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ASU celebrates 1st university-wide Indigenous Peoples Day

October 5, 2016

Arizona is home to one of the largest Native American populations in the United States.

To help honor the thousands of years of indigenous tradition and culture in our backyard, Arizona State University will celebrate its first university-wide Indigenous Peoples Day on Oct. 7.  flyer for ASU's Indigenous Peoples Day Download Full Image

ASU’s American Indian Council was the driving force behind expanding this celebration.

“USG (Undergraduate University Government) recently passed on all four campuses along with the Graduate Student Association to have an Indigenous Peoples Day,” said Megan Tom, president of the American Indian Council and a member of the Navajo Nation. “Before it was only on the Tempe campus.” 

Recognizing the day university-wide was a win for the council.

“In the state of Arizona there are 27 recognized tribes,” said Tom. “We just want the ASU community to be more aware that everywhere they go there are indigenous people.”

Nationwide there has been a movement to replace Columbus Day, which this year falls on Oct. 10, with Indigenous Peoples Day. In recognition of that, but so students could participate in activities before fall break (Oct. 10-11), Oct. 7 was chosen. 

“When we celebrate these cultures, including mine, that shows that the indigenous people are still here and still exist,” said Thomasina Dinehdeal, vice president of the American Indian Council and a member of the Navajo Nation.

The university-wide activities will represent the nearly 400 million indigenous people worldwide who come from 5,000 different cultures.

Students, faculty and staff are all welcome to learn more about these culture from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on the Tempe, Downtown Phoenix and West campuses. The Downtown Phoenix campus will also have another celebration from 11:30 to 1 p.m. on Oct. 10.

“Indigenous Peoples Day to me is about celebrating the lives of all people. It helps to bring awareness to and acknowledges the (at times) voiceless,” wrote Lorenzo Yazzie, American Indian Council Secretary and a member of the Navajo Nation. “With its passing, I’m happy that the university respects our existence.”

Various student organizations have collaborated to bring performances, arts and voices to the campus events.

“I am just a vessel for all those who have came before me, and I hold it my responsibility to share the knowledge that my ancestors have granted me with the ASU community,” Tom said.

Reporter, ASU Now

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Helping sustain the future of dates

ASU's date harvest is under way — here's where to get the sweet fruit.
No idea what to do with dates? Try this easy, healthful recipe from ASU.
October 5, 2016

ASU's grove is the No. 2 collection in the U.S., full of rare varieties sold to ASU community, the public

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

A century ago, date palms in the Salt River valley weren’t just for decoration, and any Phoenician you met could tell you their top five date varieties. 

Today most people have never even tried one. 

As Phoenix grew, the date palms disappeared, replaced with homes and strip malls. But on ASU’s Polytechnic campus in Mesa, the date is not only alive and well, but making a comeback.

That’s where professor Deborah Thirkhill comes in. She manages ASU’s date palm “germplasm” consisting of more than 40 varieties of rare date palms. A germplasm is a collection that is a living genetic resource maintained for plant breeding and research — kind of a grove with serious scientific chops.

Thirkhill’s goal is to introduce all ASU students to the sweet fruit that 100 years ago was as common as candy bars are today.

“A lot of students that come from all over the world [to ASU] have never tasted a date before,” said Thirkhill, the coordinator for the Date Palm Germplasm. “We hand them out for students to try and see if they like the date and expand the date market and get more people enjoying this delicious candy-like fruit.”

The date grove at the Polytechnic campus

The date palm grove — or germplasm — at the ASU Polytechnic campus in Mesa. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

The unruly and bristly Polytechnic date palm grove is one of the most genetically diverse collections in the Western Hemisphere, second only to the U.S. Department of Agriculture collection in Thermal, California. In 1929, the USDA banned all importation of Old World date palm shoots due to pests and fungus. That means the rare varieties are now only present in collections like the one at Polytechnic campus.

“They’ve been harvested by the Mesopotamians, the Egyptians, people in the Middle East and North Africa for at least 6,000 years, but probably much more than that,” said Scott Frische, curator of horticulture for the Phoenix Zoo, who volunteers regularly in maintaining the germplasm.

Dates, along with figs, are some of the world’s oldest cultivated fruit; no wild varieties exist today. The sweet fruits are usually 60-70 percent sugar, but healthier due to their fiber content, according to Sarah Martinelli, lecturer in ASU’s College of Health Solutions.

A few hundred years ago, the Spanish brought the first ones into Mexico as seedlings, which can be male or female and unpredictable in taste. As early as 1890 the USDA began importing shoots for farmers; a single importation in 1908 saw 491 live shoots representing 135 varieties arrive in Phoenix. The USDA saw the potentional for the date — water-hungry but humidity-intolerant— as perfect for Arizona farmers. One hundred years ago the Phoenix area was the primary commercial cultivation area in the country for the sweet fruit.  

“We’re so fortunate on the ASU campus. Our department started collecting some of these rare varieties because a lot of these traditional date groves were being bulldozed for housing.” Thirkhill said. “They wanted to collect a lot of those rare cultivars that are here.”

Video: One quick and healthful way to use dates

The demise of the Valley’s commercial date production came after the end of World War II. While sugar had been rationed, a large market for dates had been created. But the end of the war reduced demand for the crops at the same time several years of heavy rains and freeze ruined yields.

All these factors, along with the introduction of air-conditioning, made it easy for farmers to sell their land rather than continue to care for their crops. The ASU collection helps keep rare varieties like the Rhars, Jarvis male palm and Black Sphinx date from completely disappearing from the Western Hemisphere.

