith, who is a member of ASU’s Secular Student Alliance. “Usually you hear about the people who practice these religions, but you don’t personally see who they are. I’ve learned a lot. I thought that satanists actually believed in Satan, but they don’t. I feel like they have the same goals as me in regard to separation of church and state.”

Askia Stewart is a member of the African Methodist Episcopal Church and was one of the few Christians in attendance. He said he wasn’t offended by anything that anyone said, and the time spent with others was valuable.

“I found there were a lot of intersections between the different worldviews, a lot more than I had expected when coming into this place,” said Stewart, who graduated from ASU in 2018 with a degree in global management. “How often do we get the chance to just talk? I don’t think most of us will proactively put ourselves in that situation because it’s uncomfortable. Tonight was a good practice of doing so.”

Rachel Sondgeroth, the communications and outreach coordinator for Project Humanities, counts that as a victory.

“Tonight, was about having a dialogue, not a debate,” said Sondgeroth. “If people walk away not angry, that’s a win.”

Top photo: Some of the more than 100 people attending listen closely to a discussion on Hinduism and Hare Krishna at the Project Humanities discussion, "Dispelling the Myths: Heretics, Pagans, Atheists and Polytheist," at the Humanist Society of Greater Phoenix in Mesa, on Wednesday, Sept. 18. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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Sun Devil football head coach inspires student journalists with pep talk

September 17, 2019

Cronkite School kicks off Must See Mondays speaker series with ‘Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards'

Arizona State University football Head Coach Herm Edwards is as comfortable in front of a microphone as he is on the gridiron. There are correlations between the two, he said.

“The thing you have to know as a coach or as a journalist is that you can’t take on someone else’s personality,” Edwards said. “At the end, you’re a storyteller. How do you get the viewer to buy into what you’re saying? There are five other channels who are saying the same thing as you, so why are they watching you? You have to tell people why. They see it, but you have to explain why. That’s knowledge.”

His talk, “Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards,” kicked off the fall 2019 Must See Mondays speaker series at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus.

The December 2017 hire, also a Cronkite professor of practice and former ESPN analyst, was an inspired choice for the series, said discussion moderator Paola Boivin, digital director for Cronkite News — Phoenix Sports.

“Our students can learn so much from someone who has seen journalism through a unique collection of prisms. He has been grilled by journalists in one of the toughest media markets as head coach of the New York Jets,” said Boivin, an award-winning journalist with the Arizona Republic who serves on the College Football Playoff selection committee. “He has offered thoughtful commentary as an analyst for ESPN, and has experienced the high physical and mental demands of a professional athlete. I can’t wait to listen.”

And neither could others.

Edwards’ appearance packed the Cronkite School’s First Amendment Forum with scores of journalism students, faculty, staff and community members, who loudly cheered the coach’s arrival two days after an away victory over the 18th-ranked Michigan State University Spartans. The surprise win gave the Sun Devils a recent Top 25 national ranking.

Students attending a speaker series.

More than a hundred students packed The Cronkite School's First Amendment Forum to listen to Sun Devil football Head Coach Herm Edwards on Monday. Edwards, who is also a Cronkite professor of practice, kicked off the Must See Mondays speaker series. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The wide-ranging interview covered Edwards’ 10-year career as a National Football League player, his tenure as an NFL scout and assistant coach, head coaching stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and New York Jets, and his post-NFL career as an ESPN analyst. He said his success is something Cronkite students could apply to their journalism careers.

“The thing that I learned a long time ago is that I didn’t want to be liked. I really didn’t want to be liked. … I wanted to be respected,” Edwards said. “When you’re liked, you’re willing to change who you are. We can’t do that. When you compromise your values, to me, you’re selling out. You don’t do that. You’ve got to stand for something.”

Edwards encouraged students to be bold in their personal and professional lives and take chances, the same as he does with his players, who aren’t afraid to discuss topics other than football.

“I tell people all the time, ‘Don’t allow people to call you an athlete. You’re a father, a husband,'” Edwards said. “'Being an athlete is your occupation. That’s what you do for a living. You’re not defined by being an athlete. Don’t let people put you in that box.’”

Edwards said his background as a former journalist is why he has made the football program accessible to the media, and views it as a symbiotic relationship.

