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Community partnership supports local teens in learning the ins and outs of courtroom procedure

April 15, 2019

During February and March, the Valley of the Sun YMCA in partnership with Arizona State University's Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions hosted its inaugural Youth and Government Judicial Conferences. During these conferences, over 70 teens from across Arizona learned courtroom procedure, how to take a case to trial and how to present both the prosecution and defense. Using the 2019 Youth and Government assigned case, students simulated a criminal trial proceeding, participating as attorneys, judges, bailiffs and witnesses.

During the first phase of the semester, attorneys from the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office joined the YMCA to offer hands-on and real-life training to students. The attorney volunteers taught students when and how to object during a trial, how to present evidence during a trial and the key components needed when trying to prove the guilt or innocence of the defendant. Large group of high school student participants in judicial conference poses in front of ASU logo in Concho Room Over 70 teens participated in the YMCA's Youth and Government Judicial Conferences.

At the competition conference in March, the students put their learning into practice as teams participated in several rounds of trial. Through the scores of evaluators, two teams were announced as the winners of their respective age brackets.

Watts College provided the YMCA’s Youth and Government program classroom and conference space downtown as courtrooms for the trainings, trials and deliberations.

“The YMCA is excited to continue our judicial program, and we look forward to working with Watts College in the future,” said Brooke Baumer Saldivar, Valley of the Sun YMCA’s youth and civic outreach director. 

Summary courtesy of Brooke Baumer Saldivar

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Carbon Free Day: Do your part

Shorten your shower, drive less, buy local foods for April 17 Carbon Free Day.
April 11, 2019

Bike to work, take the stairs, eat a plant-based meal: New signature event for Earth Month encourages ASU community to make pledge

Glaciers melting. Record storms. Rising sea levels. Problems quite off the human scale.

What can little old you do about all of that?

Quite a bit, it turns out. And that is the point of Arizona State University’s Carbon Free Day on April 17: to demonstrate small things everyone can do on a daily or weekly basis that add up.

"ASU is a major force in the area of sustainability education," said Stefanie Lindquist, deputy provost and vice president for academic affairs. "So I like the idea of our active participation in this Carbon Free Day. As such a large institution, we could save putting a lot of carbon into the atmosphere if we committed ourselves to a day of active efforts to reduce our collective carbon footprint."

ASU is committed to becoming climate positive by 2035. The university has made great strides to reduce its carbon emissions since making that pledge. Total emissions are down 28% compared with a 2007 baseline.

“That’s despite the fact we’ve added over 40% gross square footage and almost 31% in our student population in that same period,” said Corey Hawkey, assistant director of University Sustainability Practices. “We’re on the path to meet our goal, but there is still work to be done. It’s part of the reason we’re doing this day. … We’ve made great progress, and it’s something we should all be appreciative of.”

The university — staff, students, faculty and physical buildings together — is estimated to emit about 768 tons of carbon per day. One day of emissions is the equivalent of more than 131,000 average one-way commutes. It’s also close to 24 days of air conditioning in an average-size home. Or, looking through the lens of food, about 232,000 servings of beef.

“That hopefully gives some perspective on how large our emissions are, but also what an impact just a day makes,” Hawkey said.

ASU will be purchasing carbon offsets and planting 218 trees to mitigate the university’s emissions for the day. Join the commitment by making a pledge for Carbon Free Day to reduce carbon emissions. Choose from transportation, food and energy pledge categories or create your own.

“Some believe it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love.”  — Gandalf, "The Fellowship of the Ring"

Mind you, none of these involve moving into a yurt, biking to Tempe from Buckeye or quitting bacon forever.

“It was important for us to come up with some unique pledges people might not be thinking about, like keeping adequate air pressure in your tires, so your car drives more efficiently and you use less gas,” said Susan Norton, program manager of Sustainability Practices.

Transportation pledges include riding a bike, creating a meal plan to cut down on trips to the store during the week or being an energy-efficient driver. The latter means starting and stopping more slowly and keeping a steady speed. You can keep a ton of CO2 out of the atmosphere just on these alone (the same amount a tree in Arizona absorbs during 10 years), plus you’ll save a lot of money on gas.

Student Casey Rapacki rides a bike 15 minutes each way to campus every day.

“It helps me get some daily activity in, allows me to come and go as I please — no catching the bus! — had a one-time fee and does not contribute to daily car traffic or greenhouse gas emissions,” she said. 

She has also run into fellow School of Sustainability friends on their bikes.

“We all rode our bikes together,” she said. “We were kind of like a biker gang, except fuel-efficient and harmless.”

JC Porter is a bicycling beast. Assistant director of University Parking and Transit Services, Porter commutes 20 miles each way to the Tempe campus, five days a week. “If I am feeling lazy, I commute 7 miles each way to the Polytech campus,” Porter said.

Deservedly, Porter won Tempe’s 2018 Bike Hero award.