Thirkhill, ASU students, staff and community volunteers work to harvest rare varieties than can only be tasted and purchased directly in the grove. Volunteers are rewarded for their hard work with bags of dates to take home that are found nowhere else.

The process begins in late winter and early spring when Thirkhill and her volunteers cut male stalks and hand-pollenate the different cultivars in the grove. As the fruit develops, volunteers return to thin out branches of the fruit to reduce weight and eventually bag them to prevent pesky invaders such as birds, bees and wasps that can make short work of the grove.

The fruits can ripen starting in September, but the October is the main harvest month. Thirkhill leads her volunteers in harvesting hundreds of pounds of dates both in the Polytechnic grove and around the Tempe campus, where a few varieties grow. The Tempe harvest begins this Friday morning, Oct. 7.

One of those volunteers is Mick Dalrymple, director of University Sustainability Practices. On a Saturday late in September, he was at the Polytechnic grove with his daughter to cut branches and separate dates.

“It was like a curiosity as to how the whole thing works and how to do you know a good date from a bad date,” Dalrymple said, who spent nearly three hours pruning a tree with several other people. “It was like 150 pounds, enough for a whole day’s worth of effort, and that was what surprised me the most was just the volume, what you can get off of one tree.”

Dalrymple took his dates to his mother’s birthday party. He created a taste-testing session with family and friends, asking them to write their reviews of the nine different varieties.

Most Americans have only ever tried Medjool and Deglet Noor dates, which are “hard” enough at harvest that they can be rolled down a ramp in commercial processing. Methods like tissue culturing have been seen as the advancement that could help resurrect commercial production of softer and sweet dates like the Amir Hajj or Bahri dates.

Tissue cultures take a small part of the growing point of a palm that is multiplied in test tubes, allowing for hundreds of palms to be developed from a single palm. The hope is that rare varieties like Phoenix’s own Black Sphinx date, which at one time numbered more than 15,000 in the Valley, could be grown in bulk for commercial farmers.

Professor Glenn C. Wright of the University of Arizona works in the expansion of UA’s date palm germplasm in Yuma, the third-ranked germplasm in the U.S. He highlighted the importance of tissue culture to redevelop rare-variety commercialization in Arizona.

“If you’re going to have a date industry ... you have got to have enough product to supply the Fry’s or the Costcos or the Sam’s Clubs of the world, and you can’t do that with three dozen palms,” he said. “You have to have four or five hundred acres minimum to start having sufficient volume to sell at the store where you’re average non-date lover can pick them up.”

As the industry adapts to provide more options for foodies, it’s collections like Polytechnic’s date palm germplasm that keep intact the rare varieties that hold promise for future Arizona residents and commercial development in the state. 

Where to get dates

To buy: A variety of dates are available for purchase through the month of October, for $5/pound (cash only) at the following locations:

Shoots are also available for $60 at the Polytechnic location on Saturdays.

To help: Find out information about volunteering by contacting Deborah Thirkhill at deborah.thirkhill@asu.edu

Video: Deborah Thirkhill explains the growing and harvest process.


Top photo: Volunteers sort through a branch of harvested dates that have been cut during the date harvest Sept. 24 at ASU's Polytechnic campus in Mesa. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Deanna Dent

Photographer , ASU Now


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ASU helping community at landmark Westward Ho

Built in 1928, the Ho has played host to presidents, actors and icons.
The Westward Ho converted into low-income housing in the early 1980s.
New ASU space will take a wider, more holistic view of residents' health.
September 20, 2016

Latest endeavor in downtown Phoenix establishes teaching clinic for nursing, nutrition, nonprofit and social work students

Editor's note: This story is being highlighted in ASU Now's year in review. To read more top stories from 2016, click here.

ASU’s latest downtown Phoenix endeavor helps fulfill the school’s mission of social transformation by giving low-income people access to the care and services they need at the landmark Westward Ho, President Michael M. Crow said Tuesday.

University leaders, city and state officials, and building residents were among the hundreds gathered Tuesday for the grand opening of the Collaboratory on Central, a teaching clinic for the various colleges and disciplines represented on ASU’s Downtown Phoenix campus, which include nursing, nutrition, nonprofit and social work.

“Many universities think of themselves as a sequestered place where you remove yourself from society,” Crow said. “Our conceptualization is a university that is on the frontline.”

“We are not a place but a force,” he said.

Collaboratory on Central grand opening

ASU President Michael M. Crow talks about the vision for the Collaboratory on Central and the partnership with the City of Phoenix at the grand opening of the new space at the Westward Ho on Tuesday in downtown Phoenix. This and top photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


The Westward Ho, for decades, has been a low-income housing complex, but before that it had been one of the region’s premier destinations and tourist attractions. Built in 1928, it played host to some of the most famous icons of the 20th century, including Presidents Kennedy and Nixon, actors Clark Gable, Jackie Gleason, George Burns and John Wayne and the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. 

Today, many in the community experience poverty, homelessness, undetected and untreated health conditions, and substance-use disorders. Residents will be able to receive assistance with these and other problems, often from students, at the Collaboratory. University leaders hope to be able to expand the outreach in the near future.

“This is what a great university does — it wraps its arms around the community and asks, ‘What can we do to help? And how can we make the community around us better?” Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton said.

“We’re a better city because of ASU.”

