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Young scholars choose science in the summer at ASU

High-achieving 7th- through 9th-graders take college-level courses at ASU camp.
July 7, 2016

Competitive Barrett camp draws academically talented teens to campus

School is out for the summer, but 26 high-achieving eighth-graders are spending this week dissecting plants, using a microscope and learning about physics and chemistry.

They were among 500 Barrett Summer Scholars — academically talented students who lived in the dorms, ate in the dining halls and were able to take college-level coursework at Arizona State University.

“There’s no test, no quiz. This is hands-on fun,” Cindy James-Richman told the group as they prepared to examine pink vinca flowers under a microscope. James-Richman teaches sustainable horticulture and biology in the College of Letters and Sciences at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

“The first thing about being a scientist is that you need curiosity and observation,” James-Richman said to the students, who wore white lab coats, just like real scientists.

Now in its 10th year, the selective camp is sponsored by Barrett, the Honors College, and is a way for motivated seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders from around the state to engage with each other and to learn about the unique opportunities they can find at Barrett. Camp applicants must have high grade-point averages and be recommended by a teacher.

About half the campers attend on scholarship because their families’ incomes are low enough to qualify them for free or reduced-price lunch. The camps are held at four ASU campusesTempe, West, Downtown Phoenix and Polytechnic.

“They get a taste of what college life is really about, and they get to take classes that they’re really interested in,” said Araceli Villezcas, coordinator for the camp.

Barrett Summer Scholars dissect fruit and veggies.

Students do a lab exercise on grocery-store botany at the Barrett Summer Scholars program on Monday, June 27. The teens studied plant biology by looking at the parts of the plants and then examining common fruits and vegetables through the eyes of a scientist. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The eighth- and ninth-graders take a scaled-down version of the Human Event, the critical-thinking seminar that’s a signature course in Barrett, the Honors College. All campers can choose electives they’re interested in, including journalism, nursing, engineering, sustainability, entrepreneurship and criminology. They study engineering by building with Legos, practice medical procedures on simulated patients and learn how to create smartphone applications.

The Barrett Summer Scholars session is so popular with campers that the ninth-graders created petitions and a social-media campaign to lobby for ASU to add a session for 10th-graders next year.

Soledad Romero, an eighth-grader who attended this week’s session at the Polytechnic campus, is another loyal Barrett Summer Scholar.

“I went last year and I really liked it, so that’s why I came this year,” she said.

“Even though it’s like school during the summer, I like the hands-on classes and I learned a lot.”

Top photo: Kamini Ramakrishna (left), 14, studies a petal from a Madagascar Periwinkle flower as partner Soledad Romero looks on during the Barrett Summer Scholars program on Monday, June 27. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now





Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU’s APACE Academy: A week of confidence-building, a day in court

July 7, 2016

It was the moment high school sophomore Randy Oshiro had been looking forward to most since learning he’d get to participate in a mock trial as part of the APACE (Asian Pacific Advocacy, Culture and Education) Academy held June 13-17 on ASU’s Tempe campus. 

“Objection,” Oshiro said, in his voice that perceptible mix of anticipation and thrill that a tennis player gets when positioning the racket for a smash.  ASU APACE Academy students Marc Flom, 16, left, Dwayne Lanwe, 16, and Randy Oshiro, 15, right, plan strategy in the mock trial Defense attorneys (from left) Marc Flom, 16, Dwayne Lanwe, 16, and Randy Oshiro, 15, plan strategy in the mock trial of Parker Smith v. Pioneer Computers Inc. & Pine Crest Tech Services Inc., concluding the weeklong APACE Academy at ASU. The five-day summer program for high school students focuses on Asian-American and Pacific Islander history, culture and contemporary issues, as well as cultural competency, public-speaking and civic engagement. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now Download Full Image

The Dobson High School student was testing his mettle as a defense attorney Friday, in the case of Parker Smith v. Pioneer Computers Inc. & Pine Crest Tech Services Inc., and the volley between the defense witness and plaintiff’s attorney had been building momentum.    

“On what grounds, counsel?” responded the Honorable Roxanne Song Ong, retired Phoenix Municipal Court chief presiding judge, as she looked down from the bench in the Great Hall of ASU’s Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law. 

“Speculation,” he said, after quickly conferring with co-counsels Dwayne Lanwe and Marc Flom, juniors from Tempe High and Madison Highland Prep (pictured above, right to left). 

“I’ll sustain that,” Judge Song Ong replied, and the trial moved to closing arguments from the plaintiff’s counsel, delivered by Shalini Vijayaraghavan, a junior from Hamilton High School. 

Song Ong, at trial’s end, offered helpful critique and tips to all 12 student participants. 

She praised the acting abilities of the witnesses and the command that all the participants had of the facts in the 74-page case, in which the plaintiff, an 18-year-old high school student who had signed contracts as an adult, alleged that a theft-tracking system on a school-issued laptop had violated his privacy and caused emotional harm.

“You did a very, very good job, given the complexity of this case — one that would take lawyers several months to prepare for,” Song Ong noted.

“As a judge for nearly 30 years, I can tell you I have many lawyers coming into my courtroom who are not as prepared as your kids were today,” she told the parents in attendance, who acted as jurors.

The mock trial was the culmination of a full week of APACE Academy presentations and activities.

Phoenix lawyers Amanda Chua, Thomas Chiang, Alanna Duong and Briana Chua — all members of the Arizona Asian American Bar Association — had spent part of two days giving students a peek into some of the career paths of attorneys and helped prep the APACE Academy participants for the trial, explaining the goals and the rules of direct examination and cross-examination, opening and closing arguments, and what constitutes evidence. They advised students as they developed their strategies and taught them about courtroom etiquette.   