Jonathan Kelman, an instructor in the School of Sustainability, rides to work at least four days a week. He gets to think; he saves money on gas, car maintenance and parking; and it’s faster than battling rush hour traffic. Another bonus: “I can commute in to campus on my mountain bike, teach class and then hit the trails in Papago Park north of campus, and ride back home. There may be a burrito involved on the return trip. That's hard to beat!”

Let’s address the obvious excuse against biking right off the bat: The Tempe campus has two free places to shower — the Sun Devil Fitness Complex and Wrigley Hall.

When it comes to food pledges, you don’t have to go vegan, even though one plant-based meal during the week won’t kill anyone. Buy some local groceries from a farmers market. Don’t waste food. Cut down on beef by eating a rack of baby back ribs or a fried chicken. Most emissions from meat production come in the form of methane gas, which cows breathe and excrete via their manure. Eating chicken or pork helps reduce emissions. Who’s not down for ribs?

The point is to commit to make whatever small changes you can.

“Everybody plays a role in it,” Hawkey said.

View the Carbon Free Day pledge choices on the Earth Month website.

Top image: School of Sustainability students and staff bike on the Tempe campus on April 4. Image by Deanna Dent/ASU Now

Scott Seckel

Reporter , ASU Now


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Engineering a better world with girl power

April 11, 2019

Students from ASU's Ira A. Fulton Schools open their doors to youth from across the Valley

Nearly 200 girls from Girl Scout troops and schools around the Phoenix metropolitan area stormed Arizona State University’s Tempe campus for GEAR Day on Saturday, March 30.

GEAR Day is an outreach initiative hosted by ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter. The event offers girls and boys a glimpse into science and engineering through interactive activities and design challenges, such as building solar cars and experimenting with buoyancy. Participants from second to 12th grade have the chance to explore new interests and see the impact of science and engineering on everyday life.

“Engineering is all about using different tools to solve issues facing society,” said Elizabeth Jones, the outreach coordinator for ASU’s Society of Women Engineers chapter and an electrical engineering major in ASU’s Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering. “If girls like building things, creating new tools and using their imagination to solve problems, we should encourage them to do so through engineering.”

This year’s event had a sustainability theme to help girls and boys understand how the work of engineers can be applied to practical applications and prominent issues in the world. The participants learned about the importance of clean drinking water from the crisis in Flint, Michigan; the need to protect marine life from oil spills and the demand for renewable energy as a clean alternative to power the world.

Equipped with newfound knowledge, the participants put their skills to the test and started building solutions. They created water filtration systems, devised methods to clean up oil pollution and constructed solar-powered cars.

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Girl Scout Emma Rice (right) and other troop members pose with Sparky after a morning filled with interactive activities and design challenges at GEAR Day, an outreach event hosted by Arizona State University’s Society of Women Engineers. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

“Too many girls believe they can’t do engineering simply because they are a girl,” said Kamawela Leka, a volunteer at the event and a biomedical engineering major in the Fulton Schools. “It’s important to inspire these young girls to pursue engineering because the more minds we have tackling some of today’s biggest problems, the better we have a chance to solve them.”

Girl Scout troop leader Roberta Rice and her daughter, Emma, have been attending GEAR Day for about eight years. She believes the event dispels common misconceptions about science and engineering: It’s for boys, it’s boring or it’s too difficult for girls. She says it’s important for girls to know these fields are fun.

“I love GEAR Day,” said Emma Rice, a sophomore at Highland High School and a Girl Scout member. “You get a taste of everything. When I was very young, I built a catapult and solar-powered car. Now, I’m creating a device to help the ocean get rid of oil and trash — a serious problem for the Earth today.”

In addition to solving pressing societal needs, Emma Rice enjoys meeting new people and learning how to collaborate and work as a team. These are critical components of the engineering design process.

“An engineering tool to solve a problem is only as strong as the diversity of the team that creates it,” Jones said.

Jones grew up in a small town where the idea of a female in engineering wasn’t accepted. She decided to pursue engineering because people told her she couldn’t — even though she knew she could. Now, she is dedicated to being a role model for young girls and an advocate for getting more women into engineering professions.

Cynthia Arebalo, a bilingual elementary education major in the Mary Lou Fulton Teachers College, brought her daughter, Madison, to the event with the hope of showing her all the possible career paths available.

“Madison really likes science and math, and does really well in them,” Arebalo said. “I just want her to know she has options and she gains more confidence in her ability to do whatever she wants.”

Arebalo was also incredibly grateful the Society of Women Engineers didn’t charge admission for the event but instead hosted a school supply drive to donate to middle and high school teachers across the Valley.

Nearly 60 volunteers from the Society of Women Engineers and other student organizations in the Fulton Schools helped ensure GEAR Day was a successful event. The volunteers were committed to showing parents and participants the breadth of engineering and the importance of diversity of thought in the field.

“Young girls still see so many paths cut off for them simply because of the prejudices and stereotypes that still surround them,” Leka said. “Girls can do so much more than people believe.”  