The 15,000-square-foot Collaboratory, which occupies the first floor of the building, represents a state-of-the-art interdisciplinary space that brings together research, learning and service. ASU students will work with professionals to provide psycho-social and health services. The space will also create more continuing education, technical assistance and consulting opportunities for government and nonprofit agencies.

The main tenant is 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 takes a wider view of health for its 300 clients, many of whom are poor, sick, elderly or disabled.

The 16-story Westward Ho closed its doors in 1980 and reopened as a low-income housing complex the following year.

In creating the Collaboratory, the first floor was renovated. At the center of that overhaul is the Art Deco-style Concho Room, a once-glamorous cocktail lounge where the rich and famous gathered.

Collaboratory on Central grand opening

College of Public Service and
Community Solutions Dean
Jonathan Koppel speaks at the
Collaboratory on Central grand
opening Tuesday in the Concho Room.

Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

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.

“Everybody likes new buildings, but I will confess that I think there’s something more exciting about breathing life into an old building,” said Jonathan Koppell, dean of the College of Public Service and Community Solutions.

Kaylee Bouck, a 21-year-old nursing major, has been working in the interdisciplinary space since early August, performing blood-pressure checks, health check-ups and monitoring medication.

“It’s been a great opportunity for me to work with students in other disciplines, and we’re meeting the needs of the residents more effectively,” she said.

Bouck recently helped institute a walking program with residents and said she enjoys their enthusiasm.

“They enjoy talking to us, and we have the time to spend with them,” Bouck said. “The residents have taught me a wide variety of life experiences, and I’m able to learn from that.”

Michael Shafer, director of the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy and a professor in the School of Social Work, said the Collaboratory is functioning as it should but has experienced a few blips along the way. He said an electronic health-record system should have been put in place before the opening. He has also witnessed overlap in regards to the scheduling of patients. He said those issues can be fixed and that overall he’s very pleased with the operation.

“We’re flying an airplane, and we’re building it the same time we’re flying,” Shafer said. “And it’s pretty invigorating.” 

Collaboratory on Central grand opening

Social work students meet in the Center for Applied Behavioral Health Policy, part of Collaboratory on Central at the Westward Ho, on Tuesday. The project is a collaboration of ASU's nursing, social work, nutrition and therapeutic recreation programs providing services for the low-income residents of the downtown Phoenix landmark. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


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ASU students help get a handle on Valley air pollutants

Phoenix metro area especially at risk for air pollutants.
Maricopa County has one of most advanced air-pollutant monitoring systems.
September 19, 2016

Team works with NASA to paint a fuller picture of Maricopa County's air quality

Rainstorms are a welcome visitor in the Phoenix metro area. Not only do they offer a respite from the brutal summer heat, they also help to quell the dust kicked up by another of the Sonoran Desert’s unique charms: the haboobTerm for a type of intense dust storm carried on an atmospheric gravity current, also known as a weather front. Haboobs occur regularly in arid regions throughout the world..

Though the term may elicit giggles, the beast it refers to is no laughing matter. Air pollutants associated with the gargantuan dust storms have been known to exacerbate preexisting respiratory conditions like asthma, cause episodic coughing, intensify cardiovascular ailments and even contribute to the contraction of Valley fever.

And even though Maricopa County has more air-pollutant monitors than are required by the Environmental Protection Agency, there are still vast swaths of land where they are lacking. To get a more comprehensive view of air quality in the Valley of the Sun, a team of Arizona State University students worked with NASA’s DEVELOP program and Maricopa County Department of Public Health over the course of 10 weeks to design a model that can predict air quality in places where there are fewer monitors.

A more comprehensive view means a better idea of which areas need improvement, which could lead to better air quality overall, explained David Hondula, assistant professor of climatology and atmospheric science at ASU. Hondula served as a faculty adviser to the team of three undergraduates.

As one of the country’s most arid regions, Maricopa County is at a specific risk for higher concentrations of particulate matter — that annoying combination of dirt, sand and other nefarious fine particles that sting your eyes on windy days.

Debris from things like wood burning, construction sites, farming and mining all contribute to levels of particulate matter. 

“We all know from our experience here that when a dust storm comes in, it’s going to do a lot to elevate particulate matter,” said Lance Watkins, a graduate student at the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. Watkins, who has participated in past NASA DEVELOP projects, served as a mentor of sorts to the team.

The topography of the area only makes matters worse.

man explaining air pollutant monitor to students

Maricopa County Air Quality Department atmospheric scientist Ronald Pope explains how particulate matter monitors work. The monitor in his hand is part of a PM10 (particulate matter 10 microns or less in size) device. DEVELOP adviser and ASU assistant professor David Hondula and DEVELOP team member Leslie Araujo look on.

Surrounded by mountains, the Phoenix metro area is “like a bowl” in which air pollutants become trapped, explained Ronald Pope, atmospheric scientist for the Maricopa County Air Quality Department who served as an adviser to the DEVELOP team. With nowhere to go, those pollutants end up in the lungs of Valley residents who live and breathe in that “bowl.”

To get a handle on it, the team compared particulate matter measurements from NASA’s MODIS level 2 aerial optical depth satellite to particulate matter measurements from Maricopa County Air Quality Department’s ground-based monitors. Once they were able to discern a relationship between the two, they were able to predict particulate matter measurements for the areas in which they had satellite data but no ground-based monitor data.

“Being able to correlate [satellite data] to data from ground-based monitors is a huge accomplishment,” said team member Tamara Dunbarr, a senior geography major.