Earlier in the week, School of Social Transformation faculty led sessions on Asian-American and Pacific Islander history, community advocacy, challenging media stereotypes and how to do oral history interviews.

University College organized sessions to grow students’ confidence and college-readiness, with a focus on topics including discovering their own hero’s Journey, developing grit and resiliency, differences between high school and college, and resources for paying for college. 

The teens also enjoyed team-building challenges, time for cultural sharing — bringing in items or performing a song that reflected their own culture — and discussions and journaling led by the ASU students who served as peer mentors: Misaki Fuentes-Maruyama, a marketing major, and Anthony Sablan, a nutrition major. 

At the close of the activities Friday, the peer mentors sent students on their way with certificates, hugs and heartfelt words about the unique contributions that each made to the group dynamic and advice to shed their self-doubts.

There’s a good chance that some of this year’s cohort will go on to careers influenced by their APACE Academy experience, judging from the stories of past participants.

In 1994, Tom Chiang actually was a student in ASU’s first Asian LEAD cohort (the former name of the APACE Academy).

“I was 15 and my parents told me, 'You’re going to go to ASU with a bunch of kids and do this program,'” Chiang recalled in his remarks to the APACE students Wednesday.

“I met really cool people; I did the mock trial. I grew as a person and gained leadership skills … and I’ve been practicing criminal defense law since 2007. I absolutely love what I do,” he said. “And I’m the only lawyer in my family.” 

Chiang’s story reflects well the overall goals for the program, said APACE Academy director Kathy Nakagawa, ASU associate professor of Asian Pacific American Studies.

“Our hope is to provide a space where Asian-American and Pacific Islander high school students can expand their voice and confidence while learning skills that will support them in their dreams for college and beyond,” Nakagawa observed. “We greatly appreciate the incredible volunteer efforts of faculty, staff, parents and other community members who come together to make this experience possible.”  

At ASU, the APACE Academy is sponsored by Asian Pacific American Studies in the School of Social Transformation, a unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences; by University College; and with the support of community partners including Island Liaison and the Arizona Asian American Bar Association.

Maureen Roen

Manager, Creative Services, College of Integrative Sciences and Arts


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Browse some of the ASU summer camp fun with our photo gallery.
July 7, 2016

From science and sports to cooking and the arts, camps open up new worlds of learning for schoolkids from around the state

The academic pace slows a bit in the summertime at Arizona State University, but the energy level stays high as thousands of young people come to campus for camp.

Middle schoolers sleep in the residence halls, little kids hit golf balls at Karsten Golf Course and teenagers on the brink of life decisions can take college-level courses, learning to start businesses, create smartphone applications and become published authors.

This summer, nearly 4,500 young people will attend more than 30 summer programs at the Polytechnic, Downtown Phoenix, West and Tempe campuses. It's part of ASU's mission to serve its surrounding communities and expand access to education.

Some of the camps are designed to inspire teens who might not see college in their futures. The Fleischer Scholars, Cesar Chavez Leadership Institute and Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy, among others, bring high school students to ASU to not only visualize themselves on campus, but also to learn leadership skills and find personal insight.

“We give them an opportunity to be here overnight, and we expose them to college life and they say ‘Wow, I can picture myself here,’ ” said Connie Pangrazi, the assistant dean of academics at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, which sponsors the Hunnicutt camp.

Some camps focus on the academic experience. The 500 Barrett Summer Scholars draw high-achieving seventh-, eighth- and ninth-graders who compete for a spot in the program, where they take electives in journalism, nursing, sustainability and other subjects. Other sessions teach Chinese, digital culture, video games, archeology, writing, accounting, math and art.

ASU offers several sports camps for kids, who can use the university’s top-notch facilities, and children with special needs can attend sessions run by expert faculty and staff members.

One of the best parts of the camp experience for older teens is the chance to interact with current ASU students who are peer mentors. The college students talk about how they paid for college, decided on a major and dealt with loneliness.

Samuel De La Ossa, a sophomore majoring in business communications, was the lead mentor in the Fleischer Scholars camp, sponsored by the W. P. Carey School of Business. He had been a Fleischer Scholar himself when he was in high school.

“The biggest thing I want them to take away is that they have a friend. This is a Fleischer family,” said De La Ossa. “It works. We’re able to break through to these juniors and make sure they’re not nervous and give them the resources they need.”

Klain Benally, an American Indian studies major and a Navajo, was a peer mentor at the Inspire Academy camp for Native American teenagers. He said that Native American youth have many cultural and social hurdles to overcome when transitioning from high school to college.

“There is a culture shock, no doubt about it,” Benally said. “One of our goals is to teach students about college, the steps they need to take, and how to connect with one another once they are here.”

Explore some of the many camps on offer at ASU this summer in the gallery below.

Top photo: Students examine the parts of a Madagascar Periwinkle at the Barrett Summer Scholars program on June 27. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


ASU students partner with city to create a plan for quality growth

July 6, 2016

Apache Junction is a city of about 38,000 residents with a natural setting that rivals any in the state for scenic views and outdoor opportunities. Twenty-five years from now, its population is projected to be nearly double the current total.

“It’s not a question of whether the city will grow, it’s a question of how,” Giao Pham, the city’s public works director, said.  Community meeting with Apache Junction residents Students working on improving a trail system for walking, biking and horseback riding listen to perspectives of an Apache Junction resident. Photo by Pai Li Download Full Image

After a semester’s work by 21 Arizona State University graduate students, the city has a new outline to guide its development, grounded in residents’ perspectives and thorough research. 