Top photo: Madison Arebalo, 9, channels her inner engineer as she builds a filtration system to clean contaminants from water during the afternoon session of GEAR Day on Arizona State University’s Tempe campus. Photo by Erika Gronek/ASU

Amanda Stoneman

Science Writer , Ira A. Fulton Schools of Engineering


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ASU workshop showcases the challenges for those newly released from prison

ASU workshop simulates challenges of people who leave prison to rejoin society.
April 10, 2019

Simulation participants navigate probation, rent, transportation as they reenter society

Shawn served three years in prison for burglary, then walked out to face a dizzying array of requirements he had to fulfill with almost no help and no money. He had to pay for drug testing and probation but wouldn’t get his disability check for another week, and his landlord was demanding a $50 deposit right away.

“Shawn” was one of the characters in a role-playing scenario held Tuesday by the Center for Child Well Being at Arizona State University. About 100 people participated in the “reentry simulation,” each assuming the identity of someone who was recently released from prison. The participants included students, staff, faculty and community members, each of whom received a packet describing their character’s prison record, living and employment situations and everything he or she needed to accomplish every week to avoid being sent back to jail: look for a job, undergo drug testing, pay restitution, pay rent, pay child support, buy food, attend Alcoholics Anonymous.

The simulation was put on by the U.S. attorney’s office and was based on input from real people who have been released from prison. The goal is to demonstrate what it’s like for men and women to make their way through the system.

“We release people back into their communities every day, and with very little instruction,” said Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist for the U.S. attorney’s office in Arizona, who runs the simulation for any group that requests it.

The simulation was divided into 15-minute segments, each representing one week. The room had 15 stations, representing the obligations of a returning citizen — probation, social services, bank, landlord, etc. Every participant had several tasks to complete each week.

The responsibilities were confusing and overwhelming. Every obligation required a bus pass. Even bus passes could not be purchased without handing over a bus pass.

The first week, Shawn, one of the lucky ones who left prison with $20, was able to purchase the all-important state ID card for $15, then sell his plasma for $25 to pay his $30 probation fee. He went to the “court,” handed over a bus pass and was told he needed to cash his plasma check before paying the fee. So he used another bus pass to go to the bank and cash the check and then another bus pass to finally pay the fee.

The second week was more stressful. Shawn had to wait in the church line to borrow a bus pass, which he used to buy more bus passes, then go back to the church to repay the bus pass before going to collect his disability check.

The simulation included real-life scenarios. Everyone who took a drug test had to pull a card from a deck to tell them whether it was “clean” or not. Every week, the participants received a card with an unplanned situation — like Shawn’s landlord discovering that he had a dog and needed to pay a $50 deposit.

In the third week, Shawn was waiting in line to pay his rent when the sheriff came by, saw that Shawn had not completed his second-week drug testing and sent him back to jail.

In the guided discussion after the simulation, many of the participants described how out of control they felt.

“A lot of it is pretty demeaning,” said Anthony Evans, a senior researcher for the L. William Seidman Research Institute in the W. P. Carey School of Business. The institute is working with Televerde, a call center operator that has been a leader in employing prisoners and people who have left prison. Evans said he decided to experience the simulation to gain insight into what Televerde’s workforce is facing.

“People in positions of authority should be encouraged to attend one of these,” he said.

The process was eye-opening even for practitioners. Molly Hahn-Floyd, a doctoral student at Northern Arizona University who works in adolescent behavioral health, said that during the simulation, she didn’t go to the church or social services or any other place that offered help.

“And I don’t know how many times I’ve preached to people, ‘Ask for help,’” she said.

Jan Wethers, reentry coordinator for the Arizona Department of Corrections, portrayed the mean pawn shop owner, who gave Shawn $10 for a $50 CD player.

“Take the bus sometime,” she told the practitioners. “See what it’s like when it’s hot and you have kids in tow and grocery bags.”

Empathy is critical, but so is responsibility, she said.

“You must hold them accountable. That is very, very important,” she said.

Many participants described how returning to jail felt inevitable — and almost a relief.

“If you’re released to a community and your family wants nothing to do with you and you have no job and no home and you have all these obligations, it makes sense to go back,” Aikens said. “They know your name in jail. You have food in jail. I get it.”

For a person who’s newly released, thinking about returning to prison can be a “comfort zone,” according to Theron Denman Jr., who left prison a year ago. He volunteered at the simulation “treatment” table and addressed the participants during the discussion.

“I was scared to drive, I was scared of the police, I was scared of technology,” he said. “If I hadn’t had the support of my family over this past year, I would’ve wanted to go back.

“But that’s not my comfort zone anymore. Volunteering here today is a beautiful thing.”

In the fourth week, Shawn got out of jail, bought bus passes, got food, completed weekly treatment, paid for a drug test and checked in with his vocational rehabilitation case worker. All the boxes were checked.

But it didn’t matter. While he was in jail during Week 3, he missed paying rent. Shawn was homeless.