It’s a logistical feat that will also allow for more targeted mitigation strategies, such as watering down construction sites and vacant lots, and alerting the public of high-risk areas.

The team performed so well that the project has been approved to continue during the fall semester with a second 10-week term, during which they plan to further refine and enhance their model.

The DEVELOP program does more than just enrich students academically, though. According to Watkins, “The thing that’s most beneficial to student in this program is that they’re getting experience working with a variety of partners and end users on real-world issues.”

This past August, Dunbarr presented the project at NASA’s annual Earth Science Applications Showcase in Washington, D.C.

Hondula says he is grateful to NASA and the Maricopa County departments that contributed to the project, and he looks forward to future collaborations:

“We’re hopeful that NASA DEVELOP is going to be part of the ASU portfolio for the foreseeable future.”

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ASU helping state achieve education goal

ASU helps Arizona achieve educational goal.
Arizona's plan to set educational attainment goals was proposed by @michaelcrow
September 16, 2016

The university is a partner in a new initiative to increase the number of Arizonans with post-secondary degrees

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey joined a community-based educational alliance on Friday in announcing a plan to substantially increase the number of college degrees earned in Arizona over the next decade and a half.

The goal is to raise the state’s degree or professional certificate attainment from its current rate of 42 percent to 60 percent by 2030.

A group of 60 community, business, philanthropic and education organizations have joined the initiative to make Arizona’s workforce more innovative and competitive. 

“A 21st century economy requires a 21st century workforce,” Ducey told a group of key education, philanthropic and business leaders, at a press conference announcing the venture.

“The message is clear: an additional education past high school is a must. We have to do this. We must do this. And through this goal, we will do this.”

This initiative, called Achieve60AZ, aims to create a more highly-educated population in order to build Arizona’s tax base, decrease poverty, improve social outcomes, replace thousands of baby boomers who are retiring, and attract more business to the state to compete on a national and global stage.

Arizona State University President Michael M. Crow, who called for such an initiative at a breakfast with Arizona legislators in January, said he supports the goal.

“That higher level of education in our society drives scientific discovery, technological invention and understanding in all the fields that guide us forward,” Crow said in a statement released shortly before the governor’s announcement.

In his remarks earlier this year, as he has in many recent speeches, Crow tied the educational attainment to the economic success of the state.

“I can guarantee that reductions in educational attainment, with fewer people going to college, fewer people learning to become master learners, as a percentage of the population, won’t produce good outcomes,” he said in January.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, people with a college degree tend to earn more than non-graduates, have better health, have pension plans, vote, volunteer, spend more time with their children, and are capable of adapting to various careers throughout life. 

Arizona Governor Doug Ducey

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey talks about the goals of the Achieve60AZ initiative to boost educational attainment at the Franklin Police and Fire High School in Phoenix, on Friday, Sept. 16. The initiative is a community-based alliance with the goal of having 60 percent of adults with a professional certificate or college degree by the year 2030. Above, Arizona Board of Regents President Eileen Klein speaks about the initiative. Photos by Charlie Leight/ASU Now


The same data also show the earning power of education. In 2015 dollars, workers can expect to earn $678 on average per week if they have a high school diploma; $738 for those with some college or no degree; $798 for associate degree holders; and $1,137 for individuals with a bachelor’s degree.

ASU, a member of the Achieve60AZ initiative, has as a charter goal the mission to include and educate as many people as possible

“We believe it’s very good to be goal oriented in our actions, and this initiative will help mobilize and organize all of our efforts in achieving those goals,” said Mark Searle, ASU’s executive vice president and university provost.

According to Searle, ASU has increased the number of people earning degrees from more than 14,000 people in 2007 to roughly 20,000 last year.

That is in part due to increasing efforts to reach out to Arizonans and college-going students around the country to offer them the opportunity to attend ASU.

The university is also helping more students earn degrees by providing online programming that awards undergraduate and graduate degrees. The ASU Pathways Program prevents Maricopa County Community College District students from wasting time and money on credits that don’t transfer. In addition, ASU is also cooperating the community college students on reverse transfer, which helps transition students to the university and retroactively awards them an associate’s degree. 

Once enrolled, ASU works closely with students to keep them on track, through programs such as eAdvisor, an online tool which prescribes a pathway to graduate in all of ASU’s 370 undergraduate majors, and courses like ASU 101, in which students learn time-management and academic integrity. In ASU 101, students are also introduced to the values of the university, including its focus on sustainability and entrepreneurship. The course teaches all entering freshman best practices to be academically successful in college.

Achieve60AZ has outlined four key focus areas to help achieve their goal, which include: increasing college readiness and high-school graduation rates; putting policies in place to make it easier for adults to finish their certificates or college degrees; raising awareness about options beyond high school and making them affordable; and engaging businesses, governments and educators to identify and close the workforce gap. Specific strategies and tactics will also be developed to track and measure progress.

“The effort behind this effort is truly inspiring,” said Eileen Klein, president of the Arizona Board of Regents. “There are many organizations in our state working to increase job certifications earned and college-going rates.”

Klein said the alliance allows for an ability to share information to help the most students achieve.

“We don’t want students getting lost along the way.”

Reporter , ASU Now


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ASU's Public Service Academy trains students as ethical leaders

ASU's Public Service Academy celebrates 1 year, continues to grow.
'Mission teams' partner with community group, take on issue throughout education
September 16, 2016

One year in, innovative program expands by adding veterans as mentors and creating military-style 'mission teams'

More than 260 aspiring leaders are learning the nitty-gritty details of how to serve their communities at Arizona State University’s innovative Public Service Academy, which is marking its one-year anniversary with plans for expansion.