The students were enrolled in this spring’s capstone course for ASU’s master’s program in urban and environmental planning (MUEP), taught by professor Joochul Kim. The program is within the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

The project, which began as a collaboration with the city’s Public Works and Development Services departments, grew to include the Parks & Recreation and Economic & Business Development departments, as well.  Following an April 26 presentation to the city’s Planning & Zoning Commission and Parks & Recreation Board, Apache Junction’s City Council approved a resolution to adopt the students’ report for consideration for the city’s future planning purposes.

 “We’re very appreciative of what the students did. The capstone is a great opportunity for students, but also a great opportunity for the community.  The students’ work will really make a difference,” said Larry Kirch, city of Apache Junction development services director.

The project’s scope

The partnership began in summer 2015, when Bailey DuBois, a student in the urban and environmental planning master’s program, approached the city to ask whether it might consider being the site for the program’s capstone workshop course. Larry Kirch, the city's development services director, and Pham responded enthusiastically, and discussions began.

In January 2016, Kim introduced the students in his capstone course to their assignment: After learning about Apache Junction — from city representatives, planning documents, demographic and economic research, and importantly, by exploring the city in person — they would envision a future for Apache Junction.

The students were to develop an overall community vision for:

  • The downtown area along Idaho Road and the Apache Trail 

  • The largely undeveloped state-owned area south of U.S. 60
  • Trails to connect the city — usable by pedestrians, equestrians and bicycles

The students formed themselves into three teams, each focusing on one of the three challenges.

Dubois and classmate Melissa Spriegel volunteered for the role of facilitators: serving as the point of contact for city officials, collecting weekly reports from each team, scheduling presentations either within the class or with city officials and residents, and coordinating creation of a final report.

To be sure their ideas were in line with Apache Junction residents, the students organized two community meetings.

Creating a town center

“We want a town center,” the downtown group heard. At the first community meeting, the group worked to understand where residents currently identify the center of downtown to be, what the residents would like to see develop, and what qualities and amenities were essential to the city’s identity.

Map with key locations identified by community members

Participants at the first community meeting identified what location they perceived as the city’s downtown (red dots), the places they go regularly (pink arrows) and their ideas for amenities they’d like to see (blue arrows).

With information from the first meeting in hand, the students studied the city’s existing planning documents and successes in comparable towns. They developed proposals and sketches and presented them at a second community meeting — then revised the plans again to develop their final proposals.

“We wanted to be positive that we were representing the desires of the community,” said Morgan Klaas, leader of the first downtown visioning group.

From the city’s perspective, the students’ work is helping to maintain momentum for development. “The students’ work reinforced the city’s efforts to develop a sense of place for the downtown,” Kirch said.

2 proposals for public event space

This proposal represents two versions of a relatively simple-to-develop public event space that could help define Apache Junction’s downtown. Images by Carol Hu

Undeveloped state land: Economic development and natural preservation

The half-mile strip between U.S. 60 and Baseline Road currently hosts a golf course and smattering of mostly residential developments. South of Baseline, the city boundaries encompass about 12 square miles of primarily open desert, with only one existing north-south road.

The state land group needed to consider how to create economic opportunities for this area, while preserving the its natural wealth — especially its washes and views of the Superstition Mountains.

State Lands Area - proposed and existing roads

The students proposed a network of roads that would allow access to the area, but they adjusted the east-west grid to keep washes in their natural state as much as possible. Map by Bryan Smith

Led by Bryan Smith and Spencer Bolin, the group analyzed potential business opportunities for the area from U.S. 60 to Baseline Road, envisioning a strip south of Baseline as a walkable main street promoting local businesses.

The team also focused on a 4-square-mile area of undeveloped land, the “planned unit development” or PUD. Here, the students’ proposals respected an overwhelming opinion they heard from the city’s residents: Develop the land, but keep the washes as natural as possible.

“I really appreciate how the community acknowledges the changes going on around them, and that they want to continue to adapt. They want to take advantage of what’s around them,” Smith said.

State Lands area - proposed development intensity

The students devised a plan for adding trails along the washes wherever possible and preserving views of the mountains by limiting the density and height of nearby structures. Higher-density residential development would be clustered in areas away from the washes. Map by Bryan Smith

Multimodal trails: Connecting the city

Apache Junction’s proximity to outdoor recreation is what attracted many of its residents — so improving options for walking, bicycling or horseback riding seemed like a logical priority. The students developed a survey to assess how Apache Junction residents use existing trails and what factors currently discourage trail and bike use.

Results of a survey on use of trails

A survey of residents, along with a community meeting, revealed that the most popular use of current trails is hiking and that safety is the most significant discouraging factor.

The student team used this information — together with multiple driving and walking visits of the city, study of existing planning documents, and analysis of speed limits and driving densities on the city’s main thoroughfares — to propose locations for new bicycle lanes, sidewalks and trails that would connect the city. They also suggested design standards and guidelines for creating safer bike lanes. The second community meeting provided an opportunity for feedback on the proposals.

Two design strategies to improve bicycling safety

The students proposed several design strategies to improve bicycling safety, such as raised bike lanes and buffered bike lanes.

Impact of the project

“The students’ work is like the table of contents for a book,” Pham said. “The city has a story to tell, and the students created the outline.”

“The students’ energy, enthusiasm and openness to ideas reinforces our passion for developing the city,” he added.

For their part, the students appreciate the opportunity. “We got to network with the city so much — we’re very comfortable now with working this way,” Spriegel said. 

Many of the students graduated this spring, and so were applying for jobs while working on the capstone.