The reentry simulation was a kickoff to the National Children of Incarcerated Parents Conference to be held next week by the Center for Child Well Being, part of the School of Social Work. The conference will include some events that are open to the public. On Sunday, the opening reception will feature photographer Isadora Kosofsky, who documents prison visitations between parents and children. Additionally, Denali Tiller, director of “Tre |Maison |Dasan” will screen her film and discuss the three young boys featured. On Tuesday, Rudy Valdez, director of HBO's “The Sentence,” will screen his documentary and discuss the effects of incarceration on his nieces. A panel discussion will follow, featuring people who have been affected by incarceration.

Top image: Tasha Aikens, a reentry specialist with the U.S. attorney's office, led a "reentry simulation" Tuesday at the Westward Ho in downtown Phoenix. About 100 students, staff, faculty and community members participated in the workshop, in which they took on the persona of someone who recently left prison and had to navigate all the tasks necessary to avoid being sent back to jail, such as getting a job, being drug tested and paying rent. Photo by Charlie Leight/ASU Now

Mary Beth Faller

Reporter , ASU Now


Maricopa County inmates express themselves with art, storytelling in ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program

April 10, 2019

A woman who was told she could never have children as she stood there four months pregnant. A woman whose dog sold her out to the police as she hid in a tree. A mother whose son asked her if she’ll remember him when she gets out in a year. 

United through their storytelling and brought together behind bars, these women call themselves sisters. The various stories captivated the audience, triggering laughter, sadness, frustration and even happiness. Sam, an inmate at Estrella Jail in Phoenix, presents a personal story at the Journey Home final performance on March 30. Photo by Alexandra Wolfe Download Full Image

At the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office Estrella Jail, a women’s jail in Phoenix, 11 out of 1,100 eligible inmates were selected to participate in this year’s ASU Gammage’s Journey Home program, titled “New Beginnings.”

Journey Home is an arts residency program designed to enable incarcerated women to discover a personal sense of constructive identity through performance, visual arts, creative writing and storytelling. In its 19th year, it exists as the only sustainable arts-integration program across Arizona’s correctional institutions. 

“Our mission, which remains today at ASU Gammage, is connecting communities — and that's communities of all kinds,” said Colleen Jennings-Roggensack, executive director of ASU Gammage and ASU vice president for cultural affairs. “This was a community, the Estrella correctional facility, that was not being served, and we also deeply believed that art and culture could make a difference in the lives of the individuals here.”

Ultimately, Journey Home culminates in an emotional final performance of self-expression. The six-week program was directed by Fatimah Halim with movement and music by Teniqua Broughton.

At this year’s final performance on March 30, the walls were dressed in colorful canvas paintings of butterflies painted by the women — a symbol of how people can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful.

There is also a mental health specialist, Imani Muhammad, who helps the women communicate their thoughts and feelings.

“Imani helped me identify where some of this anger was coming from,” said Cynthia Rose Martin, an inmate in the program. “Once I got over that initial apprehension, I can't say enough about Journey Home. It brings you out of yourself; it brings you into yourself.”

An underlying purpose of Journey Home is to encourage rehabilitation. According to a study published by the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, inmates who participate in arts-integration programs tend to have more self-confidence, motivation to pursue other programs and self-discipline with managing time efficiently. The study also determined that these inmates are more likely to face problems with creativity and intellectual flexibility.

Specific to Journey Home, many of the program’s graduates do not return to the jail system. In fact, one such graduate who was released from Estrella in the past year attended the performance and testified to the impact it has had on her new life.

“Why are we giving them a second chance?” said Capt. Jennifer Perks, commander of Estrella Jail. “Because these are women. They're valuable people that are at some point going to be entering our community again, so we have to look at our own relationship with our community and see what we want for ourselves.”

Perks said that it’s amazing to see the growth the women go through in such a short period of time, and that art has helped them take time to acknowledge their experiences and learn from them. 

Erica Breeding, another inmate in the program, said that Journey Home has helped her think past the fact that she is incarcerated.

“That's all I could think about, is I'm confined, I'm in jail,” Breeding said. “And it's allowed me to open my mind to so much more to how I'm going to get through this and the present and then even in the future." 

She also said that after her time is served, she will be a better mom for her children because she can teach them to learn from her mistakes.  

“I went through everything that I went through, and it served a purpose,” Breeding said. “… I know to take nothing for granted anymore. Their smiles or their giggles. At any moment things can be taken away, so I will hold on to them a little bit tougher.”

Written by Alexandra Wolfe

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License to thrive: Arizona bill would allow reciprocity for regulated professions

April 9, 2019

HB 2569 will recognize out-of-state occupational licenses, opening up ability to work in Arizona for many

The Arizona Legislature recently passed HB 2569, a bill that would loosen occupational licensing laws in the state by recognizing out-of-state licenses as valid. Gov. Doug Ducey has been a vocal supporter of universal licensing recognition, suggesting that a person’s skills don’t diminish when they cross state lines, and the change will allow those who have moved from other states to “work faster and without all the red tape.”

To better understand the role of occupational licensing and what this change would mean for Arizona’s businesses and residents, ASU Now spoke with Stephen Slivinski, senior research fellow at the Center for the Study of Economic Liberty at Arizona State University.