The Public Service Academy, which just welcomed its second cohort of students, was the first undergraduate program in the nation to create a collaborative military and civilian service experience when it debuted in fall 2015.

The program educates young people in the real-world skills they’ll need to solve complex problems, including how to define a need, get around bureaucratic obstacles, communicate with a team, ask for money and finish a project — all while keeping true to their own value systems. The academy’s graduates will go on to serve in areas including nonprofit organizations, the civil service and the military.

In its second year, the academy is growing its scope by recruiting veterans to serve as mentors and setting up a military-style leadership system called “mission teams” for the 156 freshmen and 110 sophomores.

“Lots of people have good ideas and lots of people have good intentions but if they don’t match that with the leadership skills necessary to effect change, they’ll never get there,” said Brett Hunt, director of the Public Service Academy. HuntHunt is a former captain in the U.S. Army and Foreign Service officer for the U.S. Department of State. holds the Michael M. Crow and Sybil Francis Endowed Directorship for the Public Service Academy. His position was funded a year ago by a $1.2 million commitment from ASU President Michael Crow and his wife, Sybil Francis, executive director of the Center for the Future of Arizona.

Today, Crow and NBC senior correspondent Tom Brokaw will discuss the Public Service Academy at the 2016 Concordia SummitThe Concordia Summit gathers top leaders from education, business, government and nonprofits to examine ways to collaborate. Concordia is a non-profit that fosters public-private partnerships. in New York. Brokaw, who wrote “The Greatest Generation,” about the citizens who came of age during the Great Depression and the Second World War, was the founding author of the concept to create a network of public service academies.

Hunt said the academy brings to life Brokaw’s vision for a civilian corps through meaningful, project-based learning.

“The Public Service Academy is taking that spirit of serving something larger than yourself that was ingrained in that ‘Greatest Generation,’ and we’re applying it to the challenges we face today,” Hunt said.

Freshman Jeffrey Gaona (right) makes a point to Katie Harris and Jacob Ragsdale (left) as they discuss an ethical dilemma in their "Foundations of Cross Sector Leadership" class. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Jeffrey Gaona is a freshman who knows he wants to tackle the complex problem of health care costs.

“One of my missions will be health care for everyone,” said Gaona, a biological science major. Gaona started learning the health care industry as a high school student who often had to help his Spanish-speaking parents with forms that were in English.

“They would say, ‘Here, help us with these papers.’ So it was something I was forced to learn about.

“We need an alternative method of providing health care to the people who are not able to pay for it.

Developing ethical leadership

The Public Service Academy experience is deep and broad ranging, with students asked to do everything from simulating battlefield scenarios to examining their personal ethics.

The students, who get scholarshipsThe Public Service Academy is embedded in ASU’s College of Public Service and Community Solutions, where Crow is a professor of science and technology policy and public affairs. and are admitted into the corps after an interview process, combine academic credits with experiences outside the classroom.

That self-discovery extends to the leadership courses. In the “Foundations of Cross-Sector Leadership” class, the students evaluate thorny ethical situations. At a recent class, the 40 students discussed a case study in which a Marine had to decide whether to help an injured child in enemy territory, which could imperil his platoon.

Stephanie Parra

Instructor Stephanie Parra listens to Kenny Silvestro as he defends his point during a discussion in the "Foundations of Cross Sector Leadership" class. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU

The instructor, Stephanie Parra, said the goal is to teach the class how to consider ethics while making decisions, which is something she does regularly in her capacity as a member of the school board in the Phoenix Union High School District. (Parra worked for Teach For America and is a graduate of ASU.)

“I can share my own personal experiences about how I navigate decision-making at the board level, especially when facing an ethical dilemma, such as funding or paying a living wage to our teachers and staff,” she said.

“It’s exciting that the students are getting this values-based curriculum at a young age. I wish I had had that kind of ethical training as an undergraduate.”

Veterans as mentors

As a way to bridge the civilian-military gap, the Next Generation Service Corps students often work on missions side-by-side with students in the Reserve Officer Training Corps. Last fall, several Next Generation freshmen participated in field-training exercises with Army ROTC students at Tempe’s Papago Military Reservation in which they held dummy rifles and simulated battle conditions.

New this year is the Veterans Fellowship Corps, a two-year certificate program that has 10 participants who entered degree programs at ASU after leaving the military. The goal is to leverage their experiences and also build the skills they need to get jobs, according to Michelle Bravo, program manager and Army veteran.

Bravo said the interactions between the young students and the older veterans are key.

“Sometimes I think there are misconceptions and (the students) are really intimidated by the military. The veterans can see that not every freshman is self-centered and that they’re passionate and care about things,” Bravo said.

Hunt is pleased at the diversity of the freshmen cohort, which represent 67 majors from 29 states and two countries. Fifty-two percent of the class is non-white and 20 percent are first-generation college-goers.

“The level of empathy that they’ve gained through their own personal life experience or through service they’ve already done is just amazing,” he said.

Military-style mission teams

Also new this year are the mission teams, with students divided into groups that choose and tackle a social mission, for example, combatting sex trafficking.  Students will stay with a mission team all four years.

“They’ll go all the way from that first summer intern who doesn’t know where the bathroom is to the person who is the lead on the project,” Hunt said of the military-style system.