What next for the new graduates?  Several are beginning professional planning positions — DuBois in Virginia, Spriegel in Texas, Smith with the Greater Phoenix Economic Council. Others are carrying out summer or longer-term internships.

“In job interviews, for every question that was asked, an experience from the capstone course was the answer,” DuBois said.

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


Children offered a refuge for learning with ASU

June 29, 2016

A record high of 65.3 million people were asylum seekers, internally displaced people or refugees in 2015, according to a recent report by the U.N. Refugee Agency (UNHCR). 

Children in particular bear an additional burden along with the loss of their homeland, family and community: the interruption of their education and lack of a safe space and mentors to encourage their passion to learn and study. Arizona State University student at World Refugee Day 2016 Yasmeen Hussain, a graduate student in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions and member of the student organization New American Youth Initiative worked with refugee children from Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Myanmar (Burma), Mexico, Latin America and Somalia, as part of World Refugee Day. The event was hosted by the American Red Cross Greater Phoenix Chapter with support from the Arizona Science Education Collaborative at ASU. Download Full Image

With 5 to 6 percent of all refugees arriving in the U.S. beginning their new lives in Arizona, the American Red Cross Greater Phoenix Chapter annually sponsors World Refugee Day to bring attention to and address challenges for local refugees. This year, chapter leaders turned to student organizations at ASU to provide mentoring and hands-on STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) activities for these children.

“We strive to celebrate the United Nations holiday of World Refugee Day in a way that brings the local refugee community together to highlight the diverse contributions they offer our city,” said Danielle Rudolph, a regional international services specialist with the chapter. “We chose education as the focus because we feel it’s important the refugee children know that they have the same opportunities with their education as anyone else.”

More than 70 refugee children of high school age or younger attended.

Coordinating with the Red Cross were Binaben Vanmali and Eugene Judson, faculty members with ASU’s Arizona Science Education Collaboration (ASEC). The duo brought together faculty, undergraduate and graduate students from ASU’s Mars Education program, the New American Youth Initiative (NAYI), Ira A. Fulton Engineering student outreach programs and Science is Fun!, administered by the Leroy Eyring Center for Solid State Science.

“With each refugee community comes unique cultural challenges that affect integration into school. Refugee children drop out of school at a rate three times that of white and twice that of Latino students,” said Judson, who is also an associate professor of science education in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. “To truly develop an inclusive STEM talent pool that embraces diversity, refugees must be included.” 

One activity guided attendees through the geography and topography of Mars, led by Sheri Klug Boonstra, an associate research professor and director of the MARS K-12 Education Program in ASU’s School of Earth and Space Exploration.

“The challenge was to help find a landing site on Mars,” noted Vanmali, who is a professor in School of Life Sciences, as well as the director of ASEC. “While the activity was meant to help attendees understand how scientists and engineers think and use their analytical skills, the kids and volunteers alike were riveted!”

ASU students and faculty also taught the basics of planning and design, as well as providing hands-on activities to boost understanding about energy transfer and color perception.

Yasmeen Hussain, Savanna Melius and Victoria Gomez, students in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions and members of the student organization New American Youth Initiative (NAYI), worked with young people from Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Myanmar (Burma), Mexico, Latin America and Somalia.  

“We wanted to be a part of this event to show our support for World Refugee Day and refugees everywhere,” said Hussain. “We especially wanted to support the refugee youth we volunteer with through NAYI at the Somali Center in Phoenix.”

“I took away even more than I expected,” said Hussain. “I learned that education is a precious opportunity that most people, like myself, take for granted. The refugee students truly value the importance of education. They have wonderful aspirations, and I admire how very driven they are to ensure that success will be a part of their futures.”

Margaret Coulombe

Director, Executive Communications, Office of the University Provost


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Looking ahead by giving back

National nonprofit UNITY grows under ASU alumna's guidance.
Arizona’s first Native American TV news reporter moves focus to helping youth.
June 28, 2016

ASU alum Mary Kim Titla empowers Native youth after groundbreaking news career

The woman who broke barriers as Arizona’s first Native American TV news reporter has recently guided the nation’s foremost Indian youth empowerment group to new students, communities and sources of income. It’s a testament to the perseverance Mary Kim Titla learned at home.

Born prematurely to a pair of young parents on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in central Arizona, Titla said she was nearly given up for adoption. Her father, however, couldn’t go through with it. He “put his hand in the incubator, and I grabbed his pinkie,” said Titla, now 55. “He felt like that was a sign and that he and my mother needed to do something to reverse the adoption.”

Titla said that her parents refused to give in to difficult circumstances. Instead, she said, they went on to get married, raise four other children and earn degrees.

“It’s never too late to go to college,” she said. “It’s never too late to accomplish your dreams.”

Titla’s career has spanned broadcast journalism, a run for Congress, a stint as a kindergarten teacher and now a three-year stretch as executive director of United National Indian Tribal Youth (UNITY), the largest and oldest such organization in the U.S. She said all of her experiences have helped her excel in this latest role, which focuses on doing what she has always wanted — giving back to her community.

“There’s a saying in Indian Country, ‘The honor of one is the honor of all,’’’ Titla said. “So when a Native person is honored, it brings honor to us all. We help young people pursue their dreams, and there is no greater honor than that.”

Breaking into news

Her career began three decades ago at KTVK, 3TV in Phoenix. She recalled walking into her boss’s office and telling him, “I’m going to be a very good newsroom receptionist, but that’s not the reason why I’m here. I’m here to work my way up, and I just want you to know that.”