Question: What is occupational licensing? What kinds of jobs in Arizona require a license?

Stephen Slivinski

Answer: Occupational licensing laws — which are state-specific laws that vary by state — require workers in certain occupations to first obtain a license from a government licensing board before they can hold a job in that field. Not all occupations in Arizona require a license, but many do.

The requirements to obtain a license vary by occupation and state, and generally consist of meeting a minimum number of training hours and paying a fee. Some licenses may require a specific degree, like a high school diploma or a college degree, or an apprentice period with an existing license holder. All states license doctors and lawyers, for instance, but not all states require a license for occupations like interior designer or animal breeder (and yes, some states do).

Currently, Arizona ranks as having one of the top five most burdensome licensing requirements in the nation overall, both in the number of occupations that are licensed and the number of training hours required. These burdens hit low-income workers the hardest: Over 65% of low-income occupations in Arizona require a license, and those jobs have some of the heaviest financial and training-based requirements when compared to other states.

Q: What would this bill do?

A: This bill would allow anyone with an existing license from another state — in good standing — to have instant reciprocity with Arizona. In other words, they would receive a “seal of approval” from the state of Arizona once they establish residency in the state, without having to take an Arizona licensing exam or logging the prescribed hours of training.

The bill does allow the state to decline this right of reciprocity for a disqualifying criminal history. Certain occupations would not be granted instant reciprocity, including those that require a security clearance.

Q: Will granting reciprocity weaken the ability of the state to protect consumers?

A: These laws are often justified on the basis that the state has a compelling interest in protecting consumers and citizens from “bad actors” or safeguarding public health. However, there is a consensus among economists and scholars that these requirements often do not line up with the actual risk to public health and safety. Barbers in Arizona, for instance, are required to log over 1,000 hours of training before they receive a license, while emergency medical technicians have to log 110 hours.

Academic studies have also found no significant difference in public health and safety outcomes in states that have higher licensing burdens when compared to those that are closer to the national average.

Q: What are the advantages to reciprocity?

A: The main advantage of license reciprocity is increased competition in licensed service sectors and, therefore, more choices and lower prices for consumers. It also makes Arizona instantly more attractive to workers and entrepreneurs already looking to relocate to Arizona to take advantage of our other competitive advantages, like climate and cost of living.

Studies indicate that interstate mobility — the likelihood that someone will relocate to another state to find work — is greatly reduced when licensing processes are perceived to be burdensome. Moreover, current Arizona residents who have avoided working in a particular field because their license is from another state can now work in a field that previously seemed off-limits. This sort of reform will have benefits to workers and employers as well as consumers.

Q: Do you expect this bill will encourage other states to grant licensing reciprocity? Will this become a trend?

A: I think this change will make Arizona instantly more attractive for workers and employers looking to relocate out of their current state. If this proves to be a compelling reason for people to relocate, it is very likely that other states will follow suit to try to gain a competitive edge. The Arizona reform is the first-of-its-kind in the nation so we will need to wait and see how this all plays out.

Views expressed in this interview belong solely to the professor, and not necessarily to the university.

Katherine Reedy

Media Relations Officer , Media Relations & Strategic Communications


ASU physics alumna named Brooke Owens Fellow

April 4, 2019

Angelica Berner is one of 2019's new class of Brooke Owens Fellows.

The “Brookies,” as they are affectionately called, are exceptional undergraduate women in aerospace and are selected for the award based on their talent, experience, leadership, professionalism and commitment to serving their communities. Newest Brookie Angelica Berner will be working at DigitalGlobe, and was matched with former NASA astronaut Scott Parazynski as her executive-level mentor. Photo courtesy of Angelica Berner.

Berner, who graduated from Arizona State University in December 2018, is one of 38 women awarded this fellowship for 2019.

Each is paired with a 12-week summer internship at a leading aerospace organization and partnered with executive-level mentors in their field.

Berner will be working at DigitalGlobe in Westminster, Colorado.

“I was recently matched with Scott Parazynski, a former NASA astronaut — among a lot of other amazing things — as my executive level mentor,” Berner said. “I'm looking forward to working with him on developing the next steps I'd like to take in my career.”

Berner will also join other fellows for the Brooke Owens Fellowship Summit during the summer. The summit will feature team projects, one-on-one mentoring sessions and Q&As with congresswomen, astronauts, CEOs and company founders.

“Interacting with the other fellows has been phenomenal — it's extraordinary how much talent is in this group,” Berner said. “It's also nice to have a group of people who have similar experiences as they begin their careers!”

The fellowship was created to support and inspire talented professional women in aerospace and named for acclaimed pilot Dawn Brooke Owens, a much-beloved expert and pioneer in the space industry. After Owen’s passing at the age of 35 from breast cancer, the fellowship was created to honor her legacy by three of her close friends: Lori Garver, former deputy administrator of NASA; Cassie Lee, former head of space programs for Paul G. Allen; and William Pomerantz, the vice president of special projects at Virgin Orbit.