Each team will partner with a community organization and carry out a project, which can take as long as needed. “That was based on a lot of feedback from our community partners, who said that students come up with great ideas, but the semester ends and the students move on to their next classes,” he said.

For example, students worked at the McCain Institute over the summer analyzing how first responders are trained to detect whether patients may be victims of sex trafficking. The students put together the survey data and next will create a training curriculum.

Hunt said that the academy staff has learned that letting students make mistakes is one way for them to learn how to be leaders.

“Last year, it was me up at the white board saying ‘be here at this time’. But now our students are in charge of planning and communicating, and we’re critiquing their leadership skills. And they’re finding that communication is a hard thing.”

Looking ahead, the Public Service Academy will continue to expand. Next year, juniors will be in project-based mentorship program, and all classes will have an immersive experience, such as spending several days volunteering on an Indian reservation.

Hunt’s mission is to help other universities launch their own Public Service Academies, which he hopes to complete in the next few years.

Top photo: Public Service Academy students run a rope course during their annual retreat in Payson. Contributed photo.

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Staying cool: The science of shade

Varied environments on campus offer ideal setting for ASU researchers

September 15, 2016

In sunny Arizona, shade is a precious element of the landscape. Pedestrians follow circuitous routes under trees, awnings and shade structures – rewarded by a more comfortable journey.

Recently-published work by four ASU researchers helps pinpoint how people respond to shade in the desert. They asked, “What’s key to feeling comfortable in the desert, and how does shade contribute?” Ariane Middel in front of Memorial Union with meteorological instrument The varied environments on ASU's Tempe campus near the Memorial Union offered researchers an ideal setting to investigate thermal comfort in hot, sunny conditions. Download Full Image

The findings give insights on how we can develop more desert spaces to be comfortable in hot, sunny conditions.

“Thermal comfort is a very subjective term,” explained Ariane Middel, assistant research professor in the School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning. “How comfortable you feel is influenced by environmental factors that you can objectively measure, such as temperature and humidity, but also by personal factors, such as your clothing or how active you are, or how adapted you are to the outdoor conditions.”

To investigate what drives thermal comfort, Middel and her colleagues took advantage of the varied environments on ASU’s Tempe campus in the area near the Memorial Union.  On typical days over four seasons – fall, winter, spring, and pre-monsoon summer, they measured weather conditions in five settings – under the large solar canopy in front of the building, and nearby in a sunny, grassy area, a sunny concrete-paved area, and two areas deeply shaded by trees, one grassy and one concrete-paved.

On the same days, they also conducted surveys – collecting over 1000 in all.  The surveys asked respondents how comfortable the temperature felt, as well as their temperature preferences, how they felt in general, their familiarity with desert climates, and their activity level just before taking the survey.

Putting together the meteorological and survey data brought some helpful insights.

First, the meteorological measurement that best aligns with people’s feeling of comfort is one called “globe temperature.”  Globe temperature measures all the different types of radiation that strike a person from all directions – and globe temperature is the basis for a thermal comfort index called "PET." 

“While air temperature only varies by a couple of degrees between shade and sun, PET can vary by 20 degrees between shade and sun in the summer,” Middelsaid. “While weather forecasts in more humid parts of the country focus on the heat index, in hot dry areas like Phoenix, globe temperature is a better predictor of comfort and heat stress.”

The surveys also revealed patterns and differences in how people perceive temperature in Phoenix. Respondents who had lived in Arizona for a longer time were more adapted and felt more comfortable in hot conditions than respondents who had just moved to the area.

On average, the survey respondents felt that temperatures from 66 to 100 F are acceptably comfortable. The temperature where an average of respondents reported feeling neither hot nor cold – called “neutral temperature” – is 83.5 F.

“This is indeed a nice outdoor temperature in Phoenix,” Middel said.

The study results supported the idea that, here in the dry climate of central Arizona, shade is the most important factor in determining what temperature feels comfortable. So how can we increase shade in urban Phoenix?

Managing heat stress with shade

A key finding was that trees and artificial shade – the solar canopy – seemed to be equally efficient in improving perceived thermal comfort. 

This means that artificial shade structures might be an excellent option for providing shade – especially in places where trees have a hard time surviving, such as parking lots or bus stops. Artificial shade structures like those built of solar panels have added benefits of producing electricity, and requiring no water.

“Trees have other benefits of course, such as for aesthetics, storm water retention or wildlife habitat. But in areas where these benefits are secondary, man-made shade structures have great potential to improve our public spaces and make desert life more comfortable,” Middel said.

The research described here was published in the International Journal of Biometeorology. Middel’s collaborators in this project were Nancy Selover and Bjoern Hagen, also with ASU’s School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, and Nalini Chhetri, Assistant Director of the School for the Future of Innovation in Society.  Nancy Selover is also Arizona’s state climatologist. All four researchers are senior sustainability scientists with the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability.

Barbara Trapido-Lurie

research professional senior, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning


ASU 'Hooked' documentary leads to national campaign to combat heroin

September 14, 2016

The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is launching a nationwide campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction, in part due to an award-winning documentary produced by Arizona State University’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and the Arizona Broadcasters Association (ABA).