But to move into a newsroom job, she needed to pass a writing test. Despite holding a master’s degree in mass communications from Arizona State, she failed the station’s exam three times. Titla said she had experience writing for newspapers, but she wasn’t familiar with broadcast style. She didn’t give up, however. She went back to ASU for a TV news writing course, then promptly passed the test to become a production assistant.

“I was so excited when the news anchor read a 30-second voiceover for the first time on the air,” Titla said. “I said to myself, ‘I wrote that story!”

A short time later, Titla moved to Tucson for a job with KVOA-TV where as a general-assignment reporter in 1987 she became the first Native broadcast journalist in the state, a distinction honored by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication when she was inducted into its hall of fame in 2006. Titla said her family and friends back in San Carlos gathered to watch her on air “like it was the Super Bowl.”

Mary Kim Titla speaks with students at a UNITY conference

Mary Kim Titla, executive director of UNITY — which focuses on developing Native American youth leaders — speaks with students about the projects they have done in their home schools during the UNITY midyear conference on Feb. 13. Titla has led the group for three years. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Titla said she faced challenges as a Native journalist in the mainstream TV news industry, but her background played to her favor when Pope John Paul II visited with about 16,000 Native American Catholics in 1987 in Phoenix because it allowed her to cover the event with more depth and context than other reporters.

“I was utilized as an expert because I could talk about what was happening in the arena,” Titla said. “I could speak to a lot of the key players.”

'A voice for the Native people'

She stayed in TV news until 2005, when she left citing fatigue and apathy. She was looking for a new way to make a difference and decided to campaign for a spot in the U.S. House of Representatives. She said she was only the fourth Native person to run for an Arizona congressional seat.

“I wanted to be a voice for the Native people and speak to our issues,” she said. “I had lived their struggles and knew their poverty and felt I could make a difference.”

The district sprawled across seven reservations and stretched into northern and eastern Phoenix. Among her campaign strategies was going door-to-door to rally support.

“I remember going to homes in the middle of the summer and there was no electricity or air-conditioning,” she said. “These people were struggling to survive.”

She said their immediate needs proved too great a barrier to overcome.

“They asked me, ‘How is my voting for you going to help me today? Can you help me put food on the table today? Can you help me get my cooler back on so my kids can be safe?’ Those were tough questions, and I could only answer, ‘I may not be able to help you today, but I can help you down the road,’” adding later, “It was tough to get anyone to vote when they already had so much to deal with at home.”

Titla lost the 2008 race to Ann Kirkpatrick, but took the setback as an opportunity to start over again. She went back home to San Carlos to teach kindergarten. 

“Being a kindergarten teacher is 10 times as challenging as running for Congress, and running for Congress is intense,” Titla said, laughing. “Being in a room with 25 kindergartners and no experience … wow! That was a humbling experience.”

It was also enlightening.  She said she learned that one of the biggest challenges to education on Indian reservations “is that most of the schools do not have administrators who are Native American, and most of the educators are not Native American.”

She said it’s “hard to teach our children with culturally appropriate curriculum when a lot of the teachers couldn’t relate to the material or to the students they’re teaching. We are rapidly moving through the 21st century, and many of our children do not know or comprehend what it means to be American Indian in this modern age and what it will take to save our language and cultural way of life.”

“There’s a saying in Indian Country, ‘The honor of one is the honor of all.’ ... We help young people pursue their dreams, and there is no greater honor than that.”
— Mary Kim Titla, ASU alumna and UNITY executive director

She moved into an administrative role within the San Carlos school district and assisted with communications and lobbying. Titla “could turn a negative situation into a positive outcome in a matter of minutes,” said Mary Kay Stevens, who worked with Titla in San Carlos.

The district’s superintendent, Richard Wilde, suggested that Titla participate in a principal training program. To meet the requirements, she returned to ASU for a second master’s, this one in education administration and supervision. It wasn’t easy, she said, but her persistence got her through. 

“It was probably the most stressful year of my life, and my body was responding. I broke out in hives and was hospitalized a few times,” Titla said. “It was also the most exhilarating and rewarding time in my life because I truly understood the educational system and the challenges everyone faces on an Indian reservation.”

A new challenge

By 2013, she was ready for the challenge that would mark her greatest success in advocating for Native youth. She became UNITY’s second executive director, stepping into the top position of a nonprofit organization dedicated to creating young leaders through focusing on the social, spiritual, physical and mental development.

It’s another return home. Back in 1978, Titla said, “I begged my parents to take me to Oklahoma City” for a UNITY conference. “My parents saw a spark in me, and they wanted to fan the spark, so they drove me and two of my younger siblings all the way to Oklahoma from San Carlos. Nearly 40 years later, here I am as executive director. Who would’ve thought?”

Under Titla, the group’s number of youth councils has expanded from 135 to 160, and its national conference attendance has increased from 1,200 to about 1,800 young people. She also has helped raise money, more than doubling new revenue over the past three years, averaging about $250,000 each year in new money.

She also created the “25 Under 25 Youth Leadership Awards” program to recognize young people dedicated to serving their communities, and this year she launched an alumni association for UNITY to create stronger ties to its past.

The group will hold its 40th anniversary national conference next month in Oklahoma City. The organization expects record attendance. 

“Mary Kim literally rebuilt the legacy of the program from the ground up,” said Nataanni Hatathlie, a Stanford University junior who has held a leadership position in the organization. He called Titla “a dedicated leader, very strong-willed and tenacious in the most passionate way.”

Titla’s alma mater has noticed her accomplishments. Bryan McKinley Jones Brayboy, President’s Professor, director of the Center of Indian Education and ASU’s special adviser to the president on American Indian affairs, said he envisions a long-term relationship with UNITY and Titla because it’s aligned with ASU’s overall mission.