“They (journalists) are the voice of your program, whether it’s right, wrong or indifferent," Edwards said. "You’re not going to agree with what other people write. We owe the journalists the ability to do their jobs. Our job is coaching the players.”

The 65-year-old coach said there are many correlations between football and journalism in that both professions require focus, intensity and a little anxiety.

“If you have no anxiety in your belly before that red light goes on, I’m going to tell you right now, you’re in trouble,” Edwards said. “Don’t get comfortable. Anxiety gives you a clear path of thinking.”

That said, Edwards warned that stress is more prevalent in young people today than ever before and they need to find a time and place on a daily basis to recharge their batteries, turn off all of their electronics and visually think about what they want to do in their life. It’s why Edwards shows up most days to the office at 4 a.m.

“It’s done purposely because that’s when I do all of my thinking,” Edwards said. “I get up early because it’s very quiet and no one’s bothering you. You have to have these quiet moments. You have to figure out what are your priorities … What’s important to you?”

Edwards said time marches swiftly and that when he was in college, he could never envision himself as a senior citizen.

“It (time) goes by fast and I used to hear that all the time … it goes by fast,” Edwards said. “Embrace it. Don’t question yourself. I learned this a long time ago — you have to be willing to bet on yourself, whatever you do in life. It’s going to be hard work. You fall down, you get up, but you always bet on yourself. I’ve always done that. I just bet on me.”

Edwards described himself as “a bit militant” when he was in college, someone who constantly questioned and challenged authority.

“I was a person who wanted to know why, and I think when you stop asking why, you stop seeking knowledge,” Edwards said. “You don’t quit when you’re tired, you quit when the work is done … You have to have that resolve in you.”

Top photo: Sun Devil football Head Coach Herm Edwards has a conversation with Cronkite News' Paola Boivin, in front of a packed First Amendment Forum room downtown, Monday, Sept. 16, 2019. The talk, titled "Inside the Huddle with Herm Edwards," was part of the Must See Mondays series. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU, Infosys partnership will accelerate workforce development in Arizona

September 13, 2019

The digital platform consulting company will create 1,000 jobs across disciplines

With a snip of the scissors on Friday, Arizona State University sealed a partnership with the global corporation Infosys that will accelerate workforce development in the state and create 1,000 jobs.

Infosys, a consulting company that creates digital platforms, cut the ribbon on its new Technology and Innovation Center in the SkySong ASU Scottsdale Innovation Center. This marks the sixth U.S. hub for Infosys, which has hired 10,000 American workers in the past two years.

Next year, Infosys will move from SkySong to its permanent site in the Novus Innovation Corridor, a 350-acre public-private partnership that will eventually include nearly 10 million square feet of office space, apartments, retail and an athletics village, all on ASU land. Infosys will have a 60,000-square-foot facility at Novus.

Also on Friday, Infosys announced a partnership with InStrideInStride is a global learning services firm that works with employers to provide opportunities for their employees to earn degrees and credentials through the highest-quality universities. InStride was founded in partnership with ASU. that will allow its employees to complete degree programs and continuing education courses through ASU.

Ravi Kumar, president of Infosys, said that Arizona was an appealing choice for its new hub because of the state’s economy and proximity to clients, but also because of ASU.

“There was the academic ecosystem and availability of a large pool of talent that we will nurture and build through our hubs,” he said.

“As we go through this journey we believe STEMAn acronym for science, technology engineering and math. skills are very important but we will actually be looking for skills in liberal arts and skills in design. We’ve already started hiring them.”

ASU President Michael Crow said that ASU’s partnership with Infosys is exciting because the company harnesses technology to solve problems and empower creativity. 

“You won’t be able to create what you want to create as a person until these machines are capable of doing the things you don’t want to do so you can focus all of your energy as a human,” he said.

Earlier Friday, Crow addressed a technology conference held by Infosys in Phoenix and acknowledged that technology graduates are in high demand, but said that many technology companies are asking for philosophy graduates.

“If you forget human capital and you think you only need coders and they only need to know coding, you’re not very smart,” he said.

“Because they will not be able to adapt quickly enough to the changing markets and opportunities.”

Gov. Doug Ducey attended the event at SkySong, saying that from 2014 to 2018, technology jobs in Arizona increased by 15%.

“Infosys could have gone anywhere to grow their business,” he said. “All told, our state has added 300,000 new jobs since 2015 and with Infosys, you can tack on 1,000 more.”