The NAB is teaming up with the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids, a national nonprofit committed to fighting substance use, to raise awareness of the opioid epidemic through on-air public service announcements, special news reports and online initiatives. The campaign builds upon the duPont Award-winning documentary “Hooked: Tracking Heroin’s Hold on Arizona,” produced by the Cronkite School and the ABA. man in background filming man in foreground ASU graduate Erin Patrick O'Connor conducts an interview for the documentary "Hooked: Tracking Heroin's Hold on Arizona." The documentary, which reached more than 1 million Arizonans, has won numerous awards and has helped to inspire the launch of a nationwide campaign to combat heroin and opioid addiction. Download Full Image

The Tuesday press conference in Washington, D.C., included a bipartisan group of members of Congress who spoke in support of the NAB/Partnership for Drug-Free Kids campaign, including Arizona Sen. John McCain, who urged people to watch “Hooked.” During the press conference, he said Arizona has experienced a 44 percent increase in heroin-related deaths in the past two years.

“I’m proud of the work of the students at the Cronkite School of Journalism at ASU, who effectively helped tell the story of addiction with a documentary on heroin use in our state,” McCain said. “The film received national recognition, and with the help of the Arizona Broadcasters Association, reached over 1 million Arizonans.”

In addition to McCain, R-Ariz., the bipartisan group who showed support for the NAB campaign, included Sens. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and Reps. Judy Chu, D-Calif., Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Frank Pallone, D-N.J.

During the conference, NAB President Gordon Smith also pointed to “Hooked” as an exemplar in spotlighting the crisis, saying that “it inspired countless viewers and listeners to take action.”

“Hooked” traced the rise of heroin use and its impact on Arizonans through the stories of addicts struggling with sobriety, families grappling for solace, and law enforcement officials battling on the frontlines. The 30-minute documentary aired in January 2015 on all 33 Arizona broadcast television and 93 radio stations in both English and Spanish. It made its national broadcast debut on Link TV in February 2016.

More than 70 students and eight faculty members worked on the project under the direction of Cronkite Professor of Practice Jacquee Petchel, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative journalist. The project was part of Cronkite News, the student-produced news division of Arizona PBS.

“We have been amazed by the impact of this important piece of journalism,” said Christopher Callahan, dean of the Cronkite School. “Our students helped spark a nationwide dialogue on this terrible epidemic. We are thrilled the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids are joining us on shining a light on this important issue.”

Art Brooks, president and CEO of the ABA, developed the idea for “Hooked” after learning of the seriousness of the issue and organized the backing of the state’s broadcast industry.

“There is no doubt ‘Hooked’ played a key role in showing what community-minded local broadcasters can accomplish in this present crisis with heroin and opioids,” Brooks said. “The national PSA plan of the NAB and the Partnership for Drug-Free Kids is to reach every American with information about the dangers of addiction that too often leads to overdose and death.”

Since airing, the documentary has received numerous awards, including an Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Award, which marked the first time a student project has won the award and just the third time in the 74-year history of the contest that a Phoenix-based news operation has received the honor.

“Hooked” also has received a prestigious Sigma Delta Chi Award from the Society of Professional Journalists and two of the region’s top professional honors at the Rocky Mountain Emmy Awards: an Emmy in the category of “Societal Concerns – Program/Special” and the Governors’ Award. It also took first place in video storytelling at the Arizona Press Club Awards.

In April, the documentary won the National Association of Broadcasters Education Foundation’s President’s Special Award, a top honor from the NAB.

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ASU's borderlands art series grows legacy

'Performance in the Borderlands' enters 13th season with focus on women's rights
ASU Now will follow project's installments, plays, discussions through May
September 13, 2016

Artists say work engages community, has potential to drive social change

In the coming weeks and months, desolate sections near the U.S.-Mexico line will transform into arthouses, theaters and classrooms as Arizona State University brings together a collection of artists to focus their talents on borderland issues.

An initiative of the Herberger Institute for Design and the Arts’ School of Film, Dance and Theatre, the 13th season of “Performance in the Borderlands” got underway Tuesday with a panel of prominent artists discussing the works’ scope, impact and potential to drive social and political change.

The planned plays, installations and workshops are part of ASU’s cross-disciplinary approach to expanding access, addressing problems and taking responsibility for the well-being of the communities it serves. ASU Now will follow the initiative to document the ways it engages the region and its people.

“We think of borders not just in terms of the physical demographic of a wall in southern Arizona, but in terms of these complicated identity issues and structures,” said Mary Stephens, producing director for “Performance in the Borderlands.”

“Our approach is to think of the borderlands as a conceptual space where people are meeting, ideas are exchanged and as a methodology for life. Really good art takes your everyday perceptions and kind of twists it so that you can see it in a different way.”

As it has done since 2003, the art series will bring together local, national and international artists, ensembles and theater groups. Past invitees have been from Arizona, California, Mexico, Peru and Argentina, and their work has explored topics including immigration, social justice, race, religion, sexual orientation and women’s rights.

Memorable borderlands installations have included a play in the Desert Valley Rock Center reserve, a queer Chicana monologue on body image and politics, and a mural that momentarily erased the border in Douglas, Arizona.

"We've had so much positive response," Stephens said. She said the project aims to support the work of artists and and leaders in the communities they serve, adding "It's not only been positive, but catalytic because ASU is able to fund artists that these small communities could not normally afford and work with these communities, so they're able to produce an event with an incredible artist of great caliber."  

This year’s theme, “Voices of Power,” examines the role of women of color in the arts and social justice. “My job as curator is to give these amazing women visibility because they’re not just part of, but leading the arts movement in Arizona,” Stephens said.

Martha Gonzalez, a Grammy-winning artist, activist, scholar and the current ASU Gammage guest residency artist, is contributing to the borderlands project as a featured speaker at the introductory discussion.   