“We believe in youth leadership, in assisting young people in creating their own futures, in organizing big ideas led by youth,” Brayboy said. “In short, it is easy for us to get behind a program and project like UNITY that is future-focused.”


Top photo: Mary Kim Titla holds her grandson Matthew Howell tightly after a community member's coming-of-age ceremony on the San Carlos Apache Reservation in April. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

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ASU STEM camp inspires future teachers

Science camp at ASU inspires future teachers.
June 21, 2016

High schoolers use hands-on techniques at Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy

Teenagers attending the Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy at Arizona State University this week are learning to think like engineers so that someday they can teach that way.

The camp, for high school students who have an interest in teaching, focuses on science, technology, engineering and math and is sponsored by the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. The teens live on the ASU Polytechnic Campus for a week as they work on projects together. Hunnicutt will hold another session next week at ASU’s West campus.

“In schools we want STEM in all of our subjects because it makes us critical thinkers,” Hilary Goodine, one of the student teachers, told the campers as they worked on a project. She graduated from the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College in May with a degree in elementary education and begin teaching at the Eduprize School in Queen Creek this fall.

The camp is designed to show how hands-on activities are crucial for STEM learning, said Daniel Cortez, who will be a senior education major and was one of the student teachers at the camp.

During the week, the campers used index cards and tape to design desk-top “skyscrapers” and later in the week will create machines to pop balloons in a Rube Goldberg competition.

Suny Mendez, a camper at the Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy at ASU’s Polytechnic Campus, gets help from Daniel Cortez, a student teacher at the camp and a senior in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College. Photo by Alisha Gudz/ASU

“All of the activities are designed to follow the engineering design process and all the steps,” Cortez said.

“And that’s what a lot of being a teacher is — helping other people solve problems, and using whatever resources you have.”

Just being on the campus is helpful for the teens, many of whom would be the first in their family to attend college. Connie Pangrazi, the assistant dean of academics at the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, said research shows that students who visit campus are more likely to enroll in college

“We give them an opportunity to be here overnight, and we expose them to college life and they say ‘Wow, I can picture myself here.’ ”

The Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy is one way the college is inspiring future teachers at a critical time — 26 percent of public school teachers in Arizona will be eligible to retire by 2018, according to the state Department of Education.

This year’s campers got a nice bonus after they applied. Thanks to a grant from the College Football Playoff Foundation, all fees were waived and the week was free.

Josh Rios of Mesa just graduated from Desert Vista High School and hopes to attend the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College after taking classes at Chandler-Gilbert Community College.

“I’ve thought about being a teacher for the last year, and I wanted to see what this was like,” he said.

“I wanted to see the college atmosphere too. The beds could be more comfortable, but it’s really fun.”

Top photo: Brandon Correa works on a project at the Hunnicutt Future Educators Academy at the Polytechnic campus of Arizona State University. Photo by Alisha Gudz/ASU

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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Making the case for arguments

ASU workshop gives teachers lesson in effective argument-writing.
June 17, 2016

Phoenix area teachers convene at ASU for summer argument-writing institute, learn techniques to take back to classroom

Some of the most significant turning points in history began with a compelling argument.

Charles Darwin’s “On the Origin of Species.” Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” Martin Luther’s “Ninety-five theses.”

Clearly the ability to express one’s opinion in a thoughtful, well-constructed manner is a powerful thing. That fact that has been further proven by a recent National Writing Project (NWP) study that found introducing argumentative writing curriculum into schools improved teaching results.

So for two weeks in June, 22 middle and high school teachers from throughout the greater Phoenix area convened at Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for the Central Arizona Writing Project 2016 Invitational Summer Institute to focus on improving their argument-writing teaching skills.

Supported by a NWP College Ready Writers Program grant, the institute is unique because it allows local teachers to experiment with a research-based teaching model while collaborating with ASU professors, past and present doctoral students, and each other.

“They get to come here to participate in workshops and work together as a professional community of writers,” said Jessica Early, co-director of the program with Christina Saidy. Both Early and Saidy are also ASU English professors.

During a workshop led by Saidy on June 16, teachers huddled together in small groups, listening to what each had written for a hypothetical podcast. Afterward, they took a few minutes to write letters to one another detailing what they liked and what needed work. Then they read their letters aloud, listened, took notes and asked for clarification.

In effect, they were demoing a lesson they could incorporate in their own classrooms.

teachers conversing during a workshop

Compadre Academy English teacher Cindy Glick (right, listening to feedback about her podcast script June 16) said the methods she has learned at the CAWP summer institute help to make argument writing “more interesting" and "more relevant” for students. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

When they went home after the workshop, their “homework” was to rewrite and record the podcast based on the feedback they received.

“This thing we’re doing right now — this peer editing — is something I adopted from a previous class I took with Dr. Saidy that I have my students do now. And it’s revolutionized the way they edit and revise their work,” said Tricia Parker, who has taught 10th- and 11th-grade English at local schools.

That may be because the way students have been “peer editing” each other’s work isn’t nearly as effective. As Saidy explained to the class, “This is something that has been documented in schools. Students aren’t really reading each other’s writing.”

Instead, they’re simply filling out checklists — not expressing what they like or don’t like, not asking how they can improve, not having an actual, engaging conversation about their writing.

Cindy Glick, who teaches English and creative writing at Compadre Academy in Tempe, said the methods she has learned in the workshops help to make argumentative writing “more interesting, more attainable and more relevant” for her high school students.

According to Mesa Westwood High School 10th-grade English teacher Katie Garza, the workshop content is relevant for teachers, too.