The fellowship is highly competitive and draws hundreds of applicants at more than 125 universities in 13 nations. Berner described the multistep application process as, "unlike anything she had experienced before."

“(The fellowship) encourages each applicant to not only introduce their ‘on paper’ self but to delve deep into who they are outside of their education/career,” she said.

After an intense process of interviews with various leaders in the aerospace industry, Berner received a call from one of the founders to tell her that she had been selected.

“She was very patient and enthusiastic as I told her how excited and humbled I was (and still am) to have received the opportunity!” Berner said. 

“As I prepare for my internship at DigitalGlobe, I'm beyond excited to have the opportunity to work in the aerospace industry with such an awesome company!"

Berner grew up in Chicago, and graduated from ASU as The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences Dean’s Medalist for the Department of Physics.

During her undergraduate experience, she joined biophysics Assistant Professor Sara Walker’s research lab, doing computational modeling. She contributed to a paper that appeared in a 2017 Entropy Magazine Special Issue: “Physical Universality, State-Dependent Dynamical Laws and Open-Ended Novelty.”

She participated in the ASU/Nasa Space Grant for two years and completed a summer internship at the NASA Langley Research Center.

Dominique Perkins

Events and Communications Coordinator, Department of Physics


ASU students get a running start with Elect Her event

Daylong training helps prepare women looking to run for student government and political office

April 3, 2019

On March 29, Arizona State University’s School of Politics and Global Studies hosted a daylong, nonpartisan training — called Elect Her — for women looking to run for student government and political office.

Hanna Salem, a public service and public policy major at ASU, helped in bringing the Elect Her event to Tempe. Salem, the civic engagement director for Undergraduate Student Government, was forwarded an email from Running Start suggesting an event on campus.  ASU Elect Her 2019 Panel The panel (seated, from left): Arizona Superintendent of Public Schools Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Rep. Jennifer Pawlik, Arizona Senate President Karen Fann and ASU student and Prescott City Council member Alexa Scholl. Standing left of the panel are public service and public policy major Hanna Salem and Senior Lecturer Gina Woodall. Download Full Image

When she followed up, Salem found out that a former professor of hers had also looked into bringing the Elect Her event to ASU. The course she had previously taken, POS 435: Women and Politics, was taught by Gina Woodall, a senior lecturer within the School of Politics and Global Studies. The two then decided to collaborate to bring the event to ASU.

“Research shows that women sometimes don’t think about running for office because they aren’t asked to,” Woodall said. “Research also shows a large dropoff in young women’s self-esteem and self-assessment during adolescence that does not happen, to the same extent, to young men; this affects their confidence with taking risks such as running for student government.”

The event featured multiple exercises with Sara Blanco from the organization Running Start, interviews with a student government official and a panel of Arizona female elected officials.

“With this event, we targeted young women and asked them, ‘If not you, then who?’” Woodall said. “Running Start then exposes them to different female leaders to listen and learn from.”

Prior to the training, attendees submitted questions for the panel, which featured Arizona Senate President Karen Fann, Arizona Superintendent of Public Schools Kathy Hoffman, Arizona Rep. Jennifer Pawlik and Prescott City Council member and ASU political science major Alexa Scholl.

“Elect Her was a fascinating event that I found extremely informative,” global studies major EmilyAnne Johnson said. “I loved how diverse the the panel was in terms of age and party, but merged and found a common ground in being women in politics.”

Amanda Andalis, a political science and communication major at ASU, shared that the workshop gave her the opportunity to learn more about the intricacies of running for public office directly from elected officials.

“It was so inspirational to hear from the elected officials on the panel because many of them started by serving in volunteer positions in their cities/counties and worked their way up to their current positions,” said Andalis.

Woodall hopes to make Elect Her an annual, signature event at ASU, especially with the work the faculty within the School of Politics and Global Studies are doing to advance women in politics research.

Within the school is a “working group” led by Foundation Professor Kim Fridkin that includes a large group of scholars whose research focuses on women’s role in politics.

In a recent example, ASU professors Miki KittilsonValerie Hoekstra and Jennet Kirkpatrick hosted a conference “Diversity in the Judiciary: Does it Matter for Democratic Inclusion, Representation or Inequalities?” where judicial scholars from all over the country attended and presented their work. 

“Our school is the place to be if you are interested in women in politics, either in the U.S., or from a comparative/international relations perspective,” Woodall said. “It is quite unique to have so many faculty engaged in the subfield of women in politics; of course this research is shared with and reflected in our course offerings to students as well.”

Matt Oxford

Manager of marketing and communications, School of Politics and Global Studies


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New study settles controversy around red wolves, Mexican gray wolves

April 3, 2019

Once, wolves roamed free in great numbers across the deserts, arboreal forests, grasslands and Arctic tundra of the continental U.S. Today, their populations have been depleted — the result of human actions and loss of their vital habitats.