Martha Gonzalez

She sees the connection between art and social consciousness as inextricable. Through workshops and her Mexican folk band, Quetzal, Gonzalez has engaged communities in critical thought through music. At the same time, she has increased access to health care and educational programs for underserved populations in the Los Angeles area.

“With hypercapitalism as the way we understand it, we tend to think of art as something separate from community and something we buy and sell,” Gonzales said. “Art has always been meant to document and instigate critical thought and bring communities together.”

This year’s borderlands project will include close to 20 activities that will run through May.

The first event of the season included ASU professors Marlon Bailey and Liz Lerman along with Gonzalez. Speakers discussed the creative process, community representation and — as Gonzalez put it — developing a sense of "convivencia," or coexistence.

"It means to be with each other," Gonzalez said, "deliberate presence to each other, commitment to each other, dialogue through this art and music. I think that it's extremely important for us as well to instill a sense of 'convivencia' through music and our practices."

The rest of the season's lineup features Arizona artists Raji Ganesan, Rashaad Thomas, Leah Marche and Liliana Gomez.

Projects are expected to include an on-site installation and performance at the Rio Salado Habitat Restoration Area in Phoenix; a DJ scholarship and music activism lecture with Lynee Denise and a bi-national arts residency with solo performance artist Yadira de la Riva, who will travel through Arizona, northern Mexico, the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Sonoran Desert.

“I feel this is our strongest year because we’ll be working with and reaching many communities, especially women,” Stephens said.  

For a list of complete listing of the 2016-2017 season, go here.

Top photo: Last year's "Performance in the Borderlands" included painting the U.S.-Mexico border fence to match the sky. Project leaders said it removed an oppressive visual barrier to help create optimism. Photo by Deanna Dent/ASU Now


Reporter , ASU Now


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Business students advance with ASU's Forward Focus

First class includes high-caliber students who want to give back to community.
September 6, 2016

Full-scholarship MBA program with updated curriculum draws strong group

Zack Mardoc spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in Madagascar, growing vegetables and digging latrines. He returned to Arizona with a new understanding of how to help the poor.

“My experience gave me a pragmatic approach," Mardoc said, adding, "You get rid of poverty with an economy.”

To put his passion into action, Mardoc looked for jobs with companies that valued social and environmental impact as much as profit. But he soon realized that to be a competitive candidate he needed a master’s of business administration.

That’s when he discovered the newly created Forward Focus MBA, which had an updated curriculum and covered tuition and fees at Arizona State University’s W. P. Carey School of Business: "It shot to the top of my list."

The first complement of Forward Focus MBA students is fulfilling Arizona State University’s goal of drawing a wider variety of people who might not have otherwise pursued an advanced business degree: high-caliber students who want to give back to the community, such as through nonprofit work or a startup.

Mardoc, one of 119 students in the first cohort, said the program “creates a lot of creativity and engagement.”

He plans to use his degree to help disadvantaged communities invest in themselves. “I see using finance as an opportunity to promote social responsibility,” he said.

The numbers show the program’s reach:

  • 43 percent of the students are women, compared withAccording to statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which administers the GMAT. 30 percent of the W. P. Carey full-time MBAThe W. P. Carey School of Business still offers the evening and online MBA programs. program that started in fall 2015, and 36 percent nationwide in MBA programs.
  • 31 percent of the group is international students, representing 24 countries including Iran and Uganda.
  • The average GMAT score of the students is 682, compared withAccording to statistics from the Graduate Management Admissions Council, which administers the GMAT. the mean score of 536 for test-takers nationwide.
  •  A third of the students come from science, math and engineering backgrounds, rather than traditional business experience.

"The data for our inaugural Forward Focus class is very encouraging,” said Amy Hillman, dean of the W. P. Carey School of Business. “We were looking for high-quality applicants who might think they couldn’t pursue a top MBA program. The backgrounds of these students, from their nationalities to their undergraduate degrees and work experience, really underscore the type of opportunities we hope to create with this MBA program."

Along with the scholarships, the school revamped the full-time MBA curriculum, increasing the credits from 48 to 60. The four new courses provide more real-world training: Decision-Making With Data Analytics; Executive Connections, which provides mentoring from retired senior executives; Intellectual Fusion Learning Lab, which pairs MBA students with master’s students in other disciplines; and Future Forward Leadership, which builds real-time skills in improvisation and decision-making.

That progressive, adaptive approach impressed Willy Chang, 28, a member of the first Forward Focus cohort. He was an organic chemist in the biotech industry and wanted a change.

“W. P. Carey was able to identify that the program had become outdated, and they added courses in relevant skills, like business analytics,” said Chang, who is aiming for a career in that field. “What ASU is trying to do is ambitious. By removing the concerns of debt, they’ll attract a more diverse cohort and strengthen the school.”

Another cohort member, Kala Brgant, was one of those who had been too anxious about finances to leave her job to go back to school.

Brgant, who left a marketing position, praises the mentorship support but was most struck by how the program truly is focusing on being forward-thinking.

“I felt like, ‘What is the catch?’ But when I start researching, I felt inspired by the whole idea of how the curriculum is committed to thinking of the future,” Brgant said. “Even our accounting class is focused on what we’ll need to know with all the changes coming in business.”

Top photo: Kala Brgant and Willy Chang are among the 119 students in the first Forward Focus MBA program cohort in the W. P. Carey School of Business. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now