At the conference earlier on Friday, Ducey said that companies like Infosys are driving the state’s economy.

“Over the last several years, Arizona has seen some of the most exciting companies in the world start up, grow or expand in our state, Infosys included.”

U.S. Sen. Martha McSally also spoke at the SkySong event, and drew laughter when she said: “The federal government had absolutely nothing to do with this.”

She said that it’s the job of the federal government to create an environment that fosters this type of innovation.

“It’s our job in Washington, D.C., to set the conditions, with overall tax and regulation policy, so the economy can thrive and these partnerships can exist and so Gov. Ducey can recruit Infosys and work in partnership with Dr. Crow and ASU to provide a thousand jobs, and hopefully more over time, to Arizonans.”

The Infosys hub at the new SkySong Building 5 includes labs that produce prototypes in virtual reality, augmented reality and robotic technologies. Infosys develops solutions for clients in areas such as machine learning, artificial intelligence, user experience and advanced digital technologies, such as big data and cloud computing.

Kumar said Infosys is committed to growing a workforce in Arizona, and to help close the technology skills gap, will create an apprenticeship model for community college students to learn skills and transition to a university degree program.

“I believe this will be a national experiment that will be anchored here,” he said.

Top photo: Infosys, ASU and state leaders cut the ribbon during the inauguration of the Infosys Technology and Innovation Center at the new SkySong 5 building in Scottsdale, Arizona, on Friday, Sept, 13. Infosys — a company focused on harnessing, modeling and scaling a new model for workforce development in the United States — will be working closely with ASU to develop the talent needed to meet its plans to hire 1,000 workers in Arizona over the next five years. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Professor's retirement highlights lifetime of work advancing health care research at ASU

September 12, 2019

Founder says goodbye on 20th anniversary of Center for Health Information and Research

Nowadays, you don’t have to look very hard to see the power of big data. From targeted advertisements to specially curated Netflix queues to optimized navigation routes, algorithms, data capture and cloud computing do nothing less than make modern daily life possible.

In a research setting, big data has massive potential to inform and expand our understanding of a particular field, especially if that field produces incredible amounts of data every day.

Twenty years ago, ASU College of Health Solutions biomedical informatics Professor Bill Johnson saw that potential where others did not when he founded the Center for Health Information and Research (CHiR), Arizona’s first and only health care data analytics repository — no small feat at a time when not many had attempted anything on that scale, let alone succeeded.

According to a number of Johnson’s friends and colleagues, because CHiR works mostly behind the scenes, it hasn’t always gotten the attention it deserves for the impact it has had on Arizonans' health. To date, CHiR has been responsible for approximately $7.6 million in sponsored research that has aided Arizona policymakers and health care professionals to better address such issues as Medicaid, opioid abuse and child drownings. His colleagues say it would be a misstep to overlook the value of such an entity, of which there are precious few in the country.

At a retirement ceremony for him Tuesday evening on the Downtown Phoenix campus, they praised Johnson for as much, and more.

“Bill really built a health care data infrastructure at a time when health care data infrastructures were not very prevalent,” said Eugene Schneller, a professor of supply chain management at the W. P. Carey School of Business. “The other thing he did is he took a generation of students, many of whom are now CEOs in major systems around the country, and he really made them economics literate. And that’s something that’s really tough to do.”

An economist by training, Johnson’s first foray into health care was as a graduate student when he participated in research looking at the impact of health conditions on individuals’ ability to work. Later, as a professor at Syracuse University, he was invited to participate in a Harvard medical malpractice study, the largest such study ever conducted, and then followed that up with a study on asbestos for the Mount Sinai Health System in New York.

After nearly two decades at Syracuse, Johnson joined ASU in 1991, assuming a joint appointment at what was then the School of Health Management and Policy and the W. P. Carey School of Business’ Department of Economics. He soon found that his research reputation preceded him, and he was fielding numerous requests for contributions to studies assessing various aspects of the health care industry.

Johnson put together a small group of researchers to take on the work. One request came from the Flinn Foundation, which for many years had been concerned with quantifying the number of uninsured Arizonans — without much success. They asked if it was possible and Johnson told them it was, but that it would take time and patience due to the amount of data that needed to be collected, catalogued and analyzed.

The foundation was game and Johnson set about his task.

“The idea was that we'd go to health care providers and we would just ask them to share their data,” he said.