The red wolf and Mexican gray wolf are among the most endangered mammals in North America. Both species at one time were extinct in the wild. At last count, an estimated 114 wild Mexican gray wolves remain in the U.S. and only about 40 red wolves roam their native habitats in eastern North Carolina.

In recent years, efforts have been underway to help restore some of the nation’s wolf populations in the wild. Red wolves and Mexican gray wolves are listed as endangered under the U.S. Endangered Species Act, though their taxonomic status has been controversial and politically charged.

An expert panel, appointed by the National AcademiesThe National Academies are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences. of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, has been conducting an analysis of scientific literature to answer two questions:

  1. Is the red wolf a taxonomically valid species?
  2. Is the Mexican gray wolf a taxonomically valid subspecies?

The findings come at a critical moment for embattled wolves as legislators seek to strip the gray wolf of protection under the Endangered Species Act. The identification of red wolves as a distinct species and Mexican gray wolves as an endangered subspecies may help to forestall efforts to delist them. 

The study — undertaken by the Committee on Assessing the Taxonomic Status of the Red Wolf and the Mexican Gray Wolf — was sponsored by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. 

Biological dilemma

Precisely defining a species can be challenging. Evolution is a continuous process, and geographic variation among species is inevitable. These dynamic processes occur at different rates and follow distinct patterns for diverse taxa.

Nevertheless, when all the available biological data was examined, the prestigious panel of leading biologists agreed that red wolves (Canis rufus) are a distinct species and the Mexican gray wolf (Canis lupus baileyi) is a distinct subspecies. 

“The main issue is that although there are a number of definitions of species and subspecies, all lines of evidence in this case point in a coordinated way to the final conclusions,” said Michael Lynch, who directs the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at ASU, and is one of the authors on the study. “Arriving at answers to the particular pair of questions evaluated was greatly facilitated by the unusual availability of whole-genome data previously obtained by researchers interested in the origin and diversification of North American canids, a relatively young component of the mammalian fauna of this continent.”

Michael Lynch, professor in the School of Life Sciences and director of the Biodesign Center for Mechanisms of Evolution at ASU, was one of the authors of a study that found red wolves are a distinct species and the Mexican gray wolf is a distinct subspecies.

In its new report released March 28, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine confirms the conclusion that both red wolves and Mexican gray wolves are indeed valid taxonomic identities.

According to the study's research guidelines: 

Determining the taxonomic status of the Mexican gray wolf and the red wolf requires an understanding of the contemporary meanings of species and subspeciesAll modern species concepts are united by the goal of identifying groups of organisms whose reproductive compatibility sustains genetic continuity.  Among the common principles that underlie multiple species concepts are (1) some level of reproductive isolation between different species that is mediated by genetic and ecological factors, and (2) phylogenetic continuity in time that is mediated by shared evolutionary history and inheritance. These principles provide a compelling, comprehensive approach to identifying species. Most modern concepts of subspecies rely on the notion of the partial restriction of gene flow, where subspecies are groups of actually or potentially interbreeding populations phylogenetically distinguishable from, but reproductively compatible with, other such groups.

Increasingly, genomic data reveal that gene flow among taxonomic groups through hybridization is a common feature of the evolutionary history of many widely accepted species, including wolves. 

Mexican gray wolf

The Mexican gray wolf, whose range includes Arizona, New Mexico and northern Mexico, was largely driven extinct from the wild in the U.S. in the mid-1970s. Then, 20 years ago the wolves were reintroduced, amid much controversy, into a small portion of their former range. Their designation as a subspecies has been controversial because there has been speculation that they are not physically or genetically distinct enough to justify that status. There has also been speculation that the current Mexican gray wolf population may have included ancestry from dogs or coyotes.

The Mexican gray wolf represents a smaller form of the gray wolf and inhabits a more arid ecosystem than the gray wolf. Furthermore, the current managed population of Mexican gray wolves are direct descendants of the last remaining wild Mexican gray wolves; the known history of current Mexican gray wolves suggests that there is continuity between them and the historic lineage. There is no evidence that the genome of the Mexican gray wolf includes DNA from domestic dogs, the report adds.  

Red wolf

The red wolf historically inhabited much of the eastern United States, but during the 20th century, populations were driven to very low numbers by habitat loss and predator eradication programs. Red wolves were largely replaced by coyotes that spread eastward from their original range in the western U.S. A few remaining specimens with red wolf morphology — physical characteristics long associated with red wolves — were captured in Texas and Louisiana before the red wolf went extinct in the wild and were used to establish a breeding program. 

The red wolf is a canine native to the southeastern United States. Once declared extinct in the wild, the red wolf has been reintroduced through captive breeding programs. Of 63 red wolves released from 1987–1994, the population rose to as many as 100-120 individuals in 2012 but has declined to 40 individuals in 2018 and today is severely endangered. Photo from Shutterstock

The descendants of these animals were reintroduced in North Carolina and are now a managed population in the wild. The red wolf’s species status has been controversial because the wolves used to establish the breeding program were captured from a region where there had already been substantial interbreeding between red wolves, coyotes and gray wolves. 