“Everything we do in here as writers, as teachers of writers, is something we can do in the classroom with our kids,” said Garza. “Every single thing.”

That being the goal, a part of the day is set aside solely for the teachers to prepare lesson plans and units for the upcoming school year based on the day’s exercises.

And they aren’t just taking lessons from a single source; they’re learning from each other.

Steven Arenas, who participated in the institute last year as part of the requirements for his master’s in English education at ASU, now teaches at Alhambra High School in Phoenix. He came back to participate in the institute again this year, this time as a facilitator.

“My favorite part has been breaking up into groups and being able to listen to other teachers present their demo lesson and how they teach writing in their classrooms,” he said. “So I get to learn more and steal some ideas for them.”

As the institute came to a close, many of the teachers were looking ahead to the upcoming school year with a sense of gratitude and appreciation for the experience.

“It’s been really helpful building these argument units that we’re going to take back to our classes this fall,” said Anthony Colaya, who teaches English at Dobson High School in Mesa, “and it’s been great being a part of this community of teachers working together.”

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Teachers inspired at geography camp

Camp at ASU shows how gadgets can help make science a hot topic for students.
K-12 teachers inspired by geography camp at ASU.
June 15, 2016

Arizona Geographic Alliance at ASU motivates K-12 educators with projects incorporating science, social studies

Kids might not love to study rocks, but they gravitate to gadgets and that’s one way to engage them in learning science.

A group of K-12 teachers spent half an hour during a hot afternoon this week pointing infrared thermometers at parking lots, patches of grass, benches, stop signs, cars and various other objects.

“So the rubber was hotter than the metal,” noted Madeline Goodman as she and Genevieve Conn (pictured at top) logged the temperatures of bicycles in a rack.

Goodman and Conn were among 18 educators who are spending part of their summer break at the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Social Studies Institute on the Tempe campus of Arizona State University.

The institute, like a science summer camp for teachers, is sponsored by the Arizona Geographic Alliance, which is housed at ASU.

The sessions mix geography with the STEM disciplines and include topics such as “Let’s Plan a Road Trip,” “Using Forensic Science to Investigate the Disappearance of Ancient Rome’s Ninth Legion” and “Is It Good or Is It Bad: Genetically Modified Foods.” The teachers hear speakers, create projects and make site visits.

The session with the thermometers was led by Nancy Selover, the state’s climatologist and a research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning.

Nancy Selover

Nancy Selover talks about urban heat islands to the teachers attending the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Social Studies Institute at ASU. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

She discussed urban heat islands, how different objects hold heat and how to measure it.

“These are fun things, and kids love them,” she said, holding up the thermometers, which actually measure the thermal radiation of objects.

“I say to a kid, ‘Should you wear a black T-shirt?’ And he says, ‘Black is cool’ and I say, ‘Well, take the temperature of it and see how cool it is.’

“They can go to a parking lot and take the temperatures of different-colored cars. Then they start thinking about how all those things matter.”

Goodman, a kindergarten teacher at Capitol Elementary School in the Phoenix Elementary School District, said her students would love a chance to study outside.

“I would do this in small-group setting and have them sort out hot and not and talk about what things were hotter and where were they,” she said.

“Kindergarten is really about teaching children how to read, letter sounds and letter sense, so we don’t have a lot of time for social studies and science,” Goodman said. “I’ve gotten so many ideas that I can incorporate into my practice.”

Gale Ekiss, the co-coordinator of the Arizona Geographic Alliance, said that this is the third year for the institute but the first time that teachers could attend for free, thanks to funding from the APS Foundation. The new grant paid a small stipend to each attendee, covered housing for teachers from outside of the Valley and will allow the teachers to attend conferences later this year to present the lesson plans they develop.

The Arizona Geographic Alliance is a non-profit group that promotes education about geography, including sponsoring the Geographic Bee for schoolchildren. Funded by grants from the National Geographic Society, the alliance is housed in ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban PlanningThe School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning is an academic unit of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences..

Ekiss said that geography is a bridge between the STEM subjects and social studies.

Madeline Goodman and Genevieve Conn

Madeline Goodman (left), a kindergarten teacher at Capitol Elementary School in Phoenix, and Genevieve Conn, an ASU student who is majoring in secondary education and minoring in geography, note the temperatures of objects using an infrared thermometer. They attended the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Social Studies Institute this week at ASU. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

“Geography has two major divisions — cultural, which is learning about countries and traditions and patterns of migration, and physical, where you have hydrology and geomorphology, which is earthquakes.

“There’s a vast array of science, math and engineering on the physical side, and the cultural side uses statistics and math when they look at graphs and trends,” she said.

The teachers will use the sessions to create open-access lesson plansThe lesson plans will include ways to strengthen STEM skills in students who are English language learners. that will be on the Arizona Geographic Alliance’s website.

Alison Oswald-Keene, a teacher at Terramar School in the Deer Valley Unified School District, said the camp is one way to enliven lessons.

“I teach seventh grade, and my standards for science are earth science. You’re talking plate tectonics, volcanism,” she said.

“I try to bring some of these social studies lessons in to make it interesting for my seventh-graders, who really don’t care about dirt and rocks and minerals.”

Top photo: Genevieve Conn, an ASU student who is majoring in secondary education and minoring in geography, takes a reading from an infrared thermometer at the Science, Technology, Engineering, Math and Social Studies Institute on the Tempe campus this week. Conn attended the session because she wants to be a high school science teacher. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


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A wider approach to health

ASU Collaboratory on Central space to nurture both body and spirit of residents.
Students, Westward Ho residents will both benefit from ASU center's presence.
June 14, 2016

New ASU space to provide Westward Ho residents with medical support, social events and human connection

Westward Ho resident Lee Hersey is thankful to have a roof over her head, food on the table and all of her medical needs met.