Some researchers had tried before, but failed because they were only willing to accept data in certain formats.

“We just said, ‘We'll take whatever you have,’” Johnson said. “Which in a few cases turned out to be pretty rough. Some of those systems were pretty old. I remember bringing back a tape from Yuma and my programmers, who were relatively young, had never seen one. They asked, ‘What is that?’ I told them, ‘That's a DOS-based tape.’

“So we found that despite all that carrying on about different softwares making it impossible, that you could certainly translate the data from one software to another.”

As the dataset grew, it eventually became the Center for Health Information and Research, officially founded in 1999. Today, it contains health care information on roughly 9 million individuals and roughly 300 million health care episodes. Crucially, it also contains the entire Medicaid database of Arizona.

Over the years, CHiR moved around the university with Johnson as new departments were created and old departments were restructured, finding a home for a time in the biomedical informatics department of the engineering school before it moved to the College of Health Solutions, where it exists now. At various points in time, its focus has shifted from health care delivery to the health workforce.

In one NIH study, researchers at CHiR were asked to look at the long-term outcome of Medicaid-required preventive procedures on infants. Because their database covers such a wide timespan, they were able to determine the effects on  children into their early teens, whereas other organizations might only be able to look at the effects two or three years out. (CHiR found that the children who received preventive procedures were less likely to be injured but not necessarily less likely to become ill.)

“It's like a library,” Johnson said. “So let's say you want to start a research project and you want to look at people with Alzheimer's. Well, what are your choices? You could go out and do a survey, which is time consuming and expensive and it's a one-time shot. Whereas every hospital, every health care provider, every insurance company, every day produces detailed data that now exists in this centralized database that is constantly updating from as many sources as possible. So you don’t have to go through that whole long collection period and you actually have better data because you can follow people over time.”

CHiR also has datasets on every pharmacist, nurse and physician in Arizona from as far back as 2007 for nurses and as far back as 1991 for physicians. That information is useful in instances where, for example, government and university officials are deciding whether to open a medical school or not.

“So there again we’ve got a longitudinal picture from, in some cases, the day a physician started to practice until they're middle-aged or older,” Johnson said. “Because of CHiR and only because of CHiR, that data will be there the next time somebody wants to know about the distribution and age of primary care physicians in Arizona, for example. You're not going to have to wait two years to collect the data and then maybe find what you’re looking for.”

Johnson admits it’s a hard sell to investors.

“It's very hard to get external funding to maintain the database during periods when nobody's interested in certain questions. But CHiR is pretty much operating at capacity all the time, which then very much limits its ability to take on new projects. And there's plenty of opportunities to explore new questions with the data we already have."

Community impact has always been at the core of CHiR’s work. In 2005 and again in 2008, the center won the President’s Medal for Social Embeddedness.

“I think it goes to Michael Crow’s vision to impact the community in which we live,” said George Runger, current director of CHiR and a professor of biomedical informatics at the College of Health Solutions. “I think that’s really what our role is.”

CHiR has no less than 28 projects currently underway, ranging from improved effectiveness of community health centers to tracking electronic health record adoption to the effects of extreme weather on asthma to child eye exam coverage.

Though Johnson relinquished his role as director of the center in 2012, he still plays a vital role in its research and day-to-day operations, something those who know him well expect will continue in spite of his retirement.

“I really don’t believe him, that he’s retiring,” university provost and Executive Vice President Mark Searle said at Tuesday evening’s ceremony. “So I said to him, ‘That just means you’re not on the payroll anymore, right?’

“Bill was doing this work long before this became a part of the national dialogue and the national rhetoric around public policy. He was truly a pioneer in this space. … And I’m so glad to see people here today to honor Bill for that work because it’s truly a remarkable commitment. At ASU, we believe that we have to take responsibly for the health and the well-being of the communities that we serve, and that’s exemplified by CHiR and all the work Bill has done over many, many years. He has really done the kinds of things that a university wants to be known for.”

Top photo: ASU College of Health Solutions Professor of biomedical informatics and founder of the Center for Health Information and Research Bill Johnson and his wife, Saundra, listen to the accolades at his retirement celebration after a 28-year tenure at the university, on Tuesday, Sept. 10, 2019. About 50 former colleagues, staff, students and family came to honor the prolific researcher who combined his skills in economics with his passion for health solutions. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now