Whether the red wolf is a valid species hinges on whether there is evidence that the historic population of red wolves has a distinct lineage, evidence that contemporary red wolf populations are distinct from gray wolves and coyotes, and evidence for continuity between the historic red wolf population and the contemporary one.

The evidence currently available supports the classification of the contemporary red wolf as a species distinct from gray wolves and coyotes, the report says. In addition, available evidence suggests that the historic red wolves constituted a valid species, and that contemporary red wolves trace some of their ancestry from these historic red wolves. However, genetic continuity between contemporary red wolves and the historic population cannot be firmly established without genomic data from ancient specimens.

Genomic DNA from historic specimens could help clarify this issue regarding continuity, the report says. In addition, more precise genetic analysis might help determine the exact proportion of the red wolf genome that has been replaced through historic interbreeding with coyotes and wolves.

“A majority of experts on red wolf taxonomy have concluded, time and time again, that the red wolf represents a unique lineage that is worthy of conservation and should remain a listable entity under the ESA,” said Maggie Howell, executive director of the Wolf Conservation Center, one of many organizations devoted to wolf education and conservation. “No longer plagued by questions of taxonomy, USFWS needs to re-evaluate its recent decisions and management changes and bring its efforts back in line with the conservation mandate of the ESA." 

Top photo: A captive Mexican gray wolf at Sevilleta National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico. The Mexican gray wolf represents a smaller form of the gray wolf and inhabits a more arid ecosystem. Photo from Shutterstock

Richard Harth

Science writer , Biodesign Institute at ASU


Fashioning an indigenous life

ASU's Red Ink Initiative brings Native celebrities to Phoenix Indian Center Youth Leadership Day

April 1, 2019

From hip-hop to fashion and narrative art to indigenous urban pop culture: The seventh annual Phoenix Indian Center Youth Leadership Day on Feb. 23 had it all. The program included two internationally known Native women whose work inspires youth to embrace their own indigenous cultures. More than 100 young people were in attendance.

Arizona State University’s Red Ink Indigenous Initiative secured a project grant from Arizona Humanities to bring Lisa Charleyboy (Tsilhqot’in-First Nations Canada) from Toronto, Ontario, and Cinnamon Spear (Northern Cheyenne-Montana) from the University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop to Phoenix to help youth find their voices as indigenous people. The goal was to share important cultural knowledge that can solve many of the world’s problems. Participants in the Phoenix Indian Center Youth Leadership Day pose in front of an auditorium. / Photo by Phoenix Indian Center Download Full Image

“The theme that came out of the day was ‘I am here, and I have something to say!’" said Fawn Tahbo (Colorado River Indian Tribes), program manager for the Phoenix Indian Center. "The young people had so many good things to say about Cinnamon and Lisa’s presentations, confirming what a great treasure it was to have them here. Much of the conference dealt with self-respect and respecting others, and Ms. Charleyboy and Ms. Spear underscored the power of self-respect.”

Charleyboy, named by the Huffington Post as one of three important indigenous millennials to watch, is co-editor of “Dreaming in Indian: Contemporary Native American Voices.” Her blog, Urban Native Girl, revolving around indigenous contemporary life and popular culture, evolved into Urban Native Magazine and now “Urban Native Girl TV,” a POV-documentary series geared toward creating connections for indigenous youth in urban environments. Appropriately, Charleyboy’s sessions were centered on "indigenous pop culture.”

Lisa Charleyboy (photo by Annick Press) and Cinnamon Spear (courtesy photo)

Lisa Charleyboy and Cinnamon Spear.

Spear, soon to graduate from the prestigious University of Iowa Writer’s Workshop MFA program, broke onto the national scene with her documentary film “Pride and Basketball,” a cutting-edge look inside Native reservation sports culture. She has just finished a book with Native youth characters (out soon) at the request of the acquisitions editors at Scholastic, Inc., who liked her work so much they solicited another book from her on Maria Tallchief (Osage), the first American and Native American bestowed the rank of prima ballerina. Spear’s presentation was “Healing the Trauma,” a hands-on workshop for addressing historical, familial and emotional/psychological hurt.

Spear and Charleyboy are on the curl of a great wave that is bringing, shaping and advocating for a new future for indigenous peoples around the world. This is the second indigenous cultural series for teens on which ASU Red Ink has partnered with Arizona Humanities. The series allows local Native youth to interact directly with Native artists, authors, poets and filmmakers.

The Red Ink Initiative at ASU is an interrelated set of campus, regional, national and international projects, including an international journal, to achieve its mission and goals in collaboration with indigenous communities. Red Ink is based in the Department of English, an academic unit of The College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and welcomes participation from any interested students, faculty, and community members with affiliations both inside and outside of ASU.

Written by Jim Blasingame

Photo of Lisa Charleyboy is courtesy Annick Press. Cinnamon Spear photo is courtesy Spear.

Kristen LaRue-Sandler

senior marking & communications specialist, Department of English