Despite that, she still feels there’s something lacking in her life.

Still active and highly social at age 70, Hersey (pictured above, center) says that although the Westward Ho is in the middle of a building boom and revival in downtown Phoenix, connection and interaction with the surrounding community is limited for her and the other 300 seniors who reside at the historic building.

She’d like to see that changed.

“I’m not the kind of person who can stay in my apartment all the time,” Hersey said. “I was raised on a farm, and I get so crazy being indoors, especially now that summer is here.”

That situation could be remedied through a new Arizona State University space called the Collaboratory on Central that will meet psycho-social and health promotion needs and offer other supportive services, but aims to go far beyond that, with plans for First Fridays exhibits, movie screenings, bingo nights, lectures, book clubs and live performances to engage residents.

One of the tenants of that space will be ASU's Center for Applied Behavioral Health PolicyThe center is a part of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus and will share a space with the Center for Child Well-Being.. The center — which this month moved into 15,000 square feet on the first floor of the Westward Ho building — is taking a wider view of health for its clients, many of whom are indigent, elderly and disabled.

The 16-story landmark made its debut as Hotel Westward Ho in 1928 and was one of the Valley’s premier destinations and tourist attractionsThe site was frequented by celebrities and politicians, including presidents John F. Kennedy, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan as well as a gangster or two — including Ben “Bugsy” Siegel. The building was featured in movies such as “Bus Stop,” “Pocket Money,” and Gus Van Sant’s 1998 version of “Psycho.” for decades. Metro Phoenix residents knew it as a site for proms, weddings and gala events until it shuttered its doors in April 1980, converting to a low-income housing complex the following year.

Now it will also be a “teaching clinic” to the colleges and disciplines represented on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, including nursing, nutrition, nonprofit and social work students.

An ASU flag flies across the street from the Westward Ho

An ASU flag flies across the street from the iconic Westward Ho, the new home for ASU’s Collaboratory on Central. The space’s tenants will strive to meet health promotion needs of residents, as well as offer engaging social events. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

The new inter-professional clinic seeks to enhance the quality of life of the residents, expose students to real-world learning experiences and provide faculty a fertile environment for research.

“About three years ago, a doctoral student named Chris Fike and I conducted a study and surveyed about 50 of the tenants, and one of the surprising finds was they had good access to health care,” said Michael Shafer, director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and a professor in the School of Social Work.

“We then took some standardized tests of loneliness and sense of neighborhood and community and discovered they were lacking in this area. These folks feel lonely, isolated and disengaged, and we discovered there are some gaps in services that ASU can provide.”

Shafer hopes those gaps can be bridged through a variety of supportive services ASU will offer, spearheaded by more than 180 student interns and volunteers and supervised by faculty.

Services will include counseling and referral services, community organization assistance and support to the Tenant Advisory Council, health monitoring and wellness promotion, and educational and enrichment activities such as lectures, art exhibits and student performances.

At the centerpiece of the renovation is the Art Deco-style Concho Room, a once-glamorous cocktail lounge where entertainment icon Wayne Newton and his brother Jerry played for Valley residents and where it was rumored that gangster Benjamin “Bugsy” Siegel wet his whistle on a stop through Phoenix. Not only will the new space be the hub of planned social activities for tenants, but it will provide a gathering space for health and human service professionals and organizations, conferences and workshops and public events hosted by ASU.

“ASU trains about 5,000 people a year in the behavioral-health fields, and we now have space that can accommodate about 150 people for smaller conferences and workshops,” Shafer said. “We plan on using that space heavily and make everyone in the community aware of what we do at ASU.”

A group tours the renovated ground floor of the Westward Ho.

Michael Shafer, director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, gives Westward Ho residents a tour of the renovated Concho Room, part of the new the Collaboratory on Central space. Shafer hopes the a variety of supportive services ASU will offer in the space will help residents feel less isolated and more engaged. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

You don’t have to make resident Mary Mallory, who has lived at the Westward Ho for the past 15 years, aware of ASU’s presence on the property. She is looking forward to the Westward Ho coming alive again with more planned activities and social events.

“I’m looking forward to learning more about computers,” said the 67-year-old Phoenix native. “Even though I have one, I don’t know what to do with it. Knowing the ins and outs of the computer would be great.”

Robin Bonifas, an associate professor in the School of Social Work, said the center will include a variety of counseling and support groups and provide a level of outreach tenants will be pleased with.

“In addition to counseling and support, we plan on doing more health assessment and more linkage with their primary-care provider so there’s a more collaborative effort in their care services,” Bonifas said. “They’ll be healthier in a lot of ways because now they’ll be engaged in something meaningful and with people who care about them.”  

Shafer said Westward Ho residents just won’t be helped by the clinic — they’ll be giving back to the university in many ways.

“Many of our students don’t have grandparents or connections with elderly people, and this will give them an opportunity to know someone else from another generation,” Shafer said.

“Those relationships will become valuable to them as they become nurses and social workers. Letting them (work with) with the elderly and disadvantaged will get our students connected at the heart.”

Top photo: Longtime Westward Ho resident Lee Hersey (center) talks with Michael Shafer (right) and Robin Bonifas at the new home for the Center of Applied Behavioral Health Policy in the renovated lobby of the Westward Ho on Thursday, June 2. Shafer is the director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy. Bonifas is an associate professor in the School of Social Work within the College of Public Service and Community Solutions. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now